Eat, Pray, Love as You Travel Through Italy

Updated 2018.

The Book: Author Elizabeth Gilbert has charmed many an armchair traveler with her New York Times best-selling memoir, Eat Pray Love. Once achieving what most would call success (a celebrated career, a husband and a lovely home) Gilbert realizes that she has cultivated a life for which she is not completely suited. After her prolonged and messy divorce is finally settled, Gilbert decides to take a year off from her life in New York and truly find herself while spending four months each in three different countries: Italy, India and Indonesia.

The Movie: Julia Roberts plays Gilbert in the screen adaptation of Eat Pray Love, written by director Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt, which is said to stick very closely to Elizabeth Gilbert’s experiences abroad. Javier Bardem plays Felipe, James Franco plays David, Richard Jenkins plays Richard and Billy Crudup plays Stephen in the film.

Filming Eat Pray Love in Rome

Julia Roberts was welcomed with open arms into Italy’s capital city, Rome. Before filming in Naples and then moving on to India and Indonesia, the cast and crew set up shop and filmed in lovely Piazza Navona, Rome’s famous shopping street Via Condotti and the lovely Borghese Gardens.

During her working Roman holiday, Roberts did not limit herself to one beautiful set of accommodations, but instead she and her family took up temporary residence in two different and highly acclaimed hotels: the De Russie and the Hassler. The movie’s location scouts, who were on the scene months before Roberts, on the other hand, stayed in cozy apartment in central Rome. Il Terrazzo is 10 minutes from either Piazza Navona, Trastevere or the Vatican. The apartment sleeps six and rents for 1,900 euros per week.

If you’d like the full Eat Pray Love experience in Rome, our friends at Nancy Aiello Tours have put together a Roman walking tour based on the movie. The Eat Pray Love Rome Tour follows the path of Gilbert’s quest for beauty and Italian food through Rome’s Jewish Ghetto and the nearby Tiber Island, Campo de’ Fiori with its lively outdoor food market, Piazza Navona decorated with the baroque Four Rivers Fountain, the Pantheon with its 2,000-year-old dome, Sant’Angelo Castle, the beautiful square of Piazza del Popolo and the peaceful Borghese Gardens, stopping along the way to enjoy Italian gelato while discovering Rome street food and traditional dishes like spaghetti cacio e pepe.

Eat Pray Love in Naples

After Rome, the Eat Pray Love cast and crew set out for Naples to film one of Gilbert’s most memorable moments, eating a double mozzarella pizza at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, one of the most famous pizzerias in Naples. Once settled in the southern Italian city, Murphy and other members of the Eat Pray Love team were so touched and inspired by the warmth of the Neapolitan environment that they actually added a scene in Naples. The new scene takes place in one of Naples’s most beautiful churches, Pio Monte della Misericordia.

While on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Julia Roberts gives insight into her personal connection to Gilbert’s story and her experience working on the film. She explains that she felt a relation to the story. “It’s the way that [Liz] wrote this book,” she notes. “It’s like a bell that just keeps ringing.” Roberts also dishes on her love affair with Italian food:

Well, the permission to eat, I think, is a gift. For someone to say: ‘Just eat it. Eat all of it,'” she says. “It always had to be the gusto. Like by the seventh plate of pasta, the gusto became a little more of: ‘Give me a minute. I’m going to look like I like it in just a minute.

In an interview with the U.K.’s Daily Record, Roberts confesses to gaining seven pizza-and-pasta pounds thanks to shooting so many takes:

I’ve always been a friend of food. I probably put on about seven pounds in Rome when we were shooting. I ate a lot of pizzas in Naples. It was just great. But it was hard on take 10 on a giant plate of pasta…It is a challenge and I love a good meal. Someone suggested I had a spit bucket but I can’t do that because it makes me gag. It just grosses me out.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert as Your Italy Travel Guide

Inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoirs? Why not follow in the footsteps and write your own memoirs as you travel through Rome, Venice, Bologna, Naples and Sicily?

Rome: Wander like Gilbert around the fashionable area surrounding the Spanish Steps. Roam through the streets that tangle and curve around the Jewish Ghetto, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. Enjoy the view of Piazza del Popolo from Villa Borghese, one of Rome’s most stunning parks. Perhaps find your own language exchange partner in Piazza Fiume, where Gilbert used to meet with Giovanni every Thursday evening. When you’re hungry, head over to the Trastevere neighborhood and eat in one of the charming trattorias (we like Le Mani in Pasta) and observe, like Gilbert did, how Italians eat their meals slowly and purposefully.

Venice: Venice’s winding and seemingly never-ending streets are perfect for those who like to meander aimlessly like Gilbert. For your own trip to Venice, start your morning with a coffee from the oldest café in Italy, Café Florian in St. Mark’s Square, admire the and check of the Doge’s Palace before getting wonderfully lost in the endlessly charming, surrounding alleyways.

Gilbert did not love Venice like she loved most other parts of Italy. She found it a bit depressing and comments on how Venice has a very old-fashioned culture.

Bologna and Parma: Gilbert adored beautiful Bologna. She makes a special note of the food in the northern Italian city, as most people do after visiting the city. Midway through the 32nd tale of the “Eat” portion of Gilbert’s story, she recalls “Bologna — a city so beautiful that I couldn’t stop singing the whole time I was there: My Bologna has a first name! It’s P-R-E-T-T-Y.

Naples: While Gilbert made it her duty to eat well everywhere she went, she raved about one pizza place in particular — L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele.

The author loved the mayhem of Naples and was so pleasantly shocked by the gruffness of the culture that she wasn’t even offended when flipped the bird by a little girl.

Sicily: Gilbert, inspired by Geothe‘s famous quote, “To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.” The author visited Taormina, Siracusa and Palermo.

In Sicily, Gilbert sat down at a restaurant and asked the owners to make her the best thing on the menu, and she speaks fondly of that meal. It’s a lesson in openness and the blind trust any traveler has to put into any activity he or she partakes.

— Shakira Mongul