Movies set in Italy, where Italy is the main character

Altar of the Fatherland in Piazza di Venezia in Rome, Italy

I love Italy. It is so vibrant, sunny, bright and delicious. Unfortunately, I don’t go there as often as I want, but there is always a possibility to see it in movies. And directors definitely love Italy 🙂

I made a list of movies set in Italy, where the country is not just a background, but the main character. In these movies you can see it in all its beauty and glory.

1. Madly in Love (Innamorato pazzo)

This movie is special to me: I watched it when I was a kid and fell in love with Italy immediately. You can see Rome in all its beauty here, and the duet of Adriano Celentano and Ornella Muti is legendary (well, at least in the post-soviet countries). The movie is funny and entertaining, but the way the main character treats women is far from perfect.

The plot: a royal family consisting of a father, mother and daughter comes to Rome. They come from a small country with huge financial problems. While her parents are trying to get money from the Italian government, princess Cristina runs away from the palace. She immediately meets Barnaba, a bus driver and a hit with the ladies. Barnaba likes the princess and tries to win her affection while showing her Rome.

What you will see: the view of Rome from the Janiculum hill, the Trevi Fountain, the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, Castel Sant’Angelo. The views are very detailed. In general, watching this movie is close to visiting Rome 🙂

Roman Forum from Via di S. Pietro in Carcere in Rome
Roman Forum from Via di S. Pietro in Carcere

The next two movies are based on Dan Brown’s novels about the adventures of Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor. I know that the novels received ambiguous reviews, but I have to say that the movies show Rome and Florence at their finest, so you should definitely watch them.

2. Angels and Demons

The plot: Professor Robert Langdon, who had recently solved the Da Vinci code, was invited to the Vatican. He has to find four kidnapped cardinals before they are killed by the Illuminati. The clues lead him from one church to another, but it doesn’t really help the cardinals.

What you will see: the Vatican with St Peter’s Square and Basilica, the grottoes and the Sistine Chapel; panoramic views of Rome, the Pantheon, the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Piazza del Popolo, the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, the sculptures by Bernini, Piazza Navona and the fountain Four Rivers, Castel Sant’Angelo and its famous bridge, and the secret passage between the Vatican and Castel Sant’Angelo.

3. Inferno

The plot: this time Professor Langdon flies to Florence to save the world from a virus created by a mad scientist Zobrist. Zobrist left clues to the location of the virus in Dante’s Divine Comedy and in The Battle of Marciano, a fresco by Vasari. The clues lead Langdon and his companion to Venice and Istanbul.

More than half of the movie is set in Florence. What you will see: the panoramic views of Florence, its narrow streets, Palazzo Vecchio (especially the Hall of the Five Hundred), the Badìa Fiorentina, the Duomo, the Boboli Gardens, the Vasari Corridor with paintings and the famous Ponte Vecchio.

There isn’t much of Venice in the movie, but you will see its famous canals, San Marco Square and Basilica, and the Doge’s Palace.

And magnificent Istanbul is the cherry on the cake. Here you will see the Grand Bazaar, Aya Sophia and Yerebatan Cistern.

4. Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday is a classic movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. The Madly in Love movie I mentioned above is loosely based on this one.

The plot: Princess Anna is visiting European capitals to establish trade relations between countries. While in Rome, tired of endless meetings and interviews, one fine night she runs away from the palace. She meets Joe Bradley, a journalist, who decides to use her for career advancement. Joe shows Rome to Anna, at the same time trying to find out everything about her.

What you will see: Colonna, Barberini and Brancaccio Palaces, the Roman Forum, the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Spanish Steps, the mouth of truth, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, Piazza Venezia with the white Vittoriano, Piazza del Campidoglio, Castel Sant’Angelo.

1 Day in Rome Walking Itinerary | Altare della Patria
The magnificent Altare della Patria in Piazza Venezia

5. The Tourist

The plot: Alexander Pearce was an accountant of a mafia boss, stole billions from him and ran away. Now not only the criminals are looking for him, but the police as well. The problem is that he underwent plastic surgery and nobody knows how he looks. Elise is Alexander’s girlfriend and she is closely followed as everyone believes he will come for her. One day Elise receives a letter from Alexander asking her to come to Venice.

