Italy has a lot to offer for filmmakers: romantic cities, stunning landscapes, charming towns, and captivating culture. Not to mention its art, architecture, fashion, opera, food, literature, design, and … the list goes. No wonder there are so many movies set in Italy.
It is these inspiring characteristics that have attracted (and continue to attract) storytellers throughout the history of modern cinema and today the spirit of Italy has been immortalized in different films resulting in a wonderfully intricate and excellent array of movies set in Italy.
We love this because one of the reasons why we watch movies is that they are an excellent way to travel to different places while staying at home – and to determine if a destination elicits that oh-so-important spirit of wanderlust in us before ever investing in a ticket there.
This is what motivated us to visit Mexico, Ireland, and Spain – among many other places. Then there are those glorious moments you can step out in a real-world location and feel spontaneously dispatched back inside an iconic movie frame (thus the abiding popularity of visiting Middle Earth / New Zealand or James Bond’s Skyfall).
There are many films that are set or filmed in Italy, at least partially. There are even movies dedicated to Italian food, I kid you not. In this article, we are going to take a look at twenty great movies that were filmed in the country of spaghetti and pasta.
We got big Hollywood blockbusters, beautiful art-house films, classic Italian flicks, and even Italian cinema heroes, all on this list. If you love Italy, you will love the movies on this list.
Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.
You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.
Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best.
While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.
Wonder Woman (2017)
Wonder Woman is an American superhero film directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Robin Wright. It tells the superhero tale of an Amazon princess who leaves her lush tropical island to live in a city full of skyscrapers, glass, and steel. Trained by Greek warriors and endowed with exceptional abilities, she is the emissary of the gods who will become one of the greatest heroines ever, called Wonder Woman.
The inclusion of Wonder Woman on this list might surprise you. It will probably surprise you more to learn the whole prequel sequence was filmed mostly in Italy. That’s right, the fictional island of Themyscira is, in reality, various locations in Italy, most notably the town of Matera, located in the region of Basilicata, in Southern Italy.
Some of the locations that were used are the Amalfi Coast, a stretch of coastline overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Gulf of Salerno, and Palinuro, a small town and the most populated civil parish of Centola, located in the Province of Salerno.
Don’t Look Now (1973)
Don’t Look Now is a thriller film directed by Nicolas Roeg and starring Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie and Hilary Mason. It is a co-production of Italy and the United Kingdom.
The movie is about John and Laura Baxter who are staying in Venice where John is working on the restoration of an old cathedral. They meet two older sisters, one of whom claims to be a spiritual medium. She says she saw Baxter’s daughter, who recently passed away. Laura is very interested, but John doesn’t want to hear anything about it. However, John himself also suffers from delusions in which he sees his deceased daughter.
Don’t Look Now was filmed mostly in Italy. The ‘Europe Hotel’ John and Laura are staying at is in reality the Gabrielli Hotel in Venice. It is an exquisite hotel located at the Riva degli Schiavoni, among other well-known hotels. The interiors were filmed at another hotel nearby: The Bauer Palazzo. The hotel the sisters are staying at is the Hotel La Fenice et Des Artistes, which is also located in Venice, next to the famous Fenice Theater. The funeral scenes were filmed at the San Stae church.
The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather is an American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who co-wrote the screenplay with Mario Puzo, and starring Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and James Caan. The movie is based on Puzo’s best-selling novel of the same name published in 1969.
The film is about Don Vito Corleone, who is the head of a mafia family in New York. When a mobster from another family decides to start selling drugs in New York, trouble ensues. Don Vito is against the drug trade and takes action against it, which leads to an attempt on his life. Then one of Don Vito’s advisers is kidnapped, in order to force his son to approve the drug sales.
A large part of The Godfather was filmed in Italy, on the island of Sicily to be exact. The scenes taking place in Corleone are actually filmed in and around Taormina, a municipality in the Metropolitan City of Messina, located on the east coast of the island. Close by is the city of Forza d’Agrò, where cameras also rolled on this epic gangster film.
The murder attempt scenes were filmed at Castello degli Schiavi, which is a museum located in Fiumefreddo di Sicilia. The museum can also be seen in The Godfather: Part III (1990), as the villa of Don Tommasino.
They Called Him Bulldozer (1978)
They Called Him Bulldozer is an Italian action-comedy film directed by Michele Lupo and starring Bud Spencer, Raimund Harmstorf and Ottaviano Dell’Acqua.
