Film Set Cities: Rome

Ahlan! tours the world's top movie locations - this time, we're in Italy's ancient capital
BySarah Hedley HymersMonday , 18 January 2016
Film Set Cities: Rome
Rome has provided an epic backdrop for directors from the beginning of cinema history. When Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck skipped up the city’s famous Spanish Stairs and whizzed around several more legendary landmarks on insanely cool Vespas in 1953’s Roman Holiday, everyone wanted to book a trip. And no one thought it possible to make the Trevi Fountain more beautiful, but then blonde bombshell Anita Ekberg splashed around in it in La Dolce Vita and the world was blown away. Since then, an entire catalogue of films have been shot here from The Godfather to Spectre. Here are some of our favourites starring Rome’s must-see attractions, including Vatican City, the Colosseum, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona... 
“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius… Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife, and I will have my have my vengeance in this life or the next.” This – the best line uttered in Russell Crowe’s career – was delivered in a scene set in Rome’s Colosseum. Picking up best film awards at the Oscars, BAFTAs and the Golden Globes, this must-see movie brings Ancient Rome to life. Today you can stand where the gladiators once stood and try to imagine the adrenalin-rush of being faced with imminent death and an audience at the same time. INFO: Daily guided three-hour tours cost Dhs220 and start at 2.30pm, see rome-museum. com for details

Where: VATICAN CITY In Angels & Demons, the second of Dan Brown’s novels to be brought to the big screen, the Pope dies and a nefarious organisation stashes a bomb somewhere in the Vatican, threatening to annihilate the cardinals meeting there to elect the papal successor. While the bomb is ticking, the killer targets individual cardinals for grotesque executions that hold hidden meanings that only American symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks) can decipher. The script is loaded with details about the centuries-old conflict between the church and the secret society known as the Illuminati (whose members included Galileo, Michelangelo and Bernini). Following the release of the film, several companies devised Angels & Demons tours. Sites visited include Santa Maria del Popolo, St Peter’s Square, Santa Maria della Vittoria, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Castel Sant’Angelo and “Il Passetto”, the secret passage connecting the Vatican to Castel Sant’Angelo. INFO: Angels & Demons Tours cost from Dhs220,

The Piazza Navona was originally frequented by ancient Romans who went there to watch athletic games and chariot races. Today it’s a tourist magnet, hosting theatre performances, Christmas markets and three photo-worthy Baroque fountains, including Bernini’s famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, the Fountain of the Four Rivers.    It also featured in The Talented My Ripley, an Oscarwinning psychological thriller that cavorts through Italy as Matt Damon gives one of his most critically acclaimed performances as Tom Ripley. Born without a silver spoon, the talented but amoral Ripley works his way into the confidences of Dickie (Jude Law) and Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow), a rich couple using the Mediterranean as their playground. After killing Dickie, Tom impersonates him and introduces himself to wealthy heiress Meredith (Cate Blanchett). When he later bumps into her while walking through Rome’s Piazza Navona he delivers one of the movie’s most pivotal lines: “I’ve never been happier. I feel like I’ve been handed a new life.”
Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) spends the ‘Eat’ portion of this movie, based on the memoir of the same name, in Rome and Naples. Liz runs away from her supposedly perfect life in the States to eat pizza, pasta and gelato until her jeans no longer fit, before going on to an Indian ashram and then to Bali, learning to pray and love again in the process. We kinda lost interest after the gelato part, but nothing will whet your appetite for Italian food like this film does. You’ll also see Julia marvelling at the beauty of Rome beyond her plate, purveying sites including the popular Piazza Navona, the Colosseum and the Pantheon. The Pantheon is the most complete Roman structure on earth, having survived 20 centuries of plunder and pillage. Today it contains the tombs of several Italian Kings and the giant dome that dominates the interior is more than 43 metres in diameter. Definitely worth getting your selfie stick out for. INFO: The Pantheon is free to visit, open 8.30am7.30pm Mon-Sat, 9am-6pm Sun
There’s no better panoramic view of Rome’s impressive landscape than from the Rome Cavalieri. The sights inside are pretty impressive too, with an iPad-guided art tour of the hotel’s private collection, which includes pieces from Any Warhol’s dollar bill series in the Penthouse suite. To give you an idea of the value or this series, Warhol’s silk-screen painting 200 One Dollar Bills commanded $43.7 million at Sotheby’s in 2009! Due to housing so many riches, the hotel’s security is top level. This in turn attracts VIPs from political figures to film stars. Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise have all stayed here.
Another treasure at this luxury Waldorf Astoria hotel is three-Michelinstarred restaurant La Pergola, headed up by the fabulous Heinz Beck. This dedicated culinary guru rarely leaves the kitchen and each delicious dish is overseen by his exacting eye. It would be a crime to come to Rome and not sample his creations, from the soya-poached fillet of beef with garlic dandelion and wasabi purée (€55) to the pigeon with mushrooms, black salsify and cocoa (€57). There’s a well-stocked cellar (we’re talking over 60,000 bottles of your finest grape) and even a water menu with 29 varieties to choose from! Decisions, decisions...! There simply is no finer restaurant in the whole of food-obsessed Rome. A summer evening spent on a candlelit terrace here overlooking the shimmering Eternal City is certainly the place where wedding proposals are meant to happen.
Around the grounds, you can frolic in the manicured, sculpturedecorated gardens, enjoy a tipple by the pristine al fresco pool – a godsend in Rome’s roasting summers – and check into the Grand Spa for some pampering with exclusive Swiss La Prairie products. This deluxe retreats has a Turkish bath with hot and cold plunge pools, four swimming pools (one with a gorgeous grand open fire to warm up by), hydro massage and whirlpools, and a gym with adjoining Pilates and Yoga rooms. Outdoors there are two tennis courts and a fitness circuit, too. The rooms take guests back to the Golden Age of travel with gilt-framed oil paintings, antique-style accessories, spacious balconies and baths in Roman travertine marble with Tuscan Soul toiletries by Salvatore Ferragamo. INFO: Room cost from Dhs885 per night, Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Via Alberto Cadlolo 101, 00136 Rome, Italy, +39 06 35091, 
GETTING THERE: Emirates flies direct from Dhs2,755,
CURRENCY: Euro. €1 = Dhs4
TIME: The UAE is three hours ahead of Italy

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