What you will see: the panoramic views of Venice, its canals including the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge, the Doge’s Palace, gondolas, beautiful buildings, interior of the magnificent and extremely expensive Danieli Hotel. The best views of the city can be seen during the race on the roofs.

6. Under the Tuscan Sun

The plot: Frances Mayes is a writer who has recently divorced and goes through a writer’s block. Her friends convince her to go to Italy for a vacation, and while there Frances buys an old villa that requires capital repair. During the repair she finds new friends and meets a new love. Well, at least she thinks it is love. And everything is happening under the Tuscan sun.

What you will see: the Duomo of Florence; old streets of Cortona and Montepulciano; Piazza Venezia in Rome and its streets; the Italian seaside; the panoramic views of Positano and the endless fields of Tuscany.

7. To Rome with Love

To Rome with Love is quite a peculiar movie so not everybody will like it. Personally, I enjoyed watching the stories taking place in Rome.

The plot: the movie shows four different stories. The first one is about a couple of an American and an Italian whose fathers are quite peculiar. The second one is about a newly-wed couple that comes to Rome to start a new life: the husband goes around the city with a prostitute, and the wife meets a famous actor. The third one is about an office worker who suddenly becomes famous and gets asked questions about his breakfast, clothes and shaving procedure. The fourth one is about a student who lives in Rome with her boyfriend, but many things change after her actress friend comes to stay with them.

What you will see: the panoramic views of Rome, Piazza Venezia, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza del Campidoglio, Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain, the streets and parks of Rome, the famous Trastevere district, the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps.

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

8. Letters to Juliet

The plot: Sophie lives in New York and is really good at fact checking and finding people. Her fiance Victor is an excellent cook and plans to open a restaurant in the city. Before the opening they decide to go for a holiday to Verona. Victor spends his time meeting with suppliers and buying wine and Sophie is left on her own. During one of her strolls around the city she finds out about Juliet’s secretaries. They respond to letters left at the House of Juliet and Sophie joins them. She finds a letter from Claire left there 50 years ago and replies to it. Soon Claire and her handsome grandson come to Verona and three of them start looking for the man Claire ran away from half a century ago.

What you will see: the panoramic views of Verona and its amphitheater and narrow streets, the House of Juliet; Italian vineyards; the panoramic views and streets of Siena, its main square and the tower; villages and endless Tuscan fields.

9. All Roads Lead to Rome

The plot: Maggie and her troubled daughter Summer come to Italy. Here Maggie meets Luca, her ex-boyfriend. Summer is far from being enthusiastic about the trip and wants to go back to New York to save her boyfriend from jail by taking the blame on herself. She steals Luca’s car to get to the airport, but Luca’s mother runs away with her. She needs to go to Rome, so Summer has to drive her there. Maggie and Luca follow them, involving the police. The situation gets more interesting when the police decide that Summer kidnapped the old lady.

What you will see: the Italian seaside and landscapes; the views of Rome from the Janiculum Hill, Castel Sant’Angelo, the Colosseum, the Theatre of Marcellus, the Orange Garden with the views of St Peter’s Basilica.

10. Bread and tulips (Pane e tulipani)

This movie is very different from the ones I mention above. You will not see the tourist gloss here, just the real life of Italians. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it as the movie shows the Italy tourists usually don’t see.

The plot: Rosalba is a clumsy Italian housewife from Pescara, who spends her days cleaning the house and cooking for her family. During a tour around Italy the bus leaves without her and her family doesn’t notice it immediately. Rosalba hitchhikes trying to get home, changes her mind and goes to Venice instead. Then she decides to stay in Venice and finds a job.

Her husband is not happy that his wife isn’t coming back so he sends an awkward aficionado of whodunits to find her.

What you will see: the Ancient Greek temples in Paestum, non-tourist Venice, and the real life of Italians.

Do you know any other movies set in Italy? I would happily watch them and add them here 🙂


Films set in Italy

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