The movie revolves around The ‘Bulldozer’ (Spencer), who is a former football star and is now working as a fisherman. When a group of street people arrange a football match against the local army barracks, he is asked to coach. Because his boat has just been damaged by a submarine and he has no money to fix it, he accepts the offer.
Bud Spencer is one of the heroes of Italian cinema, he and Terence Hill rose to stardom when they starred in the first ever comedic spaghetti western in 1970. Many films with this comedic duo followed, and eventually they started starring in solo films as well. Typical in these movies is the humor, and the cartoonish, slapstick fights. They Called Him Bulldozer was filmed in and around Marina di Pisa, a seaside resort of Tuscany, located in central Italy.
The opening scenes of the movie were filmed at the Port of Livorno, one of the largest Italian seaports. The scenes at the military base were filmed at the Darby Military Community, a United States military complex, located between Pisa and Livorno. Additional scenes were filmed in Tirrenia, a parish of Pisa, and Viareggio, a city and commune located in northern Tuscany. There is actually a Bud Spencer statue based on his role in this film in Livorno’s harbor.
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
Life Is Beautiful is an Italian comedy-drama film directed by and starring Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi and Giustino Durano. The film was somewhat inspired by the book In the End, I Beat Hitler by Rubino Romeo Salmonì.
The film is about an Italian man and his wife and son, whom are taken to a German labor camp during World War II. To spare the child the prospect of certain death, he presents the journey as a game to him in which you can win prizes. The man firmly believes he can save his son’s sanity and is determined to hold up the act even after they arrive at the camp and have to work hard.
Life Is Beautiful was mostly shot in the historic center of Arezzo, a city and commune and the capital of the province Arezzo, which is located in Tuscany. The scene where Benigni falls off his bicycle was filmed in front of Badia delle Sante Flora e Lucilla, a Medieval abbey also located in Arezzo.
The German labor camp was actually an old factory made up to be a labor camp for the film. The factory is located near Papigno, a fraction of the municipality of Terni.
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Cinema Paradiso is an Italian drama film written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore and starring Philippe Noiret, Salvatore Cascio and Jacques Perrin.
The movie is about a famous director returning to his home village in Sicily for the first time in 30 years. He thinks back to his childhood in the Paradiso cinema where the projectionist Alfredo instilled in him the love for movies. He is also reminded of his childhood sweetheart Elena, whom he had to abandon when he left for Rome.
Cinema Paradiso was filmed mostly in the north-west of Sicily. The village the director returns to is Palazzo Adriano, located south of Palermo, it is called ‘Giancaldo’ in the movie, a fictional name. The cinema on the square is Piazza Umberto I. Palazzo Adriano’s two churches can also be seen in the movie, they are called Maria SS Assunta and Santa Maria del Lume.
Additional scenes were filmed in Poggioreale, a town once hit by an earthquake located in the west of the island.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
The Talented Mr. Ripley is an American psychological thriller film written and directed by Anthony Minghella, and starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
The movie is based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name. It tells the story of the talented but equally tormented Tom Ripley (Damon), who in the late 1950s is sent to Italy by a playboy to help him convince his son to return to America. Once there, however, Tom becomes close friends with Dickie and his fiancée Marge. He falls for jazz music, Dickie, and the luxurious lifestyle. But who or what does he really prefer?
Besides from the opening scenes The Talented Mr. Ripley was completely filmed in Italy and is one of the most best movies set in Italy of all time. The film takes place in the fictitious resort of ‘Mongibello’. These scenes were filmed in two different locations: the island of Ischia, the largest of the three volcanic islands in the Bay of Naples, and its smaller neighbor island, Procida. The Aragonese Castle is also featured in the film. It is a medieval castle located at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples.
Most of the locations representing ‘Mongibello’ were filmed in Corricella, a port on Procida island.
Bomber is an Italian action-comedy film directed by Michele Lupo and starring Bud Spencer, Jerry Calà and Kallie Knoetze.
It tells the story of Bud Graziano (Spencer), a former boxing champion and a captain without a ship. While looking for a new job, he comes across eccentric boxing gym owner Jerry, whom he saves from a beating. Through this encounter, he meets up with his old nemesis Rosco Dunn, an army sergeant involved in all sorts of shady practices. And Rosco still has a bone to pick with him.
Just like They Called Him Bulldozer (1978), which we listed above and also stars Italian cinema hero Bud Spencer, Bomber was filmed in and around Marina di Pisa, a seaside resort of Tuscany, located in central Italy. Some filming was done in Tirrenia, a parish of Pisa, and in Pisa, a city and commune in Tuscany, famous for its leaning tower.
