Do you need inspiration to travel to Italy? Get the popcorn ready and enjoy our list of the best movies set in Italy.
Hollywood is not that far away.
Italy is in fact one of the most popular European shooting locations for directors.
With its romantic scenery, the history and art cities, Italy has hosted all types of film productions, providing the backdrop for movie masterpieces since the 1940s.
We created for you a short list with the 25 best movies set in Italy, hoping to inspire cinema lovers who want to discover Italy through movies.
There's something for every taste, from romantic comedies to historical blockbusters, passing through the classics in black and white.
A journey through Italy, the way it was imagined by the directors and dreamed of by the spectators.
Will you also find your favourite movie?
25. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
One of the best psychological thrillers ever, The Talented Mr. Ripley deeply contributed to show to the world the wonderful Italian scenery.
Shot in Venice, Rome and Campania (the Sorrento peninsula, Naples, Procida, Ischia), the film tells the story of an American boy sent to Italy to convince the son of a millionaire to return to the United States.
The movie is set in the 1950s, during the Italian economic boom. We follow the protagonist in a journey full of plot twists, as we get to know a different Italy (though not too different) from what we know today. In the movie we see plenty of sailing and wonderful villas, thanks to the wealthy lifestyle of the rich American boy.
The dazzling surprise ending and the stellar cast (Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow) make The Talented Mr. Ripley an unmissable classic set in Italy.
24. Eat Pray Love (2010)
Eat Pray Love is a movie by Ryan Murphy starring Julia Roberts and based on Elizabeth Gilbert's autobiographical novel.
The story moves around the personal crisis of a writer who decides to travel for a year to find herself. We see her making new friends exploring Rome, Naples, India and Bali.
The part of the film dedicated to Italy is, of course, about food.
In Rome, we find the protagonist enjoying a massive portion of spaghetti and struggling to order a coffee and a delicious local pastry at the bar. In Naples, she eats a classic pizza margherita in one of the most famous Neapolitan pizzerias.
The writer is so inspired by the ruins of Rome, which seem to perfectly describe her personal situation, that she reminds the viewer of how precious Italy’s ancient history is: "ruins are a gift, destruction is the road for transformation".
Eat Pray Love is a sentimental comedy that will grow your appetite as you watch the film.
23. Roman Holiday (1953)
Roman Holiday is a great black and white classic, directed by William Wyler and starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.
The film is so iconic and famous that it left its mark in several ways: it confirmed Hepburn as a great actress, made the Piaggio Vespa world famous and put the Bocca della Verità on the tourist maps of Rome.
Not bad for a romantic comedy, in which a princess, tired of boring court etiquette, decides to escape during a vacation in Rome. While on the run, she meets a journalist and together they decide to venture around Rome aboard a Piaggio Vespa, exploring the city in defiance of speed limits and prohibitions. The story of Cinderella, but backwards.
The background of the film is obviously the city of Rome, still in full post-war reconstruction, but so beautiful that we don't notice it. There is also a degree of cheerfulness in the streets of Rome, as those were the years of the economic boom, pervaded by a great sense of confidence in the future.
If you want to know more about Piaggio, one of the most loved Italian brands in the world, take a look at our article dedicated to the Vespa anniversary.
22. The Tourist (2010)
The Tourist is a romantic thriller by Florian von Donnersmarck, starring the duo Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.
The film deserves its place in our list of 25 thanks to the beautiful setting in Venice, with action scenes on the Venetian rooftops and the lagoon.
On a train to Venice, a heartbroken math teacher meets a beautiful and mysterious woman. In a spiral of twists and turns, the initial flirt between the two evolves into an unexpected criminal epilogue.
You can visit all the Venetian places shown in the film, starting from the Grand Canal and the refined Palazzo Pisani Moretta (used for the facade and interiors of the Hotel Danieli), the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the Marciana library (free admission) and the Scuola Grande di Santa Maria della Misericordia, used for the dance scene.
Worth mentioning the scene in which Johnny Depp flees in his pyjamas among the stalls of the Rialto Market.
