Filmmaker Federico Fellini, many of whose movies were filmed on location in Rome, once said of the Italian capital: “Rome does not need to make culture. It is culture. Prehistoric, classical, Etruscan, Renaissance, Baroque, modern. Every corner of the city is a chapter in an imaginary universal history of culture.
“Culture in Rome,” he continued, “is not an academic concept. It’s not even a museum culture, even though the city is one enormous museum. It is a human culture… free from cultural faddishness, or neurotic trendiness.”
Rome may well be the ultimate movie location for precisely those reasons – and Fellini would know. Whether it’s Audrey Hepburn exploring the Eternal City in his playful classic Roman Holiday, or Anita Ekberg cavorting in the Trevi Fountain for La dolce vita, Rome has provided epic backdrops and its multitude of cultures for many, many years.
We take a look at a few of our favorite movies filmed on location in Rome.
Roman Holiday (1953)
Young Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) jumps into the back of a delivery truck to explore the city and is romanced by an American newspaperman (Gregory Peck). Fellini poses them perfectly in front of the Spanish Steps, the Palazzo Brancaccio and the Palazzo Colonna, and shoots a classic scene at the Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth), a mysterious face at the church of Santa Maria.
La dolce vita (1960)
In Fellini’s legendary movie, Marcello Mastrioanni is a gossip columnist wandering through a decadent Rome, visiting the Parco degli Acquedotti, Via Veneto, and of course the Trevi Fountain, where Anita Ekberg takes her famous bath.
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, this film was shot mostly in the Esposizione Universale di Roma (EUR), a residential and business district originally chosen by Mussolini as a location for the 1942 World’s Fair. As Antonioni is at the helm, this is a departure from elegant, picture-postcard views of Rome – revealing a darker side to the city.
The Belly of an Architect (1987)
Peter Greenaway’s tale of an American architect with stomach pain is shot on location everywhere from St Peter’s Square to the Il Vittoriano monument (Altare della Patria). In true Greenaway style, it is flamboyant, beautiful, and more than a little strange.
The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)
Anthony Minghella’s beautiful but dark adaptation was shot on location all over Italy, from Ischia to Naples and Sanremo, before it reached Rome. Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) explores the streets of the city, taking in the Spanish Steps (and Cafe Dinelli at its feet) as well as Piazza Lovatelli.
La grande bellezza/The Great Beauty (2013)
This lavish movie, directed by Paolo Sorrentino and filmed on location in Rome, follows an aging socialite as he wanders the city, reflecting on his life. Locations include the upscale Via Veneto, the Parco degli Acquedotti and the Terme di Caracalla. It’s Rome at its grandest, a beautiful vision of one of the world’s most enduring cities.