I just returned from a much needed Italian vacation. Three chums and I spent last week gallivanting across the beaches of Calabria and roaming the streets of Rome. Okay, we didn’t actually gallivant. But we definitely did Rome. It was 90 degrees and sunny every day, which proved perfect for the rocky beaches of Tropea, Scilla and Gioia Tauro, but a little toasty in The Eternal City.
The intense heat did not prevent us, however, from taking in the traditional Roman sights (Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, guys dressed in Centurion outfits posing for pictures while texting on their iPhones… you know the drill.) The streets surrounding these famed monuments were lined with all sorts of loot for tourists, from 2013 wall calendars featuring photos of hot priests (creepy!) to little stuffed animal monkeys sporting “I Heart Roma” t-shirts (cute!) And on virtually every corner you could find black & white postcards/calendars/stills from the 1953 classic movie Roman Holiday showing Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn frolicking on the Spanish Steps and zipping through town on a Vespa.
Ah, Roman Holiday… one of the best movies of all time, and certainly the greatest movie set in Italy. Sure, sure, cinema snobs will cite Fellini’s 8 1/2, De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, Visconti’s Death in Venice, blah, blah, blah. But I’ll take William Wyler’s Roman Holiday over all of those any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
This got me thinking about all the great movies set in Italy (which does NOT, BTW, include Woody Allen‘s recent To Rome With Love. Yuck.)
To name just a few…
Enchanted April Tired of dreary London, Miranda Richardson, Joan Plowright, Polly Walker and Josie Lawrence rent an Italian castle in San Salvatore and bask in sunshine and romance. Enchanting, indeed. A Room With a View
Merchant Ivory at their finest, this one features a top notch cast (Helena Bonham Carter, Judi Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis, Maggie Smith) and breathtaking cinematography showing Florence in all its glory.
A small town postman learns to love poetry under the tutelage of Pablo Neruda and uses his newfound skills to woo the beautiful Beatrice. Bellissimo!
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Sure, the title character gets away with murder, but Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Cate Blanchett have never been better. And, with the exception of Damon, have never looked better, either.
One of my favorite movies of all time. If you don’t cry like a school girl when Toto watches the reel of excised film kisses, you have ice in your veins.
Tea With Mussolini
The greatest British actresses (Dench, Plowright, Smith) and the greatest American half breed (Cher)… need I say more? Oh, yes, I do! Cher sings “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” ‘Nuff said.
Under the watchful eye of director Rob Marshall, six Oscar winners (Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren) and a Black Eyed Pea (Fergie) turn this Tony award winning stage musical into a magical movie. Be Italian!
Okay, the movie kind of sucked. But Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp sure are pretty!
I could go on and on — Only You, Under the Tuscan Sun, Dangerous Beauty, etc. etc. — but it’s time for you to voice your choice.