Alongside the two American stars there are many Italian actors, such as Christian De Sica, Raoul Bova, Nino Frassica and Neri Marcorè.
If you are inspired by the elegance of Venice, check out this article about the finest buildings in Venice.
21. The Great Beauty (2013)
The Great Beauty is an ode to the magnificence of Rome.
This gem by Paolo Sorrentino shows the behind the scenes of the Roman jet set and at the same time beautiful views of the city. It was awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2013.
The film talks about the creative crisis of a writer (Toni Servillo), as he moves around a Rome that sways between the sacred and the profane, between reality and a dreamlike dimension.
Watching The Great Beauty immediately makes you want to explore Rome; each scene is an invitation to take to the streets and discover the history of the Eternal City.
There is a lot to take in: the view of the dome from the keyhole of the door of the Priory of the Knights of Malta, the Imperial Forums, the Park of the Aqueducts and the Baths of Caracalla, where a magician makes a giraffe disappear in front of an astonished Servillo.
Don't miss the credits at the end: a long-take-shot of a boat ride on the Tiber, sailing under the bridges, accompanied by the wonderful music of Vladimir Martynov's “Les Beatitudes”.
20. 1900 (1976)
A beautiful representation of peasant Emilia and Italian history between the two wars.
This, and much more, is 1900, Bernardo Bertolucci's absolute masterpiece.
The film boasts an impressive international cast (Robert De Niro, Burt Lancaster, Gerard Depardieu) and uses the painting The Fourth Estate for the famous opening credits.
The film is set in Emilia, between the turn of the century and 1945, and tells the story of two men, the farmer Olmo and the landowner Alfredo. We meet them as children and we see their evolution while the world wars and social conflicts that characterised those years are stirring in the background.
1900 was shot in various locations in northern Italy, including Mantua, Parma and Modena. The Berlinghieri family farm is the Corte delle Piacentine, a rural court in the village of Roncole Verdi (Parma).
A passionate work, five hours (over two movies) that talk about class struggle and friendship in a rough and unforgettable way.
19. The Italian Job (1969)
The Italian Job is a British comedy caper film that depicts the epic duel between English thieves and Italian police in Turin in the late 1960s.
A gang of thieves led by Michael Caine drives three Mini Coopers, and attempts a robbery of a convoy carrying FIAT gold, finding an escape route thanks to the sabotage of the Turin traffic light control system (just inaugurated).
The film was almost entirely shot in Turin: you can see the Turin-Caselle airport, the Mole Antonelliana and the FIAT circuit, where part of the chase was filmed.
British humor, car chases and a fantastic Quincy Jones soundtrack are the fuel for this 1969 film, which was remade in 2003 with Mark Wahlberg (but set in Venice).
If you liked The Italian Job, take a look at our Turin guide to review the iconic places of the film.
18. Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Under the Tuscan Sun is a film directed by Audrey Wells and based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by Frances Mayes.
In this film the real protagonist is the location where the events take place. The beautiful Tuscan countryside seduces a depressed writer, making her happy and combative again.
During a trip through Italy gifted to her by her friends, Frances (Diane Lane) falls in love with Villa Bramasole, a beautiful abandoned villa near Cortona. Without a second thought, she buys the villa and moves there, thus starting a path to find herself again and to help others, eventually falling in love with an Italian boy (Raoul Bova).
Shot in Cortona, nearby Arezzo, the film is a wonderful advertisement for the Tuscan scenery: soft tree-lined hills and medieval villages with unique characters. Who knows how many tourists had the same idea as the protagonist: struck by the beauty of the Tuscan countryside, they decided to give up everything to buy a house in the hills.
If you are curious to visit the places of the film, you can read our article on what to do and where to sleep in Cortona.
17. The Life Ahead (2020)
The Life Ahead is a movie by Edoardo Ponti, starring an unusual duo of protagonists: the legendary Sofia Loren and the rookie Ibrahima Gueye.
