Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, and Co. Take a Trip Across Italy in ‘Book Club: The Next Chapter’
The idea of a girls' trip through Italy is deeply appealing, so much so that a gang of movie stars orchestrated a sequel to 2018's Book Club to take one themselves. In Book Club: The Next Chapter, the four leads—played by Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen—leave their literary endeavors behind and embark on a bucket list trip to Rome and Venice as a bachelorette party of sorts. Director and co-writer Bill Holderman took the production to Italy, even for the scenes set in Los Angeles—the shoot was tricky, but memorable.
“We were there in summer,” Holderman says, “It was the heart of tourist season and like any major metropolitan area you have to deal with controlling crowds and controlling tourists. But it was also a great thing and super fun. Truthfully, filming in Italy was so much better than I expected. And my expectations were incredibly high.” Here, Holderman shares some of the locations used in Book Club: The Next Chapter, as well as where the cast and crew stayed and ate while in Europe.
Was the idea always to set the sequel in Italy?
Yes. The idea for the sequel actually began with Mary Steenburgen and Candice Bergen at a press event for the first movie. Before Book Club even came out and before anyone had talked about a sequel, they had masterminded the idea to do it in Italy.
What did Italy specifically bring to the story?
Italy has a very special, aspirational romanticism, not just in terms of romantic partnerships, but for the romance of friendship. It seemed like a great place for friends to go and bond and connect. And obviously, it's the biggest wine-producing country in the world, which for a book club, is very important. It's got so much history, it's so textured and it's beautiful. And all of those factors made it feel like not only was it a fun place to go, but also thematically it felt really resonant. We're also not going to hide the fact that it's a fun place to get to spend a few months making a movie!
Where did you base the production?
We were based in Rome, and shot primarily in and around Rome. We got to shoot at Cinecittà Studios, which was a dream come true. We also went to Venice and shot [additional footage with] the second unit in Tuscany.
Did everyone stay in a hotel in Rome?
We had the incredible opportunity to stay at the Hotel Eden. The filmmaking team stayed there and Diane Keaton was there with her team. Some of the cast was at the Hotel de Russie, which is on the Piazza del Popolo. We were going to find an Airbnb and live in an apartment, but there was a lot of production going on and a lot of the housing was taken by Fast X [the tenth Fast and Furious film, which was shooting in the city at the same time]. But in the end, the hotel was such a gift. It was a fantasy of mine to live in a hotel. And now it remains a pretty big fantasy.
When the characters arrive in Rome, we see them at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. Why was it important to set the scene with such a well-known place?
There are so many iconic places in Rome that you can’t avoid seeing. The Spanish Steps are one of those places that in so much of that town, when you're moving around, you end up seeing them in the distance. To avoid it felt disingenuous. And it’s so beautiful. We always wanted to shoot there, but we weren’t sure it would be possible. We shot early in the morning, before a lot of tourists got there, because we didn't have the same resources that Fast X had to block off many city blocks. But we were able to create a little perimeter and it was pretty painless. It's fun to be in a city and then prove that we were actually there.
What other locations in Rome did you use?
We shot on a street called Via dei Coronari, which is a popular tourist street. Right off that, we used Piazza San Simeone, where we created our own little piazza cafe. We shot at the Musei Capitolini, which looks out over the Roman Forum. It was another iconic, beautiful place. When we scouted we thought, “Gosh I hope we can shoot here.” And our production team managed to pull it off. We shot in a few incredible villas, including Villa Parisi, where we filmed the scene with the wedding dress maker. It was outside of the city center and just incredible. You can’t find anything in America with that kind of history.
For the wedding scene [between Fonda’s Vivian and Don Johnson’s Arthur]—spoiler alert, there is a wedding—we used Castello della Castelluccia, which is also just outside Rome. We were trying to figure out if we would actually go to Tuscany for the wedding, but then we saw this place. It felt more like Tuscany than Tuscany.
The characters stay in some amazing hotels. Were those real?
We shot at the Grand Plaza Hotel in Rome, which had been closed during Covid and was just about to open back up. That hotel actually doubles for the interiors of the hotel in Venice, which was the Hotel Danieli but which we call the Palazzo Mardini. It has a lot of that Venetian feel. It has a beautiful marble lion at the base of its stairwell in the entry. In Venice, we used the exterior of the Hotel Danieli, as well as its terrace, where they have breakfast. That is one of the greatest terraces overlooking the lagoon in all of Venice.
Where else did you film in Venice?
We shot on the Grand Canal. We shot in the actual train station [Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia], which is pretty iconic. If you've ever traveled to Venice, one of the best way to get there is to arrive by train. And then you walk out the train station and into the bustling splendor of the Grand Canal.
There’s a memorable scene where the characters take a helicopter ride over Florence. How did you create that?
The helicopter was actually done up through Florence and Tuscany by the second unit. The shots of the helicopter flying over the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio and by the Duomo, those were all drone shots. And then the actresses were really in a helicopter, but it was on a gimbal on a soundstage. They weren’t actually flying. But our second unit did have a helicopter land and take off with their doubles in it.
During your stay in Italy did you discover any restaurants you would recommend?
You can’t go wrong in Rome or Venice. Ristorante Da Ivo in Venice is amazing—you can arrive or leave by gondola to their side door. In Rome, Trattoria da Danilo—there’s a picture in the end credits of Mary, Ted, and Jane here—Rimessa Roscioli, Hostaria Costanza, Ristorante Vladimiro, Ristorante Nino and Il Giardino in Hotel Eden. Emma for pizza.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite coffee treat in Rome at La Casa del Caffè Tazza d'Oro, near the Pantheon. Try the granita di caffè con panna, a coffee Italian ice with whipped cream. I went there as often as I could.
After this Italy experience, where in the world are you going to shoot the third film?
I'm waiting for the call from someone to tell me where! I’m sure the actresses have an idea.
Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler