Tag Archives: films set in italy

Films set in Italy: Tea with Mussolini

The film, Tea With Mussolini, was released in 1999 and opens in Florence in the mid-1930s. It is a semi-autobiographical story about a young boy, Luca, who grows up surrounded by a group of cultured British expatriate ladies, who go for tea every afternoon.

The film follows the lives of several characters, including Luca, Elsa, a rich Jewish-American woman from the USA, and several English women. As the decade draws on and it looks certain that Italy will join forces with Nazi Germany, one of the women has tea with Mussolini himself, who assures her that the expat community will remain safe.

The Piazza Cisterna in San Gimignano, where many of the film's scenes were shot.

The Piazza Cisterna in San Gimignano, where many of the film’s scenes were shot.

However, the remainder of the film depicts a story of deception, lies and struggle, as the characters try to overcome the problems related to being from ‘the enemy’ in a period of war. Much of the drama is set in the beautiful Tuscan town of San Gimignano, where the characters are holed up in wartime Italy.

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Italian Films: Non Ti Muovere (Don’t Move)

The 2004 Italian film, Don’t Move (Non Ti Muovere), was first screened at the prestigious Cannes film festival and became a multiple award winner, including the prestigious David di Donatello. The film, which stars Penelope Cruz, who learnt Italian specifically for her role, could appear to be at first sight just a tale of a love triangle between two women and one man, set under the Italian sun. However, there is a lot more to the story.

Sergio Castellitto directs and stars

Sergio Castellitto directs and stars

Timoteo is the man involved, alongside Italia – an Albanian immigrant played by Penelope Cruz – and his wife, Elsa. Upon hearing the news that his daughter Angela, has suffered a serious injury in a motorbike accident, Timoteo, who is a surgeon himself, spends much of the remainder of the film  reminiscing about a memory which is sparked by him seeing a woman with red shoes on.

The red shoes remind him of Italia, who used to own a similar pair. He met her when his car broke down and followed her to his house so he could make a phone call. Timoteo tortuously fell in love with her and wanted to leave his wife for her, but, upon hearing that Elsa was pregnant, he decided to stay with her, whilst still seeing Italia when at work conferences.

Without giving too much other information away, the film focuses, using flashbacks, on relationships and how even the perfect life can be upset by passion. The surgeon is forced to confront events from his past in addition to the mortality of his own family members, whilst confronting his own past relationships, making for a brave and, at times, difficult film.


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Films Set in Italy: The Italian Job

One of the most significant Anglo-Italian contributions to cinema has to be the comedy caper, The Italian Job. The film, which was released in 1969, is still a firm favourite today, even spawning a 21st century Hollywood remake in 2003.

The premise for the film is revenge for the murder of Robert Beckermann, whose car explodes in a tunnel on an Alpine road. The mafia were responsible for the killing, and push Robert’s car down a gorge. Robert’s wife informs Charlie Croker – played by Michael Caine – who is a fellow thief, of her late husband’s plan to steal gold from a Fiat factory in Italy. Croker is interested in the idea and sets about gathering his team.


Michael Caine‘s handprints on Leicester Square

The gang travel to Italy on the premise of going to Turin for a football match between England and Italy. Quickly loading the gold into three Mini Coopers, the thieves plan to escape by hacking the Turin traffic light system to cause gridlock in the city.

The Minis escape via a combination of good driving and comical policing and, with the gold in the boot, are loaded onto a moving bus via a ramp, in a high-risk manoeuvre. The bus drives off towards the Swiss-Italian border, yet, just as it seems everything has worked, the bus slips and looks as if it will career off the Alpine cliff and into the beautiful valley below. We leave our ‘heroes’ on a literal cliff-hanger, as it were, as they try to save the gold and their lives.

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Films set in Italy: Manuale d’Amore

Italy is often thought of as one of the most romantic countries on earth, and with cities such as Venice and Rome, it is not difficult to see why this is the case. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that the 2005 comedy film Manuale d’amore (Manual of Love), was set in the Italian capital, following four intertwined couples in different chapters, in a similar vein to the British film, Love Actually.

Goffredo (Carlo Verdone) is a rich doctor abandoned by his wife

Goffredo (Carlo Verdone) is a rich doctor abandoned by his wife

The first in a trilogy of films by the same director, Giovanni Veronesi, Manuale d’amore allows us to peek into the world of four different couples who are at very different stages of their relationships. The story tries to show the possible cycle of love.

