1955 - 1965

Years of Dolce Vita

Istituto Luce Cinecittà

"This is a society which, the terrors of the cold war now past and perhaps even in reaction to them, flourishes a bit everywhere."
Ennio Flaiano

Prosperity came to Italy in the fifties. This was not a sudden discovery but a victory resulting from years of hard work. After the moral and material devastation of fascism and war, the Italian people pulled up their sleeves and showed the world their persistence and creative talent in the fields of industry, art and entertainment. 1960 represented the key moment of the entire period, the year when Federico Fellini's movie "La Dolce Vita" was released. But was Italian life really so sweet?

What was the cost of living at the height of the economic boom?

Many Italians were amazed to encounter modernity for the first time. Rome's first supermarket opened in 1956...

Apartment buildings, functional yet often anonymous, and economy cars were typical of the period between reconstruction and the economic boom.

Palazzine popolari nella periferia romana, 1959, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
Una Fiat 600 Multipla a Piazza San Pietro, 1957, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà

The Fiat 600 family car was introduced to the public for the first time on March 9, 1955, with 4 or even 5 seats and a top speed of 95 km per hour.

The Fiat 500 was launched in 1957, aimed at Italians who could not afford the modest cost of the 600.

Un frate cambia una ruota alla sua 600 in una strada di Roma, 1958, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà

In these years Italy could be described as a peculiar mixture of old and new. However, everyone was looking for progress – laborers, entrepreneurs, women and young people alike.

Famiglia contadina posa con le hostess della LAI, compagnia di bandiera italiana, 1955, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
Anna Tonella Autori modelling for the Vespa competition in the streets of Rimini, 1963, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
Due ragazze con ceste colme d'uva su una vespa, 1958, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
Cars in a traffic jam in Rome, 1961, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
Alberto Sordi durante le riprese del film 'il boom', 1963, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
The Roman actor Alberto Sordi best portrays the splendors and misery of the Italian boom in the Italian comedy movie genre.

In the fifties, illiteracy fell to approximately 10% in Italy, even though differences between the North and the South remained very pronounced in this area.

Un insegnante parla ai suoi allievi, 1961, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
The emerging Italian television of these years was particularly puzzling.

Labor and consumption went hand in hand and seemed to affect everyone in the same way, but significant imbalances persisted; while many Italians were still obliged to seek their fortunes elsewhere, the public entrepreneurial economy was involved in business all over the world and the middle classes were discovering mass consumption. 

For many, prosperity remained a dream that could only be realized far away from home.

Italians are predominantly Catholic so they chose to be governed by a party with a strongly religious orientation, the Christian Democrats; but society continued on the road to the secularism imposed by modernization and even the Vatican in these years was open to changes in mentality. 

Un detenuto bacia la mano al papa Giovanni XXIII in visita al carcere di Regina Coeli, 1958, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
San Pietro in occasione del Concilio Vaticano II - 16.10.1962, 1962, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
The Vatican Ecumenical Council, inaugurated by Pope John XXIII in 1962, started a fundamental dialogue between the Catholic Church and the secular world.
Miss Cinema Cumar Bruna riding a Vespa, 1963, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà

In these years, Italian society experienced ground-breaking cultural and anthropological changes. These were marked by the role of women in the workplace and the new attitude of Italians towards sex, which within a few years, with the tremendous popularity of erotic movies and magazines, made Italy unique across the whole of Europe.

Chronicle of a day in a woman's working life

With its entrepreneurship and creativity, Italy appeared to be the best place to create an "entertainment society", both rivaling and in contrast to American culture. This refers not only to the world of courageous producers and local stars, but also to extraordinarily talented stars, for whom the term 'Hollywood sul Tevere' was coined, as well as a real and uniquely Italian culture, expressed not only in cinema or fashion, where many original records were seen in the following decades.

L'attrice Joan Crawford firma autografi a Via Veneto, 1959, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
Sean Connery con altre attrici davanti al Colosseo, 1963, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà

The home of the Italian movie industry, Cinecittà, was created in the era of fascism in the thirties, but enjoyed its Golden Era in the fifties. Even the Americans preferred to shoot their blockbusters, such as “Quo Vadis?” or "Ben Hur", in Rome.

An extra of the film Messalina driving through Cinecittà, 1960, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà

The night life activities of the American and Italian stars on the Via Veneto in Rome inevitably created the 'paparazzo', an indiscreet and often intrusive photographer, as defined by Fellini himself in "La Dolce Vita".

The movie quickly attained an iconic status and remains one of the bitterest and fiercest criticisms of the impact of modernization on Italian society.

Federico Fellini durante le riprese del film La Dolce Vita, 1959, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
Paparazzi in attesa a Via Veneto, 1961, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
Mastroianni a piazza Navona, sul set del film 'Ieri, oggi e domani', 1963, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
Sandra Lee and Gabriella Andreini on the set of 'La Dolce Vita', 1959, From the collection of: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
Credits: Story

Curator — Roland Sejko
Curator — Gabriele D'Autilia

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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