Steeped in history, rich in culture and exuding romance, Italy has always held a certain allure for directors scouring the globe for their next movie backdrop. Join us on a tour of some of the country’s most iconic film locations, catapulted into the spotlight via their starring role on the silver screen.
ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953)
Credited with the rise in popularity of the Piaggio Vespa, on which Audrey Hepburn traversed the streets of Rome during her one-day whistlestop tour of the capital, Roman Holiday is a must-watch for anyone considering a trip to the city. The film opens with lung-busting views over Vatican City’s St Peter’s Square, before unfurling like a guide book to Rome’s most celebrated landmarks. The ancient centre is easily walkable, so once you’ve ticked off the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Castello d’Angelo and Colosseum, drop into Palazzo Colonna, one of the oldest and most spectacular private palaces in Rome and the setting for the film’s memorable final scene. Die-hard fans can even pay a visit to Joe Bradley’s apartment on Via Margutta, tucked away between Piazza del Popolo and Piazza di Spagna.
Where to stay: Set in a prime location on the Via del Babuino, super-stylish Hotel de Russie is one of the best hotels in Rome. Relax in the tranquillity of the hotel’s secret garden.
LA DOLCE VITA (1960)
Many of the locations featured in Fellini’s famed movie were in fact recreated on set at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios. But La Dolce Vita’s most iconic scene – soon splashed across billboards all over the world – was filmed on location at the Trevi Fountain, where Marcello and Sylvia wade into the water for a midnight dip. Via Veneto also features heavily in the film, and visitors can follow in Marcello’s footsteps with a stroll down the elegant street and a drink at Harry’s bar, the fictional journalist’s preferred hangout.
Where to stay: Centrally located and with sweeping views across Rome, Inn at the Spanish Steps is set in an 18th century townhouse and boasts a buzzy rooftop bar.
THE GODFATHER PART I (1972)
The sleepy medieval hilltop town of Savoca in Sicily was made famous by Francis Ford Coppola when he chose it as the setting for Michael Corleone’s family village in The Godfather. The real Corleone was deemed too modernised for a 1940s film set, so Savoca’s unspoiled streets and crumbling buildings make for a convincing stand in. Ringed by olive groves and vineyards, this untouched pocket of Sicily is steeped in authenticity, and makes a perfect day trip from Messina, Catania or Taormina. Don’t miss a trip to Bar Vitelli – still open for business, it’s the setting for Michael’s first meeting with the father of his bride-to-be, and a short walk from the panoramic Church of San Nicolo where he eventually marries Apollonia.
Where to stay: Flanked by tropical gardens and set on a private beach just a cable-car ride away from Taormina, Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea is the perfect jumping-off point for jaunts along the Sicilian coastline.
ROOM WITH A VIEW (1985)
Florence provides a fittingly romantic setting for the on-screen adaptation of E.M Forster’s coming-of-age novel. Today, the famous room with a view can be found at Hotel degli Ofafi, while a walking tour of the city takes in many of the film’s key locations including the Church of Santa Croce and Piazza della Signora, the scene of Lucy’s fainting episode after she witnesses a bloody knife fight. An excursion to the peaceful Tuscan hills in nearby Fiesole provides welcome respite from the city – this was where Lucy and George had their first kiss.
Where to stay: For a super-stylish base on the banks of the Arno, Hotel Lungarno is ideally located within walking distance of all the wonders of this enchanting city.
THE ENGLISH PATIENT (1996)
The Tuscan region of Val d’Orchia is beautifully showcased in this Oscar-winning movie. Perhaps the film’s most recognisable location is Monastero di Sant’Anna, set just outside the hilltop town of Pienza. Now run as an agriturismo, this is where the English Patient spends his final days being nursed by Hana. Surrounded by working wineries, Pienza itself is best-known for its Renaissance architecture, thermal springs and gastronomic credentials.
While you’re here, it’s worth making a detour to the Tuscan seaside town of Forte dei Marmi, the setting for the field hospital where the English Patient recuperates after his plane crash. With its Michelin-starred restaurants and high-end boutiques, today it’s a far cry from the desolate location portrayed in the movie.
