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Romance, Italian Style

Some countries just seem to spell r-o-m-a-n-c-e and I-t-a-l-y is one of them. Think of it, riding the gondola in the watery streets of Venice, walking through the Eternal City, eating gelato in sunny Florence. Beaches, mountains, castles… Italy has it all, including 65% of the world’s historical monuments and artworks. What’s not to love about Italy?

If a trip to Italy is not in your future, you can still visit cinematically. And if you have a big screen television set, it’s almost like being there. Almost. So dish out the fettuccine alfredo, pour a glass of Chardonnay and get ready to enjoy a romantic Italian-style movie. That’s amore!

Roman Holiday (1953)
A light-hearted, lightweight romantic comedy starring the incomparable Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Its basic premise has been repeated in many other movies. Audrey is a visiting princess who wants to experience a day as a “normal” girl so she gives her guards the slip. Gregory is the newspaper reporter hot for a scoop. This was Audrey’s first big role and she so impressed her co-star, he predicted an Oscar, telling the studio they better put her name above the title. He was right. The movie also won Oscars for best costume design and best screenplay. Available in a “special collector’s edition” DVD.

Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
Women of a certain age will remember this movie and Frank Sinatra crooning the Oscar-winning theme song. Maria (Maggie McNamara), Frances (Dorothy McGuire) and Anita (Jean Peters) are three American secretaries working in Rome. They whimsically toss coins in the Trevi fountain and wish for – well, you know. Those were the days when women wore little hats and white gloves and were very very careful about their reputations. Available on DVD.

Gidget Goes to Rome (1963)
Back in the early Sixties, there was a series of movies about a teenage beach bunny and her surfing friends. This time the “girl midget” (Gidget, get it?) leaves the sun and surf behind for romantic adventures in the Eternal City. Part of the “Complete Gidget” DVD collection.

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
If the sight of the tanned and handsome horsemen returning victorious from war doesn’t make you weak in the knees, you’re probably dead. As per a Shakespearian comedy, there are misunderstandings and confusion galore. Hero and Claudio love each other. Beatrice and Benedick can’t stand each other. Everyone, from the headliners to the supporting actors, are note-perfect in their roles. Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson and Denzil Washington star in this golden delight. Available on DVD.

Only You (1994)
Marisa Tomei plays Faith, a girl who believes in destiny and the magic of the Ouija board, which spelled out the name of her fated lover, Damon Bradley. Years later, on the verge of marriage, she discovers her intended hubby has a friend named Damon Bradley and said friend is on his way to Venice. So off she goes, too. Robert Downey charms as the supposed Damon Bradley. Is he who he says he is? Available on DVD.

Lovers and Liars (1997)
This little-known film features Goldie Hawn as an actress vacationing in Italy. She falls head over heels for suave Giancarlo Giannini. Problem is, he’s her friend’s lover and he’s married. Available on DVD.

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Suffering from both writer’s block and a nasty divorce, Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) travels to Italy to escape, thanks to a friend’s generosity. (Don’t you wish you had friends like that?) Once there, she impulsively buys a rundown Tuscan villa. In between hobnobbing with her new neighbours and fixing up her new home, Frances rediscovers romance and gets a new lease on life. Available on DVD.

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