If you love movies, the summer breeze and Italian lifestyle, then it doesn’t get much better than this: moonlit movie nights under the starry summer sky, with a delicious gelato in hand! Between June and September, Italy hosts a number of open-air cinemas. They can be found in large towns like Rome and Bologna, but event in small villages like Specchia and Portovenere. They often show a bit of everything, from classic flicks, to movies for children, to the latest releases. Here are some of our favorite spots where you can enjoy the seventh art al fresco around the boot.

Let’s start from Rome, in a lovely place in the historic center that is often “seen” by tourists but less frequently visited: the Tiberina Island. When walking along the riverside (Lungotevere) between Ponte Garibaldi and Ponte Palatino, you notice the only urban island of the Tiber River. You can reach it by crossing Ponte Fabricio (the only original bridge in Rome) or Ponte Cestio. There are different legends regarding the origins of the island. According to one, dirt and silt accumulated on the body of tyrant Tarquinius Superbus, which the angry Romans had thrown into the Tiber. Another story says that the people gathered up the wheat of their despised ruler and threw it into the river, where it eventually became the foundation of the island.

Open-air cinema in Rome: Isola del Cinema

Rome’s Island of Cinema – photo by Myrabella CC BY-SA 3.0


The island’s film festival is called L’Isola del Cinema. It takes place annually in summer, and reached its 22nd edition in 2016. There are three screening venues: Arena, Schermo Tevere and Cinelab. The former two are outdoors, while the latter indoors. Each tends to specialize in one area, for example: current movies from Italy or from around the world; documentaries, animated movies and abstract cinema. Q&A sessions and meetings with directors and actors are also often organized on this occasion.

For information of movies, dates and entrances, visit isoladelcinema.com.

Down south in Apulia’s province of Lecce, the small village of Specchia becomes a citadel of cinema and of audio-visual and performing arts. The Festa di Cinema del Reale takes place here for a couple of days in summer, usually in July. The main appointment is at the ancient Risolo Castle (1500s), where the main open-air movie theater is located. Here you can watch family movies, classic stories, reportages, personal diaries and essays. But there is something to see and do at virtually every corner, street and piazza in town. You’ll be intrigued by “Lo Schermo Pazzo” (literally – the crazy screen) at Sant’Oronzo Square, which welcomes experimental movies, researches and performances. The presence of Italian and international guests from the world of Cinematography enriches this festival. But what makes this kermesse really special is the presence of multidisciplinary laboratories that are accessible to the public, the musical aperitivi on the terrace of the castle, and the closing party with live music and dancing under the sky of Salento.

For information, visit cinemadelreale.it.

Cinema del Reale in Salento, Italy

Projection during Cinema del Reale. Photo from cinemadelreale.it


The foodie town of Bologna hosts about 50 movie nights in the evocative setting of Piazza Maggiore. Can you imagine yourself enjoying a movie between the Statue of Naptune (1565) and Palazzo del Podestà (1200)? Priceless! The photo at the top of this article was taken by Lorenzo Burlando in Piazza Maggiore during a projection. There is a varied program of screenings between June and August. In 2016, the organizers have decided to pay homage to two protagonists of national and international cinema: American actor Marlon Brando and Italian film director Dino Risi. In particular, you’ll be able to enjoy the restored version of his cult movie – Il Sorpasso.

Bologna is part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network, so it’s no surprise that summer in this vibrant city offers you a ton of options between music, art, cinema, theatre and shows. There is even a smaller, niche movie festival within the larger event. The 30th edition of Cinema Ritrovato celebrates silent films, movie soundtracks, and even awards prizes to DVD and Blu-Ray quality home entertainment from around the world.

For information, visit cinetecadibologna.it.

Looking for somewhere off the beaten path? Then off we go to the hidden gem of Portovenere on the Gulf of Poets, near the world-famous Cinque Terre. Even in a small medieval sea hamlet like this one, during summer you can watch movies under the stars with Cinema sotto le Stelle. There are movies for all tastes, both famous and less-known works. This is the setting of your movie theater: you are in a seaside piazza located between the picturesque Church of San Pietro on a rocky cliff, and the colorful “palazzata” or thin, close-packed buildings that are typical of the Ligurian Riviera. Make sure to walk along the narrow alley known as carugio, and then choose one of the steep staircases that lead you up the hill. You will reach the majestic Doria Castle, built between the XII and XIV centuries. The views from up here are simply amazing!

For more info, visit eventiportovenere.it.

If you like the idea of watching movies inside an ancient castle, then let’s hop back to Emilia Romagna and enter the Rocca Sforzesca in Imola. Founded in the XIII century, this fortress is a superb example of a fortified architecture of the Medieval and Renaissance period. You can admire some original remains: the doorway with a pointed arch, the tower with the dungeons, the suggestive areas of the ground floor, and the panoramic terrace overlooking the town and the surrounding hills. Rocca Sforzesca is also a museum that hosts a collection of ceramics and weapons, all restored to their antique splendor. If you are worried about the quality of the images projected at the open-air cinema in such an ancient place, do not worry: at Rocca Cinema you will get Sony Digital 4K with Dolby Digital sound on a maxi screen!

For more info, visit roccacinema.it.

Summer cinemas in Portovenere and Imola

The setting in Portovenere and Imola. Photos from gazzettadellaspezia.it and roccacinema.it


Here are some closing tips and warnings regarding the moonlit movie nights across Italy, whether they have been mentioned in this article or not. Each event has its own rules and pricing. Some are completely free, others offer free access to some areas and require an entrance for a particular projection or exhibition. If you have bought a ticket for a particular movie but the screening is canceled due to rain, the cinema might allow you to use it on some other occasion. One final note regards the language. There are only a handful of movie theaters in Italy that show movies in their original version, most movies are projected with Italian dubbing. This might also be the case in some “cinemas under the stars”, especially if they are in small villages and are not part of an international movie-festival circuit. You might want to check the websites to know more about each venue and its policies, or you can just wander into the summer nights, go with the flow and enjoy the Italian lifestyle, embracing it like a local!


Would you like to organize a family reunion or friends’ gathering in Italy? Make it authentic by taking advantage of local events and traditions. Watch a lovely movie with your loved ones under the moon in an ancient castle, then go wine tasting in a small enoteca, before joining some traditional dances in the streets with the locals. If you need ideas for planning this kind of unforgettable evenings and events, contact Italian Special Occasions DMC now!




Join our mailing list

Receive insights about our events and experiences (+local tips!)