While first-hand travel experiences are the best, another way to enjoy travel is through movies. Some of my favorites (new, old, classics, romantic, and everything in between) include:
A Room With a View. Helena Bonham Carter plays a young, independent-minded, upper-class woman who is trying to sort out her feelings, divided between a free spirit (Julian Sands) she meets on vacation and the bookworm (Daniel Day-Lewis) to whom she becomes engaged back home. Funny, sexy, and sophisticated, this 1986 art-house hit features a sublime supporting cast and remains a touchstone of intelligent romantic cinema.
Angels & Demons. When Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon discovers the resurgence of an ancient brotherhood known as the Illuminati, he flies to Rome to warn the Vatican, the Illuminati’s most hated enemy. Joining forces with beautiful Italian scientist Vittoria Vetra, Langdon follows a centuries-old trail of ancient symbols in the hope of preventing the Illuminati’s deadly plot against the Roman Catholic Church from coming to fruition. 2009 starring Tom Hanks.
Cinema Paradiso. Young Salvatore Di Vita discovers the perfect escape from life in his war-torn Sicilian village: the Cinema Paradiso movie house, where projectionist Alfredo instills in the boy a deep love of films. When Salvatore grows up, falls in love with a beautiful local girl and takes over as the Paradiso’s projectionist, Alfredo must convince Salvatore to leave his small town and pursue his passion for filmmaking. Academy Award winner 1990. (subtitles)
Enchanted April. When married British women Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson) and Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence) decide to take a break from their respective spouses, they stay at a castle in Italy for a quiet holiday. Joining the ladies is Caroline Dester (Polly Walker), a young socialite, and Mrs. Fisher (Joan Plowright), an older aristocrat. Liberated from their daily routines, the four women ease into life in rural Italy, and each finds herself transformed by the experience.
In Love and War. In 1918, 18-year-old Ernest Hemingway (Chris O’Donnell) signs up for service in World War I. After a bomb goes off on the front line, filling his leg with shrapnel, Hemingway is transported to a hospital, where he begs Dr. Domenico Caracciolo (Emilio Bonucci) not to amputate. Under the care of 26-year-old Austrian nurse Agnes von Kuroswky (Sandra Bullock), Hemingway slowly recovers. The two begin an affair, but Agnes is torn between the immature young man and the more stable Caracciolo.
Letters to Juliet. While visiting Verona, Italy, with her busy fiance, a young woman named Sophie visits a wall where the heartbroken leave notes to Shakespeare’s tragic heroine, Juliet Capulet. Finding one such letter from 1957, Sophie decides to write to its now elderly author, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave). Inspired by Sophie’s actions, Claire sets out to find her long-lost lover.
Life is Beautiful. A gentle Jewish-Italian waiter, meets a pretty schoolteacher, and wins her over with his charm and humor. Eventually they marry and have a son. Their happiness is abruptly halted, however, when they are separated and taken to a concentration camp. Determined to shelter his son from the horrors of his surroundings, Guido convinces his son that their time in the camp is merely a game. This 1998 picture won several Academy Awards. (subtitles)
Light in the Piazza. While taking a summer holiday inrence Flo with her mother Meg, 26-year-old Clara meets and falls in love with a young Italian named Fabrizio Naccarelli, played by George Hamilton. Fabrizio is blinded by his love for Clara and believes her mental disability to be simple naivety. Meg tries to explain her daughter’s condition to Fabrizio’s father but the opportunity never seems to be right. Fabrizio’s family are taken with Clara and her simple remarks are taken as evidence of her innocence. Meg spends the remainder of the trip trying to keep the two lovers apart and fearing that Fabrizio or his family will discover the truth about her daughter. 1962 American romantic drama with a star-studded cast.
Marriage Italian Style. When handsome, successful Domenico (Marcello Mastroianni) first meets the sexy young waif Filomena (Sophia Loren) in Naples during World War II, he is instantly smitten. Flash forward to the postwar years, and the two meet again, sparking a passionate affair that spans two decades. But when Filomena — who has now become Domenico’s kept woman and has secretly borne his children — learns that her lover is planning to wed another, she stops at nothing to hook him into marrying her instead. A 1964 Academy Award winner.
My House in Umbria. After surviving a gruesome terrorist attack on an Italian train line, romance novelist Emily Delahunty (Maggie Smith) opens up her home and solitary life to a trio of stranded survivors. She soon forms friendships with each, but develops a special attachment to the young orphan Aimee. So when Aimee’s distant uncle arrives to retrieve the girl, Emily strives to convince the cold, mourning man that Umbria is Aimee’s rightful home.
Only You. A childhood incident has convinced Faith (Marisa Tomei) that her true love is a guy named “Damon Bradley,” but she has yet to meet him. Preparing to settle down and marry a foot doctor, Faith impulsively flies to Venice when it seems that she may be able to finally encounter the man of her dreams. Instead, she meets the charming Peter Wright. But how can they fall in love if she still believes that she is intended to be with someone else?
Our Italian Husband. An Italian female shoemaker follows her husband to America with their son and daughter. She couldn’t find him at first then she discovers that he is married to an American wife who is expecting. In this comic entanglement of chased dreams, family complications and foolish love, this now extended family must find a way to make this ridiculous situation work.
