Many men have fallen for Ghost Rider's Eva Mendes. 
Unfortunately for them, her heart is already taken - by Rome.
Photographs by Don Flood
Lettering by Darren Booth

EVA MENDES saw Rome first with a guide and then with friends. But Mendes discovered the best parts of the city - and herself, she says - when she got lost, wandering through the rain, disappearing down side streets, being ready for anything and open to everything. "I really found myself there," she says. "I'm not throwing that away or saying it lightly; I really did some major soul-searching and soul-finding there. It was just magical."  Mendes is a Los Angeles girl, but the lure of the Eternal City was so strong that she went there once for vacation and then again to experience the city as a local. In the future, she says, she wants to live there. Not that she's abandoning Hollywood just yet. After her breakout role alongside Oscar winner ­Denzel Washington in the 2001 film Training Day and her head-turning role in the 2005 romantic comedy Hitch, starring Will Smith, Mendes is back on the big screen with this month's Ghost Rider (an adaptation of the Marvel Comics series), which stars Nicolas Cage as the titular antihero.  But her spirit remains in Rome. Here's how it got there.

Why did you go to Rome?
Because it was long overdue. Ever since I was little, I have had this fascination with Italians and with Italy. I went to Milan to go to the [Roberto Menichetti] show, and I decided at the last minute to hop on a plane to Rome rather than go straight home. I wasn't working and decided to take advantage of my time off to do what I'd been dying to do for so long: go to Rome!

What was your base in Rome?
The Hotel Eden. I fell in love with the staff, but that's not difficult to do, because they are Italian, and I fall in love with all Italians. They are just the most amazing people. I stayed in this beautiful suite that had a little bit of luxury, and it was very comfortable. I like a little bit of elegance, but I don't like when things get too posh. It's my perfect kind of spot. I just felt very comfortable there. It has great beds and pillows, which is a must for me, because I love sleeping so that afterward I can walk around the entire day. When I first got into Rome, it was late at night, and I marveled at how beautifully lit the city was. The hotel had a bottle of wine waiting for me, so I had a glass and then went to bed, already eager to start my day. There is a church right across the way; you could hear the church bells, and it was really stunning. I am kind of a grouch in the morning. But I found that in Rome, for whatever reason, waking up early was so natural. I was so eager to greet the day, especially with the ringing church bells. It was just so idyllic for me, really spiritual. Nowhere in the world have I ever woken up on my own at seven in the morning.

What did you do when you got up?
The Hotel Eden has this beautiful terrace. So I would go upstairs and have my coffee and croissants, and then I would go on a 30- to 40-minute walk. That is how I started my day. I try to do that here. I love Los Angeles, but it just does not happen here the way it happens in Rome.

Tell me about something that happened to you in Rome.
My most incredible memory is my first day of sightseeing. I had my guidebook with me, and it was pouring rain. I was trying to look at the map and get to this destination. I forget where I was headed, but it was not the Trevi Fountain. What happened was - in the pouring rain - I was kind of lost, and I looked up, and I had stumbled upon the Trevi Fountain. It was during the day but at twilight, so that's why I could not tell where I was. It was the most perfect setting, because you still had some light, but there was no sun, and it was raining, and there was the Trevi Fountain. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life, because I found it accidentally. I was in tears. I was in awe of how beautiful [it was]. What a visual. I don't even know what words I can use to describe it. I was so taken by the grandness of it. It's one of those memories I think about and I get chills. It was spectacular. You know how a lot of times you see things in movies and they appear much more beautiful or grandiose? They seem much more special on the big screen. That is not the case with the Trevi Fountain. There is something iconic about [Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita] going into the fountain, and you think, Oh my God! - but to see it in person, it is so much more beautiful. I love that.