The talented Mediterranean beauty touched down in Sydney on Tuesday to open the first leg of the festival, which is Australia’s biggest celebration of Italian cinema and attracted over 80,000 people nationally last year.

The 19th edition of the festival will present the Australian premieres of three of Solarino’s latest films: As Needed, There’s No Place Like Home and I Can Quit Whenever I Want 3: Ad honorem.

“It’s an honour to have three films in this festival and to see how many people were at the opening night in Sydney,” Solarino says.

“It’s a beautiful thing to see such a big celebration of Italian cinema.”

Born in Venezuela to a Sicilian father and Turinese mother, Solarino grew up in Turin and began acting in 2000, when she auditioned for the city’s prestigious acting school, Teatro Stabile di Torino.

“I wanted to be a theatre actress, then in the last year of my schooling I discovered cinema and fell in love with it,” she recalls.

It wasn’t long before she moved to Rome, the heart of Italian cinema, and her talent was noticed.

In 2003, Solarino made her big screen debut in Mimmo Calopresti’s Happiness Costs Nothing.

Now, the 39-year-old dabbles in both theatre and cinema, and says that the two are vastly different, yet equally enjoyable.

“Theatre gives you the emotion and contact with the audience, but cinema gives you the contact with the camera, which is also special,” she explains.

Over the years, Solarino has established herself as a veritable star with leading roles in esteemed productions.

She has worked opposite international stars such as Robert De Niro and Monica Bellucci and, in 2007, she won the Venice Film Festival’s Pasinetti Award for Best Female Actress for her performance in Salvatore Maira’s Valzer.

While it’s safe to say Solarino has made a name for herself in the world of Italian cinema, the stunning star is as modest as they come – a trait which I noticed immediately while speaking with her.

“It’s an honour for me to be recognised in Australia, because I love when other people connect with Italian culture and cinema,” she says.

“My achievements aren’t just for me, but for my country and my culture and I’m very proud of Italian cinema, both old and contemporary.”

Solarino will attend the screenings of one of her films, There’s No Place Like Home, tomorrow evening at Palace Cinema Como, and on Saturday at Palace Brighton Bay.

She will partake in a Q&A for the former and an introduction for the latter.

The 2018 film is from the writer of 2016 Lavazza Italian Film Festival highlight, Perfect Strangers.

The star-studded drama follows the story of a family gathered on the small island of Ischia for a 50th wedding anniversary.

They’re left stranded by a storm and forced to live under the same roof for two nights, leading to them rehash unresolved conflicts. 

Solarino says it was wonderful to work with so many talented actors on one film, especially the women, who included Claudia Gerini and Stefania Sandrelli, among others.

“We spent two months in Ischia and we became a family, just like in the film.... except in the film everything blows up and everybody starts fighting,” she laughs.

“In real life, we were very close though. I learnt how strong a connection between women can be and how much we can help, encourage and support one another.”

In another of her three films to be showcased, Solarino worked with a talented cast who, for the large part, weren’t professional actors but rather teenagers with Asperger’s syndrome.

“For me it was a wonderful experience to work with these kids,” she says.

“It was interesting to see their way of thinking and their take on life.”

Set in Tuscany, the heart-warming film stars Arturo, a world-famous chef with anger management issues, who is assigned to run a cooking class at a centre for young people with autism.

There, he meets youth worker (Solarino) and Guido, a 20-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome and a burning passion for cooking.

So begins a friendship that will change both men’s lives.

Solarino explains that the group of young people who she worked with in the film did a terrific job in their roles, and that the only obstacle which popped up wasn’t to do with their acting skills, but rather a question of communication at times.

“The kids were very attentive,” she says.

“But the main thing was that you had to be careful not to lie to them or say one thing instead of another. If you said something to them they would take it literally and believe it as the truth.”

All in all, the film touches on an important theme and offers an insight into the world of those with autism, while also showcasing the potential of people with disabilities when it comes to employment and other areas of life.

Alongside these films, Solarino has also just finished shooting Moschettieri del re: La Penultima Missione, which will be released next year, and Francesco Ghiaccio’s Dolcissime, a comedy which will hit Italian cinemas at Christmas.

Once she wraps up her appearances at the Lavazza Italian Film Festival, the talented actor will take a few days off to see Sydney properly before heading to Uluru and Darwin.

A holiday which we believe is well deserved!

For more information and tickets, visit the Lavazza Italian Film Festival’s website.