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Saturday, March 9, 2013

As the Papal Conclave begins at Vatican City.. Experience Your Own Version through Film

A Scene from Ron Howard's "Angels & Demons"
As cardinals from around the world meet in Rome for a conclave to elect the next leader of the catholic church, we revisit a movie of the same subject.

Although dark in nature, Ron Howard's 2009 thriller, "Angels & Demons" will transport you to Vatican City and take you through the spectacular sites and monuments of Rome. Adapted from the popular series by Dan Brown and costarring Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino, the film takes us on a scenic tour of the Eternal City and showcases art and historical details that even the keenest eye could have missed. The story follows the characters as they set out on the "Path of the Illuminati", to four symbolic destinations in Rome, each associated with one of the elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. They are also sites known for their blending of pagan symbolism and Christianity, something I never noticed in Rome until reading the book and then watching the film. 

It all starts after the death of the Pope and the kidnapping of the four Preferiti, the main hopefuls for the papacy. Without giving away too much of the film, four major scenes take place at the following locations with the associated elements:
Earth- The church of Santa Maria del Popolo located in Piazza del Popolo
Air- The West Ponente located in St. Peter's Square
Fire- The church of Santa Maria della Vittoria near Piazza Barberini
Water- Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona

Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers
Ron Howard did such an amazing job creating a film that really takes you to another world. Most of the film was shot on the streets and actual locations in Rome. So don't be surprised if the film inspires you to book your next trip. When I was in Rome last year covering the Rome Independent Film Festival, I stopped by a few sites featured in the movie such as Piazza del Popolo, where I visited Santa Maria del Popolo to see the Chigi Chapel and Gianlorenzo Bernini's scupture, “Habakkuk and the Angel". I also went to Piazza Navona, where I paid closer attention to the Egyptian Obelisk that rises out of Bernini's "Fountain of the Four Rivers", which is also a main location in the film. I then ventured down the road known as the "Bridge of Angels" which leads to Castel Sant'Angelo, a magnificent piece of architecture that housed the remains of several Roman emperors including Hadrian and the notorious Caracalla. The grand structure was a key location throughout the film.

If the film inspires you to embark on your own "Angels & Demons" adventure, you can do as I did and run around on your own, which could be a bit exhausting, or you could enlist the help of a pro.There are dozens of tour companies in Rome that offer tours of these beautiful Roman locations. One tour company that I can recommend is, Stefano Rome Tours. Stefano Costantini is the owner and a highly respected and experienced tour director in Rome. Costantini is Roman and knows the streets and neighborhoods of the Eternal City like only a native could. He speaks fluent English and takes much pride in the successful business that he has built. He offers a comprehensive all-day tour of the locations in the film, and you won't have to pound the pavement!  Costantini has a fleet of drivers and luxury cars, so you can enjoy the tour in style and comfort. For more information on the "Angels & Demons" tour through Stefano Rome Tours,  visit the website at..

Trianon Borgo Pio
If you'd prefer to stay on your own, I can recommend a central location that is both beautiful and affordable.  It is a residence consisting of 45 furnished apartments in a quiet neighborhood just 5-10 minutes walking distance from the Vatican. Note: another thing that I learned.. there is a quiet neighborhood located close to the hustle and bustle of the biggest tourist attraction in Rome!  The residence is called Trianon Borgo Pio and is located in a little neighborhood called Borgo Pio. I chose this residence because of its close proximity to the "Angels and Demons" locations.  I was thoroughly impressed by the accommodations. You can find more information by visiting their website at..

I consider this a must-do if a trip to Rome is in your future!

- Jeannine Guilyard

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