Love & Gelato released in 2016 and made Jenna Evans Welch a popular name when it came to YA contemporary books. Netflix announced that the movie adaption of the book was coming out in 2022 and to say we were hesitant was an understatement. When we watched the trailer, we could already tell that a lot of changes were made. Still, we decided to give the movie a chance. Keep reading to learn all the differences between the book and the movie.
Warning: Spoilers if you haven’t read or watched Love & Gelato
1. The Setting
In the book, Lina Emerson is spending the summer in Tuscany, just outside of Florence, Italy. The movie is set in Rome instead. It’s too bad because the two cities have completely different vibes. In the book, Lina doesn’t even live in the city, she lives outside of it in an American World War II cemetery.
The book also discusses Lina’s personal connection to Florence and has her explore the places her mom mentions in her journal. Everything from landmarks, to statues, to clubs are visited, which gives a major cultural experience. The movie glosses over Italian culture without really diving into anything other than pretty Roman sights and a love for pasta. As an Italian-American, this really disappointed Christy.
Also, there is a day trip in Love & Gelato where Lina takes the train to Rome from Florence. In the movie, it’s reversed. Unfortunately, a big part of the book was cut out, which was a huge turning point for Lina’s character growth. Lina didn’t plan to go to Rome, it was a split-second decision. Plus, she never stole artwork in the book!
Lastly, the final change was where Lina’s from. In the movie, she lived in Brooklyn, New York before leaving for Europe. In the book, Lina grew up in Seattle, Washington with her photographer mother.
2. Lina in General
A lot about Lina changed from the book to the movie, which became the main reason we didn’t like the movie. First of all, Lina is supposed to look very Italian. She’s petite and has long curly dark hair. The actress who played Lina was much too tall to be convincing, since she was taller than both her love interests.
The actress also didn’t capture Lina’s personality at all. First of all, Lina’s not obsessed with school and going to MIT…because she hadn’t thought about college yet in the books. She also didn’t say snarky things like she studies too much to look good in a bathing suit. Um, that’s not okay! In fact, in the book she was on her high school’s cross-country team.
Lina in the book is much more open to adventure is a curious and friendly person. While she has trouble adjusting at first, she quickly makes a group of friends and finds her place. She’s definitely not stuck up or an intellectual snob.
3. Lina’s Age
Another big change about Lina is her age. Lina’s supposed to be 18 in the movie and getting ready to go off to MIT in the fall. Except, in the book, Lina’s only 16 years old and a rising junior in high school. The movie aged her up, which we didn’t agree with. Lina not being adult was a big part of the story because it made it important why Lina wasn’t sure where she would be in the fall. Would she be able to live with her best friend Addy in Seattle or would she stay in Italy? Also, in the book, her grandparents were alive and had a big part to play in custody.
4. Why Lina was Sent to Italy
A big part of both the book and movie is that Lina is being forced to go Italy as a request from her late mother. In the book, Lina’s expected to go to Florence to get to know her father, a man named Howard Mercer. In the movie, Lina and her mom were planning a graduation trip to Rome. Instead, her mom asked Lina to please go on the trip and stay with a woman named Francesca.
Lina knew going in to the book that she would learn a lot about her mother’s past and get to know a father she hadn’t heard about. But in the movie, everything about Lina’s birth is a surprise to her.
5. The Journal
The journal plays a huge role in both the book and the movie, considering it tells Lina everything about the year her mom, Hadley Emerson, spent in Italy. In the book, the journal plays a bigger role because it helps Lina through her own self-discovery. She reads it a little at a time and learns about her mom’s friend group while in Florence and how her mom decided to become a photographer. She also discusses her romance with a mysterious man named X. Lina uses the journal to retrace her mother’s steps and figure out why she fled Italy, despite loving it.
In the movie, Lina does use the journal to learn about her mom’s past, but it only scratches the surface. Lina is trying to figure out who her dad is and if he knows she exists. She doesn’t have the same level of adventure because of the journal though. It doesn’t take her to unexpected places.