Roman Holiday. Audrey Hepburn plays a European princess who is overwhelmed by her suffocating schedule so she takes off for a night while in Rome. When a sedative she took from her doctor kicks in, however, she falls asleep on a park bench and is found by an American reporter played by Gregory Peck. A 1953 classic.
Rome Adventure. Prudence (Suzanne Pleshette), a feisty but romantic-minded young librarian at an all-female school in New England, resigns from her job after getting disciplined for recommending a banned book to one of her students. Impulsively deciding to summer in Rome, she’s romanced by the smooth Roberto (Rossano Brazzi) and becomes friends with American architect Don (Troy Donahue), who is trying to extricate himself from a failed relationship with the emotionally needy Lyda (Angie Dickinson).
Romeo and Juliet. In the Italian city of Verona, the Montague and the Capulet families are perpetually feuding. When Romeo, a handsome young Montague, disregards convention by attending a Capulet ball, he falls in love with the beautiful Juliet, a Capulet. After a brief courtship, the two elope, creating even greater tension between their families. Italian director Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film is considered one of the best screen versions of Shakespeare’s classic love story.
Shadows In The Sun. The story beings when a London-based editor Jeremy Taylor travels to Tuscany, Italy, to convince a reclusive author Weldon to write again, but he ends up writing himself and falling for his daughter Isabella Parish. There are many beautiful scenes of the Italian countryside, villas, and quant street scenes. Stars Joshua Jackson and Claire Forlani.
Summertime. Middle-aged Ohio secretary Jane Hudson (Katharine Hepburn) has never found love and has nearly resigned herself to spending the rest of her life alone. But before she does, she uses her savings to finance a summer in romantic Venice, where she finally meets the man of her dreams, the elegant Renato Di Rossi (Rossano Brazzi). But when she learns that her new paramour is leading a double life, she must decide whether her happiness can come at the expense of others.
Tea With Mussolini. In 1930s fascist Italy, adolescent Luca just lost his mother. His father, a callous businessman, sends him to be taken care of by British expatriate Mary Wallace. Mary and her cultured friends — an artist Arabella, a young widow Elsa, and an archaeologist Georgie — keep a watchful eye over the boy. But the women’s cultivated lives take a dramatic turn when Allied forces declare war on Mussolini. A 1999 movie with a star studded cast.
The Italian Job. After a heist in Venice, Steve (Edward Norton) turns on his partners in crime, killing safecracker John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) and keeping all the gold for himself. The rest of the team, including leader Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), explosives man Left Ear (Mos Def) and tech geek Lyle (Seth Green), vows revenge. They enlist the help of Bridger’s daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron), and plot to recover the gold from Steve’s Los Angeles mansion.
The Talented Mr. Ripley. In late 1950’s New York, Tom Ripley, a young underachiever, is sent to Europe to retrieve a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy, named Dickie Greenleaf. But when the errand fails, Ripley kills the playboy and begins to assume his life. 1999 – with Matt Damon.
The Tourist. During an impromptu trip to Europe to mend a broken heart, math teacher Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) finds himself in an extraordinary situation when an alluring stranger, Elise (Angelina Jolie), places herself in his path. Their seemingly innocent flirtation turns into a dangerous game of cat and mouse while various people, who all think that Frank is Elise’s thieving paramour, Alexander Pearce, try to capture the pair.
Three Coins In A Fountain. A 1954 movie about three American women who decide it’s time to end their single status. So they whimsically toss coins into Rome’s spectacular Trevi Fountain for luck in love. Nominated for Best Picture Oscar®.
To Rome With Love. I’m not normally a Woody Allen fan, but this movie is worth watching. It’s four tales unfold in the Eternal City: While vacationing in Rome, architect John (Alec Baldwin) encounters a young man whose romantic woes remind him of a painful incident from his own youth; retired opera director Jerry (Woody Allen) discovers a mortician with an amazing voice, and he seizes the opportunity to rejuvenate his own flagging career; a young couple have separate romantic interludes; a spotlight shines on an ordinary man (Roberto Benigni).
Under the Tuscan Sun. When Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) learns her husband is cheating on her from a writer whom she gave a bad review, her life is turned upside down. In an attempt to bring her out of a deep depression, her best friend, Patti (Sandra Oh), encourages Frances to take a tour of Italy. During the trip, the new divorcée impulsively decides to purchase a rural Tuscan villa and struggles to start her life anew amid colorful local characters.
When in Rome. This 2010 film is about a disillusioned romance. Beth, an ambitious New Yorker (Kristen Bell), travels to Rome, where she plucks magic coins from a special fountain. The coins attract an assortment of odd suitors, including a sausage merchant, a street magician and an artist. But when a persistent reporter (Josh Duhamel) throws his hat in the ring, Beth wonders if his love is the real thing.
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. A Sofia Loren trilogy. Three different stories of Italian social mores are presented. My favorite is the first, “Adelina.” Unemployed Carmine and his wife Adelina (Sofia Loren) survive through Adelina selling black market cigarettes on the street. They are unable to pay for the furniture they bought (which is under Adelina’s name), but are able to avoid the bailiff when he comes for the money or to repossess. They come up with a longer term solution to avoid Adelina being prosecuted for non-payment, but that solution has a profound effect on the family, especially Carmine.