The film is set in a multi-ethnic and vibrant Bari, a cauldron of lives among which that of the former prostitute Madame Rosa, a Holocaust survivor who hosts the children of other prostitutes in her own home. Suddenly Momò, an orphan boy of Senegalese origin, breaks into her life.
Despite Momò's turbulent life, the two protagonists build a deep friendship, while they discover they have many things in common, more than one might imagine.
The Life Ahead was filmed in Puglia, mainly in Bari between the Murat district and the medieval center of Bari Vecchia, with its maze of narrow streets and ancient buildings. Other locations used for the filming are the Jewish quarter of Trani and a beautiful masseria in Ostuni (that tourists can rent), surrounded by endless lines of olive trees.
The film is touching and deals with universal and highly topical themes (tolerance, immigration, loneliness).
16. Il Postino: The Postman (1995)
The last film starring Massimo Troisi, who died shortly after filming ended, The Postman is loosely based on the novel The Postman of Neruda by writer Antonio Skármeta.
The film is set on a small Italian island in 1952, the place of exile of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret). The poet does not have much to share with the simple local fishermen, but surprisingly creates a bond with his shy personal postman, Mario Ruoppolo (Troisi), who is trying to win the heart of the beautiful Beatrice.
Poetry, love and politics blend with the beauty of the Mediterranean to create an unforgettable movie, a melancholy tale that tells us a lot about southern Italy.
Most of The Postman was shot on the island of Procida, in the Gulf of Naples. The small port that can be seen in the film, with the nets and the fishing boats, is that of the suggestive village of Corricella. The headquarters of the Post Office is today a tobacconist's shop in Piazza dei Martiri.
A few hours on the island of Procida are enough to feel inside the film, in a romantic place, perfect as a wedding setting.
Neruda's house is located on the island of Salina, in the Aeolian Islands, and overlooks the beautiful bay of Pollara: cinephiles line up to rent this iconic holiday cottage. The bicycle used by Troisi to carry the mail is still on display in the island.
15. Gladiator (2000)
A Hollywood blockbuster and a great classic, Ridley Scott's Gladiator is a compelling, well-directed film that won 5 Oscars and restored the historical film genre (Ben Hur-style).
Russell Crowe plays the Roman general Maximus who is enslaved after rebelling against the new emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). He begins his slow revenge against Commodus, fighting in the Colosseum as a gladiator and becoming the idol of the Roman people.
Although it was not shot in Rome, but in studios in America, the film attempts to reconstruct the atmosphere and architecture of ancient Rome, failing however when it comes to historical accuracy (just search on Google for "gladiator errors" to get a funny list of inaccuracies).
The scenes shot in Italy are memorable: Scott used the poetic scenarios of the Val d’Orcia as the house where Massimo wishes to return, to hug his family again.
If you love a walk in the countryside, look for the hill where Villa Poggio Manzuoli stands, between San Quirico d’Orcia and Pienza, to enjoy the view of the tree-lined road that the Gladiator covers at the end of the film .
14. The Leopard (1963)
The Leopard is a masterpiece by Luchino Visconti with Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon, based on the novel of the same name by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Set in Sicily in the late nineteenth century, the story follows the decline of the Sicilian aristocracy shortly before the unification of Italy, recounting the last years of the life of Prince Don Fabrizio of Salina.
The three hours of film show the noble and the rustic side of Sicily, introducing wonderful characters, stories and costumes.
The Leopard was shot almost entirely in Sicily, in particular in Palermo and in the small town of Ciminna, used for the scenes at the Donnafugata estate.
Many places can still be visited today, such as the opulent Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi in Palermo, where the unforgettable scene of the final ball was filmed, and the palace of Villa Boscogrande, where many interiors were filmed.
Check our 10 tips if you want to get inspired for a road trip in Sicily.
13. Letters to Juliet (2010)
Letters to Juliet is a romantic comedy directed by Gary Winick, starring Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave.
The plot is light and cheerful, and makes perfect use of two famous Italian cities as a backdrop: Verona and Siena.
