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Italian Film Festivals: A Summer Guide

Italian movie theaters are not living their best moment: Most of them are struggling to come back to their pre-pandemic standards, and many small cinemas are at risk of closing. Along with international trends—online platforms, basically—there seem to be issues somehow specific to the Italian market. Waiting to better understand and hopefully fix the issue, Italians can enjoy their local theaters at a flat rate of €3.50 for the whole summer of 2023. To make the most out of their summer break, moreover, Italian teachers, students, and basically everyone aged 0–99 can also attend one of the many summer film festivals. Enjoying a movie all’aperto (in the open air)—often in ancient piazzas, surrounded by magnificent buildings or breathtaking sceneries—is one of the most summery things, and no mosquitoes or stuffiness can (fully) spoil the experience. Many cities offer a selection of movies from the past season, so it’s a nice way to catch up or watch *that* movie that you inexplicably missed (plus, it’s often free!). Check out the program of Sotto le stelle del cinemain Bologna—just to name one of these initiatives—and check out some pics of Piazza Maggiore by night: you will be convinced. There are also plenty of original movie festivals as well; the same Bologna hosts the Biografilm festival in early June, and here is a selection of others to pick from:


Taormina Film Festival

Speaking of the breathtaking scenery we mentioned at the beginning, meet the Taormina Film Festival, hosted in the city’s ancient Greek theater. The 2023 edition, in addition to the 60+ films being screened, lined up a series of unique events, such as the celebration of Warner Brothers’ 90th anniversary. It might be too late for this year, but the festival takes place every year at the end of June, so save the date for the next summer. Or you might want to check out Taormina beforehand; there’s always a good reason to visit.


Social Word Film Festival, Ischia Global Fest, and Giffoni Film Festival, All Campania-based

Heading north, to the mainland —or il continente, as people from Sicily and Sardinia jokingly say— Vico Equense hosts the Social Word Film Festival. The festival aspires to catch and represent new generations trends, though it does not disdain inviting more traditional movie icons. Vico Equense is a coastal town next to Naples, nestled on a tuff cliff close to the island of Capri and to Pompei and Ercolano, as well as to Naples itself, so you’ll have plenty of extra reasons to visit. If you’re more into celebrity-watching, another festival held in Campania might be your choice: the Ischia Global Fest, a kind of Hollywood-goes-to-Campania thing. Campania clearly loves movies, because it is also home of one the longest-running Italian movie festivals, theGiffoni Film Festival. Founded in 1971, this is a children’s film festival that attracts more than 100,000 guests to Giffoni every year, which is located in the Salerno province. The jury is made of more of 6,500 children, ages 3 and up, from all around the world, and the contest lines up more than 50 movies every year, plus concerts and educational events.


Mostra Internazionale del nuovo cinema di Pesaro and Conero Film Festival

The Mostra Internazionale del nuovo cinema di Pesaro, held in Pesaro (the biggest city of the Marche region) is open to any kind of movie, with no restrictions or limits on length, format, or genre. This year’s edition opened with the movie Flashdance, a 1980s icon that turned 40 this year. Speaking of the ’80s, the Marche region hosted a debut this year, the Conero Film Festival, specifically devoted to the Italian cinema from the 1980s. The festival will be itinerant from the next year, but still in the same, sweet, and beautiful Conero area, a mix of blue sea, Tuscan-like hills, and walkable little towns.


A Bonus Track and Grand Finale: The Venice International Film Festival

Although not technically held in Italy, but rather in Locarno, in the Italian-speaking area of Switzerland, the Locarno Film Festival well deserves a mention. Now in its 76th edition, the festival is one of the most appreciated and popular film d’auteur events. The festival was born in the aftermath of the World War II and, as the festival website says, “Since its inception, Locarno has been home to the most daring, avant-garde, irreverent and innovative forms of films – screened in their uncut, uncensored versions.”


Last, but surely not least, the Italian movie summer ends with its most glamorous, prestigious, and world-renowned festival: the Mostra del Cinema di Venezia. The 2023, 80th edition, will certainly live up to the 79 preceding ones—read: celebrities cruising the canals in their superluxury boats, or in romantic gondolas; but above all, great movies. Buona visione!


By Claudia Quesito


Also read:

Why You Should Go to Italy for Your Summer Abroad Program

Tourism in Italy

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