Escape to Italy

Submitted by HedonisticHiking on 10 Aug 2020

As Hedonistic Hikers we don't usually choose to spend too much time in front of our screens but this year is a little different.  Finding ourselves once again locked down here in Victoria and unable to spend time with friends, we've turned our attention to some of our favourite films, and they are the perfect way to imagine yourself in Italy for an hour or two each evening. In case you are searching for a little escape, here are some of our favourites!

La Dolce Vita  
A classic Federico Fellini story of a journalist's adventures during a week in Rome.  The central character is played by Marcello Mastroianni as he searches for "the sweet life" and both the light and dark sides of 1960s Rome come to the fore in the film.

Life is Beautiful 
A moving film following a Jewish family surviving life in a Nazi concentration camp. A librarian from Arezzo and his son become victims of the Holocaust, but the father uses a perfect mixture of will, humour and imagination to protect his son from the dangers around their camp. The film was made in 1997 and was directed by and starred Roberto Benigni.

Il Postino 
A fictional story of the real life Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and a simple postman. Filmed on the island of Procida in the Gulf of Naples the story follows the friendship between the exiled poet and the poorly educated postman. Over time Neruda plays an important role in helping the postman to learn to love poetry and to woo and win the woman he falls for. 

Tea with Mussolini 
Much of this film is shot in Florence and San Gimignano and follows the story of Luca, a young boy taken under the wings of a circle of British and American women in the years leading up to and during the second world war. This all star cast is led by Dame Judi Dench, Dame Joan Plowright and Dame Maggie Smith.

Room with a View 
E M Forster's classic tale of a young English Edwardian woman falling in love in and with Italy.  The film was shot in Florence and Fiesole, as well as the UK, and the soundtrack includes many of Giacomo Puccini's most celebrated arias.

The Leopard
Known in Italian as Il Gattopardo, this classic 1963 film chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Unification of Italy. The Prince of Salina, a noble aristocrat of impeccable integrity, tries to preserve his family and class amid the tumultuous social upheavals of the 1860's.  Shot in Sicily the film's title character was played by Burt Lancaster but his lines were dubbed by an Italian actor.

Cinema Paradiso 
The tale of a successful film director living in Rome returning to Sicily for the funeral of an old friend, the man who encouraged him as a young boy to love the cinema and learn how to be a projectionist. In 1989 this nostalgic movie won the Oscar for best foreign film.

Roman Holiday 
This wonderful film starred Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn as an American reporter in Rome and an incognito princess who, for a brief moment, slips away from the restrictions of her royal duties.  Together they explore the city of Rome and, for a short time, she enjoys a taste of the life she cannot have.  Filmed in Rome in 1953.

The Wings of the Dove
Filmed in 1997 between London and Venice, this adaptation of a Henry James novel follows a complicated love triangle. An impoverished woman, forced to choose between a privileged life with her wealthy aunt or her journalist lover, befriends an American heiress. When she discovers the heiress is attracted to her lover, and is dying, she cooks up a plan to try to have it all.

Bread & Tulips 
A disillusioned Italian housewife finds herself stranded on holiday and impulsively hitchhikes her way to Venice to start a new adventure.  This romantic comedy was filmed in 2000 and its Italian title is "Pane e Tulipani"

Bicycle Thieves
A 1948 classic set in Rome. The post-war economy in Italy is depressed and the central character, Antonio Ricci, has waited a long time to find a job.  When he does it is dependant on him having his own bicycle, which gets stolen on his first day. Without the bicycle he cannot work and he and his son set out to find the thief.

Made in Italy
We haven't seen this yet, but a new release for 2020 in the cinema starring Liam Neeson and his real-life son Micheál Richardson follows the story of a Bohemian London artist returning to Tuscany with his estranged son to make a quick sale of the house they inherited from his late wife.  The film was shot in and around Pienza and the Val d'Orcia.

If you have access to SKY or HBO we highly recommend the dramatisation of Elena Ferrante's novels My Beautiful Friend and The Story of a New Name.  Filmed in and around Naples, the stories follow the difficult lives of friends Elena and Lila, the hardships of their neighbourhood and the struggles of their friendship. Italian language but with English subtitles.

Highly recommended by Hedonistic Hiker Ross Barnard is another mini series also by the name of Made in Italy.  He describes it being set in Milan in the mid-seventies, about the birth of the dominance of the Italian fashion industry. Available on SBS On Demand. Fast, fun and wonderfully acted, with a serious political element concerning the militant Red Brigades causing chaos in the streets at the time. The period recreation he says is superb.

Hedonistic Hiker Karen Boland also recommends Perfect Strangers.  Filmed in 2016 and known in Italian as Perfetti Sconosciuti, the story follows seven long-time friends who get together for a dinner. When they decide to share with each other the content of every text message, email and phone call they receive, many secrets start to unveil and the equilibrium trembles.

You may of course be housebound in other parts of the world and dreaming about a trip Down Under.  If so, here are a few of the Aussie films we love:

The Castle 
This feel-good 1997 movie is sacred in Australian pop culture, with many of its famous lines still in everyday use!  It follows the Kerrigan family, who fight to save their beloved home after the government attempts to evict them from their house so they can expand the nearby airport.  It was filmed in and around Melbourne.

Red Dog
Perhaps the most iconic Aussie film of recent times, Red Dog is based on a true story about a legendary dog that wanders the Australian bush in search of his long lost owner. During his travels through the outback, Red Dog manages to touch the hearts of everyone he meets. Have a box of tissues handy!

The Man from Snowy River
The 1982 film was inspired by the ‘Banjo’ Paterson poem of the same name and is set in the 1880s.  Shot in the Victorian High Country rather than the Snowy Mountains, the story follows the life of Jim Craig whose father dies leaving him at the age of 18 to work in the low lands to earn enough money to get his family farm back on its feet.  Along the way he falls for his boss's daughter and gets embroiled in a bitter land fued.  The Victorian High Country landscape is one of the stars of the film!

Crocodile Dundee
An Australian film for the ages, this movie charts the story of crocodile poacher Mick Dundee and a journalist from New York City and the culture clashes they experience along the way. Shot in Australia's Northern Territory and New York City, the film became a worldwide phenomenon when it was released in 1986, and there can't be many people alive who are yet to see it!

Mick, who is our resident technical expert, is confident that all the films can be found through Google Movies and TV, Netflix, HBO, Apple TV/Films, Prime Video, Stan or Sky.  Enjoy the movies and let us know if there are any of your favourites to add to our list!