When in Rome … La Dolce Vita

3 December 2023

Doug said we couldn’t visit Rome without paying homage to Frederico Fellini. Besides, he said, there was a (very tenuous) connection with Katherine Mansfield, who occasionally worked as a film extra in London. Clearly, had she lived into the 1950s and ’60s, we may have seen her in a Fellini film. So, after securing our ultra-cheap flights for a four day side trip to Rome, we watched Fellini’s films Roma, and of course La Dolce Vita to get us in the right frame of mind.  

No sooner had we checked into our apartment when Doug grabbed me by the arm and took me on my first Fellini mystery walk. Negotiating the busy streets in the dark, we turned a corner to a stunning view of the Colosseum, reminiscent of the motorcycle scene in Roma. Across the road from the Colosseum, we sat and ate pizza as thunder, lightning and rain enveloped the scene. Had Doug wheeled in a rain machine for extra dramatic effect? Nope, this was just Rome being Rome.

The following morning we followed in the footsteps of Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita, and climbed the Dome at St Peter’s Basilica. These days it’s no longer possible to spiral upwards past the whole series of round windows, but we did pass one on our journey skywards. At the top I was allowed a wee breather while we took in the stunning view.

Time for my next Fellini mystery walk. After a few kilometres we arrived outside a house in Via Margutta. I was a bit bewildered until I looked up and saw a plaque beside the door commemorating the house where Fellini and his wife, actress Giulietta Masina, lived. During our lunch at Il Margutta next door, we found a family cookbook written by Fellini’s sister, actress Maria Maddalena Fellini.

After dinner on our second night, we walked to the Trevi Fountain where, in the famous La Dolce Vita scene, Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni cavorted. When Mastroianni died in 1996 the fountain was turned off and draped in black crepe; when Ekberg died in 2015 it was hung with a banner reading “Ciao Anita”.

The next day we walked up Via Veneto to Porta Pinciana, the gate in Rome’s Aurelian Walls where Via Veneto enters the Villa Borghèse. The circular paved area under part of the gate is named Largo Federico Fellini.

Through the gate and into the Villa Borghèse, where we encountered a statue of Byron amongst the magnificent forest of Stone Pines.

And then, from the Stone Pines to the Spanish Steps (also featured in the motorcycle scene in Roma) and the Keats-Shelley House.

A full circle in Rome. As Marcello put it in La Dolce Vita, ‘Personally, I like Rome very much …

More about Sue Wootton