An American journalist traveling to Verona with her boyfriend finds herself replying to an old love letter found on Juliet's famous balcony. This prompts a series of events that lead the couple to break up and find each other again.
The film portrays Verona in all its splendor and romance. Many of the scenes shot in Juliet's loggia were made in the real location, closing it to tourists for two days to allow filming. The film also features scenes shot in Siena and on Lake Garda.
12. To Rome with Love (2012)
To Rome with Love is a romantic comedy film by Woody Allen presenting four different stories set in Rome.
A funny gentleman (Roberto BenignI) who wakes up to find himself a celebrity, a young American couple on their honeymoon, an architect who returns to the street where he lived as a student and an orchestra conductor who has a flair for finding young singers.
Four funny stories perfectly framed by the beauties of Rome and the excellent cast (in addition to Benigni, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin and Jesse Eisenberg).
More than for its cinematic value, the film is worth watching for the beautiful outdoor scenes shot in Rome, between the Spanish Steps, Piazza Venezia and Campo de' Fiori.
11. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Cinema Paradiso is a love letter to cinema making and to the old profession of the projectionist: a heart-warming gem by Giuseppe Tornatore and accompanied by the music of Ennio Morricone.
The film is set after World War II in Giancaldo, an imaginary village in southern Italy.
The film follows the story of the town's cinema projectionist Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), who transmits his love for the profession to Totò, a local child. The young man becomes an adult and takes the place of the teacher, who still has some life lessons to teach his pupil.
Winner of an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, Cinema Paradiso is shot in Sicily, almost exclusively in the province of Palermo (Bagheria, Palazzo Adriano and Cefalù).
The mountainous village of Palazzo Adriano was the main location for the shooting: the facade of the Cinema Paradiso was set up right in Piazza Umberto I, while the Church of Maria Santissima del Carmelo was used for the interiors of the cinema.
The famous scene in which Totò greets Alfredo, before getting on the train to Rome, was shot in Lascari, at the Lascari-Gratteri station, and can still be visited today.
10. The Hand of God (2021)
The Hand of God is a dramatic autobiographical film, directed by Paolo Sorrentino.
The director opens a glimpse into his past, presenting his Naples, the birth of his love for cinema and the facts of his troubled adolescence.
The protagonist of the film is Fabietto / Sorrentino (Filippo Scotti). The years are those of Maradona's arrival in Italy to play with Napoli and Argentina’s goal against England in the '86 World Cup, where Maradona inadvertently used his hand to score. Diego Maradona is the idol of the young protagonist, and will unintentionally end up saving his life.
Critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated, The Hand of God was filmed between Naples and Stromboli, the Sicilian island where Fabietto goes on vacation (the film offers some amazing views of the erupting Stromboli volcano).
Sorrentino presents us with a rustic and lively Naples, so beautiful that it leaves you speechless. The film begins with the sublime opening scene on the seafront, continuing through the Vomero neighbourhood, Chiaia, the Sorrento peninsula and the San Paolo Stadium (now Maradona Stadium).
It's worth mentioning the surreal scene of the meeting with the child monk, shot in the Villa del Cardinale, in Torre del Greco, along the famous Strada Regia delle Calabrie.
9. Rome, Open City (1945)
Roma, Open City by Roberto Rossellini is one of the most important cinematographic works of Italian neorealism, and one of the most loved films in the world.
Filmed in Rome immediately after the war, between shortages of food and film, Rome, Open City is set in the last years of WWII.
The film introduced the two protagonists, Anna Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi, into the cinema scene, as they masterfully portray on the screen the daily difficulties that the inhabitants of Rome had to endure during the Nazi presence in the city.
Many actors were taken off the road and it was their first experience, but this contributes to the final result: a moving masterpiece with a realistic approach, to be watched at least once in a lifetime.
The most famous scene in the film is the manifesto of neorealist cinema itself: Anna Magnani who runs and shouts behind the German truck that takes away her husband. The scene was filmed in Rome, in via Raimondo Montecuccoli, not far from the San Lorenzo district.
