Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Italy’s answer to the glitz of Hollywood

It may not be as well-known as Hollywood, or conjure as many sights and sounds as India’s Bollywood, but Italy has a movie-making mecca of its own. Rome’s Cinecittà is one of Italy’s biggest movie studios and birthplace to thousands of feature-films, both domestic and international.

A draw for Italy’s movie-making talents and creative types for decades, the studio actually had a rather dark origin. Cinecittà was originally conceived by Mussolini in 1937 to create wartime propaganda films under the motto ‘cinema is the most powerful weapon’. Thankfully, most of the studio’s output has been made in more peaceful times, including such classics as Ben Hur, La Dolce Vita, Satyricon and HBO’s TV series Rome.

Being a cheaper alternative to Hollywood, even when you do have to fly all the cast and crew out to Italy for weeks at a time, the studio’s golden age was in the 1950s. Along with Ben Hur, other notable epics filmed there include Cleopatra and War and Peace, the sheer size of the studio making it possible to recreate whole city streets and battles within the studio itself.

Over 3000 movies have been made at Cinecittà, 90 of which have been Oscar-nominated. These days it’s mostly domestic films made there, with 80% of Italian movies being made at Cinecittà, but it can still draw big name Hollywood directors to Rome. Martin Scorsese filmed parts of Gangs of New York at Cinecittà  and Wes Anderson used the studio for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Perhaps less glamorously, the studio is also home to Italy’s version of Big Brother.