Was there ever a more romantic movie than Roman Holiday?
Generations of cinema-goers have enjoyed this film which stars Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in her first Hollywood role. It is not only one of the most well-loved movies set in Italy, but it also showcases many of Rome’s famous landmarks.
Follow our two cinematic heroes along the streets of Rome. As these Roman Holiday filming locations are all in the city centre it’s easy for you to do your own Roman Holiday tour of Rome.
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About Roman Holiday
In this timeless fairy tale, Hepburn plays sheltered Princess Ann from an unnamed European country. Desperate to escape the confines of her duties, she hangs out with Joe Bradley, a hard-nosed American reporter in Rome (Peck).
But will duty win over love?
Produced and directed by the great William Wyler, Roman Holiday was released in 1953 and won three Academy Awards, including a Best Actress gong for Audrey Hepburn.
Fun fact! Gregory Peck was not Wyler’s first choice for the role. Cary Grant declined it, believing he was too old to play Hepburn’s love interest. However, ten years later, he played opposite her in Charade.
Roman Holiday Filming Locations in Rome
Roman Holiday was shot in black-and-white in Rome using locations across the city and the sound stage at the legendary Cinecittà Studios.
To help you put together a Roman Holiday tour of Rome, here’s a map showing the locations of all of the places mentioned in this article. To access an interactive map, simply click here or on the image itself.
What is remarkable is that these Roman Holiday locations have barely changed in the 60 years since the film was made.
Even before we start the movie proper, the title sequence of Roman Holiday views like the greatest hits of Rome’s attractions.
1. St. Peter’s Square
The opening aerial shot of St. Peter’s Square leaves you in no doubt about where this movie is set.
It is home to St. Peter’s Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro), a UNESCO World Heritage site and the spiritual capital of Roman Catholicism. Although there has been a church on this site since 326 AD, what we see today hails from the 16th and 17th Centuries.
2. Vittorio Emanuele II Monument (Altar of the Fatherland)
Next is a background shot of the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument.
Also known as the Altar of the Fatherland, it was built between 1885 and 1927 by the artist Sacconi to symbolise Italian unity. This Neo-Classical structure is also, not so fondly, called ‘the wedding cake’ or ‘Mussolini’s typewriter’.
3. Ponte Sant’Angelo
The next Roman Holiday filming location we see is the wonderful Ponte Sant’Angelo. This beautiful bridge across the River Tiber is lined by ten angels sculpted by Bernini.
Although you only get a brief glimpse of the Colosseum in the opening credits for Roman Holiday, it features more prominently in the scene where Joe takes Princess Ann on an exhilarating Vespa ride across Rome.
It’s an iconic monument for an iconic scene. Another of Rome’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Colosseum (Colosseo) was inaugurated in 80 AD with a jamboree that resulted in the slaughter of 5,000 animals.
5. Roman Forum
The Roman Forum adjoins the Colosseum and is also featured in the opening credits.
This was the heart of civic and political life of the Roman Empire. For me, it is one of the most evocative places in the city, its stones standing as a testament to this once-powerful state.
As the centre of life for Ancient Romans, it seems fitting that this is the meeting place for the main protagonists in the movie.
Walking through the streets of Rome, Gregory Peck’s character stumbles upon Princess Ann at the Arch of Septimius Severus (Arco di Settimio Severo). She has secretly left her country’s embassy and, overcome by the effects of a sedative, fallen asleep.
Unaware of her identity at this early stage of the movie, he shelters her in his apartment.
6. Piazza del Popolo
The Piazza del Popolo forms the splendid backdrop for the finale of the opening credits for Roman Holiday.
This majestic square was created in 1538 to provide a scenic entrance to the city from Via Flaminia in the north. It features a 24-meter-high obelisk rising between four fountains with lions, and two Baroque churches: Santa Maria del Popolo and Santa Maria in Montesanto.
7. Palazzo Barberini
Palazzo Barberini was the filming location for the exterior shots of the embassy of Princess Ann’s country.
This 17th-century palace close to Piazza Barberini houses the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, the most important collection of older paintings in Rome.
8. Via Margutta 51
After finding Princess Ann at the base of the Arch of Septimius Severus, Joe takes her to his home. This Roman Holiday scene was shot at Via Margutta, 51, near Piazza del Popolo.
Although this is a charming street, number 51 looks a little different from how it appeared in the movie.
Fun fact! The renowned Italian director Federico Fellini lived at Via Margutta,110 for decades
9. Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi)
Leaving Joe Bradley’s apartment, Princess Ann takes a stroll through Rome’s busy streets, which open out onto the Trevi Fountain.
This 18th Century fountain is the most magnificent in Rome. Charles Dickens famously described it as being ‘silvery to the eye and ear.’
10. Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna
The next Roman Holiday filming location is the Spanish Steps, where Joe catches up with Ann. By this time, he has realised who she is and has called his photographer friend, Irving Radovich (played by Eddie Albert), to take some candid pictures.
This monumental flight of 137 steps connecting Piazza di Spagna with the church of Trinità dei Monti is one of Rome’s most famous sights. Over the centuries, Piazza di Spagna has been one of the city’s most popular meeting places and was the heart of Rome’s literary and artistic scene.
11. Via Della Rotonda
Joe persuades Ann to join him in Café Rocco, where Irving and his camera lens lie in wait.
Although this café on Via Della Rotonda no longer exists, it is a stone’s throw from one of my favourite places in Rome, the Pantheon.
With its perfect harmony and awe-inspiring dome, the Pantheon has been a symbol of the grandeur of Ancient Rome for almost 2,000 years. This former Roman temple became the church of Santa Maria ad Martyres in 609 AD.
It is the final resting place of the great and good of Italy, including the artist Raphael of Urbino and kings Vittorio Emmanuele II and Umberto I.
12. Piazza Venezia
Let’s track back to that iconic Roman Holiday scene featuring the Vespa ride across the city. Piazza Venezia and Via del Teatro di Marcello form the stunning background for some of these shots.
13. Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verità)
Do you remember the so-called Roman Holiday hand scene?
Bradley takes Ann to la Bocca della Verità, or the ‘Mouth of Truth’.
This weather-beaten stone face of the sea god Oceanus stands in the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, close to the Colosseum. Legend has it that if you stick your hand in its stone mouth, it will gobble it if you are a liar.
In this famous scene from the movie, the princess is horrified when the sea god seemingly bites off the hand of her companion.
There is a reason why Audrey Hepburn’s reaction is so convincing. She was the victim of a prank and thought that Gregory Peck’s hand was really stuck in the orifice.
14. Castel Sant’Angelo
When the princess had a radical haircut earlier in the day, her hairdresser invited her to a dance that night on a barge moored by Castel Sant’Angelo.
Starting life in 130 AD as a mausoleum for Hadrian and his family, Castel Sant’Angelo has served as an imperial tomb, papal fortress, medieval prison and army barracks. Today, it is home to a museum.
15. Palazzo Colonna
The following day, Bradley and the Princess meet again at the embassy for a press conference.
This, the final scene in Roman Holiday, was shot at the Sala Grande Galleria at Palazzo Colonna. Dating from the 14th Century, it is one of the oldest and largest private palaces of Rome. The Colonna family still live there.
But will this be the last time that Joe and Ann see one another? You will have to watch Roman Holiday to find out.
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