It’s now less than eight weeks until we leave for our Epic Italian Summer Holiday. Why do I use this name whenever I think of our next big trip? Well, it didn’t start off very big, but it has grown to epic size in my mind. I had actually planned on taking the kids to Ireland for their first European trip. Then some family members began talking about perhaps renting a villa in Italy this summer and we said that maybe we’d be in for a week or so. Then their two week rental turned into a three week rental and our time at the villa grew to twelve days. But of course we couldn’t go all the way to Italy without seeing Venice, so we added four days there. And finally a great deal came along on a Mediterranean cruise with stops in Greece and Turkey and it seemed to good to pass up. So our little trip to Europe has turned into a 24 night, four country tour. This may not be an epic trip to some people, but as a first overseas trip with a four year old and a five year old, it seems pretty epic in my mind. And now it’s time to start getting into an Italian frame of mind.
When I travel, I often turn to books and movies for inspiration. There’s nothing like a really well crafted movie to transport you to an exotic location. Often a movie will inspire me to check out a new destination, or it can bring back the memories of a place I know and love. Here are a few of the movies I hope to watch in the next few weeks that bring Italy to life for me. (And one that doesn’t!)
1) Roman Holiday
You can’t make a list of great movies set in Italy without including this classic. The only problem is that it also makes me also want to go back in time to the Rome of the 1950’s and that’s a little harder to arrange! I can never visit the great sites of Rome now without imagining Audrey Hepburn flying past on a vintage scooter with a jaunty scarf wrapped around her neck.
2) The Tourist
From one classic we move to a movie that’s……well, not so classic. This rather fluffy thriller starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie isn’t exactly a masterpiece, but I’ve included it because the city of Venice manages to be the number one star of this movie despite the big name actors. From the Santa Lucia train station to the Hotel Danieli to the sleek water taxis that glide up and down the canals, this movie does a great job of capturing the magic that is everyday life in Venice.
3) The Postman/ Il Postino
I was in college when a friend who was going through an artsy stage dragged me along to a little theatre in downtown Vancouver that was playing this film. It was probably my first foreign film and I had never even heard of Pablo Neruda before but I was entranced by the scenes of everyday life on a small Italian island in the 1950’s.
4) Life is Beautiful
Yet another Italian language film set in the mid 20th century. I really love the story of this movie as well as the setting. My favourite scenes are the ones of the father riding full speed through the streets with the little boy on the front of his bike with people and animals scattering in front of them and both of them laughing with pleasure.
5) Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
This one goes even further back. There’s just something about the scene where the returning soldiers come riding over the hills towards the splendid stone villa that encapsulates everything I love about the Italian countryside. If you’ve never seen this version and you love Italy, you really need to check it out.
Under the Tuscan Sun
To me, this movie proves that not even the perfect Italian setting can save a crappy plot filled with annoying characters. I tried to like this movie. I really did. If all the actors had stopped talking and just let the cameras pan across the countryside it would have been a significant improvement. My apologies if there is anyone out there that actually liked this movie. If it inspires you to go to Italy, that’s great. But if I ever watch it again, I’ll watch it on mute.
Shhh. Just shhhh.
There are quite a few Italian movies that I haven’t seen yet. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to watch The Talented Mr. Ripley, Letters To Juliet, A Room With a View and Tea With Mussolini before we leave. If anyone has any other suggestions I’d be glad to hear them!