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Books and Movies featuring Italy

Going to Italy in October. Looking for movie and books, especially fiction featuring Italy. In particular, the areas we are visiting are Lake Como, Cinque Terre, Florence, Siena, Rome, Sorrento and Pompeii. I have seen the RS list on the RS website

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187 posts

Domenico Starnone "Ties" and "Trick"

Anything by Elena Ferrante, especially The Neapolitan Novels (1-4) and "The Days of Abandonment"

Alberto Moravia "Contempt" and "Conjugal Love"

Francesca Melandri "Eva Sleeps"

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9419 posts

I do not know the Rick Steves list, but “Pompeii: A Novel” by Robert Harris was what made me want to visit in the first place. Then I had to reread it after we did!

“Beautiful Ruins” is set in Liguria and a light read.

“Beneath a Scarlet Sky” is one of the best books about WWII I have read. It is set in Northern Italy and is biographical.

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238 posts

The only pop culture fiction book/movie I can think of about Rome is Dan Brown's "Angels & Demons"

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179 posts

Hannibal (Silence of the Lambs 2). If you don't mind the gore, the first half of the movie is filmed in Florence.

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867 posts

I just watched “The Light in the Piazza” (1962) for the first time. It was cute and had gorgeous footage of Florence. I also loved “A Month by the Lake” for footage of Lake Como.

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766 posts

Do not forget the great travelogue movies: Rome Adventure and Roman Holiday

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1493 posts

Jules,

"Seeking Sicily" by John Keahey

"...Explores the island with a slant that goes beyond cliche and into its psychological interior, its geography, history, customes, rituals and food..."

Also by the author -

"Venice Against The Sea"

"A Sweet and Glorious Land"

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187 posts

For movies, Fellini is the obvious choice :) The Nights of Cabiria is one of my favorite all time movies. Also good is La Strada, and of course, the popular La Dolce Vita.

Michelangelo Antonioni made some amazing neo-realism films, notably L'Avventura

Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves is a classic.

Ermanno Olmi's Il Posto is a really good slice of working class Roman life.

Roberto Rossellini's Stromboli and Rome, Open City

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6047 posts

For really kitschy, there's always the '63 classic "Gidget Goes to Rome". :) Actually for scenes of Rome in the 60's it's not bad.

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1493 posts

Ah Jules, someone mentioned "Rome Adventure" a fun movie...but perhaps this "Italian" singing will set your mood for Italy straight away :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwq461GHZGs < Love it

or get a glimpse of the sassy and beautiful Sophia

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3Nr-FoA9Ps < Taps "your Siciliano" ...(lol, I grew up on Italian music - every family home we visited, ha!)

And don't forget ole Dino! My Dad favors his music a lot.

Oh, and this video is fun https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2H5D58kAd0

It reminds me of my first time to Rome when I went to my now fav restaurant, lol. No, the waiter did not sing to me, but, for a while, he was my "personal waiter." He paid a little extra attention ;) When I came in, his colleagues would tease him and seat me at his stations. Fun times!

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19 posts

Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love" (available on Netflix)
2014 movie "Pompeii" starring Kit Harington (aka Jon Snow from Game of Thrones)
"When in Rome" - RomCom starring Kristen Bell & Josh Duhamel

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74 posts

3 Coins in a Fountain is a dated 1950's movie but worth watching for the beautifully filmed scenes in Rome and Venice nonetheless. I particularly enjoyed the scene where the three main characters drive up to a deserted Trevi Fountain to toss their coins in.

I second the recommendation of Beneath a Scarlet Sky. I didn't find the book to be particularly well written, but the story was compelling in the extreme. I had a hard time putting the book down.

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3283 posts

Wow, great ideas, I will have to start now! I'm starting to really like opera or at least Andre' Boticelli. Girasole, your post reminded me of a trip I took with my girls to San Francisco. We ate at a small north beach Italian restaurant. It was after a play off game for the world series and the restaurant was filled with a happy, lively bunch. They got the owner to sing, and it was beautiful. Amazing experience! Some day I have to find out if that restaurant still exists.

EDITED TO ADD: Had to look it up. San Francisco, Italian restaurant, Franchino's! Still exists.

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602 posts

"A Room With A View" by E. M. Forster. Both the book and the movie are fabulous! (Parts of the movie are beautifully filmed in Florence!)

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844 posts

I (both hubby and I) second Robert Harris's book Pompeii. Laurel gives good recommendations on everything italy! Hubby read it before we left for Italy first time and I finished it on the plane. We actually found some of the out of the way things and houses in Pompeii that were in the book. Also found the main cistern that stored the water from Vesuvius for the whole town. We got a better understanding about how their lives were before and during the eruption!

