When Rosalba Barletta (Licia Maglietta), an Italian housewife, accidentally gets separated from her family while on holiday, she decides to hitchhike and spend some rare time by herself, ending up in Venice. She has no money and nowhere to go, until the waiter who serves her, Fernando (Bruno Ganz), offers her his spare room for the night. Although she planned to spend only a couple of days in Venice, Rosalba soon finds a job in a florist shop and begins to build a new life for herself. But when she phones her husband Mimmo (Antonia Barletta) and tells him what she's doing, he's horrified and begins plotting ways to bring her back with the assistance of Costantino (Giuseppe Battiston), who he hires to find his wife.

A serious charmer.

Rosalba, Licia Maglietta, the frustrated wife of a dealer in sanitary fittings, is accidentally left behind by her husband and sons when she makes a toilet stop on a motorway. Instead of waiting to be collected, she accepts a lift – and then impulsively winds up in Venice, a city she's never been to before. Here she finds a place to stay and a job – and she befriends a lonely waiter, Fernando, Bruno Ganz; meanwhile her annoyed husband hires an amateur private eye, Costantino, Giuseppe Battiston, to locate her.

Silvio Soldini's utterly charming film, which was a big hit in Italy last year, is a delightful variation on the theme of grabbing a second chance at life. In the role of a downtrodden wife who only realises what a dull life she's been leading when she manages, unexpectedly, to escape from it, Licia Maglietta is perfectly cast. And Bruno Ganz' ruffled charm is affectionately used for his role as the suicidal loner who claims – rather dubiously – to hail from Iceland.

With its off-kilter images of Venice, and its gallery of amusingly eccentric characters, including Rosalba's anarchistic boss, her neighbour, who works as a masseuse, and, especially, the sweet private eye played hilariously by Giuseppe Battiston, Bread and Tulips is a serious charmer.