Destination Immersion

Mediterranean Movie Magic

Thursday, August 20, 2020
By Azamara

Since the early days of the movie industry, the Mediterranean has been a popular destination for filmmakers. And we can’t say we blame them. From the excitement of Monte-Carlo to the medieval charm of Croatia, the ancient wonders of Greece to the sun-soaked shores of the Italian Riviera, the Mediterranean has played muse to many a director and cinematographer. Make no mistake about it, when a movie is filmed in this region, it’s more than just a backdrop, it truly is the star of the show. When you visit the Mediterranean with us, you can see many of these stars for yourself!

Ready to take a look at a few of our favorite Mediterranean movies and the locations where they were filmed? Lights, camera, Aza-action!

To Catch a Thief (France, Monaco)

A spectacular view of the water on a sunny day in the South of France

Our journey kicks off in the South of France, where, in 1955, legendary director Alfred Hitchcock traveled with Hollywood royalty, Cary Grant and Grace Kelley, to film To Catch a Thief. This romantic thriller follows Cary Grant’s John “The Cat” Robie, a retired jewel thief, as he searches for an imposter who is duplicating his crimes and sullying his reformed reputation throughout the French Riviera. Along the way, he meets Frances Stevens (played by Grace Kelly), a young tourist whose heart Robie has stolen.

Often noted as one of Hitchcock’s most charming films, To Catch a Thief is also considered a visual feast. This reputation is especially warranted when watching Grant and Kelly drive along the Grande Corniche between Nice and Monte-Carlo in a Sunbeam Alpine convertible. Of course, you won’t want to drive the Grande Corniche as recklessly as these co-stars. Instead, take your time and take it all in.    

The Talented Mr. Ripley (Italy)

Sun, seduction, and psychological thrills make the Talented Mr. Ripley an unforgettable film. Starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow, the Talented Mr. Ripley follows underachieving Tom Ripley on his journey to bring spoiled playboy Dickie Greenleaf back to America from Italy, though it quickly takes a turn as viewers discover the lengths Ripley is willing to go to ensure he completes his job.

The Roman Forum at sunrise

Though released in 1999, the film does a brilliant job of conjuring up lush visuals reminiscent of 1950s Italy, where much of it is set. In particular, Rome and Venice steal scenes from the opening shots to the closing credits. Ripley takes in the ruins of the Roman Forum from atop Capitoline Hill. Then, he pays a visit to the beautiful nearby Musei Capitolini, where he views the remains of the Colossus of Constantine—a statue researchers estimate was over 40-feet tall.

Moving on to Venice, be sure to stop at the Caffè Florian—the oldest continuously running coffee house in Italy. Not only is this an unforgettable spot to enjoy a coffee and treat, it’s also where (no spoilers) one of the Talented Mr. Ripley’s most important scenes plays out.

For Your Eyes Only (Greece)

Our first (but certainly not last) encounter with James Bond on this journey is in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. The 12th film in the Bond Series stars Roger Moore (on his fifth of seven outings in the titular role) and sees him joining forces with a Greek resistance movement to find and secure a strategic communications device before it slips into the wrong hands.

The Meteora Monasteries atop a cliff in Meteora, Greece

In one of the film’s iconic moments, James Bond climbs a towering mountain pillar to St. Cyril’s—an abandoned monastery and hideout of an evil smuggler hoping to help the Russians win the Cold War. While we won’t spoil what happens (though it’s worth noting there have been 13 additional Bond movies made, with more on the way), we can tell you this iconic landmark is waiting for you to visit in Meteora, Greece. Known as the Meteora Monasteries, not only is this where you can live out your secret agent dreams, it’s also home to ornate paintings, iconography, wood carvings, frescoes, and more—all waiting for you to discover on a shore excursion with us. And don’t worry, you won’t have to ascend a rock wall like James Bond to get there.  

James Bond will return (a little later in our blog) in Goldeneye.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Jordan)

The ancient city of Petra lit by candles in the evening.

No look at famous filming locations near the Mediterranean would be complete without mentioning the third installment of the Indiana Jones saga. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, released in 1989, finds everyone’s favorite explorer in search of his own father, who has disappeared on a quest to recover the Holy Grail.

While Indy finds himself in Venice at one point (thanks to the clues he discovers in his missing father’s notebook), we’re going to be talking about where his adventures eventually lead him—the archeological city of Petra in Jordan. Yes, we know, Jordan isn't technically in the Mediterranean, but you can visit the city of Petra when you cruise those waters with us. And besides, as far as filming locations go, this ancient city is too spectacular not to mention. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Petra, specifically Al Khazneh (The Treasury), is where Indiana and his father believe the legendary Holy Grail is being housed. While we’re fairly confident you won’t find the Holy Grail on your visit here, what you will find is an entire city carved into rose-colored stone walls by the Nabateans more than 2,000 years ago. Described as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage" by UNESCO, Petra is a must-visit for any adventurer—one that you can explore on a shore excursion with us.

Angels and Demons (Italy)

Angels and Demons, based on the best-selling book of the same name by Dan Brown, brings us back to Rome, this time alongside Tom Hanks as he works to foil the Illuminati’s plan to take down the Roman Catholic Church.

