Living in a city like Rome is exciting for so many reasons. For some of us, it was always a magical place, rich with history and culture, that we had only seen in the movies and dreamed of one day visiting. Whatever the Eternal City was to you in the past, when you chose to study at John Cabot University, it became your new home… and the excitement of seeing your home in a famous movie never wears off! The list of films set in Rome is extensive, but here are a few of my favorites to start with.
Five iconic movies set in Rome that every JCU student should watch:
1. La Grande Bellezza (2013)
La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty, in English) is a 2013 film directed by Paolo Sorrentino, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film that year. Follow Jep Gambardella’s journey through Rome after his 65th birthday party, as he searches for meaning in life. The film is dramatic, chaotic, and a little absurd, but it depicts the beautiful and unique quirks of the city that we have come to know and love. It is filmed from an insider’s perspective, and it shows a side of Rome that is not often depicted in movies. While it seems a little crazy, it also feels so real. The opening scene is set at the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola on the Gianicolo Hill, a place that every JCU student will recognize. A few other places in the movie to look out for are the Aventine keyhole, the Lungotevere, and Piazza Navona.
2. Roman Holiday (1953)
Roman Holiday is definitely the most iconic film set in Rome. Today, you will find calendars, postcards, magnets, and more at every souvenir shop in Rome. Most will depict famous scenes from the movie such as Audrey Hepburn driving Gregory Peck’s Vespa, or the couple at the Spanish Steps. This movie is not only a classic, it is absolutely timeless. Watching it will make you fall in love with Rome all over again. As a John Cabot student, it is so fun to watch a movie filmed over 60 years ago, and still recognize streets, shops, and cultural nuances that still exist today.
3. The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003)
Obviously The Lizzie McGuire Movie is a little less sophisticated than Roman Holiday, but it is a teen classic–one that much of our generation grew up with. A high school graduate takes a school trip to the Eternal City, and gets to live out her dreams when she is mistaken for an Italian pop star. While some details of the movie are pretty far-fetched–such as Lizzie performing inside the Colosseum–it is still so fun to go back and re-watch a childhood classic. It also emphasizes the importance of making a wish at the Trevi Fountain–something that every JCU student knows well!
4. Spectre (2015)
If you’re looking for something with a little more action, you should definitely watch Spectre. It is the 24th movie in the James Bond series, and full of excitement. The movie starts out in Mexico City, but Bond later goes to Rome, where he meets Monica Bellucci’s character and attends a secret meeting. It’s so fun to see Rome in a different light and genre. Instead of the film focusing on the cinematic beauty of Rome’s sights, it uses the Eternal City as a backdrop to the story and drama. Make sure to keep an eye out for the famous car chase scene along the Tiber river!
5. La Dolce Vita (1960)
La Dolce Vita is an Italian classic directed by Federico Fellini that every JCU student should watch. This film is quite bizarre and artistic. It does not have one linear plot, but rather is broken up into about seven different episodes, representing seven days and nights. It depicts a completely different side of Rome than the typical “Hollywood” portrayal. The film has been the subject of endless interpretations and analyses by scholars and film buffs, but it has remained iconic, and one of the most famous movies set in The Eternal City.