We got a site map when we got inside and used that to navigate. Some of the sites we wanted to see from the book were not noted on the map but we could navigate from the noted sites. It's easy to read and made the town come to life for us!

Have a Great Trip!
Mimi

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6047 posts

For books, there are several other books by Frances Mayes (besides Under the Tuscan Sun) that are quite good. I loved the book more than the movie although the movie was entertaining and it's always nice to see the locations rather than just the descriptions in the book.

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7735 posts

"Beneath a Scarlet Sky" for the Lake Como area. It's a compelling story set in WWII and based on a real person.

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1609 posts

Not fiction, but I enjoy the Italy Unpacked BBC series. You can find it in YouTube. They have 3 series and 9 episodes traveling throughout Italy discussing the locations, art, architecture,history and of course food. Locations include Sicily and Puglia I have watched any episodes related to where I’m traveling for the last few years. I always learn something.

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3283 posts

What great suggestions, thank you all so much! Keep them coming. I'll give up sleeping, haha. :)

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1086 posts

Roubrat, are you aware Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend (Napoli) is a miniseries? I had the DVDs from the library but didn't get to them. Will have to borrow again sometime in the summer.

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1831 posts

Seem to remember it is called the Scarlet and the Black a true story set in Rome during WWII stars Gregory Peck

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187 posts

Roubrat, are you aware Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend (Napoli) is a miniseries?

Yes, although I haven't seen it yet.

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723 posts

Top two movies - The Best Of Youth and Il Postino
Favorite book - In the Company of the Courtesan Sarah Dunant

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1609 posts

Great post, Jules. It makes me remember many books and movies I’ve forgotten about and plan to revisit; also many new ones.

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3283 posts

@Girasole and the rest of you. I'm loving the responses and taking note. Can't dig too deeply right now, trying to get my head above water after traveling much of the spring and then camping at the end of May. Just thought I'd get a list and make some library requests for when life slows down some.

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1493 posts

Ha ha Jules, I hear ya...

Yes, you have some good 'teasers.' With long, lazy days of summer coming, you can kick back with a cool glass of lemonade, and enjoy - movies, books and videos representing Italy.

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1493 posts

Jules,

Beautiful videos of Rome and Italy, all set to the music of André Rieu - The violin is one of my favs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oji2QvQMYNg - A "visual trip" around Roma!

Arrivederci Roma Full Album) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LuiRzDXn70 (nice background music when lounging in the summer sun)

Gabriel's Oboe (Roma) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Y0A8WoCqYg

Who can forget - The Godfather Main Title Theme (Live in Cortona, Italy) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_cH0xGWblM

Theme From The Godfather (Waltz) - Magic of the Movies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmKpRfxespE
Different parts are shown, but I love when he visits his friends for morning cafe! A couple of the women are in some of his other videos too (2:20) Also, a cat lazily lounging, the sax just sitting on a stoop waiting to be played, a local woman just walking... going about her day...does not get any better, bells chiming...

I know you asked about books and movies...sometimes, music and beautiful accompanying videos tell their own story...

Enjoy!

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1493 posts

I would also like to add:

HAUSER - Adagio (Secret Garden) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4IOlze0fJE -

A beautiful, relaxing piece. It takes your thoughts far and away. Reflections. Music speaks differently to different people.

Hauser really gets into his Cello. Gorgeous.

;) He appears to catch the eye of a female audience member and holds the gaze - makes her feel like she's the only one...

"Live in Zagreb" - full concert - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g91kQyy4G7E

If you favor the song Hallelujah - he performs with his cello partner of "2CELLOS" fame.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Giqq7s4Yog - Beautiful performance.

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1511 posts

Here’s a couple books I’ve found entertaining:

Living in Italy- The real deal by Stef Smulders

Scratching the toe of italy by Niall Allsop

Stumbling through Italy by Niall Allsop

Move to Italy LJ Stone

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145 posts

You don't mention Venice, but Donna Leon's books will make you want to go there. Start with "Death at La Fenice."

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307 posts

If you like historical fiction, The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen is a good book. I second the suggestion to read Donna Leon's series of books featuring Guido Brunetti as a police detective. There's a lot of them-maybe 20 or so, and all are great. I just finished the most recent one released in 2019.

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468 posts

Mary Beard is an amazing and highly regarded historian of Ancient Rome. Her books are wonderfully written, and explode a lot of the myths and misconceptions of the Romans. In particular, I recommend “SPOR” which is a fairly full view from early Rome to the heights of the empire. It’s amazing what we know and don’t know about ancient Rome. The days of the early republic were just as much a mystery to the Romans as they are to us really.

(It’s not fiction, but it’s not dry history.)

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46 posts

I recently finished Bella Figura by Kamin Mohammadi, adult non-fiction. Story based in Florence, very descriptive of the area, well written.

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11681 posts

Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King is a great read for Florence. You will appreciate how amazing the Duomo is after reading it.

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2865 posts

Did I miss it, or has no one mentioned the mystery series by Andrea Camilleri, featuring his detective Montalbano? The dramatizations are available on MHZ. Great shots of Sicilian scenery.
In a more serious vein, there is Christ Stopped at Eboli, by Carlo Levi. It recounts the time the author spent in a a village near Matera, where he was exiled for anti-fascist activity.

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2518 posts

For some interesting takes on WWII in Italy, Catch 22. If you like mysteries, Michael Dibdin has written some interesting books that take place in various areas of Italy. For a look at Florence through the eyes of Carabinieri Marshal Guarnaccia, headquartered in the Pitti Palace - a misplaced Sicilian who longs for home and looks askance at the florentines and their customs.

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3283 posts

Such great suggestions! Thank you all so much! In general I don't read mysteries unless they are super unique (like, perhaps Gone Girl) or along the lines of Sue Grafton or Nevada Barr (Great mysteries set in national parks). All these suggestions are intriguing, but to narrow down the mysteries a bit, can you expand on whether the suggestions are similar to to these? Also, I like thrillers along the lines of Dan Brown (tho not the greatest writer, his short chapters are great for my busy life)

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2518 posts

Sorry to say I never read either author. The books by Dibdin and Magdalen Nabb (didn’t realize I left her name out of my original post) are more slice of Italian life but the plots are Interesting as are the main characters. Pick one up at the library and see if it interests you. If you you don’t like it, stop reading it and returning it. Now I’ll have to check out Nevada Barr!

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76 posts

Letters to Julia offers beautiful scenes of the Tuscan countryside.

The Talented Mr. Ripley is set in Naples, Positano, Venice & Sicily.

Older book, The Agony & The Ecstasy by Irving Stone, give a fictional account of Michelangelo's experience crafting in his more famous works. There is a movie of it, but not great.

Fun Italian TV series Only You (English Title) or Baciati dall'amore (Italian Title). Has English subtitles. Don't take it too seriously, but all the typical characters are in this comedy and gives you a sense of some adorable Italian habits.

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74 posts

I second the recommendation of the excellent film/TV series The Best of Yourh. Also recommend the offbeat but charming romantic comedy, Bread and Tulips, set primarily in Venice.

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1085 posts

Did I miss it or did no one suggest "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn. It is black and white and dated, but made me want to go to Rome when I was young. 2 funny and older technicolor films are "Come September" with Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida and "Avanti" with Jack Lemmon. I love old movies and I watch anything set in Italy.

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I just finished The Botticelli Secret, by Marina Fiorato, which I really enjoyed. Another novel by the same author that is great, The Glassblower of Murano, is set in Venice.

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211 posts

A Chill in the Air, An Italian War Diary by Iris Origo. Takes place in Tuscany and it is all true.

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10262 posts

Someone already mentioned it, A Room With A View.

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18 posts

Ditto to the book recommendations of The Agony and Ecstasy, The Tuscan Child, Beneath a Scarlett Sky.

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177 posts

Some of my favs mentioned here, but don't think anyone has mentioned the films:

The Enchanted April, starring Miranda Richardson, Alfred Molina, Jim Broadbent, Joan Plowright, and others (also a lovely novel)
and a more recent one,
Call Me By Your Name with Timothee Chalamet & Armie Hammer

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257 posts

I second the mention of the Inspector Montalbano books mentioned above. They are set in Sicily which is not one of your destinations but they are still worth reading.

Also "The Betrothed" by Alessandro Manzoni, which is set in around Lake Como, Milan and neighbouring areas.

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1609 posts

Before a trip to Naples, I try to see some of the Vittorio De Sica movies set there. The ones with Sophia Loren are all great. His earliy movies such as Shoeshine, The Bicycle Thief and Umberto D are masterpieces.

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3304 posts

Summertime starring Katherine Hepburn - Venice
Enchanted April - Portofino
Bread and Tulips - Venice...MY FAVORITE!
Room With A View
Roman Holiday
Too many to list but it looks like you have a lot in the thread!
Sorry if some of these were repeats but I didn't want to read through the whole thing...