Many movies have been inspired and filmed in Rome including one of my favourites – Roman Holiday. When I was in Rome this past August, I made a point to visit a few locations used in the movie. Although it was not my first visit to Rome, it felt like it. I experienced this ancient city again from a different perspective – without a tour group and stopped off longer at these unique places. While I don’t recommend walking the streets at night after a couple of sleeping pills like Audrey Hepburn did in the movie, the city is worth a look day and night.
Fontana di Trevi
A memorable moment in the movie is when Audrey Hepburn, as the young princess, is found asleep on a fountain bench by Gregory Peck. During the day, especially in peak summer, the small fountain area gets crowded. So for the best time to visit go later in the evening to appreciate the beautiful fountain and the ambience without many people around.
When I was there in August the restoration work was still in progress to restore the fountain’s beauty. Yet it did not deter me from the beautiful design viewed through the glass partition. Built in the 17th century on the facade of the Palazzo Poli, the facade was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732. The scene is of Neptune’s chariot being pulled by mythical creatures. On closer inspection these mythical beings resemble seahorses, wild and free that depict the changing mood of the sea. Thus the centre of the fountain is dominated by the sea god Oceanus and on either side of him are the Goddess of Abundance and fertility, spilling water from an urn, and Goddess of Salubrity, who holds a cup for a snake to drink from..
People come to visit the fountain in Rome and follow the coin tossing tradition. It is said that by throwing a coin in fountain you will return to the Eternal City. However, looking into the legend deeper discovered that if you throw up to 3 coins over your left shoulder may mean that you marry or divorce your other half. Despite the restoration work, visitors can still toss their coins into a smaller version of the fountain that resembles a bird bath erected in the glass partition. I did this and amazingly the coin went in so I will be destined to return.
The restoration of the Fontana di Trevi has recently been completed and now provides visitors with a sparkling new fountain.
Piazza di Spagna
Of course, there will always be a million and one people cramming onto the Spanish Steps. The stairway is a thoroughfare for people to travel up to the Santissima Trinità dei Monti, a Roman Catholic late Renaissance titular church.
Take a moment to sit on the steps with a cold, creamy gelato like Audrey Hepburn and plan your day. The steps were designed by Francesco De Sanctis and built in 1752. In reality the steps are a popular meeting place for visitors since the 18th century. So it is not uncommon to see the steps full of people looking down at the small fountain of Barcaccia designed by Pietro Bernini in 1627. During the summer this fountain is crowded with children cooling off from the heat.
The Spanish Steps will be closed until mid 2016 to undergo restoration work to repair natural wear and tear and the lamps will also be restored to their original design. Interim access will be via a side stairway for public access..
Take a walk to the Piazza Venezia for a taste of one of the most architecturally beautiful buildings in the city. However, be careful when visiting this site as the square accommodates a high volume of traffic and crossing the road is at your own risk. This is because the piazza is situated in Rome’s heart on Via del Corso and Via del Foro Imperiali. The good news is that once in the Piazza it is only a short walk to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.
This gorgeous white, marble building is called Il Vittoriano and looks much like a typewriter from a distance. In fact it is a national Italian monument built in honour of Italy’s King first king, Victor Emmanuel II. Located next to Capitioline Hill, it was designed by renaissance architect Giuseppe Sacconi in 1885 and completed in 1925. It is here that you will find a tomb of Italy’s Unknown Soldier laid to rest beneath the statue of Goddess Roma.
The Roman Forum
The Colosseum and the Roman Forum look obviously smaller than in the movie, but they still have a powerful presence in the old part of Rome. Ride by on a moped for the Audrey experience and if you want to go inside it is recommended you buy a ticket beforehand as lining up in the hot August sun is not fun.
The Roman Forum can be viewed from the walkways above or by purchasing a ticket to go in for a closer look. The forum grounds are spread out across a wide area and you can be forgiven for being a little confused. The site includes temples, basilicas and open spaces originally built on the burial ground of Etruscan started its development in 7BC. The Roman Forum was known as the hub of the Roman empire where it was the centre of social, political and commercial life.
During the Middle Ages after the fall of the Roman empire, the site was used as farming land and known as Campo Vaccino which was excavated for its treasure of stone and marble. Excavations continued through the 18th and 19th centuries and today archaeological sites are still active. One such archaeological site is the Tempio di Giulio Cesare built by Augustus in 29BC on the Via Sacra is where the Emperor Julius Caesar was cremated.
These are just a few of the popular sites used in the movie Roman Holiday and even if you have seen them before it is interesting to see how much changes over time.
The re-visit of the places included in my favourite movie was a surreal experience. As we grow everything takes on a different perspective and we discover something new. I have always loved Audrey Hepburn so to visit and re-explore the places she did was great. The whole movie was filmed on location in Rome, and you can really see the differences as the city has evolved.