Orson Welles, the famous cinema genius, came to Italy in the 1940s. Thanks to a special tax relief program granted to Italy/USA co-productions, the Italian movie industry was booming at the time.
In this new “Hollywood on the Tiber” that - according to Time Magazine – was Rome, Welles interpreted a few movies and planned a film inspired by Shakespeare’s “Othello”.
Towards the end of 1948, Welles filmed in Venice the first takes of Othello, a movie that he directed and in which he also played the main role. A year later, Welles chose two new locations for his film, both in Viterbo: the Papal Palace in piazza San Lorenzo and the church of Santa Maria della Salute.
The façade of the Papal Palace and its loggia appear in many scenes of Othello: the most popular is probably the one that – thanks to a special effect – shows a vessel at sea…and the sea is right behind the loggia of the Papal Palace.
After Orson Welles, many other film directors chose piazza San Lorenzo as a location for their movies. Some scenes of the following films were shot here: Margherita di Cortona (1950) directed by Mario Bonnard, Cronache di un convento (1962) by Edward Dmytryk, Lucrezia Borgia (1953) by Christian-Jacque, L’uomo che ride (1966) by Sergio Corbucci, La cintura di castità (1967) by Pasquale Festa Campanile, Il sacco di Roma (1953) by Ferruccio Cerio, Il tormento e l’estasi (1965) by Carol Reed and, more recently, the TV series I Medici (2016) directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan.
In the 1990s, the film-maker Giorgio Capitani set in Viterbo – in particular in piazza San Lorenzo - Il maresciallo Rocca (1996-2005), a popular TV series interpreted by Gigi Proietti.
Capitani was so in love with Viterbo that he filmed here many other successful TV series, such as Papa Giovanni- Ioannes XXIII( 2002), Rita da Cascia (2004) and Enrico Mattei - L’uomo che guardava al futuro (2009).