Part II: Roman Holiday – La Dolce Vita
‘La Piazza di Spagna’ gathers a daily congregation of visitors from all corners of the world who come to sit on its steps, and adorn it in glorious, radiant colour.
In the early hours it has a more silent, serene beauty and is particularly worth catching a glimpse of before 8am when the majority of Rome’s tourists are still eating breakfast in their hotels. From the top of the Spanish Steps it’s possible to see the Dome of St Peter’s, and the rooftops of Rome, including the most relaxing, inviting greenery of the rooftop gardens. Part of me wants to fly over the rooftops and land elegantly in each of these gardens – and if I had a Jet pack with me I probably would – but I’m pulled by the lure of breakfast in the Babbington Tea Rooms below.
The Babbington Tea Rooms, located to the left of the Spanish Steps, was opened in 1896 by two Englishwomen, Anna Maria & Isabel Cargill Babbington. Their primary purpose was to serve homesick British Tourists with scones, jams and pots of Earl Grey Tea, and in the heat of the Italian sun they provide a haven of cool Englishness. It’s wonderful to sit and have breakfast here; to sit and drink tea immersed in the thoughts of yesteryear and to chat animatedly about our plans for the day ahead.
In Roman Holiday, Ann enjoys a gelato and receives a flower from a seller at the foot of the Spanish Steps. Outside we sit just as she did on the blocks of stone that trace a path up to the church at the top of the steps known as the Trinita dei Monti. It’s here that Ann tells Joe of all the exciting things she’d like to do the whole day long, unconstrained by obligation; and it’s here that he offers to spend the day with her to do just that!
From the Spanish Steps we re-trace their route through to the Via Condotti.
With it’s beautiful shop windows the Via Condotti contains the greatest number of Rome-based Italian fashion retailers from Gucci, Pucci and Valentino to Versace and Ferragamo. Along the Via Del Corso (which the Via Condotti joins), we find a beautiful Palazzo with a leafy central garden and corridors that form a square around it and it’s tranquility reminds me of the Riads of Morocco. As we come out of the building i look up to see workmen waving in the building opposite us, behind a window and striking a pose for our cameras. In Rome men flirt as part of everyday life. Here expression between men and women is expected, attraction is acknowledged and danced with – never hidden from – just as it is in Roman Holiday when the Barber invites Ann to dance with him in the evening after cutting her hair.
The long straight road of the Via del Corso connects the Piazza del Popolo with the Piazza Venezia. As we walk along it the wonderful white Vittorio Emanuele II building emerges at the foot of Rome’s Capitoline Hill. In the film, Gregory Peck’s character Joe borrows his photographer’s scooter and takes Ann on a tour of the city. It is here on the Via Del Corso with Joe distracted, that Ann attempts to ride the Vespa by herself. When Joe catches up with Ann their chaotic ride attracts the attention of the Italian Polizia and a chase ensues. A number of great scenes are filmed later in the Police Station although Ann is still not recognised as the missing foreign princess.
From the Via del Corso we head into the heart of the Jewish Quarter and have a wonderful Italian lunch al Fresco. Our restaurant is in the Via Portico d’Ottavia, a street still at the centre of Jewish life in Rome and built many years ago in 146 BC, dedicated by the Emperor Augustus to his sister Octavia.
From the Jewish Quarter we walk down to the Tiber and follow it all the way along to the Ponte Rotto, an old ‘broken bridge’ that no longer bears the brunt of traffic. Although it stands alone, broken at either end, it still appears majestic in it’s own right. A short distance away we find the church known as ‘Santa Maria in Cosmedin’, the home of ‘The Mouth of Truth’.
After the police station scenes in the film Ann tells Joe what a good liar she thinks she is, and Joe concurs saying ‘the best he’s ever met’; with Ann having no idea that he knows who she really is. It’s in this scene that they visit the Mouth of Truth. Legend has it that if you put your hand into it’s mouth, and if you’re given to lying, your hand will be bitten off. We queue with much anticipation enjoying the laughter of the Japanese tourists in front of us who must all be remarkably honest as all of their hands remain intact, as ours do too!
From the Mouth of Truth we make our way to the Forum Romana, which was the centre of Roman public life for centuries. It has been called the most celebrated meeting point on Earth and it’s also the location where Joe Bradley first meets Princess Ann in Roman Holiday.
When the skies are as blue as they are in Rome and the sun is shining it’s a lovely experience to walk in this place, through the ruins of government buildings and roman villas from so many years ago, imagining the triumphal processions and public speeches that must have been heard here. It’s a place i‘d really like to return to again – at night – and to walk through the beautiful broken heart trees on the hills above it.
Through winding alleyways we stroll back to the Via Del Corso and find ourselves on the Via Del Muratte where we sit and eat ice-cream outside as people walk by. We weren’t able to find ‘Rocca’s’ where Ann enjoys champagne at her sidewalk café. The original café in the film is no longer in business but the Grandi Vini Scelti Vineria is just as good and isn’t too far from the original location of the Pantheon. Our evening meal of Bruscheta and Pasta with Lobster in the Via Vittoria is wonderful and we get to know Carlo from Sicily and Francois, an Australian who’s been in Rome for the last twelve years.
It seems easy to make friends in this wonderful city!
by Jackie Moreton
Co-Founder of Abeona Adventures