8. A Room with a View (1985)
Based on the novel by E.M. Forster, A Room with a View tells the adventures of Lucy Honeychurch, a young English noblewoman in early 1900s Florence, torn between a secure but boring marriage in England and a more eccentric relationship.
Beautiful and romantic Florence sets the background of the story: the “fainting” scene in Piazza della Signoria, the walks along the Arno river and the picnic on the Fiesole hill are just some of the most memorable scenes.
The film launched young Helena Bonham Carter, on her first appearance, supported by a top-notch cast, including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Daniel Day-Lewis.
This great classic deserves to be seen, perhaps before embarking on a trip to Tuscany. Check out the best things to do in Florence!
7. The Two Popes (2019)
Pope Benedetto XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) in the garden of Castel Gandolfo.
The Two Popes is a biographical drama film directed by Fernando Meirelles and adapted from McCarten’s play The Pope.
The film tells the passage of power between two popes and is set in the Vatican immediately after the Vatileaks (the scandals that arose following the dissemination of confidential information from the Church).
Based on real events, The Two Popes shows Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) on the verge of abdicating, trying in every way to persuade Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) to accept the role of his successor.
The film shows (in a pretty realistic way) the behind the scenes of life at the Vatican, with two outstanding actors at the height of their careers, offering a very convincing interpretation of the two popes.
Shot mainly in Rome, The Two Popes offer some spectacular views of the capital and Castel Gandolfo (the Pope's summer residence). Some scenes were filmed in the the beautiful Villa Farnese in Caprarola. The Sistine Chapel that we see in the film, on the other hand, is a full-size replica of the original and was created in the Cinecittà Studios.
6. Tea with Mussolini (1999)
Tea with Mussolini is a film by Franco Zeffirelli, set in Tuscany during WWII.
The film tells the story of a young Italian boy who has not been recognized by his father and is raised by a circle of cultured British and American women. The funny expats gang lives in Italy because they are in love with the local culture and art, but they have to deal with the suspicions and poison brought by the advent of fascism, and the Nazi takeover of Florence.
The cast is top class (especially Cher, Judi Dench and Joan Plowright) and the result is an elegant and never predictable film.
A tea with Mussolini shows interesting glimpses of Italian life and stories from the Fascist period, with the wonderful Florence in the background. The film is partially autobiographical, as Zeffirelli was orphaned by his mother and not recognised by his father.
A tea with Mussolini was mainly shot in Tuscany. You can visit almost all the film locations in Florence, such as the Uffizi, Santa Maria Novella, Palazzo Gianfigliazzi, or just wander around the city center, with its gelato parlours and artisan shops.
The final scenes were shot under the majestic towers of the town of San Gimignano, near Siena, narrowly saved from destruction. San Gimignano is perched on a hill and is one of the most beautiful villages to visit in Tuscany, with a beautiful historic center protected by UNESCO.
5. Baarìa (2009)
Baarìa is a movie written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, with a powerful score by Ennio Morricone.
The film tells 50 years of Sicilian life, starting from the 1930s.
Set in Bagheria (in Sicilian dialect Baarìa), the film follows the story of a Sicilian family for three generations, focusing on the story of the lovers Peppino (Francesco Scianna) and Mannina (Margareth Madè). The characters move in a dusty and sunburnt Sicily, a very suggestive setting.
The film is an excuse for Tornatore to talk about his origins and to touch on many delicate issues for Italy and Sicily, such as the advent of fascism, the landing of the allies and the massacre of Portella della Ginestra, up to the arrival of TV and the "anni di piombo" (literally "years of lead", a wave of both far-left and far-right incidents of political terrorism lasting from the late 1960s until the late 1980s).
The movie was shot between Bagheria, in the province of Palermo, and Tunisia, where a village was built that closely resembles the Bagheria of the 1930s.
In Baarìa, Tornatore also shows the beauties of Palermo, such as the spectacular Villa Palagonia and its "monsters", that can be visited in the heart of Bagheria.
