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Photo © Benson Kua
Photo © Benson Kua

Famous films set in the Renaissance city

Florence has long provided the perfect cinematic backdrop for many films.

The Santa Maria del Fiore church sits majestically in Piazza del Duomo as one of the city’s most famous symbols. Jane Campion set one of the most evocative and ambiguous scenes of her film ‘Portrait of a Lady’, based on Henry James’ novel, in this square. The film starred John Malcovich and Nicole Kidman and the famous scene was when the enigmatic adventurer, Gilbert Osmond, seduces the young Isabel Archer. Many other film directors have chosen Florence and indeed Tuscany as the location of their films reflecting the English speaking world's centuries-long fascination with the city.

Florence Cathedral
Florence Cathedral - Credit: Rob Zand

Piazza Duomo provided the setting for Roberto Rossellini’s ‘Paisà’ (1946) and for William Dieterle in ‘September Affair’ (1950). Florentine director, Leonardo Pieraccioni has also set a large number of his films here, in particular ‘I Laureati’ (‘The Graduates’) which is a bitter-sweet comedy about a group of friends which has echoes of the film ‘Amici Miei’ (‘Friends of Mine’).

Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria - Credit: Marzena

Another famous film shot in Florence is  ‘Room With A View’ (1985), the unforgettable James Ivory film based on the novel by Edward Morgan Forster. The main characters are two young and in love English tourists played by Helena Bonam Carter and Julian Sands. The two characters stay at the historic Bertolini Pensione and visit parts of the city such as piazza della Signoria, the banks of the river Arno and the Santa Croce church.

Santissima Annunziata Square and Innocenti Loggia
Santissima Annunziata Square and Innocenti Loggia - Credit: Peter Visser

In Ridley Scott’s 2001 sequel to ‘Silence of the Lambs’ Hannibal Lector chooses to live in the city and is filmed walking through piazza Santissima Annunziata and a strangely gothic looking Florence. It would also be impossible to forget Mario Monicelli’s ‘Amici Miei’ which was filmed in the Duomo area. The basilica of San Miniato was also chosen as the setting for two films; ‘Le Affinità Elettive’ by the Taviani brothers which was taken from Goethe’s novel of the same name and ‘Obsession’ by Brian de Palma, a tacit remake of Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’