Rome Travel Guide

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Alberto Sordi: a Roman in Rome

If you're shopping for movie posters in Rome, three, as we recall, are ubiquitous: Anita Ekberg cavorting in the Trevi Fountain in La Dolce Vita (1960); Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on a Vespa in Roman Holiday (1953); and Alberto Sordi putting spaghetti into his mouth in Un Americano a Roma (An American in Rome) [1954]. 

If you've never heard of Sordi, you're not alone, though if you expressed that ignorance to an Italian you'd be judged insane or demented.  Sordi's illustrious career as an actor spanned 61 years and included 148 roles.  Among his best-known films were The White Sheik (1952) and  I Vitelloni  (1953), both directed by Fellini, and Lo Scapolo  (The Bachelor) [1955] and Un Borghese Piccolo (An Average Little Man) 1977, whose title suggests one of his most common roles.  He also directed 18 films.

Sordi was Roman to the core--so much so, the story goes, that he was kicked out of Milan's dramatic arts academy for his thick Roman accent.  He was born in Rome, raised in the quartiere of Garbatella and by his schoolteacher mother and musician father, and when he died in Rome in February 2003, more than a million people came to the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano to pay their respects (these days, an equal number appear in that square only for free rock concerts), and some 250,000 came to the funeral (right).  (For more on Garbatella, see the first itinerary in our new book, Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler. More on the book at the end of this post.)

Garbatella remains proud of its native son.  On one of its curvy streets, you'll find evidence of that pride: a wall-size painting, featuring Sordi's portrait and an abbreviated--if still impressively long--filmography.

Remember the name--Alberto Sordi, also known as Albertone (big Albert)--especially when talking to an Italian, especially in Rome, and above all in Garbatella.

The wall painting at right is featured in the Garbatella itinerary of our new print AND eBook,  Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler.  Modern Rome features tours of the "garden" suburb of Garbatella; the 20th-century suburb of EUR, designed by the Fascists; the 21st-century music and art center of Flaminio, along with Mussolini's Foro Italico, also the site of the 1960 summer Olympics; and a stairways walk in Trastevere.

This 4-walk book is available in all print and eBook formats The eBook is $1.99 through and all other eBook sellers.  See the various formats at

Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler
 now is also available in print, at, Barnes and Noble, independent bookstores, and other retailers; retail price $5.99.

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