First off is our new couple, who demonstrate the process of dating and falling in love to the audience. Another couple are in crisis and are looking at a possible divorce. The third couple are dealing with the fallout from the husband having an affair, as his wife is out looking for revenge, while the fourth couple shows a wealthy doctor trying to cope with being abandoned by his wife.

The film shows how each couple manage their relationship and is a light-hearted look at love and life with stories which resonate slightly more deeply than might appear on first viewing. The motion picture also shows a variety of different shots of the capital, and it is clear to see how people can fall in and out of love so easily in such a beautiful location.

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Films Set in Italy: Swept Away, a 1974 film by Lina Wertmuller

In our series of articles about films set in Italy, today we bring you Swept Away, a 1974 film by Lina Wertmuller.

In this filme, a vain businesswoman named Raffaella (Mariangela Melato) is on a yacht in the Mediterranean with friends. Her incessant rants include the virtues of her upper class and the worthlessness of the political left. She greatly angers one of the deckhands on her yacht, the married Gennarino (played by Giancarlo Giannini), who is a dedicated Communist. He manages to keep his opinions to himself to avoid losing his job, agreeing to take her on a dinghy that evening to see her friends. En route, the engine dies, leaving them stranded in the middle of the sea.

*Image: Wikipedia

*Image: Wikipedia, Giancarlo Giannini

The next morning, Gennarino gets the motor running, but neither knows where they are. They finally see an island and head for it, destroying the dinghy. Managing to land, they discover that they are shipwrecked and alone on the island. Raffaella orders Gennarino around but he snaps and they split up, exploring the island alone.

Gennarino quickly catches lobsters and cooks them. Because Raffaella has to rely on him for food, Gennarino decides that she should be his slave, which leads to anger and fights.

They get rescued, both knowing that something unsettling has happened in their lives, but she doesn’t want to let go of the society life she is used to. Gennarino decides to return to his loveless marriage back home.

The film was shot in Tortoli, Sardinia, and it’s worth watching for the blue of the water alone!


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Films set in Italy: Summertime

In our category of films set in Italy, today we bring you the 1955 American-British film, Summertime. In it, Katharine Hepburn stars as Jane Hudson, a single school secretary from Ohio. She has a lifelong dream of spending a summer in Venice and finally manages to get there after saving from her meagre earnings for a number of years.


The evening of her arrival, Jane decides to take a stroll to the Piazza San Marco, and becomes slightly depressed and ‘down’ witnessing so many couples walking through one of the most romantic cities in the world.

She realises that she is alone with her thoughts until she notices a handsome Italian man gazing at her. As soon as she catches his eye, he walks away and she is again alone. When she goes shopping the following day, she notices a red glass goblet in a shop window and, going in to take a closer look, realises that the owner, Renato De Rossi, is the very same man who was staring at her the evening before. Hoping to see her again, Renato offers to try to find her a matching goblet.

She goes back to his store the following day and is disappointed when he is not there. However, he comes to see her that evening, and she agrees to have dinner with him.

Following the usual ups and downs and misunderstandings, Jane discovers that Renato is actually married with several children. Renato ends up admitting to being married but states that they are separated and the marriage is unhappy. Jane sadly feels that the relationship has nowhere to go, and so decides to return home and leaves for the station, hoping that Renato will nonetheless turn up before she leaves. The film ends as he tries to hand her a package through the train window, but because it is moving too quickly, he does not get the opportunity. Was that the goblet he promised?

If you like old films and are a Katharine Hepburn fan, we are sure you will enjoy Summertime. Moreover, the film really shows Venice in the true natural beauty of the time.

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Films set in Italy: Death in Venice

Death in Venice is a 1971 movie starring Dirk Bogarde and directed by Luchino Visconti.

Luchino Visconti

Luchino Visconti

Bogarde plays the protagonist, Gustav von Aschenbach who has travelled to Venice for health reasons. During his stay at the Grand Hotel des Bains on the Lido, he becomes obsessed by the haunting beauty of a young boy, Tadzio who is with his family.

The city is in the grip of a cholera epidemic, unknown to the holiday-makers. The city authority is afraid that they will all leave. As the guests enjoy day-trips in the city centre it becomes apparent that something is seriously wrong. Aschenbach makes a decision to leave, but actually decides to stay, although he is dying.

Aschenbach visits the barbers who dyes his grey hair black and reddens his lips to try to make him appear younger. Aschenbach gazes longingly at Tadzio from afar, until the boy becomes aware that he is being stared at. In the crucial end scene, Aschenbach sees Tadzio being attacked by an older boy.