The Pantheon and fountain in Rome at sunrise

This thriller is full of mystery, suspense, drama, and magnificent views thanks in no small part to the Eternal City. Many of Rome's greatest sites make appearances in this movie, including the Pantheon, Piazza del Popolo, the Trevi Fountain, and Castel Sant Angelo—which doubles in the film as the Chapel of the Illuminati.

Trevi fountain in Rome

St. Peter's Square and Basilica, as well as the Sistine Chapel also appear in Angels and Demons, but are the result of good old-fashioned movie magic and set building, as the Vatican did not allow filming within its walls. Those with a keen eye will recognize the “Vatican’s grand staircase” as it appears in Angels and Demons to be the interior of the Reggia di Caserta, a Baroque palace located just north of Naples. This wasn’t the first time this staircase stood in for the Vatican, it can also be seen playing the same role in Mission: Impossible 3. These stairs were also used in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace as part of Queen Amidala’s palace. What a celebrity!

Goldeneye (Monaco)

We weren’t kidding when we said you hadn’t seen the last of James Bond on this tour through Mediterranean movie locations! 1995’s Goldeneye is the 17th film in this series and the first with Pierce Brosnan starring as 007. Early on, James makes his way to Monte-Carlo, specifically to the Grand Casino, where he defeats his rival Xenia Onatopp in a game of baccarat before meeting her for a drink at the bar.

The Casino of Montecarlo in Monaco at midday

While we can’t guarantee super spies and clever gadgets to be on hand when you visit the Grand Casino in Monte-Carlo, you’ll certainly be in the right place if you love exotic cars. Ferraris, Aston Martins, Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, and more frequently make their way along the streets near the casino. And if you’re feeling lucky, or just want to grab a martini (shaken, not stirred, of course) inside, be sure to wear a suit and tie to this opulent 150-plus-year-old hideout of the rich and famous.

Roman Holiday (Italy)

For many, 1953’s Roman Holiday ranks among the definitive films of the “Hollywood on the Tiber” era. This was a time in the 1950s and 60s when foreign studios flocked to Rome to take advantage of beautiful locals.

The Colosseum in Rome in the early morning sun

Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn star in this romantic comedy based on a story by Dalton Trumbo—though you wouldn’t know that upon its original release, as Trumbo was on the Hollywood blacklist and thus unable to receive proper credit for his writing work. In fact, when the film won an Academy Award for Writing, it was given to Ian McLellan Hunter, who took credit for the story (with Trumbo’s blessing). It wasn’t until many years later that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences credited Trumbo with the win and, in 1993, presented his widow with his Oscar.

Roman Holiday offers viewers a veritable smorgasbord of sites from around the city. You’ll see the Mouth of Truth, the Colosseum, the Tiber River, Castel Sant Angelo (not doubling as the Chapel of the Illuminati this time), the Piazza di Spagna at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, and more. Take a stroll down Via Margutta near the heart of the city, and you can see the apartment where Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck’s character) hosts Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn’s character) in the film.

The Piazza di Spagna at the bottom of the Spanish Steps in Rome

What to learn more about many of these fascinating locations? Join us on a shore excursion through Rome.

Game of Thrones (Malta, Croatia)

While not a film, Game of Thrones is certainly cinematic in scope, and is easily one of the most popular television programs of the 21st century. A little bit adventure fantasy, a little bit drama, Game of Thrones has something for everybody, including captivating filming locations across the Mediterranean you can visit on your journey with us.

The Entrance to Fort Ricasoli in Valletta, Malta

Strolling through Malta’s capital, Valletta, might feel familiar to Thrones fans, as its narrow, cobblestone streets have been used to create King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, on many occasions. Also in Valletta is the Red Keep, though outside of Westeros it’s more commonly known as Fort Ricasoli. Built between 1670 and 1698, the fort is not opened to visitors, but you can catch a spectacular view of it—as well as the Grand Harbour—from the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Of course, Game of Thrones was not Fort Ricasoli’s screen debut. Over the years, it has been seen in Troy, Agora, Assassin’s Creed, and the 73rd Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Gladiator.  

A staircase leading to the Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Dubrovnik

In Dubrovnik, Croatia, Game of Thrones fans will find iconic filming locations it the city’s Old Town. Perhaps the most famous, or infamous, is the Jesuit Staircase, known in Game of Thrones as the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor. This is where, in season five, Cersei Lannister is forced to take her walk of shame through the streets of King’s Landing. And while it’s closed to the public, Dubrovnik’s former Hotel Belvedere was the site of one of Game of Thrones most memorable (and gruesome) battles—The Mountain versus The Red Viper.  

The Cathedral of St. James in Sibenik, Croatia on a clear day

Elsewhere in Croatia, the city of Sibenik doubles as Braavos—where the St. James Cathedral shows up toward the end of season five as The Iron Bank. And in Split, you’ll find Diocletian’s Palace and Kliss Fortress, which are used to represent the city of Meereen.

See the Stars of the Silver Screen

Are you ready to see some of the most iconic filming locations of all time for yourself? Join us in the Mediterranean for an adventure you’ll remember forever. And be sure to bring your camera so you can make a little movie magic of your own!

Browse our upcoming voyages to the Mediterranean today.

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