Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
Host Bonjour

Italy-themed Film, Television, Reading, Music

Recommended Posts

Hello members and fellow fans of all things Italian!


We've had some success with pinning topics here and by popular request, host included (!) thought it might be interesting to set aside a thread for sharing favorite films, (narrative or documentary) television shows, or books (memoir, novel, nonfiction) set primarily in Italy, Sicily, Sardinia...you get the idea.


The question arises from time to time in different topics, either from a member preparing for their first or ninth (!) visit, or an enthralled cruiser just home from their journey wanting to languish a bit longer in the hills of Cinque Terre or discover more about Pompeii. I do it pretty much before/after every trip and it became my default method of research once I became particularly familiar with a place after many visits or I felt like I traditional guide, though helpful, made me want to seek out other resources for my planned journey.


With that in mind, we thought we'd have a go at sharing our faves here. The usual fine print applies here, we can't sell or promote anything so if you have a project based on your travels, this isn't the place for promoting it. Let's also avoid linking to other websites too and just stick to titles, authors if applicable, or where to find a movie/television show. Lots of us using streaming sites nowadays. Armed with a title and few bits of info plus your favorite search engine, you'll be settling into qualcosa di meraviglioso (something wonderful) subito. I probably don't need to translate subito here. 


I'll start. Recently I have watched :

TV series

Suburra - season 1 outstanding, season 2 very good but different/Rome-Ostia


My Brilliant Friend (L'amica geniale) - limited series (based on Elena Ferrante novel)/Naples (some in Ischia)


Gomorrah (Gomorra) - 4 seasons; there's a character in here that made Fredo shine/Naples


Rocco Schiavone - limited series, I think (?) Aosta; Hannibal Lecter-ish serial killer; great scenery


Films - (heads-up I'm a classic film freak)

The Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di bicilette) 1948 directed by Vittorio di Sica/Rome


It Started In Naples (American Film) 1960 directed by Melville Shavelson watch it for the kid, Sofia Loren, and Capri


Light in the Piazza (American) 1962, directed by Guy Green, Olivia de Havilland, Rossano Brazzi, young George Hamilton / Florence and Rome; mezza mezza but sweet message.


Il Postino (The Postman), 1995 directed by Massimo Troisi, Michael Radford / Aeolian Island, Salina and Gulf of Naples, Isle of Procida


Stromboli (Stromboli, terra di Dio),  1950 directed by Roberto Rossellini / Aeolian Islands, Naples and INGRID BERGMAN. 


The Talented Mr. Ripley 1999 directed by Anthony Minghella, Naples, Rome, San Remo (but basically no exterior that I can recall) 


Music - I could go on and on but I'd scare everyone. At present, my music is separated into 28 genres which scared even me so I maybe should leave out music selections? I did hear Elisa, Eros Ramazotti and Zucchero sing live, along with Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli (who also sang together) all on the same stage. Needless to say, all of them were really, REALLY AMAZING. (Obviously Enrico Caruso deserves a mention and I think newer digital remastering cuts out the scratch to feature the voice) And Mario Lanza. But there are many for everyone to add on!!


Not at home near my book shelf at the moment but, like everyone I enjoyed Under the Tuscan Sun and other Italian travel memoirs, but had trouble getting into the Tim Parks books which isn't a criticism, I think it was totally just me. I think there will be more of the Elena Ferrante novels in television so if they are done in the way My Brilliant Friend was, something to look forward to. 


Allora, so, andiamo, here we go, shall we see how it goes with our Italian cultural exchange? Thanks in advance to everyone, grazie à tutti for helping to make this a fun and interesting info exchange, always always. 




Edited by Host Bonjour

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

A few books related to history and specific ports:


Pompeii by Robert Harris -- great historic fiction set just before the big eruption of Vesuvius; explains a lot about the city and the times while also keeping you guessing with a mystery to be solved and the lives of the main characters in peril. The same author also has a three book series based on the famous Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, based mainly in Rome. 


Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough. These wonderful but verrrrry long historical fiction books came along just as I was really getting into ancient Roman history and they made much of it come alive. McCullough does an excellent job getting the details right, though her narrative can be slow in places. Best books I've read to really flesh out the years immediately before, during and after Julius Caesar.


Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal: Building St. Peter's by R. A. Scotti -- a cracking tale about the building of the "new" St. Peter's basilica during the Renaissance and the contributions of the many artists of towering talent who contributed to its architecture and decoration. You wouldn't think it could be as fascinating a read as it is...


The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant -- A bit more novel than historical but still provides a rich background for understanding the Renaissance and its importance to Florence at the time.


And if you ever wondered what it must have been like to have been a woman and Jewish during the Renaissance period in Italy, I highly recommend The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi by Jacqueline Park. The author does a fantastic job of showing the highs and lows of the period, from the perspective of a group of people who were always 'outsiders' despite having been in Italy for hundreds of years. Covers a broad area from Rome to Venice to Mantua and more. The book was apparently inspired by two historical letters of the period that the author read.




The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza):  Won an Oscar for best foreign film a few years ago for good reason. This wonderful movie, by turns haunting and ridiculous, showcases the ancient/modern city of Rome at its most heartbreakingly beautiful -- from the opening on the Gianicolo hill to the closing credits filmed on the Tiber looking up at the beautiful bridges. Love, love, love this movie which derives from Fellini and has a lot to say (in few words) about life in modern Rome and all that goes with it.


HBO's Rome series:  Not for the faint-hearted; a more realistic view of life in ancient Rome than Gladiator, set at the time of Julius Caesar and showcases all the decadence, deceit, cruelty and intrigue in the last days of the Roman Republic/early Imperial period. Like the later Game of Thrones there's a fair amount of gratuitous sex and violence.


Only You:  This bit of fluff leaves you with a smile. It's a quirky American rom-com romp through Venice, Rome and Positano, beautifully filmed to make you want to book a flight immediately. 

Edited by cruisemom42

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I was going to mention "Only You"!!   I call this kind of movies "a good B movie" - not serious, but just fun to watch.   For a little bit of Italy with good-looking men, I'd also put out "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace" Bond movies with Daniel Craig.  Some good footage of Venice and Rome.  AND, supposedly the new Bond movie is doing a lot of shooting in Italy...


TV - if you have access, take a look at some of the pieces Anthony Bourdain did on various places in Italy.  Most were on "No Reservations" or the newer "Parts Unknown".   Not all food-related, especially the "Parts Unknown" - he got more into sociopolitical issues.  But, still good.  


Music - Yep, I've got Andrea Bocelli on every device.  MY favorite way to travel through Italy is via train, with Andrea Bocelli singing in my ears.  I've also got some of the other "Tenors", but he's my fave.  His concert that I went to had a backdrop of beautiful Italian scenery "movie" going on.  I felt like I was there.   I've even done an AMTRAK trip listening to Bocelli - it made the area from San Jose down through the valleys to Santa Barbara feel Italy-like in my brain.   If you have access to DirectTV music channels - they do offer an "Italian Contemporary" channel.  I threaten to turn it on at work when the kids want to listen to 80's Pop.  


Books - I'm a fluff reader, I admit it.  I also like books that merge cooking with an area and how that cooking came about.  Right now, I'm into "Foods of the Italian South", by Katie Parla.  Makes my mouth water AND make a trip down to that part of Italy that I've never visited.  

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Murder mysteries/Suspense:


I'm not much into the murder mystery genre, but I know many people are. If you want to add some Italian flavor to your choices, here are some good ones to consider:


Donna Leon has a series of crime novels set in and around Venice, featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti that are very popular. The first one is called Death at La Fenice (the Venice opera house). I've read a couple, but not the whole series.


Speaking of La Fenice, there's a real-life story about the mystery surrounding the fire that burned it to the ground a few years back. Written by John Berendt, the author of 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' it's a great read about modern-day society, rivalries, and bureaucracy in Venice, with a very interesting cast of characters. The title is The City of Fallen Angels.


