Rome According To Margherita Buy

Italian Cinema's Leading Lady Shines A Spotlight On Her Native City
Margherita Buy (right) with actor, Stefano Accorsi, and director, Maria Sole Tognazzi (left), on the set of Viaggio Sola or A Five Star Life.
Margherita Buy
Film & Television Actress

She has spent her entire life in Rome, yet Margherita Buy still sees the city with fresh eyes. The popular film and television actress finds wonder in Italy’s city of cinema, where almost every street has a café, villa, or fountain, recognizable from its appearance in a movie. Of no surprise to her is that many of the world's most influential movie moguls—from Italian director Federico Fellini to American filmmaker William Wyler—found the city to be a perfect backdrop to add character to their films.

"Rome," she says, "has portrayed all of the most important human facts and themes in history."

When not busy on set or shooting on location, Buy takes to exploring Rome with her daughter, Caterina, finding great halls for music, watching live theater, or taking in a movie at one of the smaller, independent cinemas, which she much prefers over a large multiplex.

A marquee draw, Buy has starred in more than 20 films.
Winning Ways
Setting A Record

At any given time, Buy might be in a film playing on one of those screens. She's a marquee draw, and has won more David di Donatello statues for Best Actress than Sophia Loren, the previous reigning queen of the Donatellos with six of the same award.

Buy received her first Donatello in 1991, at the age of 29, when she took home the prize for director Sergio Rubini's La Stazione (The Station).

But it was in 2015 when she would break Loren’s record for her role in Mia Madre, a nuanced performance where Buy played a film director caught between a demanding career and personal crises. It would earn her a seventh Donatello.

A still from Buy's 2013 film, A Five Star Life.
Setting The Stage
From The Silver Screen To TV

Being an actress wasn't a lifelong dream. After she graduated high school, Buy hadn't a clue what she wanted to pursue as a career. But, after three intense but impactful years studying theater at the Accademia Nazionale d'Arte Drammatica Silvio D'Amico, she discovered her calling.

She is every director's dream. There's no part too big or too small for Buy to embrace. Given a choice, the screen star gravitates toward riskier roles, and comedy. "I like to make people laugh," she says.

There's the challenge of the small screen, too. She's joined the third and final season of the Italian television series "In Treatment," where she plays an actress named Rita, seeking the counsel of the show's protagonist, psychotherapist Dr. Giovanni Mari, played by Sergio Castellitto.

Margherita Buy on the set of A Five Star Life, directed by Maria Sole Tognazzi, at Hotel Adlon Kempinski in Berlin.
On Location
Perks Of The Job

While most of the movies she stars in are filmed in Rome there are times when she must travel for a role, which takes her to hotels. She confides that it is one of the perks of being on location in different cities.

"Since I travel for work I am there mainly on my own. I might feel lonely, but the hotel warms me. It's like a friend who cuddles me."

Local Recommendations

Explore Italy’s City Of Cinema With Actress, Margherita Buy

Street corners and quaint neighborhoods immortalized on screen depict Rome in all its glory, and the city's cinematic inspiration is never-ending for Margherita Buy. Here, Italy's leading lady unspools her native city, frame by frame.

Acoustics In Architecture

Music To The Ears And Eyes

Hearing is believing in the impressively designed Auditorium Parco della Musica (30 Via Pietro de Coubertin; +39-06-8024-1281), where the acoustics are so perfect, they’re almost heavenly. No wonder attendance is second only to New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Three large concert halls, plus a 3,000-seat, open-air amphitheater, host musical performances ranging from classical music to pop year round. An archaeological museum wasn't in the Auditorium's original plans, but was added soon after excavation of the site began in 1995 revealing mural remains from the middle of the 6th century B.C., and a rustic farmhouse from an archaic era were discovered.

The Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome's national symphony, makes its permanent home at the Auditorium. The orchestra, one of the oldest musical institutions in the world, was established by a decree from Pope Sixtus V in 1585, and originally performed in the Church of Santa Maria ad Martires, now known as the Pantheon.