6. Lorenzo Ferrara
Lorenzo Ferrara, or Ren in the book, is not a chef and is actually Italian-American. His dad is from Italy and his mom is from the United States. He did grow up in Italy (in a super weird house) and currently attends the international school where Howard wants Lina to go. Ren has no interest in a career and is usually found playing soccer or hanging out with his friends. Lina and Ren strike up a strong friendship in the book and it’s until later when something romantic starts. Also, Ren is terrified of Howard, which makes for some comedic moments.
The movie entirely changed this character. In the movie, Lorenzo never uses his nickname and is all about career and culinary school. He and Lina had minimal chemistry and didn’t have a fun friendship. Lorenzo doesn’t have the same sense of humor and he doesn’t play as big of a part of Lina’s journey. In fact, in the book, he helps Lina with the journal and offers to take her around Florence/meet all his friends. He was boring in the movie by comparison. Also, in the movie, Lorenzo showed Lina the secret bakery. In the book, it was Lina’s mom who wrote about and Lina and Ren planned on finding it.
7. Lina’s Relationship with Howard
The movie botched the father daughter relationship as well. First of all, Howard is supposed to be a giant man from South Carolina who fell in love with Italy and never left. He works as caretaker of the cemetery. Lina knows Howard is her father going to Italy and starts to create a slow relationship with him.
In the movie, Howard is average height (only slightly taller than Lina) and is Francesca’s cousin. He’s also British and a professor. Lina hardly knows anything about Howard before coming to Italy and even finds out about his relationship with her mother at a dinner with friends. This scene never happened in the books.
Spoiler alert: in both situations, it turns out Howard Mercer is not Lina’s biological father, but he wants to be her dad. The father is some Italian man, who was Hadley’s former professor. But in the book, Howard and Lina develop a much closer relationship, especially after she reads about how much her mother loved him. They have a lot more scenes together, since Lina is living with him and he even takes her around Florence. While they still have a relationship in the movie, it isn’t quite as sweet.
8. Alessandro Albani and Thomas Heath
Alessandro Albani is Lina’s love interest in the movie and isn’t in the book at all. He’s rich, adventurous and super obnoxious. Lina and Alessandro have little chemistry, even though he asks her to be exclusive the third time they meet. Alessandro and Lorenzo also have a rivalry in the movie. Alessandro is going to Harvard in the fall, but he just wants to be his own person.
The movie replaced Thomas Heath with Alessandro. Thomas is part of Ren’s friend group and has an instant connection with Lina when they meet at a house party for the international school’s students. Thomas is sweet and an all-around great guy, just he and Lina don’t work out. They remain friends though. Thomas is also British, not Italian.
9. Addie Bennett
Addie is Lina’s best friend and she is probably the most different character from the book to the movie. The movie made her so annoying and a wannabe Instagram influencer. It’s not okay to have an Instagram account for your friend against her will. Addie was also so obnoxious in the movie about trying to get Lina to move on after what happened to Hadley. Talk about insensitive.
Addie’s a much better friend in the book and doesn’t have a social media obsession. She’s constantly there for Lina during the summer and is always ready to listen. She also shines in her own book, Love & Luck, where she and her family spend time in Ireland on the way to a crazy destination wedding.
Francesca was a minor character in the books and a supporting character in the movie. Lina never lives with Francesca in the books and never meets her in person. What she knows about Francesca is through her mother’s journal. In the book, the female influence in Florence is Sonia, who works with Howard.
Francesca is Lina’s fashion guru and host in the movie. She tries to get Lina to go out, explore Italy and where better clothing and shoes. While she is fashionable in the books, the only time she and Lina speak is over the phone when Lina is trying to find out information on X.
11. Lina Staying in Italy
Both the book and movie end with Lina staying in Italy, but under very different circumstances. The movie has Lina defer college for a year and then there’s a time jump, showing the actress in a bad wig. She hasn’t seen Lorenzo in a year and they reconnect, alluding to possibly getting together. But it makes no sense because Lina’s going to Cambridge, Massachusetts and Lorenzo is opening a restaurant in Rome.
In the book, Ren and Lina become a couple as Lina decides to stay in Florence to finish high school. She finally has a family, a group of friends and a sweetheart boyfriend. Everything ends happy and resolved. Even though she’ll miss Addie and her life in Seattle, she’s ready to start over and fully embrace Italy, just like her mom did.