Now in its 16th year, the Lavazza Italian Film Festival – presented by Palace Cinemas and screening exclusively at Palace Cinema locations – will satisfy any red-blooded lover of cinema. Featuring 32 films over 36 days, it offers Mediterranean romances, Mafia dramas, sun-drenched comedies and searing examinations of the soul.

The Festival begins Wednesday September 15 at Palace Norton Street with the award-winning box-office hit, God Willing (Se Dio Vuole). This comedy, by director Edoardo Falcone, stars Alessandro Gassman, Marco Giallini and Laura Morante. It is a look at the divide between believers and atheists at the gathering of a dysfunctional family, where a non-believing father and surgeon must deal with a most-unwelcome revelation from his son: he wants to become a priest.

A definite highlight of the month-long program is the Mid-Festival Affair, held at Palace Verona on Tuesday September 22. A reception featuring Mitchelton Wines and Peroni beer, Italian delicacies and live music will be followed by a screening of acclaimed writer-director Cristina Comencini’s latest offering, Latin Lover. Based on the life and loves of one of the biggest stars of Italy’s Golden Era of film, Saverio Crispo (Francesco Scianna), it tells the story of his life from the point of view of five of his daughters – each from a different relationship – as they try to discover the man behind the myth.

Visiting Australia for the first time as part of the Festival is award-winning actor Luca Zingaretti, best known for his work on SBS’s popular series, Inspector Montalbano and who appears this festival in the hardboiled crime drama, Perez, where torn between upholding the law and taking care of his family in a world where only the corrupt thrive, prosecutor Demetrio Perez (Zingaretti) is forced to become as dirty as the criminals he’s trying to take down when his daughter falls in love with a mafioso.

For the closing night on October 11 the festival heads to the Chauval Cinema for a new restoration of Bernardo Bertolucci’s Oscar-nominated classic, The Conformist (Il Conformista). A lush and lavish Art Deco masterpiece, this adaptation of Alberto Moravia’s novel about an upper-class follower of Mussolini is a rare film event of 2015.

Other highlights of the Festival include:

Italy in a Day (Un Giorno Da Italiani): Oscar-winning director Gabriele Salvatores puts together a collage of 632 videos sent in from across the country to create an insightful and surprising mosaic of life in Italy.

Mia Madre: Veteran director Nanni Moretti teams up with John Turturro and Margherita Buy (in an award-winning performance from her) in this much-praised look at an unhinged filmmaker dealing with a personal crisis.

Tales of Tales (Il Racconto Dei Racconti): Director Matteo Garrone’s makes his English-language debut with this dream-like and occasionally disturbing feast for the eyes, featuring a star-heavy cast that includes Salma Hayek, Toby Jones, Vincent Cassel, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson and Hayley Carmichael.

Pizza and Dates (Pitza e Datteri): Shot entirely along the many canals of Venice, this light-hearted comedy follows a Muslim community as it tries to find a way into Italian society – and a location for its new mosque.

Black Souls (Anime Nere): Francesco Munzi’s award-winning thriller is set in rural Calabria, a place where the cycle of violence is all but impossible to break. So when a young man shoots up a bar he re-ignites a feud that could destroy everything his uncles (now successful crime figures themselves) have worked for.

A Woman as a Friend (Una Donna Per Amica): Director of the box-office smash Manual of Love, Giovanni Veronesi, returns with a sharp-eyed rom-com about the difficulties of staying friends with someone you love, starring French model/actress Laetitia Casta and Fabio De Luigi.

The Lavazza Italian Film Festival presented by Palace takes place from Tuesday September 15 to Sunday October 11 at the Palace Norton Street, Palace Verona and Chauvel Cinema. Tickets are available now at italianfilmfestival.com.au.