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Tuscany has always had a sense of mystique which is why so many classic movies are set, at least in part, in this iconic Italian province. The rolling landscape, vineyards and ancient history all give Tuscany a magical quality that comes across through the silver screen and inspires filmmakers and directors everywhere to set their movies in Italy.
Movie directors, just like their audiences, are drawn to Tuscany and as a result some of the best films of all time are set in and around the province. In fact, some of the greatest actors, including legends such as Anthony Hopkins, Liv Tyler and Helena Bonham Carter, first came to widespread prominence after starring in films that were largely set in Tuscany.
Ten Iconic Movies That Were Set In Tuscany.
The following are the movies that were set in Tuscany:
Life Is Beautiful – 1997.
As one of the most famous films that’s ever been set in Italy, Life is Beautiful was directed by Roberto Benigni and centers around the exploits of a Jewish bookshop owner. The film tells the story of the bookshop owner, played by Guido Orefice, who tries to navigate the early days of the second world war as he attempts to protect his son from the nightmares of the Nazi concentration camps.
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The drama, set in Arezzo, takes a comedic look of one of the most difficult times in modern European history and manages to tread the tightrope between laugh out loud humor and the very dangerous Fascistic regime that had engulfed Italy.
Life is Beautiful was greeted with wide acclaim and went on to win 3 Academy Awards including for the Best Foreign Language Film. Much of the film was shot in the beautiful Tuscan town of Arezzo and includes scenes from the Piazza Grande, the Basilica of San Francesco and the Cathedral of Saints Donato and Pietro.
Tea With Mussolini – 1999.
Directed by Franzo Zeffirelli, Tea with Mussolini was an instant hit and included lead actors Maggie Smith and Cher. The film recounts the story of an Italian youth who is raised by American and British Expats in Italy during the troubles of World War 2. Among the beautiful locations that are included in the movie are San Gimignano and Florence, both of which make a stunning backdrop to the plot as it unfolds. The central character, a young Italian named Luca, is taught a wide range of life lessons by the Expat women who have taken him under their wing.
As the war begins to heat up in Europe, the Expatriate women are forced to come to terms with their increasingly difficult situation in Italy as the fascist troops begin to assert their authority on the ancient city. The problems for the British and American expatriates in Italy during the lead up to the world war were very real and given that Italy would soon be at war with Britain they had to make hard choices or return home.
Under The Tuscan Sun – 2003.
Under the Tuscan Sun tells the story of a writer named Frances Mayes, played by Diane Lane, who decides to leave San Francisco and move to Tuscany after a painful divorce. The divorce leaves her with a chronic case of writer’s block which causes her to leave her home and spend some time in Italy to try to rekindle her creativity.
After she arrives in Italy she buys a house in the hilltop town of Cortona in Tuscany and begins to settle into her new life abroad. During a trip to Rome, Frances Mayes meets Marcello, played by Raoul Bova, which sets off a whole chain of events which will change her life forever.
The Best Of Youth – 2003.
The Best of Youth, originally called La Meglio Gioventu, is a historical drama that follows the lives of the Carati family from 1966 to 2003 against the backdrop of one of the most turbulent periods of modern Italian history. The film tells the story of the family as their lives progress against the tumultuous backdrop of the major political events in Italy after the end of the Second World War.
Directed by Marco Tullio Giordana, The Best of Youth documents two brothers’ journey through life; tracing events from their adolescent years until their retirement, much of which is set in and around Florence.
The film’s title comes from a famous collection of poetry by Pier Paolo Pasolini which itself was taken from an Italian WWII song called ‘Sul Ponte di Perati’. This song was used to represent the post World War generation who had to rebuild their world after the destruction of the catastrophic global conflict.
The film expertly shows the unavoidable relationship between people’s personal lives and the huge political events that are completely out of their control.
Stealing Beauty – 1966.
Directed by award winning filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci and starring Jeremy Irons, Rachel Weisz and Liv Tyler, Stealing Beauty is a drama that explores the conflicts and issues that the main character faces as she comes of age. Liv Tyler plays a teenage American girl named Lucy who is sent to live in Italy by her father after her mother passes away.
The young American stays with family friends amongst the beautiful scenery of Siena in Tuscany. Her arrival in the household changes the dynamics of the family and as the drama unfolds Lucy begins to realize that this trip to Italy is going to change her life forever.
Hannibal – 2001.
This huge box office hit was directed by Ridley Scott and stars Anthony Hopkins as the central role. Hopkins plays a highly intelligent serial killer named Hannibal Lecter who is chased down by the FBI agent Clarice Starling. Clarice, who is played by Jodie Foster, has to unravel the devious plans of the serial killer who has a taste for human flesh!
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This powerful psychological thriller is the sequel to the haunting film Silence of the Lambs but it’s actually set 10 years before the original film which also starred Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. The film is set between America and Italy, primarily in the elegant Renaissance city of Florence.
The English Patient – 1996.
This emotive romantic drama takes place during the final years of the Second World War and is based on a novel written by the Canadian-Sri Lankan author Michael Ondaatje. The film was a massive success and went on to win 9 Academy Awards, including the coveted Best Picture Award.
The film is set in multiple theaters of the war although much of the plot unfolds in Tuscany, between Pienza and Arezzo. Ralph Finnes stars as an injured war veteran who has suffered extensive burns and is later looked after by a tender nurse who is played by Juliette Binoche.
During the course of the film the nurse learns the tragic love story of her patient which eventually led to his hospitalization. Her patient cannot remember his name though and so the nurse simply refers to him as the English Patient, which is where the movie gets its title from.
A Room With A View – 1985.
This stylish period drama is directed by James Ivory and is based on the E.M. Foster novel by the same title. The film takes a comic look at the romantic ordeals of a young English woman named Lucy Honeychurch who is played by Helena Bonhma Carter. She lives during the restrictive Edwardian period of English history and struggles to express herself when she falls in love with a handsome and carefree young man named George Emerson.
The film is set in both England and Italy, including Florence where the flames of Lucy’s romance with George Emerson are sparked into life. This leads Lucy to abandon her fiancé, who is an older man with very little in common with her, to pursue her true love and happiness with the adventurous young man, George Emerson.
A large part of the film takes place in Florence and includes scenes in the Basilica of Santa Croce and the famous Piazza della Signoria. These locations make the perfect backdrop for the smoldering love story at the center of the movie’s plot line. This highly acclaimed film won 3 Academy Awards including Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.
Gladiator – 2000.
This fantastic box office sensation was directed by Ridley Scott and is set throughout the Roman Empire. The film tells the story of a Roman general, Maximus Decimus Meridius, who is betrayed and falls from grace with the new Emperor but after a series of brushes with death he ends up fighting as a gladiator slave in the Roman Colosseum!
The gladiator slave is played by Russel Crowe and the Emperor is played by Joaquin Phoenix. The gladiator slave manages to maneuver himself into a situation where he can battle the Emperor in the arena to get revenge for the murder of his wife and young son.
This epic historical movie is partly set in Rome but some of the scenes were filmed in Pienza in Tuscany. Incredibly, the film ended up grossing almost $500 million in the box office!
The Twilight Saga – 2008.
The Twilight Saga is a series of 5 fantasy romance films that were based on the vampire novel ‘New Moon’ by Stephanie Meyer. The film was directed by Chris Weitz and stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart who play Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. The Twilight Saga series of films were incredibly successful and grossed an amazing $3 Billion!
The movie is set in Volterra where the town’s cobblestone streets and 14th historic city center make the perfect backdrop for a vampire fantasy thriller. Volterra has long been associated with vampire legends with many locals claiming that the ancient town is still haunted! NOTE: Although set in Volterra, the Volterra scenes were actually shot in Montepulciano!
Tuscany Has Been The Setting For Some Of The Best Films.
There’s nowhere else on earth which can truly compare to the beauty of Tuscany and consequently some extremely iconic films have been set there. Directors and filmmakers are drawn to the province where the stunning landscapes make a fantastic backdrop for a film.
As you watch films that are set in Tuscany you’ll inevitably want to visit some of the locations that are included so they’re a great place to get some inspiration for your next trip to the province.