Where to stay: Five-bedroom Podere Caterina, for easy access into Pienza and majestic Tuscan views from the villa’s 64-acre private estate.
THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY (1999)
Minghella’s psychological thriller takes viewers on an exhilarating journey across Rome, Venice, the Bay of Naples and Sicily’s Palermo, but it’s the impossibly picturesque fictional town of Mongibello that steals the spotlight. Marooned in the Bay of Naples, tiny Procida masquerades as this imagined seaside location. A jumble of pastel-hued houses, panoramic piazzas and deserted beaches, the island remains under-the-radar and is still largely undiscovered by the crowds that descend on the nearby Amalfi Coast.
Romantic fishing village Marina Corricella is well worth an explore, and just a short stroll through Procida’s pretty cobbled streets from Piazza dei Martiri, where character Dickie declares he won’t be returning to New York. Neighbouring Ischia also stars in the film – hop across the water to dip your toes in the sand at Bagno Antonio, the private beach frequented by Mr Ripley.
Where to stay: Ischia’s Mezzatore Hotel & Thermal Spa sits at the tip of the island’s craggy north coast. The hotel’s characterful rooms are built around a 16th century watchtower. Daily ferries to Procida depart from the main port, a short drive away.
UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN (2003)
Filmed in the beautiful Tuscan town of Cortona, Under the Tuscan Sun tells the story of a struggling American writer who flees to Italy after her divorce. It’s easy to see how protagonist Frances fell under the spell of the region and wound up buying a run-down villa here; clinging to the hillside, picture-postcard Cortona is a warren of narrow streets, ancient palazzi, churches, museums and traditional trattorias – and the film’s timeless views of undulating farmland and olive groves are about as idyllic as they come.
Where to stay: Where better to explore the film’s location than from your own private villa? 17th Century Villa Nocciola has been brought bang up-to-date and is located just a short walk down the hill from Cortona.
HOUSE OF GUCCI (2021)
Following the rise of the Gucci family over three decades, House of Gucci was filmed entirely on location in Italy, with only the country’s most covetable locations making the cut. There are glimpses of shopping trips on Rome’s glittering Via Condotti and sightseeing in the Italian fashion capital Milan, plus snapshots of the family jetting across the emerald-green waters of Lake Como aboard a luxury Riva. The quaint, old-school Italian ski villa of Gressoney-Saint-Jean stands in for St Moritz, while Lake Como’s remarkable Villa Balbiano is the setting for the Gucci’s opulent summer villa.
Where to stay: There’s no better way to live like a Gucci than by renting Villa Balbiano itself. The historic palazzo commands the most spectacular setting on the lake, and is available to rent for a true bucket-list trip.
BOND'S ONGOING LOVE AFFAIR WITH ITALY
Italy has been a favoured destination of James Bond over the years, but even more so in recent times. Venice’s Grand Canal plays a starring role in Casino Royale; later in the film Bond is seen recovering at a villa on the shores of Lake Como. In Quantum of Solace, viewers are treated to a hair-raising chase along the city’s rooftops, before being transported to Talamone on Tuscany’s beautiful southern coast. Bond’s epic car chase in Spectre sees the spy race through Vatican City and the backstreets of Rome, while otherworldly troglodyte city and UNESCO World Heritage Site Matera shot to fame after being selected as the backdrop for No Time to Die.
Where to stay:
Siena: Perfectly positioned to explore the Tuscan cities of Siena and Florence, Villa Isabella has long been the private home of a prominent Roman family of diplomats and is steeped in original features.
Matera: Boutique hotel Palazzo Gattini is the ideal base for exploring the otherworldly Matera, and is situated just a five-minute walk from the famous Sassi di Matera cave dwellings.
Lake Como: Book a stay at one of the finest hotels on the shores of the lake, Grand Hotel Tremezzo, which has a floating pool beside its own private beach. If you’d prefer the privacy of your own villa, Red Savannah offers a wide selection of luxury villas rentals in Lake Como.