Stream Holidays

Stream Holidays: Six Great Films About Trips to Italy

From the sexy hedonism of The Talented Mr. Ripley to the old-fashioned delights of Roman Holiday, here's our guide for the armchair traveller

In Stream Holidays, we recommend the best films to watch as alternatives to going abroad at this time of global quarantine – all available to stream or rent from the comfort of your own home.

Everything about Italy screams “film me!”, from its gorgeous architecture to its delicious cuisine. Few cities can rival Venice for sheer atmosphere, whilst Rome provides the perfect backdrop for films of all shapes and sizes, whether it's romance or thriller.

And yet Italy has more than just beauty and culture to its name: there is often an enigmatic and sometimes even macabre quality that a multitude of directors have tapped into over the years, from Nicolas Roeg to giallo master Dario Argento. No wonder filmmakers can't keep their cameras away.

If the global pandemic has made it impossible for anyone to actually go abroad right now, the next best thing might be watching films about other people going abroad instead. These Italian picks hopefully offer something for every taste, from hedonistic trips to voyages of a more contemplative nature. And look on the bright side… this way's a lot more cost-effective.

 

Roman Holiday (1953)

Where to watch it: Now TV (stream)

Though it is Audrey Hepburn who takes the iconic “holiday” of the title, the name of this film is equally an invitation of breezy escapism for audiences, too. William Wyler's magical, timeless romance sees Hepburn's Princess evading her royal duties in a bid to see the real Rome. Before long she's teamed with a charismatic newspaperman, played by Gregory Peck, who makes it his mission to guide her around Italy's gorgeous capital. A joy to behold for every second of its runtime, Roman Holiday effectively captures the giddy feeling associated with exploring a new city, whilst its classic film status is reaffirmed by a brave and unexpectedly melancholy ending – one of cinema's best.

 

Journey to Italy (1954)

Where to watch it: BFI Player (stream)

It's not uncommon for couples to go on holiday in an attempt to fix their problems, only to find the pressure to have a good time makes matters infinitely worse. Case in point: Roberto Rossellini's portrait of a marriage on the rocks, Journey to Italy, starring Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders as an upper middle-class couple who venture to Italy and find their relationship deteriorating. In 1956 critics were unconvinced by the thinness of the plot. These days Rossellini's refusal to bow to conventional story beats marks it out as a landmark film. An undoubtably melancholy work, but fascinating in its depiction of married ennui and in its filming of great Italian cities like Naples and Pompeii.

 

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Where to watch it: Prime Video (rent)

Yes, there is murder at the heart of Anthony Minghella's sumptuous adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's classic thriller, yet The Talented Mr. Ripley is so gorgeous to look at, its colours so deliriously enticing, that no amount of bloodshed can detract from the fact that watching it feels like one long and very luxurious holiday. Matt Damon, Jude Law (never better) and Gwyneth Paltrow are our trio of beautiful, young twentysomethings, taking in Rome, Venice, and everywhere inbetween, romance and jealousies bouncing between them. Everything from the costumes to the soundtrack to the lush cinematography sing. Has Italy ever looked better on film?

Unrelated (2007)

Where to watch it: BFI Player (stream)

Anyone seeking a realistic take on the family holiday should look no further than Joanna Hogg's brilliantly observed dissection of the British middle-class abroad. Unrelated centres on thirtysomething Anna (Kathyrn Worth), who tags along on holiday to a gorgeous Tuscan villa with her friend, Ve, and Ve's family. Hogg shoots with a detached style, allowing the interactions between characters to speak for themselves. At times the awkwardness makes for near unbearable viewing, but Hogg's talent is in her ability to find big truths in tiny moments. Look out for a young Tom Hiddleston as the object of Anna's misguided affection.

 

The Trip to Italy (2014)

Where to watch it: Prime Video (buy)

The Trip to Italy is actually a six-part TV series, reedited here into a more digestible feature film (the whole show is recommend viewing, if you can spare the time). Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, playing fictional versions of themselves, set out to trace Lord Byron's footsteps, stopping at beautiful hotels and immaculate beaches. Directed by Michael Winterbottom, it offers an unbeatably efficient whistle-stop tour of the Great Lakes region that will instantly have you planning your next holiday. And whilst the film is gorgeous to look at (though how could it not be?), the real highlight is the food. Watching Coogan and Brydon settle in for dazzlingly, multi-course meals at some of Italy's greatest restaurants, jealously is all but guaranteed.

 

Call Me by Your Name (2017)

Where to watch it: Prime Video (rent)

Timothée Chalamet is Elio, the restless teenager living with his family in their beautiful house in northern Italy. Armie Hammer is Oliver, the charismatic student who travels from the States to spend the summer assisting Elio's dad. An achingly romantic story of young love, Call Me by Your Name has the swooning effect of making you feel like you've just spent a summer abroad – the sort of film you wish you could dive inside and inhabit. Woozy cinematography ensures the same light-headed effect one gets from too much time in the sun, as our pair spend lazy days relaxing in lush gardens to the sounds of Sufjan Stevens' gorgeous songs. Best of all, though, is the way the film captures that very specific feeling of holiday romance – an intensely felt and often agonising pain that can feel like the world ending when it's over.

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