This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Dream of Italy. Updated 2018.
Federico Fellini fans and Martin Scorsese savants traveling to Italy won’t want to miss the latest tour offerings from the acclaimed production studios of Cinecittà, just outside of Rome. Participants on these guided rambles through dressing rooms and offices, sets and stages, will get new perspectives on their favorite films while learning more about the complex world of moviemaking through several decades.
“Cinecittà Shows Off,” or Cinecittà Si Mostra, began as an initiative to help visitors understand the role cinema plays in the Italian economy, and has grown to three tours and a permanent exhibition. The tours include “The Protagonists,” “Backstage,” and “How to Make a Movie,” while the “Why Cinecittà” exhibition grounds them all and helps to introduce all the parts of what is familiarly known as the “Dream Factory.” All of them are given in English as well as Italian, although the tours in English take place just twice a day, at 11:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
The “Backstage” tour, for example, goes through six halls total, five dedicated to elements of cinema: direction, screenplay, sound, costume, and fiction. The sixth hall provides Cinecittà historical background before viewers are taken to see an actual film set: The submarine from Jonathan Mostow’s U571. From the “director’s room” in which moviegoers will at last get a taste of how a film begins; to the screenplay, sound, and costume rooms, with their artifacts; and finally, to the “make-believe room” that details an actor’s transformation to screen image, this tour provides an insider’s view like no other.
Aficionados won’t want to miss “The Big Sets,” a tour of just a few of the permanent sets made by the craftspeople of Cinecittà. Those who have seen Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York will thrill to the Broadway/New York set designed by Dante Ferretti, authentic down to the smallest details, which was later updated and adapted for Paul Haggis’s 2013 “Third Person.” The vibrantly hued set for HBO’s Rome covers five acres, while Florence of 1400 was made for Neri Parenti’s My Friends: How It All Began, a prequel to Mario Monicelli’s famous My Friends (Amici Miei). Most recently, that last set was used for a 2013 U.S. adaptation of Romeo and Juliet starring Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti and Hailee Steinfeld.
But there’s plenty going on at Cinecittà right now, too. In the past couple of months, Roman citizens have been able to watch (and grumble about) some of the high-speed car chases being filmed on their cobblestoned streets for the latest James Bond film. Spectre, starring Daniel Craig, also stars Italian actress Monica Bellucci, and Cinecittà is handling some aspects of the movie’s Italian production.
Even more exciting to some move buffs is Cinecittà’s win to remake Charlton Heston’s classic Ben Hur, starring Morgan Freeman, and U.S. fans of Ben Stiller will be delighted to know that he is filming Zoolander 2 at Cinecittà starting this year; Penelope Cruz will co-star, and the script is by Justin Theroux. No wonder some wags are referring to Rome as “Hollywood on the Tiber!”
Cinecittà tours last about 90 minutes. Groups of 10 or more can reserve blocks of tickets by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Tour prices range from 10€ to 20€, depending on age and type of tour. Tours are given daily except for Tuesday and are not available on some holidays. While children under five always receive free tickets, parents might also be interested in Cinebimbicittà, a nursery experience for little ones that is also free of charge and staffed by qualified early-education caregivers.
Cinecittà studio is about five miles from the center of Rome on Via Tuscolana, 1055. It can be easily reached by car, and is just a few steps from the Cinecittà Metro (A line) station. For more information, call (39) 06 88816182 or visit www.cinecittasimostra.it