“Each in its own way was unforgettable. It would be difficult to … Rome, by all means. Rome. I will cherish my visit here in memory as long as I live.” – Audrey Hepburn as Anya in Roman Holiday
Today I went to the Ara Pacis Museum to see the photographic exhibition, Audrey in Rome – a picture history of Audrey Hepburn’s life and times in the city. The exhibition marks the 50th Anniversary of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and is one of the events of the Rome International Film Festival.
I’d always been a bit of a fan of hers and Roman Holiday is of course, one of my favourite movies. It’s become an integral part of Roman and international popular culture. In fact, you’d be hard pressed not to walk around the historical centre of this city without seeing a postcard, picture, calendar or any kind of memorabilia with the famous image of her and Gregory Peck on the Spanish Steps. The film is still regarded as one of the greatest in cinematic history and gave Hepburn her first Oscar.
What I didn’t know about Audrey Hepburn was that she lived in what she likes to call her Rome for more than 20 years – in the 60s, 70s and 80s, while she was married to Mel Ferrer and then to Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti and during which she had two sons, Sean Ferrer and Luca Dotti. Her second son Luca was instrumental in developing the exhibition which is a story in pictures of her Roman years.
The exhibition features a video of never seen before footage including home videos of summer holidays and her wedding to Dotti as well as memorabilia including her beautiful designer wear (mainly by Givenchy, the designer she was linked with for most of her life) like the little pink knitted dress she wore to her second wedding, coats, shoes and of course her signature basket bags and sunglasses. Speaking of which, I found out today that the reason she always wore large sunglasses was because she was extremely conscious of her eyes. She apparently felt they were too small and for this reason she would always insist that make up artists try to accentuate them. She then wore the large sunglasses to create the illusion of large eyes. I and many of the other women at the exhibition also found it strange that she wore a European size 40 shoe – given her most petite build!
For me, the most beautiful thing about the exhibition was that none of the pictures are portrait shots or paparazzi shots, but a collection of 200 candid family photos. They are all simple shots of Audrey walking around the city, having breakfast in Piazza Navona, standing in Trinita dei Monti with her husband, buying flowers from a market vendor in Piazza Spagna, arriving to Fiumicino airport for a flight, with her children and family and at the premieres of her films. There are also photos of her on the set of the films she filmed in Rome (Roman Holiday, War and Peace and The Nun’s Story). Of course my favourite part of the entire exhibition was seeing the actual Vespa she and Gregory Peck rode and made famous in Roman Holiday!
The constants you notice by looking at her life in pictures are elegance, poise and above all class. She was an absolute diva and while the fashion changed throughout the decades her style remained. There is literally not a bad photo of her. Even pics capturing her on the streets of Rome just walking her dog – I mean, it’s just unfair and almost criminal that someone could casually look so stylish!
The photographic storyline illustrates her slow transformation to a successful actress in Italy, to a woman and mother who, having stepped out of the limelight in the 70s and choosing motherhood over Hollywood, settles into Rome and subsequently forms strong bonds with her adopted city.
She regarded herself as a Roman, just as the Romans regarded her as one of their own.
Attempting to do this in Rome myself at the moment, her story resonated with me and inspired me. It was so amazing and I’m so happy I got to see it.
Given Audrey devoted the last years of her life as a UNICEF Ambassador, proceeds of the exhibition are being donated to fight infantile malnutrition. So I left feeling I’d done my bit to support a great cause and honour her amazing legacy.
Here are some tips on doing your own little film tour of Rome (or let me take you!)
If you’re ready to step into the timeless classic then you must start off at Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps). Walking to the left (as you face the steps) you’ll find via Margutta, the narrow street where Gregory Peck, aka Joe Bradley, resided in a studio apartment, at number 51. The street is now largely occupied by artists’ galleries and antique shops. Then make your way through the city stopping at each of the following must-visit locations the film was shot in:
Via Condotti, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Ponte Sant’ Angelo (The barge dance scene), Mouth of Truth, the Roman Forum and finally the Colosseum.
Ok, signing off for now!
Baci from Trastevere,