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Fiction set in Rome in the 1960s (featuring an “erotic vagrant” at Cinecittà)

23rd July 2014

The Affair by Gill Paul, fiction set in Rome.

IMG_2034Transport yourself back to Rome of the early 60s, the paparazzi have just found their niche, vespas are de rigueur, and the dolce vita is in full swing. Diana, a British academic from London is invited to go to Rome to oversee the historical accuracy on the film set of Cleopatra, at the Cinecittà Studios, leaving staid, dependable husband Trevor behind. Of course, in the 1960s women had less freedom to follow their career choices, so it is with a heavy heart, mixed with huge excitement that Diana heads off to Rome. Things are not easy between the two of them, Trevor retreats into his own world of academia, becoming more introspective and struggling without her; she meanwhile is consumed by the exciting challenges she encounters in the Eternal City.

She gradually develops a friendship with Helen and the two of them can often be found shopping or eating out together. But Helen is a troubled young woman and Diana is oblivious to any signs. Lives overlap with Scott, a reporter in the city from America. It is how their stories intertwine that makes for a gripping read and for an unpredictable end.


Photo from blogs.villagevoice

Add the glamour of Elizabeth Taylor and witness the ‘blazing conflagration’ that is the burgeoning relationship with Richard Burton into the mix and the stage is set for melodrama, tension and heady high times. It is the paparazzi (a term coined  by Fellini in his 1960 film La Dolce Vita) who hound her and it is the Vatican who censors her in terms of an erotic vagrant for her affair with Burton. Contemporary relationships play out on the set, the original affair between Antony and Cleopatra mirrors the past with the present.

Visit the Villa Papa on the Via Appia Antica where Elizabeth is lodging. Enjoy Fettucine Alfredo, created by Alfredo di Lelio which has become a classic dish in its own right (fettucine essentially tossed with Parmesan and butter). Ride the city on the back of a Vespa and pop down to Ischia which doubles as Tarsus for film purposes. At the end the author writes briefly about the making of the film Cleopatra which was one of the most expensive films ever made and she describes the impact the Burton/Taylor affair had on it. It is a fascinating backstory.

Throughout the novel Italian phrases are dropped in – whether you can understand them or not is irrelevant, they thoroughly add to the Roman mood (though, when a phrase is translated it’s a bit of a whoops moment: “Chiami l’Ambasciata Americana, per favore” is translated as ‘Call the British Embassy” – but perhaps even back then the Brits were in the pockets of the Americans…)

Enjoy this great novel, an enthralling story of love and passion set against the backdrop of one of the most iconic films ever made. You can find out more about the book here.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

You can follow author Gill Paul via Twitter and via her website.

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PS: Ines, one of Alfredo’s grandchildren (he of the fettuccine) mentioned in the book picked up this blog and wrote to us. Here is a little more of what they said (and we are definitely going to visit when next in Rome!):


With reference of your article we have the pleasure to tell you the history of our grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio, who is the creator of “fettuccine all’Alfredo” in 1908 in restaurant run by his mother Angelina in Rome, Piazza Rosa (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Sordi).
Alfredo di Lelio opened the restaurant “Alfredo” in 1914 in a street in central Rome, after leaving the restaurant of his mother Angelina.
In 1943, during the war, Di Lelio sold the restaurant to others outside his family.
In 1950 Alfredo Di Lelio decided to reopen with his son Armando his restaurant in Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30 “Il Vero Alfredo” (“Alfredo di Roma”), which is now managed by his nephews Ines, with the famous “gold cutlery”” (fork and spoon gold) donated in 1927 by two well-known American actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (in gratitude for the hospitality).
See also the site of “Il Vero Alfredo” (in which there are also informations on franchising) .
We must clarify that other restaurants “Alfredo” in Rome do not belong to the family tradition of “Il Vero Alfredo” in Rome.
We inform that the restaurant “Il Vero Alfredo” is in the registry of “Historic Shops of Excellence” of the City of Rome Capitale.
Best regards Alfredo e Ines Di Lelio


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  1. User: Teresa

    Posted on: 05/11/2014 at 6:49 pm

    Not great literature I know but I loved Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. It brought back wonderful memories of our Roman holiday especially The Ecstasy of St Teresa!


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