Why Russell Crowe is a gift to Rome tourism

Gladiator star returns to Eternal City with family.

In the summer of 2000, Ridley Scott's smash-hit movie Gladiator with its epic portrayal of ancient Rome captured the imagination and hearts of cinema-goers all over the world.

22 years later the star of the film - Russell Crowe - has returned to the Eternal City with his family, in what is turning out to be a boon for Rome tourism.

Over the last 10 days the Gladiator star has been busy on social media charting his travels around the Italian capital - a city he clearly loves - delighting locals and introducing Rome's wonders to new audiences around the globe.

Crowe, who has almost three million followers on Twitter, teased his fans on 9 July by posting a picture of pine trees at dusk with the question: "Where am I now?"

Many people rightly guessed Rome. It was to be the start of a series of such posts, including images of Vatican City, a sunset over Villa Medici, a trip to the Pantheon.

On Monday the actor and filmmaker, 58, posted a selfie with family members in front of the Colosseum with the ironic caption: "Taking the kids to see my old office."

The image went viral and was widely reported by the international media, in the kind of exposure dreamed of by tourism agencies.

The actor, who was immortalised in the ancient amphitheatre in the role of Maximus Decimus Meridius, was invited back the next day by the Colosseum authorities for a cup of coffee.

Crowe continued his tour of Rome by visiting the Trevi Fountain:

He then posted images from the Vatican Museums, along with the caption: "I’m not sure there’s a more special privilege in the world than to hold the key for the Sistine Chapel and to experience it’s glory in silence. So grateful. Sono al servicio di Roma."

On Tuesday the star posted a touching personal story describing a "very special experience as a family" at the Vatican Museums, which his parents had visited together more than 20 years ago.

This time around Crowe pushed his mother in a wheelchair down those same corridors, with every corner bringing back memories of her husband, who died last year.

As they ascended to a balcony in an elevator during their exclusive visit, Crowe's mother squeezed his hand and said: “I wish your father was here."

When they stepped out onto the balcony with its "majestic sweeping view of Rome", Crowe said that music floated up from the Swiss Guard band rehearsing somewhere below.

After a while Crowe realised that the band was playing 'Danny Boy', one of the songs the family played at his father's funeral.

As Crowe continues his visit to Rome, he has been applauded by Romans on social media as an important "tourism ambassador" for the Eternal City. Which of Rome's many wonders will he visit next?