When the older boy releases him, Tadzio walks away towards the horizon. He turns around to look at Aschenbach, then turns away to face the sun, stretching his arms towards it. Aschenbach reaches out also as if to touch Tadzio, and at the same moment dies from the cholera infection. Some strangers notice him collapsed on the chair and alert the hotel staff who carry his body away.

But how will it end? We recommend this as one of the most gripping films set in Italy of the 70’s!

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Films set in Italy: Angels and Demons

Angels & Demons is an American thriller movie made in 2009 and directed by Ron Howard. It is based on Dan Brown’s novel of the same name and is the sequel to The Da Vinci Code. Although you might not associate this movie with other films set in Italy, the filming for Angels & Demons took place in Rome, Italy, and California, US. Tom Hanks once more plays the lead role of Robert Langdon and producer Brian Grazer, composer Hans Zimmer and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman also return.

After the murder of a physicist at the CERN in Switzerland, a destructive weapon which could kill millions in 24 hours is reported missing. Father Silvano Bentivoglio, symbolist Robert Langdon, and scientist, Vittoria Vetra, are seeking the truth about these crimes. Clues take them to Rome and to four locations associated with the elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water.


Notwithstanding his infamous relationship with the church, Langdon is again called upon to decipher the clues to a conspiracy concerning the disappearance of four cardinals who were primary hopefuls for the papacy. The killer has left clues which would seem to indicate that he or she is also a member of the Illuminati. However, the Illuminati were thought to have been eradicated. Who is the mastermind behind them? Who re-established them, and what do they want?

With their time limit counting down, Langdon and Vetra need to travel through Rome to decipher the hidden clues which will lead them to a ghastly antagonist, a terrifying discovery, and the distressing truth. 

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Italian films: Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso is a 1988 movie directed and written by Giuseppe Tornatore.

Giuseppe Tornatore *Image: Wikipedia

Giuseppe Tornatore
*Image: Wikipedia

It is initially set in Rome in the 1980’s and then moves onto Sicily. The opening scenes show us a (fictional) famous Italian film director, Salvatore Di Vita returning home one night to a harrowing piece of information from his sleepy girlfriend, informing him that his mother has phoned to say that someone called Alfredo has died.

When his girlfriend asks who Alfredo was, Salvatore flashes back to his childhood in Giancaldo, Sicily. We learn that as a mischievous, yet intelligent six year old, nicknamed ‘Toto,’ Salvatore lives with his widowed mother. Toto develops a love for films and spends as much time as possible at the cinema – ‘Cinema Paradiso.’

At the cinema, Toto develops a strong bond with the projectionist, Alfredo, who takes the boy under his wing, allowing him to watch many films from the projection room. The audience in the cinema can be heard booing several times, apparently because crucial parts of the films, such as a kiss or an embrace had been censored by the local priest. The cut scenes end up in a pile in the projection room. A fire occurs in which Toto saves Alfredo’s life, who is blinded by the accident.

Following his heart being broken, Alfredo urges Toto to leave Sicily and never to return. He only goes back for Alfredo’s funeral and his widow gives Toto a gift from Alfredo – the cut scenes made into a film.

One of the most wonderful Italian films, Cinema Paradiso mixes comedy with sentimentality, and is well worth a watch.

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Films Set in Italy: The Talented Mr. Ripley

The Talented Mr Ripley is a 1999 film starring the delicious Matt Damon as Tom Ripley, and directed by the award-winning director, Anthony Minghella. Also in leading roles are Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman. With such a stellar cast it was guaranteed to be a box-office sensation and netted more than $128 million, having cost a mere $40 million.

It begins in 1950’s New York when Tom Ripley is playing piano at a garden party and is approached by Herbert Greenleaf who, because Tom is in a borrowed Princeton jacket, thinks that Ripley went to Princeton with his son, Dickie who has now gone to live in Italy. Greenleaf persuades Tom to visit Italy to attempt to bring Dickie home and offers to pay for the journey, giving him $1000. Tom agrees despite the fact that he has never been to Princeton, or met the errant Dickie.

In Italy, Tom manages to attach himself to both Dickie and Marge, his well-bred fiancée. Tom pretends to adore jazz as he absorbs, and gets used to, the luxurious way of life. Besides that of being a liar, Tom’s talents include those of impressions and forgery. The handsome and confident Dickie quickly tires of Tom, denouncing him as something of a bore, and so Tom goes to extreme lengths to try and make Greenleaf’s privileges his own.

San Remo

San Remo sees some important action
*Image: Wikipedia

Although Matt Damon disliked the fact that the film strayed away from the original book on which it was based, it was an enormous hit, and one you should definitely add to your must-see list of films set in Italy.


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