Hollywood’s Endless Amore for Italy: A Celebrity Guide to Europe’s Boot

E! News/August 10, 2017

“There’s a freedom and a joy. It’s about food, clothing, style. It’s about life. That’s why I love Italy.”

Rob Marshall spoke those words during a New York Times interview in 2009. At the time, the Oscar-nominated director was awaiting the debut of his latest silver screen work, Nine, one of the many American films set in the country over the decades. While they were Marshall’s personal words, they were the perfect explanation for Hollywood’s ceaseless adoration for Europe’s boot. Whether Italy serves as the backdrop of a film, vacation or wedding, American celebrities’ interest in our neighbors to the east never seems to wane.

The fascination was certainly fueled with the help of the camera. As Audrey Hepburn rolled down the streets of Rome on a Vespa in Roman Holiday or Al Pacino made eyes with Apollonia in the hills of Sicily in The Godfather, films helped bring the magic of Italy that once could only be experienced after a 7-hour flight direct to someone’s living room.

Thanks to the movies, it also became a bonafide spot for falling in love. When a film’s leading lady needed a heavy dose of sweeping romance to shock her system, films put her on a plane and sent her overseas. In 1955, Hollywood shipped Katharine Hepburn off to Venice, where she would play a single Ohio native on the vacation of a lifetime. By the final scene, she’s had a sweeping love affair with a Venetian shopkeeper—complete with passionate kisses in hidden alcoves along the canals.

Diane Lane‘s character gambles her entire way of life in Under the Tuscan Sun when, as a fresh divorcee, she buys a villa in Tuscany on a whim and one day walks into a devastatingly handsome man on the Roman streets. However, she ultimately has to mop up the heartbreak that ensues when she hops on—you guessed it!—a vespa to her lover’s house only to find another woman beat her there. Throw in a stunning backdrop of the Amalfi Coast as the salt in our rom-com wounds.

Even when Disney sent its teen heroine Lizzie McGuire to Rome for her graduation, the character defied every odd when she threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, subsequently met a handsome Italian pop singer and fooled the city into thinking she was Italy’s own star. As outrageous as the entire tale was, ask any woman raised during that Disney era and they’ll know the words to “What Dreams Are Made Of.”

Of course, when romance fails, there’s still pizza. Known equally for its food as it is for its sights, Italy has always been the destination to feed not only your wanderlust, but also literally your belly. As Julia Roberts‘ character in Eat, Pray, Love says mid-bite in Naples, “I’m in love. I’m having a relationship with my pizza.”

“You can throw caution to the wind and eat what you want and say what you want and date who you want,” Vanity Fair writer Sarah Ball told NPR, describing how Italy is depicted in film. “That sort of thing…I think it represents, in these movies, the dissolution of rules.”

While the heartbreak isn’t exactly a selling point, the romance, adventure, culinary delights and overall shock to the system Italy seems to promise in these fictional films is enough to make you book a flight in real life—and that’s precisely what the stars do.

When Taylor Swift was looking to take her fresh fling with Tom Hiddleston overseas, she landed on Rome, where the two cuddled and kissed by the Colosseum and took to the skies for a private helicopter ride over the cinematic city.

In similar  fashion, when Katy Perry and ex-beau Orlando Bloom needed a place for their romance to sizzle in the sun, they chartered a yacht and docked on the shores of Sardinia in southern Italy, sparing no kisses in the process. The actor felt so at ease, he even stripped off his trunks and hopped on a paddle board—the NSFW result was ultimately snapped by paparazzi and spread all over the Internet.

After Beyoncécelebrated her 34th birthday, she, too, took to the Italian seasand continued the celebration abroad on a yacht along the Amalfi Coast with husband Jay-Z and BFF Kelly Rowland

Some stars enjoy their experience so much that they consider it a worthy setting for one of the biggest milestones in their lives—their wedding.

“Italy in particular serves as one of the most magically romantic locations to get married,” Lisa Vorce, celebrity wedding planner and founder of Lisa Vorce CO, tells E! News. “In Italy, couples can create the wedding of their dreams based on their personalities—from an iconic city wedding in Rome to a rustic wedding in Tuscany, from a beach wedding off the Amalfi coast to an Alpine wedding in the Italian lakes district.”

We’ve certainly seen some dreamy weddings come out of Italy. When it came time for Kim Kardashianand Kanye West to tie the knot, they selected Forte di Belvedere, the largest fortress in Italy with stature fitting of one of Hollywood’s most A-list pairs. For the quintessential authentic touch, the couple even had revered Italian tenor Andrea Bocelliserenade them during the ceremony.

George Clooney, who often vacationed in Lake Comoopted for Venice as the setting of his 2014 nuptials to Amal Clooney. With dozens of wildly famous stars arriving to celebrate the bride and groom, the water city could have been mistaken for a Hollywood set.

Then, there is Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, who chose 16th century Villa Pizzo in Lake Como as the backdrop to their dreamy vows.

“One of the first vacations John and Chrissy took together was to Lake Como,” Vorce, who planned the wedding for the pair, tells E! News. They loved the idea of getting married in the location where they originally fell in love.”

Whether its the backdrop on the silver screen or in a real-life fairytale, Italy is always one of Hollywood’s favorite co-stars.

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