A view of the Auditorium Parco della Musica. Photo courtesy of Roberto Ventre.

Rome's Riches

Lessons In Excess

Indulgent emperor, Nero, built a new home for himself in 64 A.D. that was more like a small city than a palace. After the great fire of Rome, he spared no expense building the magnificent residence, Domus Aurea, (1 Via della Domus Aurea; +39-06-399-67-700), otherwise known as the Golden House. Lavish gold leaf, jewels, mother of pearl, stucco façades, massive bathhouses, frescoes, fountains, boundless vineyards, and baths which flowed with seawater, were just a few of the palace’s embarrassment of riches.

Following his death, Nero's successors buried the building entirely, trying to erase any trace of him. It wasn’t until Raphael and other artists explored the entombed palace that its forgotten majesty was resurrected. Time hasn't been kind to the Golden House, however, and it is currently in the midst of an ambitious restoration project. Massive work continues, but guided tours of the restoration site are conducted on weekends.

A mosaic detail from Nero's Domus Aurea. Photo courtesy of Dennis Jarvis.

Behind The Scenes

Lights, Camera, Action

When working on a film, Margherita Buy spends several weeks at a time at Cinecittà Studios (1055 Via Tuscolana; +39-06-7229-31), the largest film studio in Europe. Opened in 1937, it was discovered in the early 1950s by American filmmakers, giving it the nickname of "Hollywood on the Tiber." This is where many 20th-century American classics were made, including Roman Holiday, Ben Hur, Cleopatra, and The Pink Panther.

Grab a backstage pass for Cinecittà Shows Off, a tour which goes behind the scenes to where the moviemaking happens. Majestic outdoor sets put you in the middle of colossal action—a five-acre depiction of ancient Rome used for the 2005 television series, Rome, produced by HBO and the BBC, and a re-creation of 15th century Florence made completely from fiberglass for a 2013 film adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

Part of Cinecittà's five acre set from the HBO and BBC production, Rome. Photo courtesy of Jean-Pierre Dalbéra.

Premiere Performances

All The World's A Stage

Revered for its beautiful theaters, Rome is home to one stage in particular that has special meaning for Margherita Buy. She recalls her mix of anticipation and fear when she performed at the Teatro Argentina (52 Largo di Torre Argentina; +39-06-684-00-0311). Years later, she still feels butterflies when she steps into the auditorium.

There's much history built into the walls. Constructed in 1731, it is one of the oldest opera houses in the city. It was here that Gioachino Rossini debuted his opera, The Barber of Seville in 1816. The theater's history goes back even further—it is believed to be on the site of the Curia of Pompey, where Julius Caesar was killed in 44 B.C.

From The Ground Up

A Taste Of Local Flavors

Soak up history and inspiration with an afternoon macchiato at Italy's second-oldest café, Antico Caffé Greco (86 Via dei Condotti; +39-06-679-1700). Way before there was Starbuck's, this community coffee shop has been the gathering place for philosophers, poets, writers, artists, and politicians since its opening in 1760. Portraits and plaster plaques confirm the notable patrons who have relaxed with a good book, or maybe written one, while seated on the café's red velvet chairs. Author-romantic Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, essayist María Zambrano, fashion designer Mariano Fortuny, and writer John Keats, who lived nearby, are just a few of the illustrious regulars who have frequented the café over its more than 250 year existence.
Attracted by food and ambiance, the dinner crowd lines up at Il Sanlorenzo (4/5 Via dei Chiavari; +39-06-686-5097) for the constantly changing pescatarian menu. Built over the foundations of the ancient Pompeo Theatre, the fine dining restaurant is on a quiet street near Palazzo Farnese. The freshest seafood in town comes from a cooperative of local fishermen who mine the Pontine Islands and Civitavecchia ports on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Like what you see? Il Sanlorenzo has a selection of fresh catch for sale. Below ground, a private chef's table is reserved for four, precisely on the spot where the theater foundation existed.