“Cinecittà is the largest film studio in Europe, spreading over an area of 100 acres with 19 stages, 1 permanent tent, 300 dressing rooms and offices, 21 makeup areas and an outdoor tank of 120,000 square feet”, as its website proclaims (www.cinecitta.com). It is an impressive place to visit, situated just 9km from the centre of Rome, or about twenty minutes on the “A” line of the Rome subway in the direction of Anagnina, with its own subway station.
As you emerge from the station, you immediately see the art-deco style entrance gate. Although it was constructed in 1936-37 to create movie propaganda for the Mussolini government, it was almost completed destroyed in WW2, to be rebuilt again towards the end of the 1940s.
A walk along the avenues of sound stages on your left and right, including Fellini’s favourite stage Teatro 5, eventually bring you to thebacklots. These are immense in size – the current Ancient Roman Civilization backlot extends over five acres.
Zeffirelli’s autobiography refers to his choice of Cinecittà for Romeo and Juliet:
“I was grateful for the support of Tony [Havelock-Allen] and John [Brabourne] as well as the loyalty of Bud Ornstein, who assisted in the arrangement of the finance so that I could start building the sets at Cinecittà even before we were sure we had a cast. These were not to be on the same scale as those of [The Taming of the Shrew]. Because of our limited funds, I had spent a lot of time searching for locations in Tuscany and central Italy for exterior locations. I wasn’t sorry about this, as I welcomed the idea of doing something different and knew we had some truly magnificent backgrounds to use.”
One of the backlots was used to construct the town square of Verona. In the photo gallery I have constructed a slide show as a basic panorama of the four sides of the square. Without the original layout plans, my orientation has been arbitrary. The main church façade and steps would (in reality) be the west facing front doors (using the conventional Christian east-west axis for church buildings). This would place the fountain/well into which Mercutio jumps on the north wall. The south-east corner has the main entrance for the cast to emerge and exit into and from the square: the rioters and the Prince at the beginning; Romeo and Tybalt and their followers during their duel (after the exterior shots); the funeral procession in the final scene.
The soundstages were used for many of the interior scenes, especially portions of the scenes in the Capulet house (including Juliet’s bedroom). However, interior scenes were also shot using locations such as the Palazzo Piccolomini in Pienza and the church of S. Pietro in Tuscania.