The First Omen: Is The Vizzardeli Orphanage Real?

Director Arkasha Stevenson depicts a horror tale of insidious proportion in ‘The First Omen.’ Set in an orphanage in 1971 Rome, Italy, Margaret Daino, a young novitiate practicing the Christian faith, is pulled into a web of conspiracies as she travels to the Eternal City to deepen her religious fervor as a nun. However, soon after stepping into the dark hallways of the Vizzardeli Orphanage, Margaret is assaulted by a series of mysterious and inexplicable situations that make her question her reality. Most of the narrative unravels in the dark, shadowy corners of the Vizzardeli, where the convent of sisters and orphans seems part of a darker ploy. As such, the ambiance and atmosphere of the place play a significant part in bringing ‘The First Omen’ to life. The same raises a question regarding its origin and whether the all-girls institute can be found in real-life Rome!

Vizzardeli is a Fictional Orphanage

The Vizzardeli Orphanage in ‘The First Omen’ is a fictional institute conceived by various screenwriters who shaped the tale, including Ben Jacoby, whose initial work on the script was later adapted by Stevenson and his co-writers. The macabre plot hiding underneath the Vizzardeli’s floorboards forms the basis of the film’s sinister narrative involving satanic and mythological roots. As the orphanage welcomes Margaret into its halls, she is immediately alarmed by the behavior of certain members, such as Sister Anjelica and the mistreated orphan Carlita, who is often locked in her room and kept away from everyone.

Although Vizzardeli isn’t a real Orphan house in Rome, its name can be traced to a man named Giorgio William Vizzardeli, a serial killer in Italy who was responsible for the murder of at least five people. Called the Monster of Sarzana for his brutal record and the town where he hailed from, it is possible that the orphanage in ‘The First Omen’ found its name from the Sarzana killer, which would aptly fit its macabre setting. The murders were committed between 1937 to 1939. He also killed two people when he was still a minor, for which he wasn’t caught. It was only after his string of murders in his later years that Vizzardeli was apprehended in 1940 and sentenced to life.

As a central theme, Stevenson wanted to focus on the female body horror aspect of ‘The First Omen.’ So, the Vizzardeli Orphanage is an orphan house for little girls. It also features a medical clinic where young women can take care of their unwanted pregnancies. This mix of innocence and the corruptions of the flesh are placed nearby within the institute’s walls. As a result, it allows the narrative to explore a dichotomy between childhood and adulthood, as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Additionally, the obsession with birth, kids, and unsolicited pregnancies is reflected in the film’s demonic rituals and practices.

Stevenson and her production team shot the scenes for the fictional orphanage in three separate buildings. The production designer Eve Stewart believed that since the Vizzardeli featured such an eclectic mix of tones and aesthetics, no specific building could offer all the unique aspects they wanted to film. So, instead of hunting down one scenic building where they could form the basis of the orphanage, the film crew utilized the Villa Parisi building in Rome and a farm in Procoio. Other interiors were also shot on soundstages at the Lumina Studios facilities, which include the basement of the Vizzardeli.

While orphanages have repeatedly featured in horror films over the years, the Vizzardeli makes a striking entry within the genre. Unraveling a place where child abuse, sexual mutilation, satanic practices, and oppression have forced their way into its caretakers, it is an institute that is best fit for a horror tale. Thus, without any direct connections to a similar real-life establishment, the Vizzardeli orphanage remains confined to the fictional narrative of ‘The First Omen.’

Read more: The First Omen: What Does The Mark in Carlita’s Mouth Mean?