Scenes and Secrets from La Grande Bellezza

If you’ve read Kylie’s account of the latest cinematic tribute to Rome by director Paolo Sorrentino in A Life Romantic, or if you’ve seen the film yourself, you may be curious to check out all these evocative locations chosen to exemplify the grand beauty of the city. This is a trail through Rome for the art lover, the romantic or those who simply wish to see what Italians choose to show off in film when depicting Rome as it exists today.

Terme di Caracalla

Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 52
Metro Circo Massimo
Open every day 9.30pm-6.30pm,  Mondays 9am-1pm
Entry fee €7, valid for 7 days for the Terme di Caracalla, Villa dei Quintili,and the Mausoleo di Cecilia Metella

Sorrentino chose these ancient thermal baths as the setting in which to plop a giant giraffe and film one of the movie’s most poignant moments – “è solo un trucco”, and the giraffe (and one of the Gep’s only real friends) disappears, leaving Gep alone to rekindle his innocence.

Named after the Roman emperor who had them opened during his reign, the ruins are truly worth taking a stroll through – and I really mean a stroll, because these rovine are impressive in size. Not just a place to get a good scrub, the baths were a social meeting point for ancient Romans and had gyms, gardens, and libraries, creating something of a maze. Today, the majestic Terme reverberate with music from the concerts that take place within the walls, and if you go during the summer months, don’t miss out one of the shows put on by the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, who move all of their shows here once the weather heats up.

 

Parco degli Acquedotti

Via Lemonia, 256
Metro Lucio Sestio, Giulio Agricola, or Subaugusta
The park has several entrances along Via Lemonia

 

This large park, part of the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica, gets to be the setting for one of the movie’s more humorous scenes, where Gep attends a performance by a – oh we can say it – crazy lady. The immense aqueducts, the park’s main feature, are a testament to the Roman Empire’s engineering skills and ingenuity, and also make for great shade on a hot day when you want to say you stopped for a picnic in the shadow of ancient Rome. The park is also dotted with ruins and tombs, making it a great place for an exploratory bike ride. Don’t miss out on seeing the Villa delle Vignacce, the ruins of an ancient luxurious villa. 

San Pietro in Montorio

san-pietro-montorio-©-Donatello- Trisolino
Piazza di San Pietro in Montorio, 2
Bus 115

Church: Open every day 8.30am-12pm, Monday-Friday 3pm-4pm
Tempietto: 9.30am-12.30pm and 2pm-4pm, closed Sunday and Monday

The main character Gep steps into the exquisite ‘little temple’, il Tempietto, and peers down at a little girl hiding. Her voice promptly informs him that he is nessuno, unveiling a truth that Gep may have been reaching for (and fearing deeply) himself – bringing him close to tears and rendering him speechless. 

One of the city’s best-kept secrets, the San Pietro in Montorio Church is stunning in its own right, flaunting notorious artwork, frescoes, and a chapel designed by Bernini himself (what? beautiful art in Rome, you say?). The location is best known, however, for the gorgeous Tempietto tucked away in the courtyard, designed by Donato Bramante.

If high Renaissance Italian architecture doesn’t tickle your fancy, go just for the sake of saying you’ve been to the spot where it used to be argued St. Peter was crucified. And, as always, the top of the Gianicolo hill is a fantastic place to look out over the city.

 

Villa Medici

Viale Trinità dei Monti, 1
Metro Spagna, Bus 117, 119
Open Tue-Sun 10.30am–12.30pm, 2pm–5.30pm, closed Mondays
Entry fee €7/9

 

Stunning though it is in the daytime, Sorrentino steps it up a notch by sneaking his characters into the gardens of Villa Medici in the middle of the night and having them take pictures among the suggestive group of Niobidi statues. Also home to the French Academy in Rome, Villa Medici puts its beautiful grounds to good use by hosting cultural and musical events and offering guided tours of their gardens. The view from up here makes you feel like you can truly see the whole world, or at the very least, a beautiful slice of the Roman world.

 

Palazzo Barberini – Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica

Via delle Quattro Fontane, 13
Metro Barberini
Open Tuesday- Sunday 8:30am – 7pm, closed Mondays
Entry fee €7

 

A secret nighttime stroll of the only-in-Rome variety, the jingle of keys, flashes of some of Rome’s most beautiful paintings and statues, and the scene turns to Raffaello’s masterpiece, ‘La Fornarina’, known as ‘The Portrait of a Young Woman’. The scene pauses on the girl’s bemused (dare I say cheeky?) expression for a moment, and then our characters are off again, and we’re watching Sabrina Ferilli glide down the hallway wearing what looks suspiciously like a cloak.

Bearing the Barberini name, the beautiful palazzo is worthy of mention in its own right, and not just because it houses one of Italy’s greatest collections of art – no small feat, considering the country! It’s a majestic setting for the national gallery, which boasts a stunning array of pieces from several centuries, and also includes some of the works of Caravaggio.

 

Lungotevere

Sorrentino uses the embankments along Rome’s languid Tevere River as the setting for Jep’s realization that he spent most of his life in Rome so focused on the petty power of ruling the mundane that he may have come out the other end hollow. Literally meaning ‘along the Tevere’, the embankments were originally built to keep the river from overflowing but today host runners, painters looking for a good view, and of course, the amazing Estate Romana, or Roman Summer: the Lungotevere transforms into something of a festival during the warm nights of the summer, filled with markets, music, food, and open-air clubs.

Written By

Growing up bouncing back and forth between Rome and California, Flavia eventually moved back to the Eternal City to finish college and then decided she liked gelato too much to move away again. Today she splits her time between writing for YoungInRome.com, working for an international organization, traveling, and wandering around her beloved Roma in constant search of bookstores and the perfect espresso.

5 Comments

  • hello,
    I just saw the movie, could you please tell me about the building when jep is wearing a yellow jacket and sits in a modern marble bench while ramona is trying dresses? it looks like from the 1930’s.
    thank you in advance!!!

    federico,
    new york city

  • Hi,
    After seing the film i was looking for the website where i could find the location of the set. I is great that i found you site thank you for that!
    However I still have some questions, mayby you could help me:
    -Where the film was set inthe scene when Jeb is shown tousands of day-by-day pictures of the young man.
    -Where the film was set in the scene when the Collonys are back from the meeting at Jeb with Santa Maria?
    I would appreciate if you could help with that. Thank you in advance.
    Krzysztof, Racibórz, Poland

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