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5 stunning Italian locales from TV and the silver screen

For the armchair traveler, movies are the ultimate travelogue. They have the magical ability to transport viewers to different places and faraway worlds, ensuring a case of severe wanderlust and a desire for la dolce vita in the process. No country is more emblematic than Italy and its stunning vistas, vibrant cultures, rich history, and style make it a top favorite among filmmakers.

If long lines and incessant delays at the airport are not how you want to spend your summer, or if you are looking for inspiration in planning a future getaway, here are some of the most popular Italian locales and screen productions filmed in the country known as Bel Paese.

Ripley (2024)

Andrew Scott performing as Tom Ripley in Ripley - Italian locales in Effect Magazine
Andrew Scott performing as Tom Ripley in Ripley (Courtesy Netflix © 2023)

The Netflix eight-episode adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley portrays Italy in a stylish and somber light thanks to the stunning work of cinematographer Robert Elswit. Filmed in black and white, the chipped Italian facades, white stucco villas, and aged stucco architecture with the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Gulf of Naples as a backdrop provide a 1940s film noir aesthetic. Dickie’s Villa Torricella on the island of Capri doubles as the town of Atrani and features lemon and olive trees, wisteria-wrapped pergolas, a gazebo, and vaulted ceilings with incredible sea views. The look is Bohemian meets Italian luxe (and the villa is available for short term rentals on Airbnb). Winding streets, 13th-century churches, and a 16th-century belltower are a few of the historic locations that contribute to the unspoiled beauty of the resort.

Tom Ripley’s Venice palazzo is another key set. Filmed in the Renaissance building Palazzo Contarini Polignac, production designer David Gropman scoured numerous villas in Italy for details such as the size of the rooms, style of architecture, and period-perfect moldings. “The palazzo has a wonderful history and was quite spectacular,” noted Gropman on its beauty (and yes, you can book a stay there as well). Located in the Piazza San Marco, viewers may recognize the famed Caffé Florian, where Ripley meets up with Reeves Minot (John Malkovich). Art aficionados will appreciate the settings that house Ripley’s obsession with the artist Caravaggio that includes the Oratory of San Lorenzo, Cathedral of Palermo, the Santuario di Rosalia in Palermo, and Naples’ Pio Monte della Misericorida.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon and Jude Law in the 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley, filmed on the island of Procida in the Bay of Naples - Italian locales in Effect Magazine
Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon and Jude Law in the 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley, filmed on the island of Procida in the Bay of Naples (Courtesy Paramount Pictures)

Moviegoers were first introduced to novelist Patricia Bosworth’s psychological thrillers on the life of an enigmatic grifter turned murderer in the 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley. Starring Matt Damon in the title role, Ripley is hired by a wealthy shipping magnate to track down his son Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), who spends his idyll days with girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow) on the fictitious coastal resort of “Mongibello” (located on the neighboring island of Procida). Eagle-eyed movie buffs will recognize the streets of the fishing village that also served as locales for the charming 1994 film Il Postino. Other key locales include the scenic island and port of Ischia on the Bay of Naples.

Matt Damon's Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley - Italian locales in Effect Magazine
Matt Damon’s Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley (Courtesy Paramount Pictures)

The Italian capital of Rome is a frequently featured in films made in Italy and Ripley is no exception. The Spanish Steps, the St. Regis Grand Hotel, the Forum at Capitoline Hill, and Ripley’s apartment in the 14th-century Palazzo Taverna enjoys their time in the spotlight. Naples’ Teatro San Carlo doubles as a Roman Opera House, and the San Remo Jazz Festival is shot at the seafront town of Anzio (also seen in Federico Fellini’s masterpiece Amarcord).

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)

Diane Lane in the 2003 film Under the Tuscan Sun, set near Arezzo in Tuscany, Italy - Italian locales in Effect Magazine
Diane Lane in the 2003 film Under the Tuscan Sun, set near Arezzo in Tuscany, Italy (Courtesy Touchstone Pictures)

Best-selling author Francis Mayes’ 1996 memoir of a divorcee starting over in Italy and renovating a dilapidated villa in the process, is the ultimate chick-flick escape. Set in the sun-soaked hills of Tuscany near Arezzo, the story takes place in Cortona’s Villa Laura, known in the film as “Villa Bramasole.” Available for rent, you can live your cinematic fantasies in three villas that sleep 20 with ten bedrooms, complete with pool, bocce court, basement wine cellar, outdoor pizza oven and minutes from the beach at Lake Trasimeno.

READ: 10 essential highlights from the 2024 Venice Biennale

The popular Amalfi Coast town of Positano, the famous fountain scene at the Piazza Signorelli (spoiler alert: the fountain was a prop) influenced by the 1960 film La Dolce Vita, and Piazza Grande in neighboring Montepulciano are also featured in the movie.

White Lotus (2022)

The Di Grasso family arrive at the White Lotus in Season 2 of HBO’s White Lotus - Italian locales in Effect Magazine
The Di Grasso family arrive at the White Lotus in Season 2 of HBO’s White Lotus (Courtesy HBO)

The 15th-century-monastery-turned hotel San Domenico Palace in Taormina hosts the colorful cast of characters in HBO’s satirical anthology series White Lotus. Season Two follows the lives and mayhem of the wealthy guests and beleaguered employees of the fictional hotel resort, the White Lotus Sicily. Part of the luxury Four Seasons Hotels chain, the Palace resides on Sicily’s eastern coasts, with fabulous views of the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna that often take center stage.

The hotel was chosen by showrunner Mike White, who was searching for a classic “old-world European vacation.” Set decorator Christina Onori, who created the interiors for the set-in-Italy film House of Gucci, details: “The goal was to contextualize a five-star hotel in the place where it stands, to add some new elements and introduce another culture which is Sicily, made up of strong-contrast light and shadow.” She drew on the history of the region, filling the common spaces with archaeology and antiquities, and even created a new logo for the White Lotus brand.

The property first opened in 1897, and rumor has it, inspired English author D.H. Lawrence’s controversial 1928 novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Day trips from the White Lotus included the Villa Tasca in Palermo, which is available for vacations and weddings and looks like the pages of a luxury shelter magazine. Fans of The Godfather will no doubt want to visit the Castello degli Schiavi that appeared in the original film as Michael Corleone’s Sicilian hideaway. And a word of warning—book early as the hotel is even more popular after its HBO debut.

Roman Holiday (1953)

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday - Italian locales in Effect Magazine
Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday at one of the most iconic Italian locales – the Spanish Steps (Courtesy Paramount Pictures)

Director William Wyler’s classic of a bored Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) touring Europe and a chance romance with an American reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), shares the screen with the Eternal City known as Rome. Roman Holiday features all the classic locales and is notable as the first American film completely shot in Italy instead of a studio soundstage. The locations are must-sees for any Italian itinerary. Bocca Della Verità a.k.a “The Mouth of Truth” is famous for the scene where Joe takes Ann to the location and pretends to have his hand stuck in the mouth. The couple enjoy a Vespa ride across the city with the Piazza Venezia and Via del Teatro di Marcello in the distance. The 137 steps of the Piazza di Spagna (that would be the Spanish steps), the 18th-century Trevi fountain, the Palazzo Barberini that serves Princess Ann’s embassy, the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica that houses one of the most important collections of art in Rome, the Vittorio Emmanuele II monument and the Palazzo Colonna (one of Rome’s oldest palaces) make their screen debuts.

Read more: Design | Film | Interior design | Production design | Set design | Italy