40 Best Movies Set in Italy: Romance, Drama and Laughs

Are you looking for the best movies set in Italy?

Then you’re in luck. I’m a total movie nut with a love for Italian cinema and am excited to share my favourite films set in Italy with you.

From action movies to romantic comedies, there’s something for everyone. Most of these are available to stream on Amazon Prime and I have listed my favourite movies filmed in Italy on Netflix.

Not all of these movies are masterpieces (although there are a few that are). However, each of them showcases Italy’s regions, landscapes, culture or society.

medieval town set amongst rolling countryside in italy

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My Top 10 Movies Set in Italy

In a hurry? Let’s cut to the chase with my favourite movies about Italy.

La Dolce Vita (1960)

If pushed, I would name La Dolce Vita as my favourite film of all time.

This Fellini masterpiece follows Marcello Mastroianni’s central journalist character over seven days in nights in Rome, searching in vain for “the sweet life.”

The film is worth watching for its opening scene alone: a helicopter transporting a statue of Christ over Rome. Or for the iconic image of Anita Ekberg’s Sylvia frolicking in the Trevi Fountain.

rooftops of the city of rome italy
Rome’s rooftops

Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Italy is famous for its cinematic legacy and this is the first Italian movie in this collection of films set in the country. It’s perhaps the finest movie about movies ever made.

Cinema Paradiso is one of my favourite films of all time and is one of the few films that is guaranteed to make me weep with each viewing. It is about an outwardly successful man coming to terms with demons from his past, but is also a love letter to cinema.

cinema museum london

The Leopard (1963)

I was lucky enough to see The Leopard on the big screen at London’s BFI Southbank some years ago.

This is an epic movie in all senses of the word. Clocking in at a touch over three hours, it tells of the fortunes of an aristocratic Sicilian family during the Risorgimento (unification of Italy) in the 1860s.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, it stars Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale

Il Postino / The Postman (1994)

A more recent gem of Italian cinema, Il Postino is set on the island of Procida in Southern Italy.

The story is a simple one.

In a bid to be something more than a simple fisherman, shy, uneducated Mario (Massimo Troisi), takes a small job as a postman on an Italian island, delivering mail to an exiled romantic poet Pablo Neruda (Phillipe Noiret). The two men develop a relationship that is based on Neruda helping Mario win the heart of his beloved Beatrice.

Roman Holiday (1953)

Another one of my favourite movies set in Italy, although this time lighter fare.

Roman Holiday is two hours of pure entertainment, courtesy of two sparkling leads – Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck –  and a razor-sharp screenplay. Desperate to escape the confines of her duties, a sheltered princess (Hepburn) hangs out with an American reporter in Rome (Peck).

Roman Holiday was filmed in multiple locations in Rome. If you are after armchair travel in Italy with a twist of better-sweet romance, this timeless fairy tale is one of the best choices.

bocca-della-verita-rome-italy-which-features-in-roman-holiday-which-is-one-of-the-best-films-set-in-italy
Bocca Della Verità, which features in the iconic movies set in Italy, Roman Holiday

READ THIS NEXT: 15 Fabulous Roman Holiday Filming Locations in Rome

The Godfather (1972)

Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece barely needs an introduction.

Based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, The Godfather chronicles the exploits of the powerful Italian-American crime family of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). When the patriarch’s youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino), reluctantly joins the firm, he is pulled into a deadly cycle of violence and betrayal.

Location filming for The Godfather took place in two medieval villages in Sicily: Savoca and Forza d’Agrò.

A Room With A View (1986)

A Room With A View is not only one of the best movies set in Italy, but also one of my favourite movies of all time, and the film that made me fall in love with Florence.

In this sumptuous Merchant-Ivory adaptation of E.M Forster’s classic novel, Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham-Carter in her screen debut), a well-brought-up Edwardian English lady, is faced with a choice. Should she marry safe but dull Cecil (Daniel Day-Lewis) or take a chance on the charismatic but socially unsuitable George (Julian Sands), whom she has met in Italy on the grand tour?

