Roman Holiday: via Margutta 51


Those of you who have been following this site know it has gone through a lot of reworking. It began as a call for experts on the city of Rome to help find all the locations. Eventually all the Locations were identified by the kind folks whose names you have read in the preceding pages. But one mall, important mystery remained. No one could gain access to the interior of via Margutta 51, the alleged site of Joe Bradley's apartment.

The Daily Operations Reports made it clear the apartment seen in the movie was a set at Cinecitta, but several web pages claimed the exteriors around Joe's apartment were filmed at via Margutta 51. None of the folks I managed to contact could give me any really specific information about this.

A new corresponent contacted me at the end of February, 2009. John MacDonald of, had done some masterful detective work. The fruits of his labors were presented in several places among the movie pages. The first work he did was on mapping via Margutta 51.

In September of 2009, my wife and I took our niece Alyssa to Rome for her high school graduation present. Loie rented us an apartment inside via Margutta 51! I scouted the complex and found the location of Joe's Terrace and all the exterior shots. It turned out John's analysis of the complex nd the problems it presents was spot on.

As his information came in, I added it to the relevant pages. Now that we've been in via Margutta 51, I've created this page, moving John's analysis here for historical purposes, and adding my new photos.


February, 2009

John used Google Streetview to identify all the spires seen in 06-09, and did a triangulation to determine the location of the terrace within the via Margutta 51 complex. John determined that the tower on the left of the shots of Joe's Terrace is one of the twin towers of San Atanasio, on via del Babuino. The domed spire is on Santi Ambrosio e Carlo al Corso, of course on via del Corso. The tall spire in the center is on All Saints Church on via Babuino. He then created the following illustration.

The Cori page has a modern photo showing this terrace.




Working in Google Earth, John went "backwards" from Joe's Terrace to what he was sure was the courtyard seen in 06-11. He also scoured the web for other sites showing a few pictures of the Courtyard, and worked out a proposal for the various locations of Tunnel Stairs, Vine Covered Stairs, etc. I added those to the Google Map here.

As it turns out, he was entirely correct, and I've left the Roman Holiday Map section on via Margutta essentially as it was, with only a small bit of reorganizing.


Summer, 2009

The next bit of the movie on which John worked is the sequence he called the Courtyard Door Puzzle. John sent a series of movie grabs. They corresponded to the scenes 05-07 and -08, where Joe is leading Ann through the Complex, to his apartment. John said: "Joe is leading Ann to his apartment at via Margutta 51. Notice the height of the door (remember Gregory Peck was 6'3" tall) and the vase at the doorstep. They seem to go immediately into this next scene. (At the Spiral Stair.) But now Ann is walking through the left hand door if viewed from the previous location and the door is hardly taller than Ann.

"This courtyard with the spiral staircase may or may not be in the via Margutta 51 complex, but it's certainly not accessed through the door in the previous location."

That was a nice bit of work. John has sharp eyes. And now that we've been inside, I can clear up the beginning of the Courtyard Door Puzzle. However, in doing so, we are left with the Spiral Stair Puzzle. As of October 2009, that remains to be solved.


October, 2009

My pictures, from the front gate to Joe's Terrace. Let me apologize in advance for the lack of spacial orientation in some of these pictures. The quarters are cramped inside the complex. It runs steeply uphill, from via Margutta itself halfway to viale dei Trinita dei Monti. In back of the complex, and indeed all along the hill behind via Margutta, is an overgrown tangle of what used to be gardens, and are now weedlots with scrubbly trees and vines all jungly. It's no longer possible to get most of the long views available in 1952. But I think you'll get the idea.



Front gate

View to: Northeast

As seen in 05-05-2.

The gate is just a few doors north of the little vicolo dell'Orto di Napoli--unfortunately not labeled on Google Maps--on the northeast side of the street.

As of the late summer of 2009, the doors seem to be open during the day. There is now a concierge in a little office at the end of this Front Gate Tunnel.



View to: Northeast

The Courtyyard isn't really seen in the movie, but I want to present a geographically sensible tour of the complex.



View to: Northeast

Here I am in the Courtyard. This view might give a sense of the hill into which via Margutta backs up.



View to: North

Walking into the Courtyard and looking left. Under the eagle you see the entrance to Scala C. There are three sets of steps leading off the Courtyard.

One set, A, is on the immediate right as you enter. Another is at the back of the Courtyard. Our interest is in this set, C.

Also notice the brown doors. Just to their left is the strigilata sarcophagous!



View to: North

A closeup the strigilata sarcophagous. This is seen in the shot through the door in 06-07.

And yes, there are half-feral cats all over the complex.



View to: North

The entrance to Scala C, the Tunnel Stairs.


