The English Patient film locations are in some of the most remote, out-of-the-way places I’ve ever come across. This is the first production (that I am aware of!) had no choice but to transport sound equipment via camels. This makes some of the locations rather difficult to visit. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t still cool and you aren’t interested to see what they are, right?
Kristin Scott Thomas, Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche star in this Academy Award-winning, 1996 war and romance epic. The English Patient is set during and after WWII in a series of flashbacks as told by Count Almásy (Fiennes) to his nurse Hana (Binoche). They are in a rundown convent in Italy, while Cairo and other places in Egypt are the main settings for the wartime flashback scenes.
But Cairo has changed so much in the 50 years prior to shooting The English Patient. So, director Anthony Minghella chose Tunisia to stand-in. He also shot the studio scenes in Cinecittà Studios in Rome, Europe’s largest film studio. But where exactly are the other The English Patient locations? Let’s find out!
Where Was The English Patient Filmed?
The English Patient Film Locations in Italy
1. Forte dei Marmi, Lucca
The movie opens with a couple of short scenes that we will cover later, so let’s start with the first proper The English Patient setting with the first line of dialogue. After his plane crash, the unnamed “English patient” (Fiennes) is convalescing on a beach in Italy with the French-Canadian nurse (Binoche). It looks like a field hospital with tons of officers, nurses and soldiers dotted everywhere. This beach is Forte dei Marmi in the province of Lucca.
Some reports say it’s a little further south in Viareggio, and it could be. The film is almost 30 years old and the locations are right next to each other, but I think it’s Forte dei Marmi beach. Not a bad place to relax after experiencing a horrific plane crash that left you scarred all over.
2. Monastero di Sant’Anna in Camprena, Pienza, Siena
After an ordeal of a journey, Hana and the English patient arrive at a bombed-out monastery in Italy so she can care for him while he is dying. This convent is one of the main The English Patient filming locations (in fact, most of the film takes place here) and it’s one that fans are most keen to visit. And why bloody wouldn’t you! t’s a stunning and historic building in the middle of the Tuscan countryside.
The ruined convent is Monastero di Sant’Anna in the village of Camprena and is now completely renovated. Today, it’s a beautiful agriturismo (like a bed and breakfast with a small farm) you can stay at and you can even get married there. Click here to find out more.
3. Grand Hotel des Bains, Lungomare Marconi 17, Venice
In one of the early flashbacks, Count Almásy (who we now know to be the not-so-English patient) and his chums are chilling in Cairo, taking a break from their expedition base. Though the stakes were high, the perks of being a high-ranking officer during WWII are pretty good. They are staying in a swanky hotel called the Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo.
This was a real hotel despite the film being largely fictional. It was a popular haunt for foreign adventurers, officers and diplomats at this time. But the movie didn’t shoot this scene there because it no longer exists. And they didn’t even shoot this scene in Tunisia like all the other Egypt-set scenes. Nope, they shot it in the Grand Hotel des Bains in Venice. A hotel which, as of 2010, unfortunately no longer exists either! Death in Venice (1973) also shot scenes at this hotel.
Katherine and the Count head back to the hotel after they are stranded in the desert during the storm. Suffice to say, things get a little spicy.
4. Basilica di San Francesco, Arezzo
After being painfully coy with each other for days on end, Kip invites Hana to go to a nearby village on his Vespa. And where do you take any girl you really like on a first date? The local church, of course. They drive up to the Basilica di San Francesco in Arezzo. It’s here he pops her in a makeshift pully and gives her a flare so she can see the frescoes up close. To be fair, she seems jazzed so I reckon Kip made a good call.
Piero Della Francesca painted these frescoes in the 14th century inside the Bracci Chapel. And if you are also wondering what the heck a “fresco” is (as I was while researching this post), it is a type of large mural painted with watercolours, common in Italian churches, directly onto freshly laid plaster. Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel is a well-known example of a fresco.
5. Fiume Serchio River Bridge, Via di Ripafratta, Vecchiano
Kip and Hana’s magical night together is short-lived when one of his men disturbs him with news of a bomb that needs diffusing. The location of this bomb is just underneath the Fiume Serchio River Bridge in Vecchiano. It’s a bit tense there for a moment but we soon discover the war is over.
6. Piazza Pio II, Pienza
The final The English Patient location in Italy is a good one. The end-of-war celebrations are happening all over, including the local village. Piazza Pio II in Pienza stands in as a quaint Italian town with women playing the accordion and everyone dancing in the street. Apparently, this town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, too?! The 2,000+ Google reviews gave it away.
Sadly, the joy is short-lived (again! Can no one be happy in this movie?) when a drunk American gets blown up, but the location was pretty at least. The production team added the fountain just for the scene.
The English Patient Film Locations in Tunisia
7. Camel Neck, Oung Jmel, Nefta
The first proper flashback scene is at Count Almásy’s expedition base camp with lots of classic white canvas tents. This is the scene where Katherine (Scott Thomas) and her husband (Colin Firth) fly in on their tiny aeroplane and the Count is immediately smitten. With Katherine, not her husband.
This rock formation behind the camp is Onk Jemal but people know it as Camel Neck because the end of the rock literally looks like a camel’s head and neck. The location is extremely close to where Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) shot the Mos Espa scenes, and the set is still there today.
8. Souk, Medina, Sfax
Everyone has left the expedition camp and is back in Cairo. Katherine is shopping at a souk in the medina to load up on traditional rugs before heading back to England. This is, of course, not the medina in Cairo but a souk in a Tunisian town called Sfax. All the Souks in the Medina are concentrated in one part of town near the Great Mosque of Sfax, so filming probably happened there.
9. Sidi Bouhlel, Tozeur
The remaining The English Patient film locations in Tunisia are a little hazy. I can only offer city names and vague areas of the desert. But some of these destinations require tours and private transport and are very hard to reach even then. Katherine’s husband leaves her with the rest of the men at the expedition camp and they all go on a little jaunt to find the Cave of Swimmers in the Al Wahat Al Dakhla Desert of Egypt.
Good news, they find it! But the filming location is at Sidi Bouhlel, an area outside of Degache in Tunisia. I believe this cave is also where (huge spoilers!) Katherine Clifton’s character dies towards the end of the movie.
10. Former Minister’s Residence, Tunis
Yay, it’s another super vague filming location! Don’t we love these! Just because you’re all hanging out in Egypt, doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy Christmas. That is exactly what the Count and the rest of the British officers in the desert country do at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Cairo. The senior officers and rich ex-pats also enjoy a dance there later in the film.
In reality, the crew shot these scenes in an abandoned former foreign minister’s private residence in Tunis, Tunisia’s capital city. The building was huge and around 150 years old, so it was the perfect The English Patient film location to stand in as 1940s Cairo.
11. Avenue 14 Janvier, Mahdia
In June 1942, there is an invasion in the Egyptian city of Tobruk. In this scene, the Germans catch our enigmatic Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe) during a line-up on the beach. You can definitely tell where the parachuters, erm, parachuted onto the beach and held their captives because there are these serrated, rocky edges to the beach running parallel to Av. 14 Janvier in Mahdia. They are identical to the landscape in the movie.
I also believe the desert area of Tamerza is a The English Patient filming location too, but I’m not sure in which scenes. There are a lot of “general” desert shots, particularly when the Count is flying the plane at the beginning and end of the movie. So maybe then?
And those are all The English Patient film locations in both Italy and Tunisia! Have you watched the movie or visited any of the locations? Let me know in the comments below!