This six-day tour explores the various ways in which Rome has been immortalised on film. Through location visits, illustrated lectures and group discussions, explore the works of directors from across the globe and assess, compare and contrast their distinctive approaches to the Eternal City.
From the Colosseum to the EUR (Esposizione Universale Roma: the site chosen by Mussolini for the 1942 world’s fair, which never took place), Rome’s stupendous array of ancient and modern structures has left generations of filmmakers enthralled for well over a century. The city was home to Italy’s first motion picture production company in 1905, but came into its own as a filmmaking powerhouse in the post-WWI era, overtaking other production centres such as Naples and Turin. 1937 saw the founding of Cinecittà studios, which to this day remain the largest facility of this type in Europe, a veritable ‘dream factory’ that continues to welcome scores of film and TV productions. The studio is closely linked to the wild, wandering imagination of director Federico Fellini, who made Cinecittà’s Teatro 5 his cinematic home for more than 30 years. Fellini’s relationship with Cinecittà, and Rome more broadly, will be explored in detail.
The tour investigates Rome’s role in the development of Italian neorealist cinema in the 1940s, with a focus on Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948), which sought to highlight the hardships suffered by Romans during WWII and the immediate post-war years. The 1950s were the period of the Italian ‘economic miracle’ and new-found prosperity and confidence was boosted by the arrival of major Hollywood productions in the capital. This was the era of ‘Hollywood On The Tiber’, with the cream of Tinseltown arriving to savour the Roman dolce vita. One of several high-profile US productions to shoot in Rome was William Wyler’s Roman Holiday, a breakthrough for Audrey Hepburn who starred opposite Gregory Peck.
With Italian art cinema gaining international recognition in the 1960s, directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni turned to lesser-known, more modern areas of the city. The director’s 1962 work L’Eclisse features one of the most stunningly beguiling endings in film history, a scene in which the location – the area in and around the EUR – comes to the fore, refusing to be relegated to mere backdrop.
Across six days, this cinematic tour aims to enrich, enlighten and entertain, using a broad range of films and critical approaches to explore the colourful history of big screen Rome.
Fly at c. 10.45am (British Airways) from London Heathrow to Rome Fiumicino. Evening lecture on neorealist Rome: neorealismo is characterised by location shooting, mixing professional and non-professional actors and an interest in small-scale, human stories.
Morning screening of Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948), a seminal work of neorealism. Walk up Via Francesco Crispi, location of the eponymous theft, and continue to Piazza della Rotonda, home to the Pantheon (best preserved of all Roman monuments), which provides a backdrop for De Sica’s Umberto D (1952). On the theme of English-language movies filmed in Rome, the square is also the setting of the opening dinner party scene in The Belly of an Architect (Peter Greenaway, 1987); and the lively and wonderfully adorned Piazza Navona was the site of an incongruously chilling moment in The Talented Mr Ripley (Antony Minghella, 1999). Afternoon guided visit to Cinecittà, one of the largest film studios in Europe. Evening lecture: Americans in Rome.
The monumental Altare della Patria in Piazza Venezia, known locally as ‘the wedding cake’, was built in honour of Vittorio Emmanuele II. Greenaway was granted rare permission to film inside for Belly. The Bocca della Verità (‘Mouth of Truth’) is an ancient marble mask on the wall of the S.ta Maria in Cosmedin, used as a storytelling device in Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953) – screened in full today. Palazzo Colonna’s 17th-century Great Hall is surely one of the most magnificent secular rooms in Europe, and was the setting of the final scene. Also see the Colosseum and Roman Forum, both featured in countless films. Optional evening viewing of The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013).
Morning lecture on (Post)modern Rome. Visit locations from L’Eclisse (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1963) and The Great Beauty, including Il Fungo, a futuristic water tower in the EUR district (completed 1960), featured in L’Eclisse as a symbol of alienation. Lunch is in the restaurant here. The Baths of Caracalla, the best preserved of several such complexes, were the setting for one of The Great Beauty’s most poignant moments. The colourful Trastevere neighbourhood was favoured by many Italian directors: see S. Pietro in Montorio and the adjacent Fontana dell’Acqua Paola (The Great Beauty) and S.ta Maria in Trastevere (Roma, Federico Fellini, 1972), with stunning 12th-century mosaics.
Today’s lecture and visits are devoted to Fellini. Visit the Trevi Fountain, scene of Anita Ekberg’s iconic ballgown-clad midnight swim in La Dolce Vita (1961). Piazza di Spagna is featured in countless films, as is Piazza del Popolo. Piazza di Siena in the Borghese gardens appears in Fellini’s Roma; a walk here ends with a visit to the Galleria Borghese, Rome’s finest collection of painting and sculpture, and a screening of Roma in the gallery’s Casa del Cinema.
Morning visit to Palazzo Barberini, a great palace which became Rome’s National Gallery, where a night-time stroll in The Great Beauty focuses on Raphael’s masterpiece ‘La Fornarina’. Fly from Rome Fiumicino to London Heathrow, arriving c. 5.00pm.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £2,780 or £2,600 without flights. Single occupancy: £3,280 or £3,100 without flights.
Flights (Euro Traveller) with British Airways (Airbus 321); travel by private minibus; hotel accommodation; breakfasts; 1 lunch and 3 dinners with wine, water, coffee; all admissions; all tips for waiters, drivers and guides; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Hotel Bernini Bristol, Rome: 5-star hotel excellently located on the Piazza Barberini. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
The tour involves a lot of walking as the historic area is vast, and vehicular access is increasingly restricted. Minibuses are used on some occasions but otherwise the city is traversed on foot. A good level of fitness is essential. You will be on your feet for lengthy stretches of time. Average distance by minibus per day: 12 miles.
Are you fit enough to join the tour?
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCDO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting.