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Rome’s Hollywood on the Tiber

Marc Zakian, a Telegraph’s journalist, visits Italy’s Cinecittà studios, which are now open to the public.

Rome’s Cinema City: not just a simple “Hollywood” or a lonely “Pinetree”, but an entire metropolis dedicated to film-making. Twenty years ago I lived in Rome and longed to visit, but back then it was a forbidden city where only the chosen entered.
Now I am st epping out of the metro station bearing Cinecittà’s name and heading through its main entrance. The studios now welcome paying visitors, and I join a group of film fans eager to discover the secrets of Rome’s “Hollywood on the Tiber”.
Cinecittà’s main square features a sedate green lawn shaded by umbrella pines. I was expecting to be greeted by a riot of clapper boards, costumed extras, pampered stars and screaming producers. But now we mortals are allowed through the front door, the talent comes in round the back.
Our guide Roberta ushers us onto the back lot. We are on “Broadway”: four streets built in 2002 for the film Gangs of New York and left here as a permanent legacy. This is Manhattan in the 1850s, with gas lamps, shops and houses – I peek behind the doors in search of fast-talking New Yorkers, but the only residents are lizards basking in the grass.
Left off “Broadway” is the “Roman forum” – not the ruins of the real thing, four miles down the road, but the Imperial city as the builders might have left it: the Temple of Venus, with its bright-red columns waiting for a Nero; a pristine green god of victory ready to fly from his column.
Five acres of the ancient capital are reconstructed here in deliciously crafted detail. This is what Cinecittà is famous for: widescreen toga-epics bankrolled by the Hollywood money that flowed up the Tiber during the Sixties – the days when old-school screen stars were seduced by la dolce vita. Richard Burton met Elizabeth Taylor, for example, during filming at Cinecittà.

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