Thursday, September 23, 2010

Eat Pray Did You Love the Film?

My great love of film has already predisposed me well to becoming a Roman as what I lack in my vegetarianism, I can claw back as a film buff.  For a Roman, going to the cinema is up there in his top 5 pursuits of pleasure during winter, so when a film opens which was actually filmed in the city, its release is greatly anticipated and then slammed if it doesn't represent Rome the way Romans see Rome.  Last Sunday, I finally got to see Eat Pray Love with Gastro-gnome by my side, painfully groaning at any hint of a stereotype. Mario Lanza singing Arrivederci Roma in The Seven Hills of Rome made him howl like wounded animal years ago. Eat Pray was considerably more enjoyable for both of us although less so for the Roman press. You be the judge. 
Filming took place in and around Piazza Navona which doesn’t stick strictly to the  locations in Elizabeth Gilbert's much loved, best selling memoir, but it is visually stunning on the screen. Elizabeth is played by Julia Roberts and the book was described as "a travel map for those lost in the middle of their lives" For those who would like a travel map of the locations visited in the film and book read on... 

Julia Roberts as Liz stays in an apartment in Via dei Portoghesi which had remained shrouded in tarpaulin and scaffolding ever since the film shoot until a few weeks ago.  Presumably the influx of funds from Hollywood has paid for its complete overhaul. The building is stunning but unfortunately has lost the crumbling, ivy clad beauty it had before. I shudder to think what Rome would look like if there were enough money to renovate the whole city in this way. Liz in the book stayed nearer to the Spanish Steps in the back streets where Audrey Hepburn wandered with Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday.  

Julia Roberts as Liz chats to Luca Spaghetti in a Barber's shop which can also be found in Via dei Portoghesi below the same apartment . It is a barber's shop in real life too but not as antiquated in style as it appeared in the film. 

Julia Roberts as Liz exchanges language with the handsome Italian in what appears to be a typical Roman trattoria with red and white tableclothes.  Strangely with a huge choice on hand, a bar was adapted for the shot. The bar in question was “Caffe delle Pace”, a wonderful place to sit outside for an aperitif around 7pm or inside to curl up in winter with a delicious slice of sachertorte chocolate cake.  H E A V E N !

Julia Roberts as Liz sending her final email to David may have also been filmed inside the same location.  I believe Liz in the book wrote the email in a much less attractive venue, namely the sleazy Easy Internet Cafe in Piazza Barberini. It has since closed and become a bank.

Julia Roberts as Liz shows off her Italian by reeling off everyone's food order on a leafy open terrace. The terrace belongs to the Santa Lucia Restaurant in front of the Hotel Raphael which is almost completely obscured by a wall of ivy. I can't recommend this restaurant as I've never tried it. The location is fabulous and romantic but possibly a little touristy.  I can however recommend the luxurious Hotel Raphael for its fantastic location and roof-top terrace, tucked away behind Piazza Navona. The service can be indifferent but it's in Rome; Romans don't do servile unless they have little else to offer.  I promise you that's not the case here.  

Julia Roberts as Liz eats an ice cream sitting in Piazza Navona. Where she bought it isn't shown in the film. I've seen the credit given to Gelateria San Crispino as the American press professes this chain to serve the best ice cream in Rome. I think it's over-priced and over-rated but the flavours with meringue in are a triumph so definitely try it out.  Liz in the book surely tried ice cream everywhere and at one point she clearly makes a reference to my favourite, secret gelateria where she was taken by a food critic to taste the best rice ice cream on the planet.

So enjoy the film, Elizabeth Gilbert is certainly pleased with it and I will go on explaining to Gastro-gnome why she chose to travel to India and Bali to Pray and Love when all three actions are a blissful priority right here in the Eternal City.  Beats me! If it had been called Eat, Pray,Work then she would definitely have been sent on her merry way...


  1. Liz went into nearby countryside for her thanksgiving meal. Julia as Liz looks like she went to Tuscany- more scenic for the screen. Did anyone recognise it?

    1. Thank you for this Tour!
      I think they drove through the small piazza in Pienza. Lovely place. It's near Montepulciano.

    2. I wonder about this Bar where Elisabeth meets her Swedish Girl friend? Such a vibrant atmosphere! :)

  2. Thanks for this great round-up of Eat-Pray sites in Rome! In December, I arrived in Bali a week after Julia Roberts had left--everyone was still busy talking about her, but I really didn't like Bali (the mugginess! the tourists! the bugs!), and couldn't wait to get out, no matter what Eat Pray said...

  3. I will probably be lambasted for this, but I haven't seen the film and I absolutely hated the book... I know, I know! I'm a freak of nature... I had an issue with the Da Vinci Code too. :-(

  4. Couldn't stand the book, perhaps because she (Elizabeth) wasn't as committed to learning the Italian language as she much as she doth protested, or committed to anything else in her life for that matter....but that aside, I enjoyed reading your account of the film locations in Roma! Pretty neat to be such an insider and have it all be so recognizable and familiar! Brava!

  5. Thanks Melissa. It was a shame to see the film fixer using the same locations all films use. There's so much choice but the same bars and ristorante make all the money. Watch Elisabeth on Divorce might not have been her finest hour but she's a bright person.

  6. Great job on this blog. I think that your perspective is deep, it’s just well thought out and really fantastic to see someone who knows how to put these thoughts down so well. Great stuff here.

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