What better backdrop than Italy? From the Tuscan hills to the Spanish Steps to the Mediterranean waters of the Amalfi Coast, it's no wonder filmmakers leave Hollywood to shoot on location.
The following films are pure travelogue, offering an armchair view of the most beautiful country on the planet. Here are a few classics....
American audiences are introduced to Audrey Hepburn who plays a runaway princess in Roman Holiday (1953) with Gregory Peck as her journalist/accomplice. Iconic sights include the Mouth of Truth (a face carved in stone which is said to cut the hands off of liars -- go figure), the Colisseum, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and the Piazza del Pantheon. The film was shot in black and white as not to upstage the sights of Rome.
Roman Holiday also has the distinction of being the first American film shot in Italy. And not only did Hepburn get to keep all her costumes from the film, she won Best Actress that year as well. Imagine what a different film it would have been if they'd originally cast Cary Grant and Jean Simmons.
Roman Holiday (1953)
The infamous scene at the Mouth of Truth was copied years later in another romantic comedy Only You (1994) with Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. They even look like a modern day Hepburn and Peck.
The magnificent staircase skyline of the Amalfi Coast has been the landscape for many a film. Only You, Under the Tuscan Sun and The Talented Mr. Ripley are a few productions to utilize the popular beach towns of the Mediterranean.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Cortona, Arrezo, Florence, Positano and Rome were natural locales for Under the Tuscan Sun. Viewers might recognize Montepulciano where the wedding took place, Cortona where the Mayes character purchased her farmhouse and the shoreline of Positano where she is courted by her Italian friend.
Sun's garden wedding
Clifton Webb courts Dorothy McGuire in various settings of Rome and Venice -- most importantly the Trevi Fountain -- in Three Coins in the Fountain (1954). (Try getting that theme song out of your head!)
The exotic locales of Positano, Siena, Venice and Rome take center stage in the romantic comedy of soul mates who meet and eventually fall in love in Only You (1994).
Only You Film Poster
Le Sirenuse Hotel, Positano
Le Sirenuse hotel was used for the scenes in Positano. A must stay if you ever visit by the way. Breathtaking views from the pool and the old world lobby are worth the visit alone.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) is probably the most picturesque of the films made in Italy. Rome, Positano, Naples and Venice are beautifully captured and viewers will recognize Venice's famed Caffe Florian and the Hotel Europa, Rome's Le Grand Hotel and the Via Condotti.
Cate Blanchett as Marge and Matt Damon as Tom Ripley at the Spanish Steps
in The Talented Mr. Ripley
Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Freddie Miles makes his grand entrance
La Dolce Vita (1960) celebrates the decadence of society in sixties Italy among numerous nightclubs and the Via Veneto. The infamous Trevi fountain scene with Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroanni is a film classic and recreated in Under the Tuscan Sun...proving once again imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroanni in the Trevi Fountain
in La Dolce Vita
Other Italian films of note are Il Postino, A Room With a View, My House in Umbria, Rome Adventure, 8 1/2, Godfather One and Three and The English Patient.
And of course, anything Lina Wertmuller or Fellini.
P.S. Writer (and ex-Los Angelino now living in Rome) Joie Davidow's website In Rome Now: beyond the guidebooks is a fabulous and unique insider's guide to everything from arts and culture to weekend getaways. Also catch her book I Wouldn't Leave Rome for Heaven -- it's the story of three expats and their adventures. Wonderful!