Maestro Fellini knew how to articulate the essence of the Eternal City and its unforgettable settings, eschewing the most famous of its sights to amuse himself by mixing it up, he populated the city with characters, in equal parts unlikely and real, dreamlike and robust, positioning them in locations that are always unexpected. It may be thanks to Fellini and his distinct way of story-telling, it may be that so many directors followed in his lead, however this came about, there are faces, and the places they walked, that still seem familiar to us today… decades later.Print itinerary
It was Fellini’s work that crystalized via Veneto for posterity as the heart of Roman society life in the early 1960s. The unforgettable Marcello (Mastroianni), a cynical paparazzo journalist whose ambition is to become a writer, lives by night, running with the Roman ‘in’ crowd of nobles and wealthy (all of whom are constantly being photographed), and shows us La Dolce Vita (1960) the parties, the fashionable places and the strange rituals of bored people while he inevitably becomes a part of it. It wasn’t just celebrities who would cross the famous road and throng the fashionable restaurants.
One night, Cabiria (Giulietta Masina), disappointed by yet another empty love affair which she had duped herself into believing was happiness, decides to leave the usual gathering place for prostitutes of her station and has herself taken to via Veneto. There she is picked up by the film star Alberto Lazzari, out of sorts following an argument with his lover. The illusion of belonging to a world that isn’t hers lasts just the time for a drink in a bar for the rich.
Marcello the reporter is accompanying Sylvia (Anita Ekberg), an exuberant film star, around the Eternal City. At a nightclub in the Terme di Caracalla, she strikes out in a frenzied dance. La Dolce Vita in Rome is studded with exclusive places where bored celebrities hide out, concealing their vices and conceding titbits to common mortals through the photo pages of the tabloids. These characters share many similarities with those who populate the so-called “archaeological route” in Nights of Cabiria (Le notti di Cabiria, 1957) where Fellini transforms the area that would be filled with stars in La Dolce Vita into the gathering place for the prostitutes of Rome. In so doing, the director succeeds in placing characters from two extremely different social backgrounds in the same place, creating a demi-monde which, one way and the other, (after all, how much difference is there?) animates the Roman nights.
Fellini loved places like a film set that gave him a feeling of impermanence and continual renewal and, in Rome, he found the neighbourhood of Eur to be the best representative of this sensation. In La Dolce Vita, the Palazzo dei Congressi seen from viale della Letteratura becomes a hospital. Steiner clearly lives in the area because the unmistakeable outline of the “Fungo” can be seen from the writer’s living room balcony.
However, the Rationalist architecture of Eur is best displayed in Fellini’s episode of Boccaccio ‘70 - Le tentazioni del Dottor Antonio (1962). The film opens with several scenes that immortalize carefree moments: a photo shoot on the steps of the Basilica dei Santi Pietro e Paolo; bathers in pedal boats on the Eur lake; people relaxing near Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana; a woman sitting “provocatively” near the colonnade of the Museo delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari. This peace is disturbed by Anita Ekberg or, rather, by her image which is printed on an enormous poster looming over a field (today there is a building) that borders viale Shakespeare. This becomes a nightmare for Antonio (Peppino De Filippo) who sees it every day from the window of his home, only to find her materialize before him one ghostly night: in viale Civiltà Del Lavoro, with the well-lit arches of the square Colosseum providing the background.
The deep bond between the director and Fregene, the seaside village north of Rome, where he and his wife Giulietta Masina lived for several years in a villa that was demolished in 2006, was reflected in the decision to name the monumental pine forest after him. Here he shot the memorable scene in The White Sheikh (Lo Sceicco Bianco, 1952) where the naïve, young bride Wanda (Brunella Bovo) finally meets her idol (Alberto Sordi) as he swings between two huge tree trunks, over 30m from the ground.
In this pine forest, the director decided to place Marcello Mastroianni in cinema history, transforming him into the worldly reporter of La Dolce Vita whose final scenes were shot nearby on the beach of Passoscuro. The same place is later filled with grotesque characters and spirits who encourage Giulietta (Masina) to leave her unfaithful husband in Juliet of the Spirits (Giulietta degli Spiriti, 1965). In the dreamlike City of Women (La città delle donne, 1980), the pine forest provided the location for, the station where Marcello Snàporaz (Mastroianni) decides to leave the train and follow a woman, only to later be imprisoned.