Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday (Paramount Pictures)

    See the world from your sofa: 8 films that take us places

    22 April 2020

    As Britain has been asked to avoid foreign travel “indefinitely”, here are the best films that can take you places from the comfort of your living room.

    To Catch a Thief

    In ‘To Catch a Thief’, a series of jewel thefts occur on the French Riviera and suspicion falls on John Robie (Cary Grant), a retired cat burglar. Desperate to clear his name and catch the culprit, he tears about Cannes and the surrounding areas with Grace Kelly. We see Saint Jeannet, the beautiful historic village near Vence, as well as La Bar sur Loup and Tourettes sur Loup, and Monte Carlo. Grace Kelly stays in the Hotel Carlton which boasts its own private beach. The chateau they visit is called La Croix-des-Gardes, a private property a little west of Cannes.

    Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

    For a similarly sunny milieu, turn to ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’. Michael Caine is Lawrence Jamieson, a successful conman who lives in the fictional town of Beaumont sur Mer, which, in real life, is Beaulieu sur Mer. He is worried when Freddy Benson (played by Steve Martin) threatens to expose him to the neighbourhood, so takes him under his wing. Freddy stops for a spot of shopping in Villefranche and we watch the pair of tricksters flit about in Cap Ferrat. They visit the Grand-Hotel in between enjoying the amenities at Jamieson’s mansion, which in reality can be found superbly positioned in Antibes on ‘Millionaire’s Bay.’

    A Good Year

    The film ‘A Good Year’ shows Provence in all its glory. Russell Crowe plays a city banker who learns that he has inherited from his uncle the chateau and vineyard where he spent his childhood summer holidays. We enjoy a tour of Luberon and its villages and see the sunlit squares of Cucuron, slightly north of Provence. An ideal choice for those needing a feel-good film set in a beautiful location.

    Roman Holiday

    Is there a better way to see Rome than through a guided tour by Gregory Peck on the back of a Vespa? In ‘Roman Holiday’ Peck’s character Joe Bradley, a journalist, takes Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) through Rome. They pass the Colosseum and pause on the Spanish Steps. Film fans will be aware of the story surrounding the famous scene that takes place at the Mouth of Truth. Gregory Peck deviated from the script and pretended to have his hand bitten off by it, but didn’t tell Audrey Hepburn of his plan, so her horrified scream on seeing that his arm has vanished is genuine. The press conference at the end of the film was shot in the Sala Grande Galleria, the central room in the Colonna palace in Rome.

    Under the Tuscan Sun

    Diane Lane’s turn as an American divorcee escaping to Tuscany is oddly poignant and taps into that desire we’ve all had to run away and start again when things go belly up. As she restores a dilapidated villa to its former glory with the help of a motley crew of local tradesman, she slowly gets her own life back on the rails. The hillside town where the film is set – Cortona – is as beautiful in the flesh as it is in the film and, since the film is based on the true story of writer France Mayes, you can search out the villa itself. Diehard fans of the film – of which there are many, especially State side – will be interested to know that the iconic fountain scene was shot in the Piazza Signorelli using a fake fountain constructed for the film. The original Cortona fountain is in the park of Parterre.

    A Room With A View

    In order to see Florence, ‘A Room with a View’ is essential. Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench go to all the popular hotspots, including the Piazza Santissimma. In Piazza della Signoria, there is a gruesome fight scene and the main character, played by Bonham Carter, faints and gets carried off and away by George Emerson (Julian Sands), her love interest in the film.

    Mamma Mia

    ‘Mamma Mia’ was set on the fictitious Greek Island Kalokairi. Fortunately, it can be found in real life too: it is Skopelos, one of the Sporades Islands. Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth sing and dance around the island, from the hilltops of Glysteri at the beginning to St Nikolaos Tower for the closing wedding scene. While you won’t get the same tan as the stars, you might feel happier and uplifted for watching the film.

    One Fine Day and other New York films

    To enjoy New York across the decades, start with ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ (for Fifth Avenue, Central Park and the New York Public Library in the early 1960s), then ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ will show you Broadway, Madison Avenue, and the quieter Greenwich Village in the mid-1980s. ‘One Fine Day’ will take you through a hectic day in the city as two single parents (Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney) try to negotiate a work-life balance with two young children in tow.

    Bethesda Terrace and Fountain in Central Park make a memorable appearance through the pouring rain. Julianne Moore recently described the film (released in 1996) on her Instagram page as the ‘Most soothing movie with the most gorgeous people’ so it ticks both boxes for satisfying our need to travel and our craving for cosy plotlines at this difficult time.