It’s hard when thinking about Federico Fellini in terms of location to move away from the legendary Studio 5 at Cinecittà, given his marked preference for the soundstage and the sets that were built inside. Yet, a careful analysis of the filmography of the maestro from Rimini reveals a surprising quantity of places, in Rome and Lazio particularly, where Fellini used streets, squares and buildings as the backgrounds of his scenes, even if they were not always there to play themselves. This distance between reality and fiction that intertwines perfectly with Fellini’s filmic philosophy appears very clearly in works like I Vitelloni (1953) and Amarcord (1973), which, while both set in Rimini, were shot in locations nowhere near there.Print itinerary
In this case Ostia leads the way. It couldn’t be otherwise given the presence of a seashore shoreline that could really pass for that of Rimini. In I Vitelloni, for example, Sandra (Eleonora Ruffo) wins the Miss Sirena beauty pageant in a restaurant that is actually one of the most renowned beach clubs on the Roman shoreline, the Kursaal, a name that it kept for the film too. The structure, completed by architect Attilio Lapadula in 1950, had already been used at the time as a location for Mamma mia che impressione (De Sica 1951), as it would be again for Belle ma povere (Risi 1957), Caccia al marito(Girolami 1960) and many others. Similarly, the bar where the friends sit and bask in the sun, doing nothing, can be found in via Lucio Coilio, the road that connects via della Marina (a continuation of via del Mare which comes from Rome) to piazza Anco Marzio, the hub for all strolls in Ostia and today the centre of the pedestrian area. Just a few streets away, in via Ugolino Conti (Ostia), Fellini located the residence where Fausto (Franco Fabrizi) lives with his father and sister. Two more scenes in the film were shot a couple of hundred metres from this, the nerve centre of Ostia. Further north, on Lungomare Duca Degli Abruzzi, stands the hut where Fausto and Fellini’s alter ego Moraldo (Franco Interlenghi) hide the angel statue stolen from the shop of church artefacts where he worked, entrusting it to Justice (Silvio Bagolini). Instead to the south, Lungomare Lutazio Catulo was the location for the scene where the head comic Sergio Natali (Achille Majeroni), having illuded Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste) about possible future opportunities in the field of playwriting, invites him with deeply ambiguous intent to come to the beach.
Ostia Antica was also used often. The borgo which served as the setting for Amarcord, most of which was rebuilt in Cinecittà, is shown in a rural context with small, low houses with terracotta roofs, and in the foreground, a long washing line with white sheets drying in the sun. This is the famous Piazza della Rocca, heart of the small medieval borgo of Ostia Antica, in a frame that, for obvious reasons, has been stripped of its most recognisable elements such as the Basilica di Sant’Aurea (where St. Monica, mother of St. Agostino was buried in the 5th century); the Castle of Julius II that the della Rovere pope inherited from Giuliano de’ Medici; the Episcopiobehind the church renowned for its large drawing room with 15th century monochrome frescoes inspired by Trajan’s Column and attributed to Baldassarre Peruzzi and Jacopo Ripanda. It seems equally incredible watching the film to imagine that another of its most famous scenes was shot at less than 3 km distance: when the character played by Ciccio Ingrassia climbs into a tree and shouts “voglio una donna (I want a woman)”. Here too the rural setting and, in particular, the dialect used by the actors suggests that this scene of Amarcord takes place in Emilia Romagna, while it was actually shot on via Capo due Rami, a stone’s throw from the River Tiber and the archaeological park of Ostia Antica where the farmhouse, haybarn and famous tree from that sequence can still be seen. Furthermore, in I Vitelloni, Fausto (Franco Fabrizi) cycles down the-then unpaved via Gherardo between this location and the Castle of Julius II looking for a missing wife.
Again in I Vitelloni, some of the scenes inland were actually shot in Viterbo and Rome. The main city of the Tuscia area is identifiable from glimpses of the fountain in Piazza delle Erbein the opening scene, then Piazza della Rocca, Viale Trieste, the train station in viale Trento, Prato Giardino and Porta Fiorentina in Piazza Gramsci among others. In Rome, two sequences in the film were shot at the enormous institutional Complex of San Michele in Trastevere, near the ancient Port of Ripa Grande, today headquarters for MiBACT (the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism) and between the 1600-1700s variously a prison for minors, a hospice and an orphanage. In the first, one of the great doorways on via di San Michele was used as the entrance to the building where Alberto (Alberto Sordi) lives with his mother and sister Olga, in the second, Olga’s workplace is set inside the great courtyard. The Franciscan convent of St. Bonaventure on the Palatine Hillprovided a similar location. It was here, not in Rimini, that Fausto and Moraldo attempt to sell the afore-mentioned angel statue to a nun. Fellini was particularly fond of the place and used the external façade of the 17th century convent commissioned by Cardinal Francesco Barberini (1675) again in Toby Dammit, part of the ‘omnibus’ film inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, Spirits of the Dead (Tre passi nel delirio, 1968). Fausto, perhaps the most emblematic of the “vitelloni”, follows a beautiful woman through the streets of Rome in the Appio-Claudio neighbourhood, just behind Piazza Re di Roma: meeting her in the Orione theatre, the parish hall adjacent to the Church of Don Orione which today exists as a simple theatre in via Tortona 3, he follows her to the door of her home in via Susa. Even Cinecittà has on occasions pretended to be Rimini: in Amarcord, for example, Rimini’s train station was reproduced by shooting outwards from the entrance to the Studios on via Tuscolana, which for the occasion was draped in “tricolore” flags with the Savoy crest and black flags with the fasces to welcome a high ranking official of the Fascist regime with all due pomp.
All that’s left is to end with a true Felliniesque location, one that symbolises a new height of entertainment for the viewer. The structure of the Grand Hotel Rimini in Amarcord was modelled on the Art Deco ex-Casinò Paradiso sul Mare on the Anzioshore, designed by Cesare Bazzani (1919-1924). The building was never used as a casino because of the laws in Italy that prohibited gambling, but was also an essential location in Polvere di stelle (Sordi 1973) and is today mostly used for temporary exhibitions. Once again, Fellini and his films gently trick us and in this continual play of suspension of disbelief it is fun to imagine being the target of that resounding raspberry that Alberto aims at the workers in I Vitelloni… and, on that note, this sequence too was shot in Rome in via della Magliana, part of the Grande Raccordo Anulare that was still under construction at the time!