From its worn cobblestone streets to its centuries of architectural history, Rome, Italy is the ideal backdrop for more than just vacation photos. If you want to be swept away by the Italian capital’s romantic charm—or maybe just channel your inner Audrey Hepburn—visit the landmarks in Rome that make appearances in these (arguably) classic films.
1. The Mouth of Truth at La Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin
When Joe and Princess Ann visit the Mouth of Truth in Roman Holiday (1953), they hear about its mysterious legend: whenever a liar puts his or her hand in the mouth, it snaps shut and traps the hand inside. Gregory Peck improvised a prank during filming, pretending to lose his hand to the vicious mouth. Audrey Hepburn’s genuine shrieks create one of the most endearing and memorable scenes in the movie.
The mouth is at the entrance of the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin, a church by the banks of the Tiber River. Few people in the consistently long queue are actually waiting to enter the church. Instead, they’re waiting for their photo-op with their hand resting inside the mouth. We have yet to hear of any actual limb loss, but perhaps the line is worth it to test it out yourself.
2. The Aventine Hill
This quiet, luxurious neighborhood is the main setting for this year’s winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film—La Grande Bellezza (2013). Jep, the movie’s protagonist, wanders the streets of Rome as he contemplates his life of luxury and former fame. Aventine Hill’s elite atmosphere underlines his lack of fulfillment and the overwhelming materialism of his world. This neighborhood is a five-minute walk from the Circus Maximus, but its altitude seems to remove it from the chaos of the city. You can relax in the Municipal Rose Garden or enjoy the panoramic view from the Orange Garden. Peer through the keyhole in the gate of the Knights of Malta headquarters for one of the most unique and memorable views of the city.
3. Palazzo Federici on Viale XXI Aprile
In a city famous for so many eras of architecture, from ancient times to the Renaissance, the more modern constructions are often forgotten. Una Giornata Particolare (1977), starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, takes place on the day that Adolf Hitler visited Benito Mussolini in Rome. The two protagonists are lonely and stifled by the fascist regime, the values of which are echoed in the modernist architecture of the Palazzo Federici. The building, where Loren and Mastroanni’s characters live, is imposingly large and orderly. It offers a different and important view of Rome and Roman history. The Palazzo (apartment building) is located on Viale XXI Aprile, which is in the residential Nomentano district of Rome. This quieter neighborhood is a great place to interact with locals as you enjoy the green parks or shop at Piazza Bologna.
4. The Trevi Fountain
Last on our list, but certainly not least, is the famous Trevi Fountain, one of the most iconic movie landmarks in Rome. Tourists flock here to toss in their coins and wishes, and the impressive fountain is certainly a must-see in Rome. In perhaps the most famous scene set in Rome, Marcello follows Sylvia as she wades into the fountain in La Dolce Vita (1960). The quiet and seductive scene is very different from the crowded Trevi Fountain of the daylight and suggests one of the best ways to see the fountain—under the stars with a bottle of wine.
This famous fountain gets an extra movie mention because we can’t forget one of the most brilliant cinematic experiences of this century—The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003). Lizzie’s adventures into pop-stardom and with Italian romance all begin when she tosses that fateful euro into the fountain. If there is even the slightest chance that you’ll have Lizzie’s luck and an Italian pop star will lower his sunglasses in your direction, the Trevi Fountain is more than worth a visit.