When Woody Allen's movie To Rome With Love opens next Friday, the city will play a starring role in the ensemble comedy.
To Rome With Love is based on Boccaccio's Decameron, an ensemble story of characters linked by themes—and one iconic city. The all-star cast includes Oscar winners and nominees Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Ellen Page, Roberto Benigni, Jesse Eisenberg and Allen himself. (Eisenberg and Page are pictured at the Laghetto Villa Borghese.) In a statement, director and star Allen said that Rome is the perfect fusion of history and the present—a hub of extraordinary culture, art, and cuisine. “So much of the action and activity in Rome takes place outside, in its cafés and streets,” he said. “It’s an amazing city just to walk in. The city itself is a work of art.” He felt that it was a place too vast to be contained in a single plot. “I felt the city of Rome lent itself to a number of diverse tales,” he explained. “It was pregnant with possibilities. If you stop a hundred Romans, they’ll tell you: ‘I’m from the city, I know it well and I could give you a million stories.’”
Those stories, of course, are being created every day, and old stories are being uncovered. The original Decameron examined life in 14th century Rome, and in September, a church that was already ancient when Boccaccio's masterpiece was written will reopen to the public for the first time in 30 years. The New York Times is reporting that the ancient church of Santa Maria Antiqua is scheduled to reopen for tour groups by invitation, and the public is scheduled to be allowed in next year. Analysis and conservation, which has been ongoing since 2001, are nearly complete. The portraits of saints, surrounded by images of date trees and improbable fringed curtains, will remain partly unrestored and noticeably eroded. The church was adapted in the sixth century from first-century rooms that might have been the entryway to a palace.
Heather Christopher of Classic Travel thinks that the movie will "increase people's need" to visit Rome. "[Movies] always encourage people," she says of films like Allen's. "They want to be there, too." While in Rome, Christopher recommends exploring some off-the-beaten-path activities like touring the city's catacombs. "It's something different from the Vatican and the Colosseum," she says. Another memorable activity can be participating in the weekly papal audience in St. Peter's Square every Wednesday. Tour operators like Travel Bound can help organize tickets, and visitors should show up at around 8:30 a.m. to get through security and find a good seat before the 10:30 start time. "It's not a mass," Christopher emphasizes, adding that whatever one's religion, hearing the Pope speak in person can be a very exciting and unique experience. "It's something people are not really aware of," she says, which is not necessarily a bad thing: The experience is decidedly intimate, and tickets can be booked fairly close in.
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Photo by Philippe Antonello (c) Gravier Productions, Inc., Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics