Most of us gain our first impression of the world's great cities in cinema -- and our ideas of what these cities are like (and what to expect when we actually visit them) are forever influenced by what we see on that silver screen.
Some cities are rather blasé about their movie star status -- none more so than Paris (which did not deter me from dedicating an entire book to the city's use as a movie set). But there are others that are proud of the role they play in the world's collective imagination and positively celebrate it. Rome, I am pleased to report, falls into the latter category.
There are information panels dotted all over the city, telling you which famous scenes were shot where, providing facts, gossip and even some rather apposite and knowledgeable interpretations of arthouse movies such as Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse (that's the film the panel above is all about). But then again, few cities manage to combine their history of lowbrow and highbrow movies, the Dan Brown vehicles and the Antonionis, with as much grace and elegance as Rome.
Start your walk at the Piazza del Popolo. Walk southwards down Via del Babuino and turn into the first street on the left: This is Via Margutta, one of Rome's hidden treasures...
... and the place where Gregory Peck lives (at no. 51) in that 1950s classic Roman Holiday, the movie that made Audrey Hepburn a star. In the same street, at no. 110, the director Federico Fellini lived for many years with his wife, the actress Giulietta Masina.
This is a handsome house, surely, and Fellini inhabited almost certainly one of the largest flats in the building, but still, you can't help wondering how a Hollywood director would react if he were offered this property by his Roman estate agent ("That's all very civilized and sophisticated, surely, but where am I supposed to put the Jacuzzi?").
Follow Via Margutta to rejoin Babuino and continue straight into Piazza Spagna for the Spanish Steps on your left hand side. The Steps, essentially a church perched on top of a steep stairway, have been used many times as Rome's equivalent to Montmartre, a place for romance and visual poetry, not least because there is also an artistic connection (Keats and Shelley standing in for Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec).
Few Roman movies appear willing to miss this picturesque setting -- Roman Holiday has a scene here, Miss Hepburn enjoying her gelato, and in The Talented Mr Ripley Matt Damon arranges a meeting between some of the film's main characters in the Cafe Dinelli (at the foot of the steps). (The obsessed pianist in Bernardo Bertolucci's Besieged also lives in a villa near the Spanish Steps, and the movie uses the romantic settings around the Piazza Spagna to great effect.)
Climb the stairs, turn right into Via Sistina and left into Via Crispi, following this street until Porta Pinciana where you turn right into Via Veneto. This was once Rome's most elegant street, but is now firmly in Russian and Middle Eastern hands.
Via Veneto is barely recognizable from the place where Marcello Mastroianni gave the character of the "Latin Lover" an unforgettable personal spin in La Dolce Vita -- and where his friend Paparazzo, the overeager press photographer, gifted the world a new word. Peek into Cafe de Paris (where they exhibit a large collection of Fellini pictures who appears to have been a regular).
At the end of Via Veneto, turn right into Via Vittorio and right -- at Piazza Barberini -- into Via del Tritone. Cross the street and turn left into Via della Stamperia -- where, incidentally, Audrey Hepburn has her hair cut in Roman Holiday (at no. 85).
This part of the walk ends at the Trevi Fountain, always one of Hollywood's favourite Roman motives and used in Three Coins in a Fountain, a film which is nowadays most famous for Frank Sinatra's version of the title song.
A few years later, however, Anita Ekberg made the fountain all her own -- at least as far as the movies are concerned -- when she took a bath in the basin for La Dolce Vita's signature moment: easily one of the most famous movie scenes of all time. Nowadays, of course, Miss Ekberg would have to box three rows of tourists out of her way before she could get within sniffing distance of the Trevi's waters.
For more movie references and the continuation of this walk -- featuring scenes from Eat Pray Love and L'Avventura, among others -- read on at easyhiker.co.uk.
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