Rome is home to the famous movie studios at Cinecitta. Started by Mussolini in 1937 and later made famous by the Italian director Federico Fellini, the studio became the home of Italian cinema. I wrote about the studio last year for the blog ItalianNotebook, during a strike by studio employees who were trying to save a part of it from becoming a theme park. You can view that post here for a bit more background on the studios. Recently, my new Australian friend Margo asked me to accompany her on a studio tour, so off we went.
Each day there’s an English language tour at 11:30, but we arrived earlier so we could enjoy the self tour beforehand. The self tour includes several really cool exhibits that showcase the history of the studio and the process of filmmaking. There are displays highlighting the different departments that work together to make a movie, such as costumes, props and set design, etc. Margo’s daughter works in Australia in TV helping to procure props, so her knowledge of the process helped make the tour even more interesting. You get to walk onto a set of a submarine and to experience how real it feels to be inside, complete with working parts and sound.
The guided part of the tour took us onto the back lot. We toured Stage 5, which was home to Fellini and all of his movies were made there. It is so big that it was possible to recreate full streets, like Via Veneto, inside. Currently, a film about Fellini and his relationship with a news writer is being made inside Stage 5. We got to walk through some of the sets being used for this movie. It was amazing to experience the level of detail that goes into making it all look so real. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside Stage 5.
We next toured one of the 3 permanent sets on the lot. This set is a re-creation of an ancient city and was used for the filming of the BBC/HBO series Rome and The Passion of the Christ. It looks real, but the buildings are actually constructed from fiberglass and what look to be heavy stones are made from styrofoam. The set is multifunctional, as it can be a setting for a movie taking place in ancient Rome or Greece or Egypt. There are also parts that are made to look like 15th century Italy. These sections were used to film the BBC production of the Borgias, which is available on Netflix and is very different from The Borgias available on Showtime.
Next we walked through an “urban” set, which is constructed from tall scaffolding that can be fronted to look like a variety of cities, as you can see in some of the photos below. This set was used for The Gangs of New York. The guided tour ended at this point and before we left, we also viewed the final “permanent” set, viewable on the self tour, which is the recreation of a street in a small Italian village that is used for a popular Italian TV show. It was a delightful morning at the movies!