Numerous films set in Rome have instilled spectacular, romantic fantasies of the Eternal City in the American imagination.
Considered the Hollywood of Europe, the entire city of Rome is a stage where unforgettable cinematic moments take place in every corner. As most movies are actually filmed on site and not in a studio, it’s totally possible to visit and stand in the same places your favorite actors were standing while filming. For those looking to explore Rome like a glamorous diva, you can recreate your own cinematic moments just like many of Hollywood’s most famous stars throughout the years.
La Dolce Vita
When one thinks of Italian cinema, the godlike Federico Fellini comes to mind along with one of his most celebrated films, La Dolce Vita. Although the most legendary scene in that movie is unmistakably the one of Anita Ekberg wading in the Trevi Fountain, there are many other prominent locations featured in the film as the entirety of it was filmed in Rome. One should visit the Baths of Caracalla, a large, well-preserved thermal complex built in 216 A.D., where Marcello watches Sylvia initiate a scene of thrilling debauchery in La Dolce Vita before he whisks her away in his car for some alone time. These are also the same ruins that Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg break into during a thunderstorm in To Rome with Love. Another notable scene from La Dolce Vita takes place in St. Peter’s Dome in the Basilica when Marcello takes Sylvia on a tour and they look over at Vatican City together. Never mind that the dome in the movie was actually one that was built in the studio. One should go to Vatican City regardless to energetically race up the Basilica to the dome to recreate the scene with Sylvia, preferably with a hot, mischievous Italian man if available.
Of course nobody can go to Rome without paying tribute to the classic film Roman Holiday and Audrey Hepburn, who implanted dreamy illusions of cruising through Rome on vespas and falling in love with handsome men you whimsically encounter while dozing by the Roman Forum—I would not recommend trying to recreate that particular scene as there is a higher chance of being found by pickpockets rather than Gregory Peck in modern day Rome. A particularly charming place to visit is the location of the barbershop by the Trevi Fountain—Via della Stamperia 85—where Princess Ann gets a fabulous haircut while exploring by herself. Although the store is now a leather shop, the locale is still there and it’s fun to walk along the streets leading up to the entrance of the fountain pretending to be Audrey Hepburn. Castel Sant’Angelo is where the eventful dance party on the barge along the Tiber River takes place, where at the top there is said to be gorgeous views of Rome and even the Vatican from all directions. For anyone who is interested in seeing Gregory Peck’s apartment from the film, it is located on Via Margutta 51 and it’s a beautiful and charming street with colorful buildings draped in vines.
To Rome with Love
Another fun film about the Eternal City is the more recent To Rome with Love from 2012 in which the city of Rome is the feature star along with Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg. Jesse takes Ellen to the Piazza del Campidoglio with its beautifully decorated floors, majestic facades and gorgeous view on top the Capitoline Hill. Later he kisses her during a gorgeous, romantic walk through the Villa Borghese gardens, a must-see for those traveling to Rome with their boo. There is a cute little plaza featured in the film, Fontana delle Tartarughe or Turtle Fountain in Piazza Mattei, where Italian actress Alessandra Mastronardi meets and gets swept off her feet by her film idol. Villa Quintili, Via Appia Antica 290, is where Penelope attends an upscale party and causes a stir with the many wealthy bankers whom she has encountered through her profession. The restaurant featured in this film is Sabatini, located on Viccolo Santa Maria in Trastevere 18, where Roberto Benigni’s character was caught by paparazzi on his way out with his date though the restaurant itself is said to be overpriced with mixed reviews about the food and service.
Eat Pray Love
Another prominent movie that takes place in Rome is Eat Pray Love in which the view from the terrace of Castel Sant’Angelo welcomes Julia Roberts to Italy at the start of her journey. Piazza Navona in front of the Church of Sant’Agnese is where Julia adorably eats gelato on a bench next to two nuns. The author of the actual book the movie is based on, Elizabeth Gilbert, personally endorses Il Gelato di San Crispino to fulfill all of your dolce Italian cravings.
Julia appears yet in another high profile American movie that partially takes place in Rome, the brilliant and marvelously shot Ocean’s Twelve. The luxurious Boscolo Exedra Hotel is where Julia arrives playing a character that tries to play herself while running into Bruce Willis on the way. The Galeria d’Arte Moderna di Roma is impossible to miss as it is the site in which the Ocean gang tries to pull the main heist of the movie by stealing the royal Russian egg on exposition. My favorite scene in this movie is the flashback to when the characters of Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones first meet at a café, located in the Piazza della Rotonda right in front of the Pantheon. This is where a young, sultry Catherine first lays eyes on swaggering Brad Pitt who smiles at her while running from the cops.
And if you still want more cinematic glam during your Roman holiday there is always the Cinecittà, the large film studio known as Hollywood on the Tiber and the center of Italian cinema. It is like the Universal Studios of Italy as it also has its own theme park, Cinecittà World, and the studio is open to the public for those who wish to see the sets and costumes of famous Italian films. Cinecittà Studios is accessible by metro and for information on hours and guided tours go to.