Italy in the movies, the locations that made it big at the box office

One of the many things that keep us going through winter are the food programmes on TV…all those handsome Italian chefs travelling back to their scenic, sunny homeland, cooking up local specialities  along the way.

Italy tops the bill when it comes to translating la dolce vita on to the big screen, so it’s not surprising that so many movies are filmed there – in fact, other than Paris, few locations are more romantic than Venice, Naples or Rome and the deep colours of the architecture and countryside make Italy such a visual food feast!

Film buffs can learn a thing or two about Italy, without even leaving the sofa. Here are a few of our favourite Italian adventures to be enjoyed at the movies – and pointers on where to explore if you want to get the full-on film experience “when in Rome” on your next timeshare escape.

  Eat, Pray, Love (filmed in Rome, Naples)

Elizabeth Gilbert, played by Julia Roberts, explores the wonders of Rome and Naples in this romantic box office hit when she takes a break after a break up to explore the spiritual side of life. Learn about Il bel far niente, the beauty of doing nothing, drool over the pizza and gelatos and lust after those evening sunsets we’ll have to wait to enjoy next spring.

TRAVEL TIP: Rent an apartment close to Piazza Navona in Rome and take food tour, purchasing ingredients for simple pasta dishes ready to enjoy at home.

 Under the Tuscan Sun (Cortona, Florence, Siena, Positano)

Frances Mayes, played by Diane Lane, buys a 200-year old farmhouse in Tuscany, but her adventure isn’t without its problems. This heart-warming movie is perfect to explore the breathtaking landscapes of Tuscany.

TRAVEL TIP: book a shared ownership villa in Tuscany, then cook up one of Mayes’ own recipes from her book The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen to share among friends.

Letters to Juliet  (Verona, Tuscany)

Verona is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet backdrop and in this movie, Sophie heads to Italy with her fiancé, only to spend the trip chasing for a long lost boyfriend from the sweeping hills of Tuscany.

TRAVEL TIP: Be sure to visit Casa di Giulietta, Juliet’s house and the statue in Verona, before hiring a car to experience the rolling hills of Chianti area. This is wine country, so it’s worth doing some research in advance and putting aside a long lunch hour for a visit to one of the wineries.

The Tourist (Venice)

This steamy film set in Venice stars Angelina Jolie as mysterious Elise and Johnny Depp. In the film, Elise meets an American tourist, and sparks off a police and mob hunt. Enjoy the beauty of Venice with the gondolas, luxurious hotels and sweeping balconies jutting over the Canals.

TRAVEL TIP: Pop in for a cocktail at the Hotel Danieli to experience the luxury seen in the movie, then stop off at the fish market close to the Rialto bridge to see the location where Johnny Depp leaped from the balcony and into the market.

Death in Venice

One of the most haunting films in the history of film, quite possibly, in this work of art Dirk Bogarde plays composer Gustave Aschenbach who travels to a Venice resort to escape his personal and artistic stress. However the trip turns out to be an emotional rollercoaster as he develops an obsession with a boy many years younger.  This 1971 classic is a good now as it was when it first came out.

TRAVEL TIP:  Venice is best enjoyed off season – avoid in summer, and autumn and spring are perfect!

Life is Beautiful (Arezzo)

Italian film maker and actor Roberto Beigni plays Jewish-Italian waiter Guido Orefice who mets Nicholetta Braschi (who plays Dora), a schoolteacher. He wins her over and they marry and have a son, but sadly the film takes a sad turn when Guido and his son are separated from Dora and taken to a concentration camp. Beautifully shot in and around Arezzo and the soundtrack is beautiful, too.

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