Using multiple filming locations in Florence, this is a marvel of a movie that just gets better with multiple viewings.

red dome of florence cathedral with red roofs of city below
Florence, Italy

READ THIS NEXT: Where Was A Room with a View Filmed in Italy?

Luca (2021)

I love a Disney – Pixar movie and this one is a treat.

In this coming-of-age animation, the titular character shares an unforgettable summer with his new best friend. However, his new chum is a sea monster who inhabits another world beneath the surface of the sea.

This is a charming movie and its wonderful animation takes you on a joyful and nostalgic trip to the Italian Riviera of the 1950s.  Look out for the movie posters advertising Roman Holiday and La Strada.

Summertime (1955)

Having abandoned hope of getting married, middle-aged Ohio secretary Jane Hudson (Katherine Hepburn) uses her savings to take the trip of a lifetime to Venice. Overwhelmed by the beauty of the city, she falls for Renato (Rossano Brazzi), a handsome—but married—Italian man.  

Could her days as a single woman be over?

Don’t Look Now (1973)

Venice has never appeared more sinister than in Don’t Look Now.

pigeon-perching-on-post-overlooking-guidecca-canal-in-venice
Giudecca Canal, Venice, Italy

Adapted from a short story by Daphne du Maurier and directed by Nicolas Roeg, this supernatural horror film centres on a married couple who travel to Venice shortly after the accidental death of their daughter.

The film is renowned for its editing and recurring motifs, notably the use of the colour red. Its sex scene is so realistic that it has been the subject of a “Did they really do it?” debate.

Movies About Italy on Netflix

The selection of movies set in Italy available on Netflix is limited but here’s the best of the bunch.

There are regional variations in the availability of movies on Netflix and some films come and go. The information here relates to the UK market in October 2023.

Eat Pray Love (2010)

Adapted from Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir of the same name, this tale of self-discovery starring Julia Roberts was shot on location in Rome and Naples. Whilst few would claim that Eat Pray Love is a cinematic masterpiece, it is the ultimate Italian food indulgence.

See it and salivate.

chef holding pasta meal in a white bowl

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Let’s travel to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for the next addition to our Italy movies list. 

Spider-Man Far From Home is a terrific MCU movie, which was partially set in Venice and features a wonderful set-piece in the City of Canals. It has humour, emotion and Tom Holland is fabulous in the title role.   

the grand canal in venice which is one of the location used for movies set in italy

The Hand of God (2021)

This small miracle of a movie is enough to make you start to plan a visit to Naples.

Directed by Paolo Sorrentino, The Hand of God is based on his boyhood in Naples. Set in the 1980s, this beautifully filmed coming-of-age story was shot on location in the city.

pretty marina in naples italy
Naples, Italy

The Two Popes (2019)

This Oscar-nominated movie chronicles the relationship, and differences, between Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) and his successor, Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce). Career-best performances from the two leads, forming a peculiar odd-couple in stiff white robes, and a first-rate script elevate The Two Popes above its dry subject matter.

Many of Rome’s landmarks play supporting roles in this movie. The film was shot in various locations in the city and a full-sized replica of the Sistine Chapel’s interior was created at the city’s Cinecittà studios.

Dramas & Action Films Set in Italy

The Great Beauty (2013)

The second movie in this list by Paolo Sorrentino is set in Rome.

It centres on a 65-year-old journalist, Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), reflecting on the passions of his youth. Gambardella and his circle of friends and associates are presented as exotic animals trapped in a gilded cage. 

Although a long film, The Great Beauty never bores.  

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Matt Damon heads an all-star cast in this movie written and directed by the late, great Anthony Minghella, which is set in the 1950s.

The charismatic but psychopathic Tom Ripley (Damon) is despatched to Italy to bring back Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), a spoilt millionaire playboy. However, events take a sinister turn.

The Talented Mr. Ripley was almost entirely shot on location in Italy, notably in and around Positano and locations in Rome and Venice.

positano-italy
Positano, Italy

Gladiator (2000)

Gladiator takes us to Ancient Rome, recreated in all of its former glory.

