If a tourist wants to enter the path of the Roman Dolce Vita (Sweet Life), that is, of something that has swung between myth and reality, one can walk through Rome, looking for those images that remind us of Fellini’s film, of some pieces of other films, of some echoes of distant chronicles, or of its sensitivity and imagination.
One should do it in the evening, after dinner, in order to get in touch with a story that is never too far away. Nonetheless, one can also do it during the daytime and create its own theater of images. One could start from the Cinema House at Villa Borghese, with the hope of bumping into an exhibition or a show.
It would however be a good start considering that there is an absolute bond between the Dolce Vita and the cinema. Then, near there, towards Porta Pinciana, cross the Aurelian Walls, stopping for a little while to appreciate that piece of history that goes back to the Emperor Honorius, to the truth and legend of the Byzantine Belisario, to the interventions done to them between 800 and 900 without ever losing its original character.
From there, one will already be in Via Veneto – it is actually called Vittorio Veneto but nobody will call it that. One will find here a Dolce Vita real life theater, a comedy interpreted by thousands of extras, floating during the daytime between the shops and in the evenings, between the lights. It is not as ancient as it was built on a Villa owned by the Lodovisi Boncompagni during the eighties of the nineteenth century, when Rome had to expand and triggered a great construction speculation destined to generate one of the most important scandals of the young Italian life.
Centennial trees were disappearing to see the birth of a modern street and around it a whole neighborhood. Nonetheless, there is something left, which the tourist can still see, abandoning the idea of the Dolce Vita, while turning right on Via Lombardia. There one will be able to see the remains of the Villa, a 16th-century small palace, not exactly, as it was then, but substantially faithful to the spirit of the lost Villa, the depandance with the Aurora Room, the beautiful fresco by Guercino representing the wagon of the deity spreading flowers at sunrise, and other magnificent works.
Given that the purpose here is to penetrate into the Dolce Vita, one should go back to Via Veneto and think modern again. One will need to deal with traffic, but will be able to enjoy the shops’ windows, the dehors, the wide sidewalks and can sing a tune that inspires, from the notes of the soundtrack by Nino Rota, the composer of Fellini’s films, in the versions one might prefer.
The film is the tale of an era and it is best to search for it. Imagine the confused coming and goings of people at the tables of the cafes, the actors’ chats, as if they were waiting to take part in a scene, the madness of paparazzi with their camera flashes, and who are partly hated and party loved by the actors. Some movie lovers could pass from the Marcello Mastroianni-Rubini, to the loud parking man Totò dealing with his cousin Peppino who came from the countryside and is soon affected by the champagne bubbles and the brio of the table companions.
Nonetheless, it will always be the sparkling life of an unrepeatable season, beautiful perhaps as it is filtered by the use of black and white or perhaps beautiful because it is long gone. To complete the opera one can reach Piazza Barberini, head towards Via del Tritone and follow the directions for the Trevi Fountain. Here, as well, there is much cinema and so much life.
One can find the sellers of postcards, souvenirs and more. Most especially one can recall the memories tied to films, from Totò who wanted to sell the fountain, to Manfredi who, in the name of his love for Stefania Sandrelli, gets in a fight with a filmmaker in We All Loved Each Other So Much (C’eravamo tanto amati), to the most iconic image, of Anita Ekberg, from which we can say it all began.
A beautiful fountain, papal and baroque, a lush image of the Augustan Aqueduct, the urn of hope that a coin thrown behind one’s shoulders will bring one back to that wonderful place that is Rome. Anita-Silvia’s Bath’s Fountain, Anita is searching for milk for a cat in the middle of the night; Marcello, who has been sent to look for her, follows her.
Then, alone in the alleyways, with a cat in her head, she is marvelously struck by the fountain, and irresistibly called by the water, almost as if a divine creature, in the evening gown that Marcello needs to reach as if called by a magnet, somewhere between sensuality, the feeling of being lost and poetry. Thus, the tourist has now performed a tour of Rome, which is that of the soul and the memories of a time the film has set.
The tourist would have arrived to Rome, remembering what one could about the film; one will now want to go back to the film to remember Rome’s streets and squares.