The boxing scenes that close the film were filmed at the Palasport arena located in Forte dei Marmi, a sea town and commune in the province of Lucca.
A Room With A View (1985)
A Room with a View is a British romance film directed by James Ivory and starring Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands and Maggie Smith.
The movie tells the story of Lucy Honeychurch, a young woman from the wealthy nineteenth-century middle class. She travels to Florence in Italy with her chaperone Miss Bartlett. At the hotel, it turns out that their room doesn’t have the view they expected. A Mr. Emerson and his son George end up giving their room to the ladies. Back in England, the young lady becomes engaged to Cecil, who turns out to be a real jerk. George and his father come to England not much later and rent a place in Lucy’s neighborhood. When George learns that she is engaged to Cecil, he tries to convince her to choose him and true love.
A Room with a View is set in both England and Italy, with the Italian shooting taking place in Florence. The hotel the ladies stay at is the Hotel Degli Orafi, a prestigious building in the historic center of Florence. The hillside scenes were filmed outside of Fiesole, a town and commune of the Metropolitan City of Florence.
Other well-known landmarks that can be seen in the film are the Basilica di Santa Croce, the principal Franciscan church in Florence, and the Piazza della Signoria, a square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio shaped like the letter L.
The World Of Don Camillo (1984)
The World of Don Camillo is an Italian comedy film produced, directed by and starring Terence Hill. It also stars Colin Blakely and Mimsy Farmer.
The movie revolves around Don Camillo (Hill), a priest in a small village who talks to his statue of Jesus. His great rival is Peppone, a communist. He rides around on a motorcycle with a double-barreled rifle on his shoulder and jeans on his legs. Peppone is elected mayor and now he wants to beat Don Camillo at football in the struggle between Church and Communism.
Terence Hill is another hero of Italian cinema, and he and Bud Spencer, whom we talked about earlier, both starred in a lot of buddy movies that are considered classics, both in Italy and most of the rest of Europe as well. But in The World of Don Camillo Hill flies solo. This movie was filmed in various locations across Italy, with most filming being done in Lombardy, one of the twenty administrative regions of Italy, located in the northwest of the country.
For instance in Torre d’Oglio, a town in the province of Mantua, a hamlet of Marcaria, located on the Oglio river. Cameras also rolled in the village of Correggioverde, which belongs to the municipality of Dosolo, and in Pomponesco, a commune in the Italian Province of Mantua. Additional scenes were shot in Parma, a city in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, and in Gualtieri, a commune in the Province of Reggio Emilia, while interiors were filmed at the Cinecittà Studios located in Rome.
The Pink Panther (1963)
The Pink Panther is an American comedy film directed by Blake Edwards and starring Peter Sellers, David Niven and Robert Wagner. It is the first installment in The Pink Panther series of films, but the others are not movies set in Italy.
The iconic film is about Princess Dala, who is staying at a luxury resort and is in possession of the largest diamond in the world called the Pink Panther. The charming Charles Lytton who is secretly The Phantom, a jewel thief, also resides at the resort and he has his eye on the diamond. The gullible inspector Jacques Clouseau (Sellers) tries to prevent the theft of the diamond from happening and wants to expose The Phantom.
Much of the filming on The Pink Panther took place in Italy at the Cortina d’Ampezzo, a mountain resort in the Italian Alps renowned for the beauty of its landscapes, its heritage and the many sporting activities on offer. The nearby Miramonti Majestic Grand Hotel can also be seen in the movie. The car chase scenes were filmed outside of Rocca di Papa, a small town and commune in the Metropolitan City of Rome, Lazio.
The Hand Of God (2021)
The Hand of God is an Italian drama film written, directed, and produced by Paolo Sorrentino and starring Filippo Scotti, Toni Servillo and Teresa Saponangelo.
The movie revolves around Fabietto Schisa, a seventeen-year-old who travels through his native city of Naples during the 1980s in search of love, friendship, happiness and himself. When he has to deal with a great loss, he is deeply saddened. Fortunately, there is football legend Diego Maradona who might just save Fabietto’s life.
The Hand of God was filmed in Naples, the regional capital of Campania and the third-largest city of Italy, located in southern Italy. Some very well-known landmarks from the city are featured in the film. For instance the Galleria Umberto I, a public shopping gallery located across from the San Carlo opera house.
Scenes were also filmed at Naples’ largest square called Piazza del Plebiscito. Additional scenes were filmed at the Aeolian island of Stromboli, the Campanian coastline, and at Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano located on the Gulf of Naples in Campania.
