You were in Rome for a while. Where did you stay?
I rented an apartment that I stayed in for almost the whole time. [Wilson runs upstairs and returns with a photograph taken from his third-floor apartment window.] But because the movie went over, I also stayed at the Hotel de Russie, which is the best hotel there, I think. It's right near the Piazza del Popolo. I also stayed at the Hotel Eden, which is really nice, but I prefer the Hotel de Russie. It has a good gym, and a terrace and outdoor area that are really beautiful. The sheets in both hotels were like linen, which was like sleeping on napkins. I think of good sheets as being really soft, and these are almost rough, but then you get used to them. That was my experience with Italy in general. That they've perfected the art of living. So anything they did that you think, Well, I prefer it this way, that's what I'm used to, if you give it a chance over there, it usually turns out better the way they do it. I'd go into a little dive and have some penne arrabiata and it'd be better than anyplace in L.A., where you pay an arm and a leg. You hear all this stuff about diets and staying away from carbs and pasta, but there you eat pasta all the time. Everybody does, and everybody looks pretty trim. [He pauses, as if forgetting something.] I remember the [American Way] thing is that you're supposed to say where you go on Friday night, the hotel you stay in, etc. Is there a questionnaire I fill out, or have you changed the format?
No questionnaire, just questions. Such as, what are your favorite places in Rome?
The Colosseum. You just can't believe it's been there as long as it has. Growing up in Dallas, you're used to, well, "That 7-Eleven has been there since 1972. That's a landmark." Then you go to Rome, and you're talking about something that's like 2,000 years old. I went to the Sistine Chapel. It's something you need two days to explore. I always associate the Trevi Fountain with that scene in the Fellini movie where Anita Eckberg is dancing in the fountain and looks really sexy. I didn't see her in the fountain, unfortunately. You do see a lot of people throwing coins in, though, and it sort of takes your breath away.
Speaking of taking your breath away, what about all the great restaurants there?
Should I just start reeling off places? Right near the Hotel de Russie is a great place called Dal Bolognese. It's kind of fancy. They have great art on the wall from artists who've gone there. Then right down the street is Beltramme Fiaschetteria, which is run by this guy, Cesare. It's casual and you can just walk in. They have this cacio e pepe pasta dish, a cheese-and-pepper spaghetti, that's a Roman specialty. Nino's is famous for its white beans marinated in olive oil. I'm a guy who likes to get a routine down, so I'm not super adventurous about trying new places. I find something I like and then hit it every day.
Sounds like that was the way you did all of Rome.
Yeah, I'd go to Gina's for lunch a lot and get this great salad with avocados and mozzarella. They also had great desserts there. I'm not a big dessert eater, but for some reason I'd eat dessert with every meal over there. The stuff was just so good. Ciampini was my favorite place for gelato. Over near the Trevi Fountain is San Crispino, which was written up in The New York Times as having the best gelato in Rome. I liked San Crispino, but when I found Ciampini, I felt it was the best. I liked the coffee ice cream and the yogurt.
Anything else you did there that was out of the ordinary for you?
I don't think of myself as a huge museum-goer. I'm somebody who goes so I can tell people I went, rather than really wanting to go. I get kind of tired as soon as I walk into a museum. I'd rather be outside, you know, throwing a football. But in Rome, I felt like it wasn't like seeing it in a museum setting, and I was able to appreciate it more. I guess the churches had all this money and they commissioned all these artists to do these great works. The Contarelli Chapel near Piazza Navona has three Caravaggios. Then, of course, you could ride your bike over to St. Peter's, near where the pope lives. In the evening, they ring the bells, which are kind of ominous-sounding. It sent a shiver down my spine just listening to it.
You mentioned you took your bike with you. Can you really get around Rome on a bicycle?
Willem Dafoe got a motor scooter, and I think Bill had one, too, but I had a bicycle. It was the best way to see the city because you could get around so quickly. Bill and Willem were on the scooters, so they had to kind of follow the traffic. But on a bike, I would just go the wrong way down a one-way street so I could go more as the crow flies. I actually had three bikes, so when my brother Luke was visiting me, and when another friend from Texas came, the three of us would tear over to the Colosseum and [the adjacent spot] where they filmed the Ben-Hur chariot races.
It must have been nice having your dog with you, too. Where did you take him?
I had a great driver, Francesco, and he'd take us up to this big, beautiful park, Villa Panfili, where you could also ride your bike. When my dad came, we'd go up there and jog. There's a palace in the middle of it, and you see those trees that are sort of unique to that part of Italy. Then, when I was staying at the Hotel de Russie, right above there is another great park, Villa Borghese. One of the things that happened in Villa Borghese is that I met this girl and her mother. Her father was the Spanish ambassador to the Vatican. The Palazzo di Spagna is this incredible building where the pope comes every December 8 to recognize Spain, and the girl's family invited me to go there. So I got to see the pope.