Scala C, Tunnel Stairs

View to: North

Looking up the Tunnel Stairs. Through the end, you can see the door visible in the morning scene, where Joe loans Ann some pocket money. (Not shown on this site.)


First Landing

View to: North

At the top of the Tunnel Stair is a small landing. You are standing directly under Giovanni's Balcony.

You are also looking up through the Vine Covered Stairs.


Giovanni's Balcony

View to: Southeast

If you stand on the left-hand side of the landing pictured above, you'll see the Balcony. Note the grills on the doors, just as they were in the movie. (06-10).

It's difficult to see the Balcony as shown in the movie: the wisteria has grown out so much.


Second Landing

View to: North

At the top of the Vine Covered Stairs. The landing where Joe makes Ann a loan, and Giovanni disapproves.

From here, if you turn around you'll be looking down the Vine Covered Stairs.


Vine Covered Stairs, First Landing

View to: South

From the Second Landing at the top of the Vine Covered Stairs. Giovanni's Balcony is just barely visible above the Tunnel Stairs.


Second Landing, Third Stairs

View to: Northeast

Here's a slightly tricky bit. Yet another stairs goes up from the Second Landing, to the right as we're going along. This is never seen in the movie.


Second Landing, Third Stairs

View to: East

At the top of the short flight of stairs from the Second Landing, a walkway continues to the East.

Purely coincidentally, our apartment was along this walkway, around the corner to the right!

Notice the rough looking patch of paving halfway along the walkway. Imagine you have walked over it, and stopped just where the pavement becomes smooth.


Walkway, Fourth Stairs

View to: Northeast

Just where the pavement becomes smooth, there is yet another short flight of stairs leading up to the left.


Fourth Stairs

View to: North

Looking up these stairs, at the top you see Joe's Courtyard (05-07).


Joe's Courtyard

View to: Northeast

As seen in 05-07. Here we have climbed the Fourth Stairs, stopped, and turned right.

I looked over enough of the details --drainpipes, door handles, little awning, small step up just in front of the doors-- to satisfy myself. This is the doorway that began the Courtyard Door Puzzle.

And it indeed does not lead to the Spiral Stair. Nor can, as one does in the movie, one see the city as background from the terrace, because of all the grown up trees.


Joe's Courtyard

View to: West

Here we have walked on a few paces from the previous view, stopped and turned around to approximate the view seen in 05-07.


Joe's Terrace

View to: West

Here we have walked on a few paces from the previous view, stopped and turned around again to approximate the view seen in 06-09.

Unfortunately, this was the best I could do. It's obvious that the movie camera location had to be further uphil, either in the now overgrown jungle gardens, or perhaps on the street above the Terrace. I could not get into the gated off "garden," and from the street all one sees is jungle.

The railing around the top of Joe's Terrace looks like that in the movie. In the top of this picture you can sort of make out a green awning that would cover the outside door into "Joe's Apartment."


The Final Stairs

View to: North

If, standing at the same spot as in the prvious picture, you turned right, you'd be looking up this long walkway. It runs along the side of a series of apartments that begins with the one entered by the Door in Joe's Courtyard.

John was absolutely correct. The Spiral Stair is definitely not beyond that door. Instead, the Courtyard Door is the entrance into an apartment!

At the top of this walkway and stairs is another landing, blocked by a locked gate. I could not enter that. But it's obvious that another smaller series of apartments tops the one on the left, shown here. Exactly how they are accessed I don't really know. There is a courtyard to their west, below them, but that is entered from another street door, not open to the public.

From the semi-public walkways I've shown here, it's not possible to see along the western, as opposed to this eastern, edge of "Joe's Apartment."

This ends your tour of via Margutta 51. Hope you've enjoyed it! As a final note, I asked several people who were doing cleaning work around via Margutta 51 about the Spiral Stair. I showed them my printouts of my screen grabs of the movie. Both were positive the Spiral Stair is not in the complex at #51.

I also, on the advice of Antonio Barbieri of Concierge in Rome, locator of the Wall of Wishes, went into via Margutta 31 with my printouts and asked around. One fellow pointed me to a stair that was obviously not the Spiral Stair, claiming that "work had been done." No way. So that was a washout. I will continue to pusue this last mystery over the next few months. There are one or two leads that might pan out, who knows?

For now, enjoy what we know.


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Concept  /  Concept continued  Method  00: Cast   00: Credits  01: Arrival  02: Reception  03: Bedtime  
04: Escape  05: City Night / 05: continued  06: Day Begins06: continued  07: Free for a Haircut  /
07: continued  08: Vespa Tour  09: Wild Chase! / 09 continued  10: Wishes  11: The Night  12: The End  
via Margutta 51  The Map  (The Map Key)