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‘Angels’ in Italy

Angels_and_demonsDespite the success of ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ and maybe in part because of it, this summer’s smash hit ‘Angels and Demons‘ didn’t have an easy ride to the cineplex. The 2008 Screen Actors Guild strike meant on-location filming was limited to a 3-week Roman blitz. Not only that, but the Pope’s people, unhappy with ‘Da Vinci,’ put the kibosh on any plans to film scenes at the Vatican. Find out they got it done, after the jump, and how you can go on location, after the jump…





‘Angels’ is the action-packed adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel by the same name. When a terrorist plot against the Vatican is uncovered, Tom Hank’s Dr. Robert Langdon is back to uncover the secrets hidden in the symbols, and spend a lot of time running through Rome’s most popular tourist attractions. 


When the Holy See refused to let film crews shoot on the grounds of any Catholic church, director Ron Howard headed to Caserta Palace, just north of Naples, the same place that played the Vatican in ‘Mission Impossible III‘. The Vatican library was played by the Biblioteca Angelica, a library in the Piazza Sant’Agostino, not far from the famed Piazza Navona, which can also be seen in the film (you’ll spot it when you see Bernini’s Baroque masterpiece the Four Rivers fountain). The city’s grounds were recreated to scale in Los Angeles. Though the real deal didn’t make the film, any trip to Rome is not complete with a trip to the world’s smallest sovereign (recognized) nation. The other locations in the film are a montage of phoney baloney backlot magic, including life-sized a replica of the St. Peter’s Basilica and tons of greenscreen action. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it to see the real thing. 


Caserta Palace

Caserta Palace


St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square: The largest, and most spectacular church in all of Christianity, St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s also a shrine to Italian artistic achievement. The current building was designed by a a who’s who of famous architects — including Michelangelo, who designed the dome — and built over the course of 100 years. The inside is a jewelbox, crusted with paintings and sculpture from master artists, including Bernini’s glittering Cathedra, or Throne of St. Peter, and Michelangelo’s touching depection of the Virgin Mary cradling her dead son, ‘The Pieta‘. It’s free to visit, but be sure to cover up — there’s a strict dress code that forbids shorts and miniskirts as well as bare shoulders and knees.  


Sistine Chapel: It’s one of the most famous churches in the world, and there’s no wonder why — the Sistine Chapel features Michelangelo’s famous ceiling, as well works by such masters as Bernini, Raphael and Botticelli. It’s located on St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City in the Apostolic Palace; the pope’s house. You’ll be surprised to find the chapel looks even better than it does in the film. That’s because Ron Howard chose to recreate the chapel as it was before restoration, to help gloss over any factual inconsistencies.


Michelangelo's fresco "The Last Judgement" at the Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo's fresco "The Last Judgement" at the Sistine Chapel



Santa Maria del Popolo: Our Lady of the People (or Our Lady of the Poplars, depending on who you ask) is home to the Cerasi Chapel, one of the most lavishly decorated in Rome. There you’ll find a pair of paintings by the Baroque master Caravaggio, as well as an altarpiece by his contemporary (and rival) Annibale Carracci. Piazza del Popolo 12.

Santa Maria della Vittoria: This small church is home to one of the greatest artistic achievements of the Baroque era — Gianlorenzo Bernini’s explosive sculpture “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa”. Don’t use the movie for directions to this stop on your tour — it’s located at Via XX Settembre 17, not Piazza Barberini like the film. 

The Pantheon: This ancient Roman temple gives props to all the gods, so you know there’s a lot of good stuff going on here. In fact, the second-century structure wowed even the great Michelangelo. What it’s most famous for is its massive dome — we’re talking more than 125 feet high — with its oculus, the round skylight named for the Latin word for eye, that is the temple’s only source of light. Now, the Pantheon is a Roman Catholic church, called Santa Maria ad Martyres. You’ll find it at Piazza della Rotonda 12.

To find out more about Italy, including info on ‘Angels and Demons’ and ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ pick up Museyon’s guide to Film+Travel, where Liz Brown is your guide.

images: Caserta Palace, iStock; Sistine Chapel, bryangeek/Flickr

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