It’s 60 years since Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck first climbed on the back of a Vespa for their feel-good tour around Rome. To celebrate the anniversary, Roman Holiday has been re-released in the UK this weekend. The romantic comedy, which sees American reporter Joe Bradley (Peck) pursuing Princess Ann (Hepburn) as she attempts to escape her royal duties and experience the city incognito, was remarkable for two reasons: it was Hepburn’s big break, and it was one of the first big Hollywood movies to be shot entirely on location.
The film plays like a sightseeing tour of the Eternal City complete with gelato on the Spanish Steps, a visit to the Colosseum and window shopping on the Via Condotti. So enduring is its appeal that at some spots you’re almost certain to find camera-toting tourists recreating scenes from the movie, such as the moment when Peck puts his hand into La Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth), a 2,000-year-old gargoyle at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Another popular photo opportunity is the Arch of Septimius Severus, where Joe first encounters the princess sleeping among the ruins of the Forum, the ancient heart of the city.
But if you really want to channel the freewheeling spirit of Roman Holiday, then a Vespa tour is a must. The scene where Hepburn takes Peck on a hair-raising scooter ride around the city, passing landmarks such as the Theatre of Marcellus and the Victor Emmanuel monument, is the film’s most memorable. Scooteroma (www.scooteroma.com) is one of several tour companies offering visitors a chance to recreate the journey on a half-day vintage Vespa tour, guided by native Romans who will share their favourite corners of the city, with coffee stops en route (€150 per person for a four-hour tour).
G Rocca, the café in the shadow of the Pantheon where the couple drink champagne, no longer exists but the streets around the Piazza Navona are still home to some of Rome’s best coffee shops – such as Caffè Sant’Eustachio (Piazza di Sant’Eustachio 82) and the Tazza d’Oro (via degli Orfani 84), which is reputed to serve the city’s best espresso.
The film’s ending, where the princess chooses between love and duty at a press conference, was shot in the lavish Sala Grande Galleria of the Palazzo Colonna (www.galleriacolonna.it/en), which is open to the public on Saturdays.
Where to stay
Hepburn chose the Hassler Roma as her base while filming. The elegant 19th-century hotel enjoys one of the city’s best locations at the top of the Spanish Steps and has been a favourite haunt of Hollywood royalty from Grace Kelly to Clint Eastwood (double rooms from €370 per night, www.hotelhasslerroma.com).
Alternatively, you can follow in the footsteps of Peck’s character and rent a converted artist’s studio on via Margutta. Once a bohemian quarter, this peaceful lane near the Piazza del Popolo is now lined with exclusive art galleries and restaurants. Margutta 54 offers stylish serviced studios with a peaceful courtyard just a couple of doors down from Joe’s apartment at number 51 (from €288 per night, www.romeluxurysuites.com).