Cinecittà Shows Off: At Rome’s Legendary Studios, Fellini’s “Dolce Vita” to HBO’s “Ancient” Rome

Costumes from Fellini films in the background, with pictures of previous movies in foreground, Cinecitta, Rome

Until Nov. 30, Cinecittà Studios — the former haunt of everyone from Federico Fellini to Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor to Roberto Rossellini — are open for visitors as part of the show "Cinecittà Si Mostra." 

I checked this out on the opening day for a story for Global Post, and the show is definitely cool. It's a neat chance to get a glimpse at the movie studio so legendary, it was called "Hollywood on the Tiber" — and that was the set for hundreds of movies, including Cleopatra, La Dolce Vita, War and Peace, Roman Holiday, Ben-Hur, and, more recently, Gangs of New York, Nine, Mission Impossible 3, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou… to name a few.

In one building, an exhibit has been set up that walks you through the making of a movie, from the costumes to set design to post-production.

Costumes from Cinecitta si MostraThe downside? It's in Italian, and not super-elaborate. The upside? The items that are included. The costumes: Elizabeth Taylor's gold gown and intricate wig as Cleopatra, Sean Connery's habit as a friar in The Name of the Rose, the papal vestments worn for this year's Cannes-destined film Habemus Papum (latter two, shown above). The accessories (below): Pilot's goggles from The English Patient, gladiator's armor from the HBO/BBC series Rome. The items from past sets, including the dolphin-shaped statue that marked the chariot laps in Ben-Hur and the throne from Cleopatra. And sketches of the set design for previous movies.

Accessories from past movies at Cinecitta si Mostra In the second building — the Palazzina Fellini, dedicated by the studios to the great director — more costumes (my favorites: the glittering white dress that Audrey Hepburn wore in the War and Peace posters, and the slinky velvet dress and fur stole donned by Anita Ekberg for La Dolce Vita, shown at top). More photographs. And, in the theater of the Palazzina, a film showing. (All, however, in Italian).

The pièce de résistance of the exhibit, though, is the chance to peek at the sets themselves. A black Mercedes van scoops you up (at least, it was a Mercedes on the opening day!) and takes you through a street designed for Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York before plopping you in what can be best described as a whacked-out version of ancient Rome, designed for the television series (below).

Here's a Rome where, true to historical authenticity, the temples were colorfully painted, graffiti splotched monuments, and tenement buildings ran several stories tall. Here, too, is a Rome where those buildings are fiberglass, the other side of a major temple is the city wall, and behind graffiti-splotched walls are… nothing. Ah, the tricks of the movie business.

The "Suburra" from the film set for Rome at Cinecitta studios Part of the "forum" of the film set for Rome, Cinecitta The "Via Sacra" on set from Cinecitta Si Mostra

All in all, the show didn't have quite as much to offer as I thought, in terms of sheer exhibit space and items (although the items that were shown, like the costumes, were pretty cool). The Italian-only signs and movies might be frustrating for English speakers. And even the set of ancient Rome could be a little disappointing: They say the set is 4 acres, but the part you're actually allowed to explore seems to be much smaller.

Still, if you're a movie buff or simply looking to do something a little different (or to walk through a version of ancient Rome, no matter how whacky it is), this is the place to come.

The Cinecittà Si Mostra exhibit runs until Nov. 30. Tickets cost €10; the studios, and exhibit entrance, are right at the Cinecittà metro stop (about a 25-minute ride from Termini). The exhibit is open daily from 10:30am-7:30pm, except Tuesdays (making it a good option on Monday, when all the other museums are closed!). And here's my Global Post article, for more on Cinecittà and on Rome's film industry.

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1 comment

  1. Another reason to return to Rome! Wouldn’t mind spending a lazy afternoon searching for Marcello Mastroianni’s sunglasses from 8 1/2. Hope this exhibit continues.

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