No one does cinematic sex appeal quite like Italian women. Since the early 1950s, curvaceous and effortlessly confident leads such as Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Isabella Rossellini have been burning up the big screen with a vital energy that's hard to define.
In honour of Stylist's Milan issue this week, we take a look at Italy's most seductive stars: the kind of versatile and brilliant actresses whose every move is imbibed with charisma and a careless allure...
The grand doyen of Italian sex appeal, Sophia Loren's particular brand of seductive charm is practically a dictionary definition. This elegant, beautiful and dazzling donna found fame in the 1950s with key films including The Pride and the Passion and Man of La Mancha and has no less than 54 awards to her name, including an Oscar.
Her (many) fans include Mick Jagger, Noël Coward, and John Cheever but Sophia herself is philisophical about her allure, saying: "I think the quality of sexiness comes from within. It is something that is in you or it isn't and it really doesn't have much to do with breasts or thighs or the pout of your lips."
The star of Italian masterpieces The Leopard and 8½ (directed by Federico Fellini), Claudia Cardinale illuminated the big screen in the 1960s, with a glamorous, sensual and enigmatic allure - coupled with a distinctive, French-accented Italian voice.
Brigitte Bardot once famously commented, "I already know who's destined to take my place. There can be only one, and one alone. After BB comes CC, no?"
One of the first iconic sex symbols of the post-World War II period, La Lollo lit up the screen in the 1950s with a vital and voluptuous appeal that was often compared to that of Sophia Loren.
In Italy, she became known by the title of 1955 film La Donna Piu Bella del Mondo (The Most Beautiful Woman in the World) and went onto become an author, photojournalist and sculptress.
Born to actor parents, Giovanna Mezzogiorno made waves in the world of cinema with 2005's La Bestia Nel Cuore (Don't Tell), for which she won a prestiguous Coppa Volpi gong - previously awarded to Bette Davis, Shirley MacLaine, Catherine Deneuve and Sophia Loren.
Bringing passion and charisma to the big-screen, she is hot property in Italian cinema.
Cinematic icon Anna Magnani was not a sex symbol in the conventional sense of the phrase: she was best-known for her unselfconscious, bawdy and earthy roles ( including an Oscar-winning performance as a stricken widow in 1955's The Rose Tattoo) - and yet she exuded an irresistible energy, almost despite herself.
"Anna Magnani walked onscreen, and I immediately realized that until that instant I had never seen a real woman on the screen," writer Russell Baker once remarked.
The daughter of thespian royalty - her parents were Ingrid Bergman and Italian director Roberto Rossellini - Isabella wowed Hollywood with over 50 films, including cult classics Blue Velvet and Death Becomes Her.
An actor, international model, author and filmmaker, the stunning actress is nevertheless wary of being labelled an icon, saying, "You have to be a fantasy, which you can never be, so you always feel depressed."
Stylist's cover star has long been associated with the type of easy self-confidence and sophistication that epitomises Italian women. She modelled for a number of high-end fashion houses before Hollywood beckoned with roles in Dracula and The Matrix Reloaded, and a range of foreign language films.
"I’m Italian so grew up with actresses like Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren, so they’re our ideal of beauty," the multi-lingual actress told Stylist.
Giulietta Masina was married to legendary film director Federico Fellini and appeared in many of his films. She became known as the "female Chaplin" for her powerful and intense performances, combined with striking looks.
A Rome native, Ornella Muti appeared in a string of Italian films before winning hearts and minds on a global scale as Princess Aura in 1980 blockbuster hit Flash Gordon.
Fourteen years later, Class magazine named her the most beautiful woman in the world. Her deep sultry voice is well-known and loved among fans.
Maria Grazia Cucinotta
Sicilian beauty Maria Grazia Cucinotta jumped from modelling to acting in the early 90s, earning acclaim with her roles in 1994 Oscar-winning film Il Postino and as a baddie in 1999 Bond flick The World Is Not Enough.
For her, cinema is all about capturing a fantasy; "Being a woman for me is to dress up, to be glamorous and to make people dream," she once remarked.
An actress, novelist, film director and short story writer, Asia Argento is not only beautiful, she's multi-talented too.
The daughter of legendary Italian director Dario Argento, Asia became a household name and overnight sex symbol by starring opposite Vin Diesel in 2002 action thriller xXx.
Sardinian actress Caterina Murino won a Miss Italy pageant in 1996 but it wasn't until 2006 that she was acknowledged on an international level, starring as a Bond girl opposite Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.
With a curvaceous figure and a natural air of confidence, she has often been likened to a latter day Sophia Loren.
Rome-born Valentina Cervi comes from an acting dynasty: her father is director Tonino Cervi and her grandfather is beloved Italian actor Gino Cervi. Sultry and imposing, she has gone down a storm in the States playing the role of sexy vampire Salome in HBO's True Blood.
"Between vampires there’s this sexual freedom," Valentina said of the role. "They can have sex without meaning they have responsibility to each other. That’s the beautiful part of being a vampire."
She's best known in Hollywood for dating George Clooney, but Elisabetta Canalis is also an established TV actress and model in her native Italy. She's passionate about certain causes, having starred in PETA's Bare-It-All ads against the use of fur in fashion and spoken out against the negative impact of fashion advertising on young girls.
"I say to girls: forget what you see in the magazines, that is a world which has nothing to do with reality, think of it as a cartoon," she said in an interview last year. "To prove it all you have to do is go out and see that men like healthy, fleshy real women."
Born to an Italian-American family in Brooklyn, Marisa Tomei is a funny, versatile and talented actress who won an Oscar in 1992 for her scene-stealing role in comedy My Cousin Vinny. That kick-started a headline career in Hollywood, with two more Oscar nominations and numerous other awards to her name.
"I think that there's plenty of powerful women," Marisa once said of Hollywood. "We've come a long way and we still have a long way to go."