Flatfoot is a Italian / West-German police comedy film directed by Steno and starring Bud Spencer, Enzo Cannavale and Juliette Mayniel. It is the first installment in the Flatfoot series of films. The movie is about police inspector Rizzo (Spencer), nicknamed ‘Flatfoot’, who tracks down a heroin trade and discovers a connection between the Marseilles underworld and the local dignitaries. But he also has to compete with a young commissioner who wants to strictly adhere to the rules. And rules are something Flatfoot doesn’t cope with well.
The third Bud Spencer flick on this list was filmed in the cities Rome, Pozzuoli, an area named Licola, located in the province of Naples, and in Naples, where Bud Spencer was born and raised. A long list of famous landmarks in Naples can be seen in the movie, so we will list just a few. The opening scenes were filmed at the L’Istituto nazionale di previdenza e assistenza per i dipendenti dell’amministrazione pubblica (INPDAP), a government insurance building.
The scenes where inspector Tabassi tries to arrest Tonino Manomozza where filmed at the Sanfelice Palace, a Rococo or late-Baroque-style palace located in central Naples. The scene where Flatfoot blocks Ferdinando Scarano was filmed at the Chiesa di Sant’Antonio, a Posillipo church. The famous Piazza dei Miracoli can also be seen in the movie. It is a square located in Pisa, and is recognized as an important center of European medieval art and considered to be one of the finest architectural complexes in the world. The scenes where Flatfoot meets Peppino were all filmed in the harbor of Pozzuoli.
House Of Gucci (2021)
House of Gucci is an American crime drama film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver and Jared Leto. The movie is based on the book The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sara Gay Forden, published in 2001.
The film is about Patrizia Reggiani, who devises a plan to get rid of her former husband. He is the Italian businessman Maurizio Gucci and head of the fashion house of the same name. He is also the grandson of the famous fashion designer Guccio. Reggiani lets a hit man do the job, but later she is arrested for the crime and ends up in jail.
House of Gucci was filmed on location in various places in Italy. Like the luxurious Villa Balbiano, located at Lake Como in Lombardy. The Necchi Campiglio Villa located in Milan is the home of Maurizio’s father in the movie. The wedding scenes were filmed at the Santa Maria in Campitelli, a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary on the narrow Piazza di Campitelli in Rione Sant’Angelo, Rome. Ski resorts Gressoney-La-Trinité and Gressoney-Saint-Jean stand in as ‘St Moritz’.
A Bigger Splash (2015)
A Bigger Splash is an psychological drama film directed by Luca Guadagnino and starring Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson. The movie is a co-production between Italy and France. It tells the story of an American couple, a rock star and a filmmaker, who are on holiday in the south of Italy. Their peace is disturbed however by the sudden visit of an old friend and his beautiful daughter. This leads to a lot of jealousy that in turn creates risky scenarios.
A Bigger Splash was mostly filmed on Pantelleria, an Italian island and commune in the Strait of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. The swimming pool scenes were filmed at Tenuta Borgia, one of the most exclusive and beautiful resorts on the island, surrounded by a vast Mediterranean park. The couple takes a mud bath at the Lago di Venere, a volcanic lake located in the northern part of the island.
Additional filming was done at Laghetto delle Ondine, a natural pool that gets filled by sea waves during rough sea times, and at Arco dell’Elefante, a trunk-like rock formation on the east coast of the island.
Under The Tuscan Sun (2003)
Under the Tuscan Sun is an American romantic drama film written, produced, and directed by Audrey Wells and starring Diane Lane, Sandra Oh and Vincent Riotta. It was based on Frances Mayes’ book of the same name.
The movie is about Frances, a writer from San Francisco, who has just been abandoned by her husband. When she is offered a 10-day vacation from a good friend, she doesn’t really like this at first. Yet, she still gathers all her courage, packs her bags and goes on the trip. Once she arrives in Tuscany, she buys a dilapidated villa on a whim and embarks on an adventure full of unexpected surprises, friendships, and romance.
Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed mainly in the town of Cortona, near Arezzo in Tuscany, and in the hills around Tuoro sul Trasimeno, on Lake Trasimene in Umbria. There are many beautiful locations featured in this film, so we will only mention a few of them. When Frances takes the tour, it stops at one of the most recognized buildings in Italy, the Florence Cathedral located in Florence. It is at the Teatro Signorelli that Frances watches George of the Jungle (1997). This theatre was built in 1854 and has hosted major cultural and theatrical events.
The wedding scenes were filmed at the San Biagio church located outside Montepulciano. When Frances takes the trip to Rome, her bus stops in Piazza Venezia, with the iconic Altar of the Fatherland building clearly visible in the background.
