Take 1: Civitavecchia Once you’ve reached Civitavecchia, go straight to the Port. Here you’ll find a small trattoria overlooking the sea where Gassman and Trintignant ate their delicious fish soup in The Easy Life (Il sorpasso). While walking along the streets above the port, look out towards the sea, which slowly seems to expand. It may trigger off emotions similar to those portrayed by Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) and Michele (Massimo Trosisi), a father and son who talk about their approaches to life in What Time Is It? (Che ora è?) by Ettore Scola.
Take 2: Ladispoli
Leave Civitavecchia and go back onto the Via Aurelia road heading South to Ladispoli. This town has a special place in the history of film locations: just think, from 1936 to date, more than 30 films have been shot in this territory!
Go into Palo Laziale railway station, the best preserved on the Roma-Civitavecchia line: it is here where Vittorio De Sica shot the final scene of Umberto D., in which the little dog Flick saves the old professor from his dark suicide plans.
But Ladispoli has also lent its beaches and streets to the cinema: on these shores, Pietro Germi directed and starred in some scenes from A Man of Straw (L’uomo di paglia), and it was on the Via Aurelia, at Castello di Palo, where the two friends from The Easy Life take on board the old farmer with an unlit cigar in his mouth, who calmly asks: “Ma 'sta machina nun core?" (Doesn’t this car go any faster?)
At this point ask the way to Parco di Palo (Palo Park), the nineteenth century garden around Palo Castello, from Baldassarre to Ladislao Odescalchi with trees and plants from around the world, and pay it a visit. Seeing its luscious vegetation conjures up thoughts of the Garden of Eden. And you’d not be wrong because it was here that John Huston set the opening scenes with Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel in his film The Bible, produced by Dino De Laurentiis in 1964.
In fact, Ladispoli was used as a backdrop for films with a seaside setting from the 1960s onwards. Do you remember The Couples (Le coppie) with Alberto Sordi, L’imbranato starring Pippo Franco and Fun is Beautiful (Un sacco bello) by Carlo Verdone? All three were shot on the beaches in the centre of Ladispoli, which you are now walking along, smiling at the memory of the funny one-liners made by the three Roman comics.
Take 3: Fellini’s Fregene
This is the penultimate stop on this first outing. You’ll find it on the Via Aurelia, just before you reach Rome. And this is why it is the “in” beach for Romans and why it has always been a pleasant retreat for actors and directors, from Ava Gardner and Walter Chiari to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, whose passionate love stories were played out here. As soon as you’ve arrived in Fregene, the first thing you are almost duty-bound to do is pay tribute to Federico Fellini. The great director from the Romagna region not only shot some of his masterpieces here but also decided to build his summer house in this spot. To celebrate and remember this alliance, the Fregene Fellini Prize to promote Italian films by first-time directors was established in the year 2000, and the event now takes place every summer.
Just after the curve by San Giorgio castle at Maccarese, you will see a large cool pine forest. You can also walk through one of the most famous ‘Fellinian' locations, remembering Sordi in The White Sheik (Lo sceicco Bianco), Giulietta Masina in Juliet of the Spirits (Giulietta degli spiriti), and Mastroianni-Snaporaz from City of Women (La città delle donne). And once again it is Mastroianni who waves ‘ciao ciao' to a very young Valeria Ciangottini at the end of La Dolce Vita, shot on Passo Oscuro beach. Take in the view and think back over those scenes.
Take 4: Ostia
A little bit further down the coast you’ll come to Ostia, the final destination on your cinema tour. And there are plenty of films to choose from here. Wandering around the streets and beaches in this famous seaside town, you’ll be back in the company of Sordi, from An American in Rome (Un'americano a Roma) and The Taxi Driver (Il tassinaro). Or Fellini with his I vitelloni, Nights of Cabiria (Le notti di Cabiria) and Amarcord. And of course there’s Carlo Verdone with his best productions (Bianco rosso e Verdone, Borotalco, Compagni di scuola and A Chinese in a Coma / C'era un cinese in coma), along with the brothers Sergio and Franco Citti (two authentic “Ostians” who featured Rome’s Lido in the films Ostia, Beach House/Casotto and Due pezzi di pane). They were also responsible for introducing this area to their friend, the man who discovered them, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and he too shot here, namely Comizi d'amore, the segment La terra vista dalla luna from The Witches (Le streghe), and Hawks and Sparrows (Uccellacci e uccellini).
And Nanni Moretti pays homage to Pasolini in Vespa, the first chapter of his film Dear Diary (Caro Diario). At the end of his long pilgrimage around Rome, we hear the notes of Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert as Moretti’s scooter reaches the place in Ostia where the famous writer, poet and director was murdered.