By Dana Perkiss
Along with being known for its expansive history, mouthwatering cuisine, and high fashion, Italy has also long been a popular destination for the film industry. Some movies you’d expect to be filmed there, but some films may surprise you. (Wouldn’t we all be disappointed if Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed anywhere else?)
Whether you want to stay in Tuscany or visit the beaches of the Amalfi Coast, you can bet that a movie has been filmed there. Here are 8 popular movies with film locations in Italy you can visit.
Star Wars Episode I: Phantom Menace (1999)
If you’re a fan of the Star Wars series, then you’ll be thrilled to pay your respects to the Royal Palace of Naboo, which actually takes place in the Royal Palace of Caserta. The ancient city of Caserta dates back thousands of years to the ancient Samnite tribes, but is best known for the Versailles-inspired palace built in the 18th century as a home to the kingdom’s royalty. The palace hosts 11 acres of glorious gardens, fountains, waterfalls, and natural woodland for guests to walk or bike through. Be sure to visit one of the palace’s most popular sites, the English Garden, which is a beautiful botanical garden decorated like ancient ruins.
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
The Star Wars sequel also filmed scenes at the Royal Palace of Caserta, but they also traveled to the Northern Italian region of Lombardy to film at the spectacular Villa del Balbianello. You’ll recognize this location from the movie as being Queen Padme’s home, where the wedding and balcony kiss took place. Not that far from reality, the Villa is home to gorgeous terraced gardens overlooking Lake Como and is commonly used for weddings, photoshoots, and film locations. The Villa has been home to many famous Italian figures, one of the most exciting being Guido Monzino, who was the first Italian to climb Mount Everest. You can explore the buildings and view the antique artifacts Monzino collected during his travels, as well as other historical pieces left by previous residents.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
It’s no surprise that with a name like that, the movie was filmed in Tuscany and all throughout Italy. Positano, a cliffside village on the Amalfi Coast, is where Diane Lane’s character comes to see Marcello and then drives around with a cop. Visit the many spectacular beaches in Positano and explore the history surrounding them, like the Li Galli Islets, otherwise known as “the Island of Sirens”. Head over to the city of Cortona where you’ll find the piazza della Repubblica where the bustling market scene was filmed. Remember the fountain scene? Piazza Signorelli is the real location, except the fountain was only added for the film. The famous flag-waving show can be found in Arezzo, a rural city in eastern Tuscany, where visitors can walk through Medieval-styled buildings and shop at their monthly Antiques Fair.
The Godfather (1972)
Considered as one of the best movies in American film, The Godfather was largely filmed in Sicily — Savoca and Forza d’Agro to be exact. Bar Vitelli is the most visited film location, with iconic scenes being filmed there like when Michael Corleon (Al Pacino) asks Apollonia Vitelli to marry his daughter. The bar is still open and fully functional, found in Palazzo Trimarchi, Savoca, with a plant-covered outdoor terrace that overlooks the Ionian coast. Head about 8 miles south to Forza d’Agro to see the Cathedral of Maria S. Annunziata, which you may recognize from both the first and second The Godfather — imagine young Vito Corleon and a donkey, sound familiar?
Though mainly set in Italy, this iconic movie was actually mostly filmed in Malta and Morocco, but you’ll recognize some of the flashback scenes in Tuscany. Think back to Maximus (Russel Crowe) coming home from war, or later when he’s standing peacefully in a wheat field with a light shining around him. You’ll find this beautiful paradise in Val d'Orcia (the Orcia Valley), where cypress trees, rolling hills, vineyards, and medieval villages are abundant. One such village that you won’t want to miss is Montalcino, where you’ll feel like you’re living in medieval times with fortified walls surrounding you and castle watch towers protecting you from above. Montalcino is also beloved around the world for its famed production of Brunello wine.
James Bond — The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Many of these renowned spy movies were filmed throughout Italy, but we’ll start with the first. Being that the villain’s headquarters is in the large Meditteranean island of Sardinia, Bond spent much of the movie in action-packed car chases along these streets. Visit the many beaches along the coast, especially the Costa Smeralda (literally, Emerald Coast), where white sand beaches and glimmering turquoise water await you.
James Bond — Casino Royale (2006)
In Casino Royale, we follow a new Bond (Daniel Craig) through the beginning of his journey in the wondrous city of Venice. In one of the first scenes, we see Bond on a sailboat entering Venice and ending up at the Rialto Fish Market. Be sure to check out the market in the morning (it’s only open until 1 PM) where local fishermen bring in their freshest catches of the day. You’ll also want to visit Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) where many other scenes were filmed. It’s here where you’ll recognize much from the movie, like the brick bell tower standing tall in the center or the 15th century clock tower with its glittering golden stars on a dark blue background.
James Bond — Spectre (2015)
You’ll want to visit Rome for this Bond movie, where film crews took over the streets to create exhilarating car chase scenes. One of the most exciting chase scenes was filmed along the Tiber River which winds itself through Rome — could you imagine speeding through those streets? I know I couldn’t. Head over to the Museum of Roman Culture for where the funeral scene was filmed and experience the extraordinary artifacts and monuments from the ancient Roman Empire.
Live the life of your favorite movie characters while experiencing the epic history and scenic beauty of Italy.