Featuring a wonderful score by Hans Zimmer, this Ridley Scott-helmed multi-Oscar-winning blockbuster is a vengeance story. Maximus, a former Roman General (Russell Crowe) sets out to avenge the murder of his family and his descent into slavery by a corrupt emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix).

Angels & Demons (2009)

This Ron Howard-directed adaptation of Dan Brown’s sequel to the Da Vinci Code received mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike. To me, it is fast-paced, albeit silly fun.

Starring Tom Hanks, Angels & Demons was partly filmed in Rome (some scenes were recreated on a backlot in Culver City and at Cinecittá).

large circular building in rome of castel sant-angelo
Castel Sant’Angelo is featured in the final scenes of Angels & Demons

READ THIS NEXT: 8 Awesome Angels and Demons Locations in Rome, Italy

The Italian Job (1969)

Infinitely quotable, The Italian Job is a British caper film that tells the story of Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) who leads a criminal gang attempting to steal gold bullion from an armoured security truck in Italy.

With one of the greatest end scenes in cinematic history and a Quincy Jones soundtrack, the film is a wildly fun romp and has achieved iconic status. The chase scenes were filmed around Turin.

Just remember this – in this country, they drive on the wrong side of the road.

red rooftops of the city of turin italy
Turin

8 ½ (1963)

One of the stellar Fellini / Mastroianni collaborations with the latter playing the director’s alter-ego who is hit by ‘director’s block’. The Oscar-winning surrealist comedy-drama, 8 ½ is set in Rome and has inspired directors from Woody Allen to Bob Fosse.

majestic baroque fountain of trevi in rome italy
Rome’s Trevi Fountain

Bicycle Thieves / Ladri Di Biciclette (1948)

Bicycle Thieves was acclaimed as the greatest film ever made on its release. Directed by Vittorio De Sica, this seminal work of Italian neorealism has had a far-reaching impact on cinema up to the present day.

The premise is a simple one: in post-war Italy and working-class man and his son walk the streets of Rome in search of his stolen bicycle. The film’s power lies in its almost unbearable study of poverty and the relationship between father and son.

ancient roman ruins in the forum in rome italy
Rome, the location for many great movies set in Italy

L’Avventura (1960)

For a travelogue with directorial flair, press play on L’Avventura.

This cinematic landmark is about the disappearance of a young woman whilst sailing in the Mediterranean and the search for her by her lover and best friend (Monica Vitti). The film is a frequent inclusion on critics’ best films lists and made a star of Vitti. 

cliff-edged shoreline in mediterranean
Italy’s Amalfi Coast

Enchanted April (1991)

This sun-dappled treasure of a film was shot on location in Portofino.

Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence) and Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson) swap their empty relationships with their husbands in 1920s London for a medieval castle in Italy. Joined by Caroline Dester (Polly Walker), a young socialite, and Mrs Fisher (Joan Plowright), an older aristocrat, they are slowly transformed by their surroundings and experiences.

Rocco and his Brothers (1960)

Rocco and his Brothers is another landmark film of Italian neorealism.

In this improbable blend of operatic melodrama and seamy social realism, an impoverished widow from southern Italy moves to Milan with her five sons. As the sons adapt to life in the big city, competition for the affections of Nadia (Annie Girardot) threatens to tear the family apart.

La Vita è Bella / Life is Beautiful (1999)

Although this bittersweet Italian movie sometimes veers towards the saccharine, Life is Beautiful is nonetheless charming and humorous, given the subject matter.

A Jewish-Italian waiter, Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni in an Oscar-winning performance) and his son, Giosue, are transported to a concentration camp. To protect his son from the horrors surrounding them, Guido pretends that their time in the camp is a game.

Journey to Italy (1954)

In Journey to Italy, Roberto Rossellini uses the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum as a powerful metaphor for a marriage on the rocks.

roman mosaic and water spout
Pompeii, Italy

This moving masterpiece of neo-realism features nuanced performances from Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders. It was the third part of an informal trilogy of Italian movies in which Rossellini directed his wife (the other two were Stromboli and Europa 51).