The English Patient (1996)
The English Patient is an American / British war drama film written and directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Juliette Binoche, Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas. It was based on the novel of the same name by Michael Ondaatje published in 1992. The movie won nine Academy Awards, among them Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress.
The film tells a World War II tale, where a plane carrying two people is shot down over the desert. Only the pilot survives but sustains severe burns. Nomads take him to a hospital, where he seems unable to say who he is. He becomes known as The English Patient and nurse Hana takes care of him. During their conversations, the real cause of the accident slowly unfolds.
A great deal of The English Patient was filmed on location in Italy. The monastery where the pilot is nursed back to health is called Sant’ Anna in Camprena, it is a former Olivetan monastic complex located in the locality of the same name, within the territory of the municipality of Pienza, in the province of Siena. The chapel Hana and Kip visit is the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, it is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor Conventual, and it is located in Assisi, a town in the Umbria region.
The Italian Job (1969)
The Italian Job is an British crime / comedy film, directed by Peter Collinson, written by Troy Kennedy Martin, and starring Michael Caine, Noel Coward and the famous British comedian Benny Hill.
One of the best foreign movies set in Italy, this film tells the story of ex-con Charlie Croker (Caine) who has a plan for a grand theft in Turin, Italy. The plan comes from Mr. Bridger (Coward), who has masterfully worked everything out while being incarcerated. Together with other former prisoners, Charlie starts organizing a plot to steal a lot of gold by staging the biggest traffic jam of the century. A daring plan, especially since the mafia in the area is controlling everything and everybody.
The Italian Job was filmed in Italy, The United Kingdom, and Ireland. We will be focusing on the Italian locations for the sake of this article, which are all located in Turin, a city and an important business and cultural center located in northern Italy. The very well-known Piazza Castello square is where the traffic jam starts. The indoor arena which sees a fleet of Mini’s drive over its roof is called Palavela, and it is located on the bank of the River Po.
The test track was filmed at Lingotto, which once housed the largest and most modern car manufacturing plant in Europe. The plant has since ceased operations. Additional scenes were filmed at Aosta’s Great St Bernard Pass, and on the Colle del Nivolet, a mountain road near Ceresole Reale.
Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Call Me by Your Name is an romantic drama film directed by Luca Guadagnino and starring Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet and Michael Stuhlbarg. It is a co-production among Italy, France, the United States and Brazil.
The movie is about the sensitive and cultured Elio, who is the only child of the American-Italian-French Perlman family. He is looking forward to another lazy summer at his parents’ villa in the beautiful and peaceful Italian countryside. But then Oliver arrives, an academic who comes to help his father with an investigation. A sudden and fierce romance develops between the adolescent boy and the summer guest on the Italian Riviera.
Most of the filming on Call Me by Your Name took place in Lombardy, one of the twenty administrative regions of Italy, located in the northwest of the country. The villa is called Villa Albergoni, a country mansion located in Moscazzano, Cremona, and was built in the 16th-century. The square where the boys first meet is Piazza del Duomo, an historic site located in Crema.
The swimming scenes were filmed at Fontanile Quarantina, a park near Capralba. Additional scenes were shot at an archeological dig at Sirmione on Lake Garda and at the Cascate del Serio waterfall.
The Great Beauty (2013)
The Great Beauty is an Italian art drama film co-written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino and starring Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, and Sabrina Ferilli. It premiered at the 2013 edition of the Cannes Film Festival where it was screened in competition for the Palme d’Or.
The movie tells the story of the 65 years old Jep Gambardella (Servillo), he is 65 and he exudes a charm that time has not destroyed. He is a successful journalist who flutters back and forth between culture and the good life in Rome. However, with bitterness he remembers his passionate lost youth.
The Great Beauty was filmed on location in and around Rome, and features many well-known landmarks from the city. Like the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, a monumental fountain located on the Janiculum Hill, near the church of San Pietro in Montorio. In the courtyard of this church lies the small Tempietto of San Pietro building, where in the film a little girl hides from her mother. Other famous locations seen in the movie are the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, containing the `Hole of Rome’, the Capitolium, and the Colosseum.
This concludes our list of the twenty best movies set in Italy. If Italy is your favorite holiday destination, or even when you are about to take your first trip there, watching some of the movies on this list will either prepare you for journey, or will make you reminisce about previous trips. Italy has plenty to offer, sunny beaches, rich food, romantic city, historic buildings, and captivating culture.
All of which can be seen, and experienced just a little, by watching our movie recommendations, so get that remote out, and take your pick.