4. Call Me by Your Name (2016)
Call Me by Your Name is a film by Luca Guadagnino and is the film adaptation of the novel of the same name by André Aciman.
Winner of numerous awards, including an Oscar for best adapted screenplay, the film is set in the lovely Crema of the early 1980s and tells the love story between the young Elio and an American student, who is visiting Italy to write his thesis.
Appreciated by critics and audience alike, Call Me by Your Name is a successful, sensual and original film, thanks to the excellent interpretation of the actors Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, and to the beautiful setting in Crema.
Filmed between Crema, Bergamo and the Serio waterfalls, the film does justice to the beautiful square of Crema (Piazza Duomo) with its historic newsstand in front of which the two boys declare they want to kiss.
Lake Garda also appears, with scenes shot in Sirmione where a statue is fished out of the lake.
3. Life is Beautiful (1997)
Life Is Beautiful was an overwhelming critical and commercial success, grossing 230 million dollars at the box office and winning three Oscars, including Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actor for Benigni.
The film is set in Tuscany in the 1930s, during the introduction of racial laws by the fascist government. Roberto Benigni plays Guido Orefice, an Italian waiter of Jewish origin who, together with his wife (Nicoletta Braschi) and son Giosuè, try to get by despite mounting social tensions. Only the genius of the protagonist will be able to keep his son's smile on during the terrible imprisonment in a concentration camp.
Life is Beautiful is considered a cult movie, but it is a film that has also generated harsh criticism due to some historical inaccuracies and free interpretations, which Benigni had to clarify on several occasions (such as the liberation from the lager by the Americans or the risk of trivializing a tragic).
It’s a film that makes you think, laugh and cry: it’s certainly interesting because it focuses on a delicate historical period, told through the irony of the protagonist.
It was filmed mainly in Tuscany between Arezzo and surroundings. The lager is actually a disused factory around Papigno, near Terni.
2. The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather is considered as one the most famous film shot and set in Italy.
Based on the novel of the same name by the writer Mario Puzo, the three films tell the life of the Corleone family, a powerful Mafia family in New York and originally from Sicily.
These Francis Ford Coppola masterpieces boast a simply unbeatable cast, from Al Pacino to Marlon Brando, through Robert De Niro and James Caan.
The wild and rural Sicilian land was used as a backdrop for the scenes filmed in Sicily. The medieval villages of Savoca and Forza d’Agrò are still visited today by cinephiles in search of the glimpses that inspired Coppola and the cast, between the Etna volcano and the Ionian Sea.
In Savoca you can go hunting for the places of Michele Corleone's love: the Vitelli Bar (actually Palazzo Trimarchi), where the boss meets his future wife Apollonia, and the Church of San Nicolò, place of the wedding and its traditional procession.
In the third chapter of the Godfather, the dramatic final climax was shot in Palermo, in front of the wonderful Teatro Massimo in Piazza Verdi, the largest opera house in Italy (and the third in Europe).
1. La Dolce Vita (1960)
According to many, the best film ever made.
La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini is set in Rome and tells a week in the life of a social news reporter, as he wanders through the Roman streets and night clubs, attending the famous people’s parties.
A watershed film, which almost pushes neo-realism aside, now unable to tell a reality - the Italian economic boom - that is too varied and complex.
The film features one of the most iconic scenes in the history of cinema, the bath of Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni in the Trevi Fountain (in which poor Mastroianni had to wear a wetsuit under a tuxedo due to the freezing water).
Though being shot in the Roman studios of Cinecittà (which you can visit, read our article on cinema museums), there were also many outdoor shots, offering romantic views of the capital, from Piazza del Popolo to St. Peter's Basilica.
To La Dolce Vita we owe a neologism ("paparazzo") and a vast number of quotes and parodies. The film was also a huge source of inspiration for dozens of later directors.
A timeless classic, to be seen at least once in a lifetime.
And if you love the fountains of Rome, take a look at our article on the famous fountains of the Eternal City.