Five Great Italian Movies to Inspire Your Next Trip
Let these classics inspire your Italy wanderlust
When the weather turns chillier, we love spending our evenings cosying up on the sofa – a plush blanket within reach – with some popcorn and a good film. Movies, after all, are the easiest way to get transported away while it’s raining outside, and evoke a sense of vicarious adventure from the comfort of our homes.
Our favourite kind of cinematic tales are those that let us dream of new places, and feed our wanderlust. Are you with us? Great, because we’ve rounded-up five Italian classics sure to inspire your next travels to the Bel Paese – and guarantee you a sunny dose of Italian vibes wherever you are. From comedy to dramas and arty features, take your pick, and prepare to dream (and laugh, too).
Il Sorpasso (The Easy Life)
One of filmmaker Dino Risi’s most iconic movies, the 1962 Il Sorpasso is a cult classic of Italian cinema, and the ultimate Italian road comedy. Vittorio Gassman stars as Bruno, a lively, freewheeling bachelor who takes Robert, a straitlaced law student played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, on a madcap trip from Rome to Tuscany, in a journey that goes from slapstick to tragedy and back. Wildly funny and entertaining – even to this day – the film portrays the pleasure and consequences of the good life, while also offering a sharp commentary on the social changes taking place in Italy during those years. An essential watch for all the Italophiles out there.
Tre Uomini e una Gamba (Three Men and a Leg)
This 1997 film was the cinematic debut of one of Italy’s greatest comedic trios of the last 30 years: Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo.
As such, it’s pretty funny (and most Italians will have watched it at some point or another) but it’s also an epic road movie across the boot-shaped country. The basic plot: Three store clerks travel by car from Milan (or rather, from Paradiso della Brugola) down to Salento, Puglia carrying their boss’s dog and a valuable leg-shaped sculpture. Mayhem ensues. There are unexpected stops and ridiculous moments, crazy situations and lots of gags and jokes that, whether we like to admit it or not, are still part of our common lexicon today.
Il Postino (The Postman)
Il Postino (1994) is an iconic movie for a number of reasons. Massimo Troisi’s remarkable performance, and his last, as the actor died just twelve hours after the main filming had ended. Its unforeseen success with the public– the film cost $3 million and took $21 million at the box office. Its critical acclaim, which earned it nominations for all the major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay) – something unheard of for a subtitled film in a foreign language. The fact that it was the first Italian film to be nominated for Best Picture by the American Academy.
But besides all that, what continues to enthral audiences today is the unapologetically romantic soul of this movie, its poetry-infused dialogues, and the stunning scenery it’s set in. That, in case you’re wondering, would be the island of Procida – a stone’s throw away from our beloved Mezzatorre on neighbouring Ischia – and, partly, Salina, in the Aeolian Islands.
As we watch Troisi’s postman Mario Ruoppolo befriend exiled Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret) on a tiny island in Southern Italy, we can’t help but be wowed by the unspoiled, magical beauty around them – and wish we could be there too.
La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty)
Watch The Great Beauty – the 2013 art drama film co-written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino – and you’ll find yourself looking up flights to Rome before the credits even begin rolling.
The story of ageing writer Jep Gambardella (Beppe Servillo) who bitterly recollects his passionate, lost youth is a ravishing fantasy of decadent wealth and dissolute hedonism that evokes Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, while spotlighting the Eternal City in all its magnificent, grandiose glory.
In his 60s, Jep is content with his life until an unexpected event changes everything and triggers him to look at all he has loved and all he has wasted with new eyes. In the background, Rome is pure sensual overload, and very much a central character, as Sorrentino’s signature swooping and zooming camera discloses its soul in a thousand details, figures and faces.
One to watch over and over again.
Nuovo Cinema Paradiso
Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1988 masterpiece is a hymn to cinema as a true form of art. The story opens in the late 1980s in Rome, where famous director Salvatore Di Vita (Jacques Perrin) learns of the death of Alfredo, the projectionist of Cinema Paradiso in the Sicilian village he grew up in, and a key figure from his childhood. As he begins the journey back to his hometown to attend the funeral, the film takes us through Salvatore’s early life and adolescence, recounting the simple but poignant story of a young boy falling in love with cinema.
A charming drama about friendship, childhood and the magic of films, this is a little gem of a movie that offers a glimpse of small-town living in Italy, and it’s imbued with heart, nostalgia, and lightness. Put it on after a gloomy day: it will brighten up your evening.