Spectre (2015)

If you are looking for virtual travel to Rome of the heart-pumping variety, it’s hard to top Spectre, the 24th film in the James Bond franchise. In this Sam Mendes-directed movie, there is a stunning set piece where Bond (Daniel Craig) is involved in a car chase through the streets of Rome and along the banks of the Tiber River.

ornate bridge across river at dusk in rone which is the setting for many great italy movies
River Tiber, Rome

It’s safe to say that this isn’t the greatest Bond film ever, but it is first-rate escapist armchair travel. The opening scene at the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico City, filmed as a continuous tracking shot, is virtuoso filmmaking.

Quantum of Solace (2008)

The opening scene of Quantum of Solace sees our favourite spy involved in another car chase, this time from Lake Garda to Siena via the marble quarries at Carrara. This is followed by the dramatic Palio race in Sienna’s Piazza del Campo, culminating with James Bond chasing bad guys along the cobbled streets and across the rooftops of Tuscany.

Again, not a stellar Bond film but a fantastic travelogue.

mountain face of carrara marble
Carrara’s marble quarries

Tea With Mussolini (1999)

Set in Florence in 1934, Tea With Mussolini centres on an abandoned boy who is raised by a group of eccentric, expatriate women.

Although this movie reveals no surprises, it is very warm and watchable and features a stellar cast.

Under The Tuscan Sun (2003)

In this decent adaption of Frances Mayes’ memoir of the same name, Diane Lane plays the author who escapes to Tuscany when she discovers her husband has been cheating on her. Falling in love with Cortona, she buys a dilapidated villa and starts to rebuild her life.

Under The Tuscan Sun was filmed on location in multiple locations in Italy, including Cortona, Florence, Montepulciano, Positano and Rome.

The Tourist (2010)

What The Tourist loses in its confused plotting and clunky script, it makes up for with its sumptuous scenery. Shot on location in Venice, this is Italian armchair travel at its best. 

It tells the story of a broken-hearted maths teacher who is drawn into a game of cat and mouse with a mysterious stranger. Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp provide the star wattage.

Comedies Set in Italy

Marriage Italian Style (1964)

I make no excuses for including another Marcello Mastroianni film in this list of my favourite movies set in Italy, this time paired with Sophia Loren.

Marriage Italian Style, a comedy set largely in Naples and directed by the great Vittorio De Sica, tells the story of a rich man and his mistress who will stop at nothing to keep her man.

Avanti (1972)

Jack Lemmon is one of my all-time favourite comic actors and he delivers a stellar performance in Avanti, his fifth out of seven collaborations with the great Billy Wilder.  

Lemmon plays a befuddled businessman who travels to Italy to claim his father’s body. On reaching the island of Ischia, he discovers that his old man had a mistress for several years, who had died in a car accident with him.

Pamela (Juliet Mills), the mistress’s daughter, has also arrived on the island to claim her mother’s body. I think that you can guess what happens next.

Where Angels Fear To Tread (1991)

Where Angels Fear To Tread does not hit the heights of the better-known film adaptation of an E.M. Forster novel, A Room With A View. However, this dark comedy provides an interesting commentary on the ‘otherness’ of different cultures, in this case, that of Italy.

Much to the outrage of her in-laws, Lilia (Helen Mirren), an English widow, has become engaged to Gino, a younger Italian, whilst on an extended visit to Italy. Her brother-in-law, Phillip (Rupert Graves), is sent to rescue her from this ill-advised match, setting in motion a chain of tragic and comedic events.

I love this quote from the book:

Italy, Phillip had always maintained, is only her true self in the height of summer, when the tourists have left her, and her soul awakes under the beams of a vertical sun.

To Rome with Love (2012)

Make no mistake; To Rome with Love is not a classic Woody Allen movie. It’s one of his C-division films at best.

However, if you press play not expecting another Annie Hall, it’s an enjoyable watch.

