Here are our picks for some of the best Italian films to see before you go on an Italian vacation. Movies to set the Italian mood.

Best Films Set in Italy

Yes, you can read the guidebooks, look at pictures of Italian scenes, but nothing sets the mood for your Italian vacation better than watching an evocative film featuring sympathetic characters and stunning Italian landscapes. These might not be the most meaningful, or the most political films Italy has ever produced, but they're favored by folks who have a soft spot in their hearts for Italy.

1. Cinema Paradiso

Oscar-winning Cinema Paradiso is the story of a young Sicilian boy's love for the movies and his friendship with the projectionist at the local theater. It gives you a peek into the Italy of yesterday, with good music and a feeling for impoverished Sicily. The Brits have picked this as the best film of all time recently.

2. Il Postino

The man selected to deliver letters to Pablo Neruda, exiled on an island off the coast of Italy, has his worldview changed by the poet, who returns to Chile, leaving the postman with dreams and aspirations he can't figure out how to achieve.

3. Bread and Tulips

A housewife starts a new life with a new man in Venice. The scenes in Venice are very good.

4. The Talented Mr. Ripley

While you might not warm up to Mr. Ripley himself, the beautiful Italian scenery is sometimes breathtaking. The movie is a thriller in English staring Matt Damon that takes place in several parts of Italy, including the Amalfi Coast.

5. A Room with a View

This Merchant Ivory production of an E.M. Forster turn-of-the-century novel has beautiful scenes of Tuscany.

6. Much Ado About Nothing

Set in the beautiful Tuscan countryside with magnificent scenery, this Shakespeare tale will get you in the mood for a trip to Tuscany. It's one of the easier Shakespeare plays to understand and it's in English.

7. The Wings of the Dove

A Henry James novel made into a film, this movie (in English) has lovely scenes of Venice.

8. Italian for Beginners

See Italy through the eyes of Danes as they meet for Italian lessons at the local community center. A good one to see in winter. It's really a film about fulfilling dreams, which just might be what that Italian vacation of yours does.

9. Ciao, Professore!

Want to try to understand the difference between the north and south of Italy? Well, in this film a teacher applies to be transfered to a nice northern Italian city, when a typo on his application changes his destination from a village in the wealthy north to the impoverished south. He is forced to teach kids in a village where schooling is given a very low priority. Despite it all, this is a very upbeat film.

10. Ladri di Biciclette (The Bicycle Thief)

This highly acclaimed film will not bring a smile to your face. It is a gritty look at a man who needs a bicycle to do a job posting bills, and after selling the familiy linen to get one, the bicycle is stolen the next day. A look at Italy in 1948.

11. La Dolce Vita (1960)

While the films above represent rural Italy, by 1960 a bit of wealth was creeping into Italian cities, La Dolce Vita follows Marcello Mastroianni as a journalist who descends into "the sweet life of debauchery" as he chronicles the rich and famous in Rome.

12. Roman Holiday

Take a delightful romp around Rome with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in this 1953 movie set in Rome (in English).