European way of life

10 movies to discover Rome

The wealth and diversity of Italian cinema is well-known and has earned it a prominent place in the 7th art Pantheon. Funny, moving or outraged, Italian cinema gave the era its biggest icons. But Sofia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, Anna Magnani, Valeria Golino or Jasmine Trinca all have a serious rival: Rome. A little tour of the Italian capital on the reel…


  Roman Holidays, by William Wyler (1953), starring Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck…

It’s all in the title. The charming tale of a young princess, Ann, who, fed up with the etiquette, decides to run away incognito in the streets of Rome. She meets a wisecracking young reporter and they both get away, roaming the Italian capital.

If you’re passing through the via Margutta, stop at number 51 for a small pilgrimage on the shooting spot. It’s the address of Joe Bradley, the reporter played by Gregory Peck, just next to Fellini’s house.

La Dolce Vita, Fellini, 1960

  La Dolce Vita, by Federico Fellini (1960) with Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimé…

The ultimate masterpiece. One of the most wonderful troves of the 7th art, timeless and mystical. The narrative may seem somewhat incoherent, but it is in the purest style of Italian anthology comedies. It focuses on the life of Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni), a jaded editor for a tabloid, who hangs around cafés and nightclubs, aristocratic castles and hype villas, depending on what comes up among his worldly accointances. Then he meets the inspiring Sylvia (Anita Ekberg) and it’s the legendary scene in the Trevi fountain. Every viewing rekindles our flame for Italian cinema and gives us a deeper understanding of human complexity.

A stop at the Trevi fountain, covered in black veils at Mastroianni’s death in 1996, is in order, as well as at the via Veneto, even though it is not the trendy avenue it used to be in 1960s.


  The Great Beauty, by Paolo Sorrentino (2013) starring Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli…

A delirious trip in today’s Rome, through the eyes of Jep Gambardella, the jaded writer of a single-hit book, a 60-year-old pathological philanderer going through an existential crisis. Jep is one of these older, self-doubting male characters whose moving attempts at denying the passing of time. Italian cinema alone is so good at rendering. Jep’s character obviously echoes Marcelllo’s in La Dolce Vita and Sorrentino’s movie as a whole is an homage to Fellini and to Italy’s great filmmakers. Try to spot the references… The Great Beauty will content the cinephiles and charm the neophyte.

« Le vedi queste persone ? Questa fauna ? Questa è la mia vita. E non è niente.

Do you see these people? This set here? It’s my life. And it’s no small feat. »

Jep Gambardella.


  The Salt Of Life, by Gianni di Gregorio (2010), starring Gianni di Gregorio, Valeria di Franciscis, Alfonso Santangata…

Gianni is sixty-six, and his life is virtually one of domestic slavery. Devoted to point of self-denial, Gianni is at the service of each and every woman around him: his wife, who leads an active life and sleeps in another bedroom, his daughter, who lets her idle boyfriend get shamelessly settled in the family house, his bourgeois mother, a spendthrift who lives beyond her means and doesn’t spare the champagne during her card-playing parties with her 90-year-old friends…

One day, his friend Alfonso enlightens him with this eye-opening truth: all men his age have a mistress. Gianni sets off on a quest for the right woman and a second youth: but it is a dangerous path!

Walk around the piazza Navona at dawn, like sleepy Gianni after a crazy night out

Gente di Rome, Ettore Scola, 2003

  Gente di Roma, by Ettore Scola (2003), starring Nanni Moretti, Stefania Sandrelli…

Half-documentary, half-fiction, Gente di Roma takes the viewer on a walk around the eternal city, among its everyday inhabitants. From street-cleaners to immigrants, a few tai chi moves on a crossroad, a fake centurion fight in front of the Colosseum, a few rows about football between waiters at the back of a restaurant, families, annoying families… Hop on this bus that goes around the various neighborhoods of a snapshot, off-the-wall Rome, shown with irony!

Rome, ville ouverte, Rossellini, 1945

  Rome, Open City, by Roberto Rossellini (1945), starring Anna Magnani, Aldo Fabrizi…

A classic masterpiece of the neo-realist era, about the struggles of a resistance network in the heavy air of the war-stricken eternal city, stifled by years of fascism. It is a harsh, fact-based movie. Pina, played by Magnani, is based on Teresa Gullace, who was publicly murdered by the Nazis while pregnant. It is considered by many to be the manifesto of Italian neo-realism and was made with a ridiculously low budget, along with the other films of Rosselini’s « war trilogy », Paisà and Germania anno zero. It won the Palme d’Or at the first Cannes festival in 1946.

Step in the Santa Maria dell’Orto church, in the very center of the Trastevere to dive in the legendary atmosphere of Rome, Open City.


  Mamma Roma, by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1962), starring Anna Magnani, Franco Citti…

Who else than Anna Magnani could play this strong woman, the ultimate Roman mother, in Pasolini’s controversial second movie? It is the story of Rome’s poor population during the Thirty Glorious years that is told through the intense Mamma Roma, a former prostitute who wants to start a new life for her beloved son, a street youth.

From the ancient ruins on the Via Appia to the modern buildings in the urban fringes of Rome, you can roam the decor of the movie around the markets on the Via Tuscolana, where Mamma Roma, as she works as a vendor, dreams of a better future for her son…

Romanzo criminale, Placido

  Romanzo criminale, by Michele Placido (2006), starring Kim Rossi Stuart, Anna Mouglalis, Riccardo Scarmacio, Stefano Accorsi, Jasmine Trinca…

A view of Italy during the years of lead. A gang of criminals and hoodlums attempts to conquer the eternal city and its drug, gambling and prostitution scene. This « criminal story », adapted from the eponymous novel by Giancarlo de Cataldo and inspired from the « Magliana gang », shows the outlaw epic misdeeds of the Lebanese, the Dandy and Freddo, a gang that ruled Rome for over 15 years, from 1977 to 1992.

« And what would you really want?

– Rome. »

The Lebanese


  Fellini Roma, by Federico Fellini (1972), starring Federico Fellini, Marcello Mastroianni, Anna Magnani…

Obviously. A collection of scene, again in the style of anthology films, whose main character is the eternal city itself, through the eyes of a Roman by adoption, whose love for this old mistress is as strong as on the first day : Fellini himself. Some legendary moments: the construction of the Rome subway system leads to the discovery of an untouched ancient villa, whose frescoes show the likeness between ancient and nowadays Romans, a completely crazy ecclesiastical fashion show, fascist-day brothels, modern highways and their famous traffic jams… Follow this great maestro of Italian cinema while he reminisces his youth and pays a vibrant homage to his 2000-years-old city.


  Dear Diary, by Nanni Moretti (1993), with Nanni Moretti, Jennifer Beals…

The first episode is a Vespa comedy lead by a crazy Nanni Moretti. You ride around Rome during the Roman summer (the “estate romana“) under the burning sun, while all the inhabitants have left town. Stop at a public dance, watch a movie in a bar, or go to the suburban parts of Rome, even to Ostia, where the episode ends on the beach where Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered and has now a memorial to his memory.

From Roman Holidays to Dear Diary, it’s always the same Rome and, yet, every street corner is different and unique

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