Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Rome and get you in the mood for travel

Movies

Rome Open City (1945)
Acclaimed film directed by Roberto Rossellini and co-written by Federico Fellini; about the leader of the resistance movement in World War II Rome, who is hunted by the Gestapo at the end of the conflict. Stars Anna Magnani.

Roman Holiday (1953)
A fairy-tale love story between a princess and an American journalist during one magical day in Rome; Audrey Hepburn's first major film. Also stars Gregory Peck.

La Dolce Vita (1960)
Federico Fellini’s classic film chronicling a playboy journalist’s hedonistic lifestyle in Rome in the late 1950s. Stars Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimée, Anita Ekberg.

Roma (1972)
A Fellini masterpiece; semiautobiographical tale of a young man coming of age in Rome, juxtaposed with amusing scenes of 20th-century Roman life. Cameos by Marcello Mastroianni, Anna Magnani, and Fellini.

Gladiator (2000)
Gripping drama about a general in ancient Rome who is forced to become a gladiator; includes a striking re-creation of life in the ancient city, along with dramatic battles in the Colosseum. Stars Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Derek Jacobi.

Best of Youth (2003)
Italian film; epic story of two modern-day Roman brothers, their lives, and their struggles—through Rome, Florence, Ravenna, and much of Italy—from 1966 through 2000. Stars Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni.

Rome, HBO (2005)
Teeming saga of the Roman empire during the time of Julius Caesar. Dramatic portrait of Rome's battles for power and world domination, with plenty of drama, politics, sex, and violence. Stars Kevin McKidd, Polly Walker, Ciaran Hinds, Ray Stevenson.

Books

Roman Fever, by Edith Wharton (1934)
Gripping novella about two Manhattan widows who meet in Rome and discover that their pasts are intertwined; the title refers to the malaria that affected Rome in the early 20th century.

A Traveler in Rome, by H.V. Morton (1957)
Acclaimed work of historical nonfiction that visits important landmarks in Rome. Charming artifact from the 1950s, in which the author shares his impressions as a traveler to Rome, as well as its historical context, thereby illustrating how the city essentially hasn't changed in centuries.

The Italians, by Luigi Barzini (1964)
A veteran Italian journalist's essayistic interpretation of Italy and its people—very useful in deciphering the Romans. Barzini knew how to look at Italian culture from an American perspective; in his youth he worked for two American newspapers. A primer to the Italian mind and a resource for a visit to Italy's capital.

Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown (2000)
Fast-paced novel by the author of The Da Vinci Code; features intrigue at the Vatican and is largely set in the Holy See and Rome. The descriptions and histories of some of Rome's most famous sites—including Piazza Navona—make it worthwhile.

La Bella Figura–A Field Guide to the Italian Mind, by Beppe Severgnini (2006)
Along the same lines as Barzini's The Italians, this recently published book illuminates the many paradoxes that animate the Italian way of thinking. Italians "think it’s an insult to our intelligence to comply with a regulation. Obedience is boring. We want to think about it.” A fun must-read for all travelers to Italy.

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, by Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
The first third of this nonfiction book celebrates Gilbert's love affair with Roman food and restaurants; funny and poignant portrait of the city's vaunted gastronomy.

Music:

Compilations:

Viaggio Italiano by Andrea Bocelli
Collection of Neapolitan classics ("O Sole Mio"), Italian opera arias, and an "Ave Maria."

Caro Amico Ti Scrivo by Lucio Dalla
Top hits by one of Italy's most thoughtful contemporary singer-songwriters.

Italian Café by Putumayo
Compilation of what Putumayo calls "classic and contemporary Italian songs that will transport you to the romantic cafes of Rome, Milan, and Venice."

An Italian Songbook (Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini) by Cecilia Bartoli
Italian bel canto singer Bartoli partners with conductor-pianist James Levine on a selection of Italian opera arias.

Serenata Napulitana by Roberto Murolo
One of Naples' true classicists delivers soulful interpretations of Neapolitan gems—which sound just as wonderful a little farther up the coast in Rome.

Classic Songs:

1. "Roma Non far la Stupida Stasera" ("The Lights of Roma") by Jerry Vale
2. "Vecchia Roma" by Claudio Villa
3. "Arrivederci Roma" by Sergio Franchi
4. "Porta Portese" by Fabrizio Guaglioni
5. "Quanto Sei Bella Roma" by Phyllis Lynd
6. "On an Evening in Roma" by Dean Martin
7. "Grazie Roma" by Enzo Faresin
8. "Barcarolo Romano" by Alvaro Amici

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