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“Whenever I get asked to come back to Rome, I do,” said Nicole Kidman on the opening night of the first-ever Rome Film Fest. “I have a great affinity for the city.”

By the sound of the Italian fans screaming “Nee-Kol, Nee-Kol,” it was clear the feeling was mutual.

The Oscar-winning actress, blushingly soft in a pale pink sequin tank dress by friend, stylist and newbie designer L’Wren Scott, kicked off the inaugural edition Friday night with the premiere of her film “Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus.”

The next night on the red carpet, Monica Bellucci showed off a different kind of beauty — the one of curves, cleavage and raven hair.

“La Bellucci,” who is on double-duty this week with two films showing, “N (Io e Napoleone)” and “Le Concile De Pierre” or the “Stone Council,” was escorted down the red carpet by a bevy of young, tuxedo-clad Napoleons.

“Is la dolce vita back?” asked Bellucci, in her trademark whispery voice. “Who is to say, but I sure hope so.”

One thing was certain, not since the legendary Sixties has the Eternal City witnessed so much star power packed into so few days. Despite its inherent, at times infuriating but ultimately charming disorganization, Rome pulsed with an energy that had many people thinking about a sweet life redux.

Sean Connery (who was honored by the festival last Thursday), Richard Gere, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio were among the stars in town for the festival, which ends Saturday. The event, which has its base in the Renzo Piano-designed Auditorium, seeped into other parts of the city for a veritable party for the people.

For Scorsese and DiCaprio, in town for the European premiere of “The Departed,” their return was a homecoming of sorts. They had filmed “Gangs of New York” in Cinecittà, a large film studio in the city. “Rome is like a second home to me,” DiCaprio said.

Not the case for his “Departed”

co-star and first-time visitor Vera Farmiga. “If I weren’t here right now, I’d be singing and dancing in the Trevi Fountain,” she joked.

This story first appeared in the October 17, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Channeling Anita Ekberg wasn’t on the to-do list for Zoe Cassavetes. Rather, the actress who just wrapped filming “Broken English” was on the hunt for handmade shirtmaker Albertelli — “I hear he makes fabulous pajamas too,” she said Sunday night at the launch party for Fendi’s New Cinema Network award, a monetary prize given to an emerging young director.

“I think Romans are in seventh heaven,” Silvia Venturini Fendi said of the festivities. “Without a doubt the first edition will have its problems. But it’s important to have at least started.”

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