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On 9 April 1953 an attractive twenty-one-year-old woman went missing from her family home in Rome. Thirty-six hours later her body was found washed up on a neglected beach at Tor Vaianica. Some said it was suicide; others, a tragic accident. Darker murmurs blamed her death on a drug-fuelled orgy that had gone horribly wrong. The crime gripped the nation. And some were determined to find out the truth of what had happened: the mystery took them from the capital’s seediest back streets right up to the highest office in the land. Dolce Vita casts fascinating light on the myriad colours and contradictions of Rome in the 1950s. Stephen Gundle brilliantly portrays the Rome of romance, luxury and glamour; the Rome of flowers, fountains and Vespas. It is Rome as a film set- embodied by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. But the murder of Wilma Montesi exposed the other side of this beautiful city: carnal crimes, sex, drugs, corruption and endless cover-ups. Stephen Gundle picks his way through the evidence to expose the foul underbelly of Rome in the 1950s – a place of bitter hearts and broken dreams.

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