In William Wyler’s 1953 movie, Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn plays a princess wanting desperately to escape her strictly regimented life and experience Rome as a mere tourist. In the film, Gregory Peck is a reporter who happens upon her before he knows who she is. He of course falls in love after agreeing to, unbeknownst to her, write an undercover story about her escapades, at which point he recants on the earlier (moneymaking) decision. It’s all very sweet, and Hepburn eventually won an Academy Award for the role, not to be upstaged by the beauty that surrounded her.
A beauty so great, in fact, that the movie was shot in black and white so as to prevent it from overshadowing the actors and plot. Or so it is rumored. Also featured in the film is the Italian Vespa 2-stroke scooter which experienced an enormous surge in popularity after the movie’s release. Since, the scooter has become one of many popular ways to tour Rome.
If you, like the princess, desire travel around Rome by way of scooter, fear not! Like Audrey, you can create for yourself a romantic excursion around this great city. And you may as well do it by scooter—distances are greater than the film would lead you to believe.
Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin (The Mouth of Truth)
Probably the location of the most iconic scene in the movie (in which Joe Bradley puts his hand in a sculpture’s mouth and the princess screams) the Mouth of Truth is located at Piazza della Bocca della Verita. It is a 1st century sculture and is believed to represent an ancient Tiber River god.
In the movie, Joe first encounters Princess Ann on a bench by the Temple of Saturn and the Archc of Septimus Severus, both of which are still standing.
The Palazzo Colonna is one of the largest palaces in Rome and faces the Piazza dei Santi Apostoli. Within the palace, there exists an art gallery. In Roman Holiday, this location marks the final scene in which Princess Ann makes her decision and Joe’s footsteps echo through the empty hall.
Palazzo della Consulta
After some trouble with the scooter, Princess Ann smashes into street vendors and café tables and is taken to this police station. In the film, both fountain and obelisk are visible. Today, the building is the Constitutional Court of the Italian Republic.
Trevi Fountain Barber Shop
Though the shop pictured in the movie exists today as a leather shop, Roman Holiday remembers it as the room in which Princess Ann gets her hair chopped off. Trevi Fountain is now the largest Baroque fountain in Rome and is very popular with tourists.
Galleria Alberto Sordi
In the film, we see the view through Joe’s window which features the marble Column of Marcus Aurelius and the fountain in Piazza de Colonna (though this set was actually shot in studio).
G. Rocca Café
Next to the Pantheon, Princess Ann drinks champagne and smokes her first cigarette at G. Rocca Café. Now a story featuring trendy clothing, G. Rocca Café was where Princess Ann dined with Joe and met his colleague Irving.
Oratorio dei Filippini
From a beautiful window in Joe’s apartment, this bell tower (which is actually a turret) can be seen. Eventually, the tower awakens Joe at a pivotal moment.
After being chased by secret agents and other princess-y people, Ann joins a party held on a barge on the Tiber River hosted by the barber who cut her hair. Though no longer there, the barge was once located between Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II and Ponte Sant’Angelo—at the foot of Castel Sant’Angel. Castel Sant’Angel has served as residence of the pope, a prison, a castle, and now a national museum.
Via Margutta 51
While the interior of Joe’s apartment is a studio set, the courtyard and other outdoor features are real. Two doors down from Vicolo dell’Orto di Napoli sits the entrance, marked by a large wooden arch. In the courtyard, you’ll spot the artist’s studio, the landlord’s balcony, and Joe’s apartment door.
Piazza di Spagna
The Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna often function as a meeting point for weary tourists, as they are still a very popular attraction. There are 138 steps linking Piazza Trinita dei Monti with Chiesa della Trinita dei Monti. It is here, on steps completed in 1725, that Joe and Ann eat gelato and agree to spend a day together.
This 1633 Renaissance palace now houses Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica and served as the location for Princess Ann’s Embassy.
This 1880 building was used as the interior of Princess Ann’s Embassy and is meant to be the Palazzo Barberini.
The Castra Praetoria is part of an ancient Roman fortification and was built in 23 AD. Featured in the film as a Wall of Wishes (which actually existed elsewhere), the goal of this landmark was to display plaques commemorating good luck and dreams fulfilled. Now, you can see the representation of the Wall of Wishes (now just a wall) at Castra Praetoria.
Author: Sarah Murphy has worked in Dublin for the last two years as a blogger, web content manager and marketing coordinator. A journalist by training and travel junkie by nature, she regularly travels to Italy for both business and to experience some of the Rome tours, where she mostly spends her time in search of the perfect gelato.