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Reader question: Is there a way to see films without dubbing in Italy?

All foreign films in Italy are dubbed into Italian, but does this mean original language versions are entirely unavailable?

A cinema seat
All foreign films in Italy are dubbed into Italian, but some cinemas offer original language screenings. Photo by Kilyan Sockalingum on Unsplash

Question: I live in Italy and I’d like to watch a US movie without dubbing. Is there any way to see films in their original language in the country?

Going to the cinema is one of life’s joys for many people, but unless you speak fluent Italian it can be less enjoyable in Italy.

Even if you do understand Italian perfectly well, you may not be a fan of dubbing on foreign-language films – the ubiquitous Italian-language voiceover which leaves famous actors using voices very different to their own, their lips usually moving out of sync with their speech. This can be distracting and even unsettling if you’re not used to it.

Italy is one of several European countries – along with Spain and Germany – where foreign-language films are often dubbed. This quirk is believed to be a legacy of Italy’s Fascist regime, connected to low literacy levels in the early 20th century, and today partially blamed for the relatively low levels of English language attainment among students.

But does this mean international residents wanting to watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster will have to either get used to dubbing or give up on the cinema altogether?

READ ALSO: Puns and plot spoilers: How English movie titles are translated into Italian

The good news is that finding films in their original language isn’t a totally hopeless enterprise. In fact, some Italian cinemas – especially in major cities such as Rome, Milan and Turin – show films in their original language accompanied by Italian subtitles. 

The easiest way to find original language screenings is to visit MyMovies, the most popular cinema website in Italy. 

The website isn’t currently available in any language other than Italian, but you’ll only need very basic Italian in order to use it.

Once you’re in the cinema listings section (Film al Cinema), all you’ll have to do is select the province (provincia) you’re living in from the drop-down menu, then click on the ‘original language’ (lingua originale) filter.

MyMovies website, Italy

The ‘lingua originale’ filter on MyMovies allows you to find out what cinemas are offering original language screenings in your area.

This will give you a list of all the screenings in your area with audio in the original language.

READ ALSO: Ten of the best TV shows and films to help you learn Italian

Most screenings will be labelled as versione originale con sottotitoli, meaning that the film will be available in its original language and accompanied by Italian subtitles. 

Occasionally, you may also see some screenings carrying the versione originale label, which means that it will be available in the original language and without Italian subtitles, giving you a full-on original film experience.

There will of course be a greater choice of non-dubbed screenings available in big cities, especially those that are home to large numbers of foreign nationals (Milan, Rome, Turin, Florence, etc.).

It can be hard to find non-dubbed films elsewhere – though some cinemas found throughout Italy do screen them.  For example UCI has a weekly film in inglese programme, including screenings for kids, although the selection is limited and doesn’t tend to feature the most current blockbuster movies.

Do you know of any cinemas showing films in their original language? Please share your tips with us in the comments section below.

Member comments

  1. For what it’s worth, I don’t think either Trento or Bolzano count as large cities, but both have theaters offering V.O. films. In Bolzano, about once a month at both Cineplexx and UCI cinemas, and in Trento, at least once a week (recently, even more frequently) at Multisala Modena.

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For members


Reader question: Do I need an international permit to drive in Italy?

If you're visiting Italy from the US and plan to drive during your trip, will an international driving permit be necessary? Here's a look at the rules.

Reader question: Do I need an international permit to drive in Italy?

Question: “We’re planning a trip to Italy in May and we plan to rent a car. We’ve read conflicting information about whether or not we (as US nationals) will need an international driver’s permit. What should we do?”

There’s no shortage of information out there about driving in Italy as a visitor, but the rules aren’t always made crystal clear.

For example, the official website for the US Embassy and Consulates in Italy says travelers “should obtain an International Driving Permit before leaving the US.” 

But then it also says: “Tourists may also use their valid American driver’s license if accompanied by an official translation in Italian.”

So what do you actually need?

Italy’s official rules state that US nationals (and other visitors to Italy from outside of the European Union, not including from the UK) essentially have two choices. 

READ ALSO: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one?

“Unless your national driving licence was issued by an EU/EFTA-member state, it must be accompanied either by an international driving permit, to be obtained prior to departure, or by a certified translation (traduzione giurata) into Italian,” according to information provided in English by motoring association ACI (Automobile Club d’Italia).

In practice, most people find that getting the international driving permit (IDP) is by far the easier option.

As anyone who has applied for Italian residency or citizenship can likely tell you, obtaining a certified translation into Italian of any foreign-issued document is no walk in the park and can also be expensive.

READ ALSO: How to pay Italian traffic fines from abroad

ACI says you’ll need to get it from an embassy or consulate, or through a certified translator or interpreter who “will need to declare before a court registrar that the translation is a true copy of the original”.

By comparison, the process of getting hold of an IDP is straightforward. For US nationals, applying (in person or by mail) via AAA costs $20 plus tax, and the only requirements are that you are aged over 18 and already have a valid driver’s license.

AAA says an IDP will be valid for one year and you can apply up to six months before your trip.

Do I really need to get an IDP?

You may have heard that travelers don’t need to bother getting either document for a trip to Italy – some people will tell you they’ve driven on Italian roads plenty of times without being asked to show an IDP.

Anecdotally, it sounds as though most visitors to Italy are unlikely to ever be asked to produce it, although some regular visitors have told The Local that they find checks have become more frequent in recent years.

And, unfortunately, not having the required document when needed could prove problematic and expensive.

READ ALSO: How to avoid car hire scams in Italy

Rental companies may ask you to show both your US license and your IDP when you pick up your vehicle, though it depends on the company.

More importantly, if you get pulled over by the police in Italy (you don’t need to be doing anything wrong; random roadside checks are common) or get into a car accident, and you don’t have the permit when asked for it, you could be fined anything between 408 and 1,634 euros.

As with so many things in Italy, experiences vary enormously depending on where you go: police in each Italian region or city tend to have different priorities and often interpret and apply certain rules differently.

Considering the large fine you could end up with, we’d advise following the rules and getting your IDP if your licence was issued in the US or another country where the Italian rules specify that this is a requirement.

Even if you never need to show it to anyone, it’ll give you peace of mind and help make your trip to Italy a more relaxing experience.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on individual cases. For more details about how Italy’s road rules may apply in your circumstances, consult the Italian embassy in your country or read more about the rules on driving in Italy on the ACI website (in English).

Do you have a question about living in or travelling to Italy which you’d like to see answered on The Local? Submit it here.