Two series of novels feature crimes/murder mysteries in Ancient Rome. The first series is written by Steven Saylor and is known as the Roma Sub Rosa series, featuring Gordianus the Finder, who tries to track down evidence and solve mysteries on behalf of real-life characters such as Cicero and Caesar in late-Republican Rome. I really enjoyed this series because Saylor pays a lot of attention to getting the details of the period right.


Another series is by Lindsey Davis and takes place in Rome but a bit later. Known as the Marcus Didius Falco Series, some of the books take place in Rome but also range around the Roman Empire.


For a great TV detective series, look no further than the Detective Montalbano series, featuring an irascible but ultimately pragmatic detective solving cases (mostly murders) in a small city in Sicily. The series is great mainly because it's based on a wonderful set of stories by beloved Italian author (who just died a couple of months ago), and it avoids the pitfall of blaming every problem/death/crime on the Mafia. It has a great ensemble cast and there are a lot of episodes, available with subtitles.



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

There is also a TV series based on the Donna Leon books. It's in German, but has English subtitles.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh yes, Anthony Bourdain did Rome and Sicily, which I think was the last in the latest season we saw and included Francis Ford Coppola's villa (and Coppola). Did he go to Naples? I can't recall. I know he went to France a number of times and his San Sebastian episode was memorable but so many were, as I learned among other things, that the eyeballs of creatures were desirable to eat, evidently. But then where food is viewed by so many cultures in a way that's obviously different than western, and particularly, U.S. culture, just about any part of the animal is desirable when it comes to being considered food. 


Andrew Zimmern has also done some wonderful food travel shows. His Faroe Islands episode, among others was a thrill for me, and I am sure he's done Italy too. I must go in search of. Trouble is, even with subscriptions, access can be limited to much of these programs hence, if we share, we can fill in gaps for the what's missing/waiting for them to release whatever while we're in between travels. 


Thanks for the recommendations. 🙂



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

TV series - Romanza Criminale. Set in Rome, mainly in the Trastevere area - if you like Gomorrah you'll like this one.


Book: Miss Garnett's Angel - set in Venice


Film: Death in Venice, beautiful cinematography and wonderful music from Mahler


also Don't Look Know, very atmospheric (and creepy) - set in Venice

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Bobal said:

also Don't Look Know, very atmospheric (and creepy) - set in Venice


Oh yes, I meant to mention this one. (I think you meant "Don't Look Now") -- it's based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier (author of Rebecca, and the same sort of romantic/eerie genre). Excellent movie from the 1970s with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland. It will definitely make you want to visit Venice off-season.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi all!


Movie ~ "Letters to Juliet"


Book ~  "Juliet's Answer" by Glenn Dixon who actually went to Verona to help write answers to the letters left on the wall by Juliet's house.


BTW I loved Verona, so much to see there & not too far from Venice by train.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I recently enjoyed watching the mini-series, Medici, on Netflix. There are two seasons (so far) that are a fictional account of the true life of the powerful Medici family in Renaissance Italy. Season 3 is set to be released in November’s 2019 in Italy, Netflix USA/Canada at a later date..



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am so glad to see this up!  Just home from Italy for two days, lol!  Bought three pairs of gloves!   


Have read many of the suggested, but great to see new ones.  Loved the Berendt on the Fenice!   Read the letters to Juliet, I worked with Glenn for several years.  


So from my jet lagged brain, Marlena de Blasi , 1000 days in Venice, 1000 days in Tuscany and some others. 

Leonardos swans by Karen Essex and her book Stealing Athena but that one is set in Greece.  

 Four seasons in Rome, Anthony Doerr,  also who wrote All the light you cannot see.

Midwife in Venice,  by Roberta Rich. 

Cabal, a crime series by Michael Dibdin. 

Edited by bennybear

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

A couple more,  Jesse Walters Beautiful  Ruins, set in Cinque Terre. 

And a bit more literate mystery, Alibi by Joseph Kanon set in  Venice. 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Netflix series chefs table has an episode on cafe Sicilia in Noto Sicily. It was enough to spark a journey to visit. 

Canadian Chef David Rocco also has a tv series that is part travelogue about Italy. 


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Holiday Exchange - Jingle and Mingle 2019
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
  • Create New...