If you have a case of wanderlust, the only prescription is to travel. But if you can’t afford the trip, sometimes a movie about the location your are pining for is the next best thing. Got Italy on the brain? There are some truly great movies about traveling to Rome and Venice that you’ve gotta check out.
And while many travel movies about Italy have come out in the last 10 years (Under the Tuscan Sun, When in Rome, and Letters to Juliet are just a few examples), sometimes cinema classics are to be preferred to newer films. Here are my three favorite classics (all filmed between 1950 and 1960).
Two words: Rossano Brazzi. He’s got this way of staring at Katherine Hepburn that’s both electric and classy, and it’s impossible to look away from the screen when they are sharing it together. If you are an American woman planning a trip to Italy for the first time, expect that a number of Italian men will probably be eyeing you up in much the same fashion.
The plot of the movie has a huge appeal for American women planning their first trip to Italy. The story follows Katherine Hepburn’s character as she leaves behind her spinsterhood in Ohio for a trip to Venice, a trip that she has been saving up for her entire adult life. A lonely, middle-aged secretary, Hepburn’s character is overwhelmed by the beauty of Venice, and also by the handsome Rentato de Rossi (played by Brazzi). She is incredibly attracted to him, but second-guesses her plan to sleep with him when she discovers that he is married. It’s a complicated, beautiful romance that has aged well over the years, and is a scenario that many travelers might fantasize about.
Roman Holiday (1953)
Another Italian travel classic, featuring another Hepburn. This time it’s Audrey, alongside the handsome Gregory Peck. Filmed on location, the film is shot in black and white, meaning it’s a little harder for modern audiences to appreciate the splendor of the sights of Rome. All of the greatest travel movies are about leaving behind your responsibilities and kicking back, and that’s exactly what Hepburn’s character does in this movie. It’s a classic for a reason, and even though it may seem dated to some, it’s required viewing before any trip to Rome.
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Is it Fellini’s best film? No. But it is his most famous, and in many ways, his most iconic. The film often resonates with American audiences, in part, because the main character of the film is also a tourist in Rome visiting from a rural area, just like many US residents who are planning to travel to Rome for the first time. Whether you are at a crossroads in your life and feeling a bit disillusioned, or else looking forward to letting loose on your own Italian vacation, this film will surely speak to you.
So whether you are planning your first trip to Italy or your fifteenth, these classic movies from cinema’s golden age will be sure to get you excited for your vacation.