Featuring an ensemble cast that includes Alec Baldwin and Penelope Cruz, the film centres around a father (Allen) meeting his daughter’s Italian in-laws, whilst interweaving four unrelated stories.  

Pane e Utulipani / Bread and Tulips (2000)

This well-loved romantic comedy was directed by Silvio Soldini.

During a family holiday, Rosalba (Licia Maglietta) finds herself stranded. In a fit of pique, she decides to hitchhike her way home. Impulsively deciding on a detour to Venice, she meets Fernando (Bruno Ganz) and Grazia (Marina Massironi).

Will this unplanned journey change her life?

Romantic Movies Filmed in Italy

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Call Me By Your Name is an outstanding coming-of-age romantic drama.

Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) is staying in his family’s 17th-century villa when he meets Oliver (Armie Hammer), an American doctoral student who is spending the summer as an intern for Elio’s father. What follows is a sensual tale of first love set against the sun-drenched splendour of Lombardy.

Letters To Juliet (2010)

Do you have a weakness for fluffy rom-coms? If so, Letters To Juliet could be just the ticket.

On a pre-honeymoon trip to Verona, New Yorker Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) becomes entangled in a  50-year-old love story. She ends up scouring Tuscany for the Italian ex-lover of the widowed Claire (Vanessa Redgrave)

This is not a great film or even a great rom-com. But it is undemanding and is effectively a love letter to Verona, as well as showcasing locations in Tuscany, including Siena and Pienza.

Only You (1994)

Are you looking for a movie that is, in effect, Italy’s greatest hits? Only You, a romantic comedy starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr, takes in Rome, Venice, Tuscany, a ride along the Amalfi coast and Positano.

The narrative is completely bonkers rom-com fare: a woman throws caution to the wind in the pursuit of the man that an Ouija board tells her she is destined to be with. But the settings are sumptuous and the perfect way to take a tour of Italy without leaving your sofa.

amalfi-coast-italy
Amalfi coast, Italy

When in Rome (2010)

Are you in the mood for something fluffy?

The romantic fortunes of New Yorker Beth (Kristen Bell) take a surprising turn during a whirlwind trip to Rome. Whilst few would call this a cinematic masterpiece, it is silly fun and features charismatic leads.

Just don’t take When in Rome too seriously.

And That’s a Wrap!

Whether you are looking for movies to watch before going to Italy, or simply looking for recommendations for some good films for a popcorn night at home, I hope that this list of my favourite films set in Italy has been useful.

Watch, dream and book that holiday.

bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman is a complete cinephile who has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at hello@theflashpacker.net or follow her on social media.

7 thoughts on “40 Best Movies Set in Italy: Romance, Drama and Laughs

  1. Fee M says:

    In my view one of the best films set in Italy is Summertime by David Lean. It’s not on Netflix or Amazon Prime, but can be bought on DVD. It’s a love story set in Venice with Katharine Hepburn and Rossini Brazzi. Venice has never looked more beautiful and timeless and romantic. David Lean said it was his favourite film, which, considering he also directed Lawrence of Arabia and Dr Zhivago is saying something. Well worth seeking out.

      • Bridget says:

        Thank you so much for the movie recommendation (Lawrence is in my top 5 favourite films of all time). I confess that this film hasn’t been on my radar. What’s not to like about a Lean / Hepburn / Brazzi combo! 🙂

        • Fee M says:

          After mentioning this to you, I just had to dig out my DVD and watch Summertime again. It really is just so beautiful. The central romance may seem a little old fashioned by today’s standards, but I still love it…and I really, really want to return to Venice and sip a coffee in Piazza San Marco with the orchestras playing gorgeous music all around me. I did it once and it cost a fortune, but worth every romantic penny.

          • Bridget says:

            Wonderful! You can’t put a price on experiences like that. And I’m a sucker for old-fashioned movies. I really want to get hold of Summertime!

  2. Dave B says:

    Re Italian film recommendations: Impressive list to which you could add the entire Montalbano TV series

    • Bridget says:

      Thanks! Indeed. Friends have also highly rated the series but I confess I have yet to make time to watch it.

Comments are closed.