The memories are never far from my grasp. It was late summer in 1996, my first morning in Rome in ten years. I stood between my son and daughter, then 10 and 14, each quietly taking in the exuberant activity by the Trevi Fountain. They loved the statues spitting water and the occasional visitor attempting to wade into the water only to be chased away by an ever-vigilant squad of municipal police. But what ran through my mind was the scene from Federico Fellini’s film masterpiece La Dolce Vita: Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni taking a midnight dip in the fountain’s cool waters. It was that cinematic moment that inspired my passionate affair with Rome.
I first saw that movie in New York City. I was alone, just barely in my teens, far removed from the glitter and spectacle and history of Rome. But by the time the final credits rolled and I eased out of a tight aisle for the long walk back to a cramped apartment I shared with my parents, I was ready to live life the Italian way.
I have never lost that desire.
I visit Italy often these days for business and family, but mainly to reconnect with the places I most cherish. Especially Rome. I walk the majestic curves of Via Vittorio Veneto and imagine what it was like in the heady 1960s when it was truly the beating heart of the Italian movie world. A time when directors Vittorio De Sica and Fellini, along with their fellow musketeers Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman and, of course, Sophia Loren, formed their own version of Sinatra’s Rat Pack and tossed a fresh coat of style on a city already knee deep in elegance and culture.
Down the years, I’ve written parts of a novel, sitting on a wooden bench, surrounded by the serene beauty of the Borghese Garden, where lovers, young and old, stroll quietly past. I have my favorite Roman meal—pasta with artichokes and baby squid in a thick red sauce—at Café Romano, a restaurant near the Spanish Steps that many a concierge will tell you is merely a bar. I’ve shopped at the Campo de’ Fiori, eaten my share of dinners in the middle of the always-crowded-but-never-rushed madness of Gioia Mia, and walked the steep hills and rocky terrain once trod by gladiators and emperors.
But my Roman voyage always begins and ends with a stop at the Trevi Fountain and a long stroll on the Via Vittorio Veneto, accompanied by the memories of La Dolce Vita, one very special movie that long ago taught an impressionable young boy how very easy it is to fall in love with a city.
LORENZO CARCETERRA is the best-selling author of Sleepers and former writer/producer of Law & Order.
Shop National Geographic