In last week’s post, we talked about movies set in magical Tuscany. This week, the magic continues with films that showcase the one-of-a-kind enchantment of Venice, concluding the first triad in our series on movies, TV shows, and books to whet your appetite for Italy.
Mention the word “Venice” and visions of gondolas silently creeping through elegant waterways quickly spring to mind. There are few places so romantic in all the earth as Venezia, where the delicious architecture, like a fanciulla (a beautiful young woman) wading in a pool with its skirt hitched up to its knees, achieves mythical status in this city suspended over a lagoon.
Venice has been the backdrop for a good many films but our list focuses on those in which the City of Canals is the true star of the show.
To Whet Your Appetite for Italy: Films Set in Venice
Filmed and set in the mid-1950s and based on Arthur Laurents’ play The Time of the Cuckoo, this gorgeous piece of filmmaking stars Katherine Hepburn as a middle-aged secretary visiting Venice for the first time. Unlike many movies, where the setting is a fleeting backdrop to the story, the “Queen of the Adriatic” is given its own place at center stage, easily holding its own alongside the enormous presence of Hepburn.
For whatever reason, Summertime is not a widely-known classic, which is a bit of a mystery considering its jaw-dropping, take-me-there cinematography that captures The Floating City in all its glory. In fact, watching this film will more than whet your appetite for Italy; think of it more as mainlining Venetian eye candy! From the time we emerge from the train station in Piazzale Roma at the beginning of the movie to the moment the train rolls away with our protagonist at the end, this love story is pure Venice Immersion.
PANE E TULIPANI
Released in 2000 and set in the modern era, Pane e Tulipani (Bread and Tulips) is a truly delightful Italian movie about love and friendship. It’s a film you can watch over and over again, as much for the host of hilarious characters played to the hilt by the perfect cast as for the quirky love story that unfolds in the sweet embrace of La Serenissima (one of the many terms of endearment for Venice).
Besides being a great story about love, friendship, and loyalty, Pane e Tulipani is also an inspiring tale about having the courage to stand up for oneself and break free from an unhappy existence. Our protagonist, Rosalba, a housewife utterly taken for granted by her family, does just this when the tour bus she was on with her husband and sons pulls away from a rest stop without them noticing she is missing. As she hitches rides to get back home to Pescara, a bit of serendipity catalyzes something rising up within her, and she ends up in Venice.
While Pane e Tulipani will fill your plate with an abundance of Venetian goodness, the secret sauce is in the human story — which is how one impetuous act can send us barreling off the highway of our familiar lives and onto a path towards a future never imagined.
Set in the 18th Century, Lasse Hallström’s Casanova was shot entirely in Venice. Between the sumptuous interiors, opulent costumes, and Venice in full splendour, the film is a veritable feast for the eyes for the whole duration. This gorgeous smorgasbord of cinematography is rendered only more scrumptious by Heath Ledger, as delectable as a bowl of bonbons in the title role.
The movie is a bit of a madcap farce and perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re up for some silliness alongside spectacular Venetian visuals, put the kettle on and settle in for a treat. By the end, you’ll be craving your own Carnevale escape and a romantic hot-air balloon ride over the lagoon.
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