Escape Artists

Return to Me

“Return to Me, O my dear, I’m so lonely.
Hurry back, hurry back, O my love, hurry back and I am yours.
Return to me, for my heart wants you only.
Hurry home, Hurry home, Won’t you please hurry home to my heart?”

Dean Martin seems to be singing these words to all those who have ever lived in Rome. Over the decades, in movies of different styles and qualities, many filmmakers have also invited us – and helped us – to return to Rome. I’ll explore some of their movies here, and hopefully encourage you not just to visit the sites the filmmakers show us, but also inspire you to view some of their works.

The iconic St Peter's Cathedral in the Vatican The iconic St Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican

A Romantic Return 

Dean Martin’s song runs during the opening credits in the movie of the same name, and it says it all. Although Bonnie Hunt’s film “Return to Me” (2000) does not get to Rome until the last ten minutes, it has a romantic Italian feel from the start.

The movie also contains a great performance by a good friend of Santa Susanna’s, the late Carroll O’Connor, who plays the grandfather of Grace (Minnie Driver). She receives a heart transplant from the deceased wife of the man played by David Duchovny, unbeknownst to him. Of course they fall in love. After a lot of angst, trauma and a little comedy, the couple finally reunites at the fountain in the Piazza del Pantheon, with the help of a bicycle and two elderly nuns. Anyone seeing the end of this movie would want to spend a few days sipping wine or cappuccino at an outdoor cafè in front of the Pantheon, watching lovers meet at the fountain and nuns riding by on bicycles.


Fountains for Women in Love

Nighttime at the Piazza della Reppublica Nighttime at the Piazza della Reppublica

Fountains are a theme in many movies filmed in Rome. The 1954 film, “Three Coins in a Fountain” directed by Jean Negulesco begins with a shot of the fountain of the Naiads in what is now the Piazza della Repubblica. A luscious Technicolor movie, “Three Coins in a Fountain” draws tourists to Rome by the thousands, each perhaps looking for a little Italian romance of their own. Fountains populate the opening credits: in the Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo, and in Tivoli.

Meanwhile, an uncredited Frank Sinatra sings:

“Three coins in a fountain, Each heart longing for its home.
There they lie in the fountain, somewhere in the heart of Rome.
Which one will the fountain bless? Which one will the fountain bless?”

As the opening credits end, Negulesco shows us the Trevi Fountain, glistening pure white in the Roman sun (much like the newly refurbished Fontana di Mosé does today). Within minutes, we learn the proper way to throw a coin in the Trevi (facing backwards and over the shoulder), guaranteeing our return and the granting of our every wish. Though now a little passé and politically incorrect, “Three Coins in a Fountain” remains charming as it tells the story of three American women working in Italy and longing for the man of their dreams. While working at a U.S. Government agency, and sharing a fabulous villa next to the statue of Garibaldi on the Gianiculum, each falls in love respectively with an American novelist, an Italian co-worker, and an Italian prince (played by French actor Louis Jourdan).

One coin in a Fountain

Seeing Rome on the big screen circa 1950 is a real treat because we realize how much things have (and haven’t changed): the elegant and spotless Stazione Termini, the available parking next to the statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Campidoglio, nuns in full habits and dozens of cardinals dressed in crimson, on endless passeggiatas. The movie is filled with stereotypical fun-loving Italians who may live in squalor, but are happy singing, eating and loving. It’s all here, with good performances by Clifton Webb, Dorothy McGuire, Rosanno Brazzi, and Maggie McNamara.

Another film review from out friend, Father Greg! Another film review from out friend, Father Greg!


Very nice blog.I like this and will come back very soon.

The more I read on your blog, the more I’m liking it. Your subject matter is always interesting and different to most blogs I read. Please continue writing about movies made in Rome. There are many movies made throughout Italy I would also enjoy reading about. I think I’ll watch “Return to Me” now 🙂

Hi Anna, I have neglected this section of the blog for awhile, but “To Rome With Love” has inspired me.  Love being in Rome via Hollywood!

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