How many times have you watched a movie only to dream about it for weeks afterward? If you love to travel and are always thinking about your next destination, seeing certain movies can inspire you to take action - dig out the old travel guides, jump online, and start planning your escape. You know what I'm talking about. It's called wanderlust travel - and yes, it's really a thing! There are certain movies that make you want to travel!
Silly, I know, but when I saw The Sound of Music as a kid, I dreamed about visiting Europe one day. The most inspiring travel movies usually aren't about traveling at all, but are set in gorgeous locations made even more stunning by professional cinematography. As you may know, we love Italy - it's where our families came from and it always feels like home. So naturally I'm drawn to movies filmed there, and watch them over and over again when I need a healthy dose. If you love it too, and especially if you're planning your first visit, here are some really good ones -- 10 movies to watch before traveling to Italy!
This post contains affiliate links: if you make a purchase through a link, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
CRITICS: (1999) In late 1950s New York, Tom Ripley, a young underachiever, is sent to Italy to retrieve Dickie Greenleaf, a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy. But when the errand fails, Ripley takes extreme measures.
Not only is this a thrilling movie full of mystery and suspense, I watch it again and again when I'm in an Italy mood. Filmed in Naples, Positano, Venice, Rome, and Sicily — despite it's suspenseful plot, it shows Italy (and hunky Matt Damon and Jude Law) at its best with so many quiet areas that many tourists never get to see, unless you get off the beaten path!
And oh, Venice!!
CRITICS: (2010) A married woman realizes how unhappy her marriage really is, and that her life needs to go in a different direction. After a painful divorce, she takes off on a round-the-world journey to "find herself".
The mid-life crisis premise may be cliche, but Eat, Pray, Love is still one of my favorites that'll have you thinking for weeks about finding your peace in India, your pizza in Italy, and love in Bali. The scenery is stunning in all three places but just wait until you see the Italian food. Nothing a Rome food tour can't cure!
3. Big Night
CRITICS: (1996) Recent immigrants, brothers and restaurant partners Primo and Secondo plunge themselves into preparation for the restaurant's "big visit" by famous Italian singer Louis Prima, spending their entire savings on food and inviting people (including a newspaper reporter) to join them in a magnificent Italian feast.
If you're a serious Italy lover and haven't seen this movie yet, please do yourself a favor and rent it tonight! This cult classic gives a delicious education on 1) traditional Italian food, and 2) the intense passion Italians have for their food...food as love... whether you're making it or eating it. It's a heartwarming story, and the food alone will make you book your next trip, I promise!
CRITICS: (2012) Set in the romantic city of Rome. The intertwining stories of a worker who wakes up to find himself a celebrity, an architect who takes a trip back to the street he lived on as a student, a young couple on their honeymoon, and a frustrated opera director who has a talent for discovering talented singers.
This hilarious Woody Allen comedy has several plot lines happening at once, all set against a stunning Rome backdrop and all of them really unique and entertaining. But the film makes Rome look even more beautiful with great cinematography and shots like the sunset glow against the Spanish Steps.
"Spettacolo" is a current documentary film playing in select cities in the US and slated for release in Canada in November, 2017.
I saw Spettacolo at the Naples Film Festival (Naples, Florida), coincidentally after having visited Monticchielo - where the movie was filmed - one afternoon while driving around Tuscany. It tells the true story of the townspeople of this idyllic Tuscan town and the Poor Theater of Monticchielo. For 50 years, they've told the story of their town in an annual theatrical performance that's open to the public. It's just one of the authentic experiences you can have in Tuscany.
This poignant and poetic film will inspire you -- to visit the town, attend the performance, donate, and ensure its viability for generations to come. If you love Tuscany, you must see this!
CRITICS: (1986) When Lucy Honeychurch and chaperone Charlotte Bartlett find themselves in Florence with rooms without views, fellow guests Mr. Emerson and son George step in to remedy the situation. Once back in England, it remains to be seen how meeting the Emersons and her experiences in Tuscany will affect her marriage plans.
This story is shot against the stunning backdrop of Florence, one of Italy's most iconic cities, and the surrounding countryside. Not only is the story beautifully portrayed but I also loved the occasional musical reference to Puccini, one of Italy's most enduring Opera composers.
And of course, when you're in Florence, you always need a room with a view!
CRITICS: (1999) An orphaned Italian boy is raised among a circle of British and American women living in Mussolini's Italy before and during the Second World War.
This period movie is a fascinating glimpse into the political climate of pre-WWII Italy on the edge of fascist takeover. It's also the autobiography of director Franco Zeffirelli, whose life is chronicled as young Luca, a boy left orphaned by his mother and abandoned by his father. Filmed in Florence and San Gimignano, not only is the historical aspect of the movie equally interesting and terrifying, the scenery is stunning as well!
CRITICS: (1953) A bored and sheltered princess escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome.
Another classic much more lighthearted than the black and white Fellini film above, how can you not fall in love with Audrey Hepburn in Italy? Though much has changed over the years no doubt, it's easy to still picture yourself in Rome, seeing it through her eyes!
CRITICS: (1960) Journalist and man-about-town Marcello struggles to find his place in the world, torn between the allure of Rome's elite social scene and the stifling domesticity offered by his girlfriend, all the while searching for a way to become a serious writer.
This movie is such a classic and the black and white cinematography is timeless. This is also the film that's reference in the next film below, Under The Tuscan Sun - Fifi referring to director Federico Fellini, and of course you'll recognize the famous romp in the fountain. If you love classic black and white movies, you have to see the classic movie on Italy!
CRITICS: (2003) A recently divorced writer buys a villa in Tuscany on a whim, hoping it will lead to a change in her life.
This movie has also turned into a cult classic because it resonates so deeply with lovers of idyllic Tuscany, it'll have you scheming how you can sell everything you own and move there. The story is lighthearted and so identifiable -- whether you're newly divorced, left stranded by your lover, caught in a star crossed love affair, finding love in a foreign land, or longing for lost love. Just wait, Tuscany will grab you and never let go!