Postcards from Italy
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Heart-warming Italian Movies for Cold Winter Nights

Temperatures have plummeted across North America (and Europe, for that matter), and the only thing anyone wants to do is curl up in front of the fire with a glass of Italian wine and a movie to match. Ok, we admit that we are partial to all things Italian, but there's no arguing against some of the best movies of the 20th century.

If you're planning a trip to Italy over the next few months, settling in to watch one of these classics will help you brush up on your Italian ahead of time, or at least hone your ear a bit. Not planning a trip? At least you can be transported by the sights and sounds of a film set in Italy!

Here are ten beloved classics old and new to keep you occupied while you wait for the world to thaw:

Italian Cinema

Il Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore
Known simply as Cinema Paradiso in Italian, this story of the relationship between the fatherly projectionist Alfredo and young cinephile Totò in post-war Sicily is a perennial favorite, with friendship, romance, and one of the most iconic soundtracks of the late 20th century. The tear-jerker of a final scene showing a highlight reel of edited kisses rolls is one for the ages, so make sure you have tissues close at hand.

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La Vita è Bella (1997)
Directed by Roberto Benigni
Both directed by and starring the popular Italian comic, Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful won three Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Benigni. An improbable comedy set against the backdrop of a Nazi concentration camp, this poignant tale touches on the sacrifices made in the name of love in a family, between husband and wife and father and son. You'll be smiling through your tears at the bittersweet end.

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Il Postino (1994)
Directed by Michael Radford and Massimo Troisi
Perhaps the saddest part of this delightful story of friendship and love set on an unnamed island off the Italian coast is that Massimo Troisi, who stars in the film as the postman opposite Philippe Noiret's Pablo Neruda, died of a heart attack the day filming was complete and never lived to see his masterpiece become an international success. Appease your romantic side with this beautifully scripted, acted, and filmed tale.

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Pane e Tulipani (1999)
Directed by Silvio Soldini
Though you've probably heard of, or even seen, the previous films mentioned, this romantic comedy set in Venice may have passed you by. A lonely housewife is left at an Autogrill (highway roadside restaurant) by her distracted husband, and instead of returning home, she decides to head to Venice. There, she falls in love with a maitre'd and hilarity ensues. All's well that ends well, and this story ends on a lovely note for everyone.

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La Dolce Vita (1960)
Directed by Federico Fellini
This classic work from Italy's golden age of cinema is more melancholy than romantic, though the classic scene of Anita Ekberg urging a world-weary Marcello Mastroianni to take a dip with her in the Trevi Fountain (don't try that today) has earned it the misguided reputation as a love story. You may be left with a bit of ennui after watching this iconic film, but it's winter and Fellini, so existential gloom is probably fitting.

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Ieri, Oggi, Domani (1963)
Directed by Vittorio de Sica
For a much more lighthearted version of Marcello Mastroianni, choose the wonderful comedy classic Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow in which he is paired in a series of three short sketches opposite Italy's most famous leading lady, Sophia Loren. From the initial scenes as perennially pregnant Adelina to her final striptease as prostitute Mara, Loren has Mastroianni (and the rest of us) howling with glee.

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Divorzio all'Italiana (1961)
Directed by Pietro Germi
If you enjoyed the Mastroianni in Ieri, Oggi, e Domani, his turn as a wealthy yet cynical Sicilian baron who plots to knock off his wife so he can marry his mistress will also delight. This hilarious black comedy pokes fun at the social and religious mores of time in a surprisingly nuanced and entertaining way.

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Il Gattopardo (1963)
Directed by Luchino Visconti
From comedy to drama...or, to be more accurate, melodramma. Considered the Italian equivalent of Gone with the Wind, The Leopard is an epic period drama set in Sicily in the late 1800s as the noble class is starting to unravel. Starring Burt Lancaster as the disillusioned Sicilian prince who wanders from palace to ball, this film is sure to please lovers of sumptuous costumes and locations.

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La Grande Bellezza (2013)
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
The Great Beauty managed to remind the world that Italy is still capable of turning out beautiful, nuanced works of cinema, winning an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The plot follows an ageing journalist who lives off the royalties from a bestseller published years ago and spends his time in beautiful yet empty company is a feast for the eyes, though famine for the soul.

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Chiamami col Tuo Nome (2017)
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
This Oscar-winning coming of age story between two young men is notable both for its evocative recreation of Italy in the booming 1980s and for the movingly nuanced treatment of the 17-year-old lead's first love story and his relationship with his father. Based on a book of the same name, Call Me By Your Name was the final film of director Guadagnino's “Desire Trilogy”, with I Am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015).

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Il Sorpasso (1962)
Directed by Dino Risi
Climb into Bruno Cortona's Lancia Aurelia spider and experience a carefree road trip up the coast from Rome. Vittorio Gassman and Jean-Louis Trintignant are both excellent in this bittersweet Italian comedy. A must see!

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English Language Filmed in Italy

The Trip to Italy (2014)
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
The second in Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's successful The Trip to . . . series of films. The pair are British comics so it's filled with inside jokes and cultural references that may mean nothing to you but that doesn't matter. You're watching it for the food porn and beautiful scenery.

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The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Directed by Anthony Minghella
From the fictitious resort of Mongibello (played by the islands of Ischia and Procida) to Rome and then on to Venice, this film paints an artful impression of Italy in the 1960s. Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Philip Seymour Hoffman all star in this excellent psychodrama superimposed on a postcard of Italy.

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