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'Book Club: The Next Chapter': All the Real-Life Places Diane, Vivian, Carol and Sharon Visit in Italy

PEOPLE chatted with director Bill Holderman and writer and producer Erin Simms about the stunning locations seen in the film

Focus Features/YouTube <em>Book Club 2: The Next Chapter</em> (2023)
Focus Features/YouTube Book Club 2: The Next Chapter (2023)

With four best friends, one life-changing book, and a cheeky bachelorette party set in Italy — Book Club: The Next Chapter is sure to bring fans along for one crazy ride!

In the second installment of the fan-favorite series — premiering in theaters on Friday, May 12 — Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Carol (Mary Steenburgen) and Sharon (Candice Bergen) embark on a dream vacation together after being inspired by their latest book club read, The Alchemist.

PEOPLE chatted with writer, producer and director Bill Holderman, and writer and producer Erin Simms, to uncover all the secrets behind each magical location where the four best friends celebrate Vivian's engagement in Italy.

Simms says the crew has Bergen, who she calls the cast's "fortune teller," to thank for the European destination, as she had the idea for a sequel set in Italy before the movie was even written. Simms adds that it couldn't have been a more perfect location.

"We didn't think about it at the time, but there's the element of how Italy preserves and loves history, and time, and aging, and all of these things," she tells PEOPLE. " And I think that's something that we certainly want to do with these movies."

Related:'Book Club 2' Sends Pals Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen to Italy

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Getty Images

The Tabularium in Rome

Kicking off their epic adventure in Rome, the girls head straight to the Roman Forum "to go see naked men," a.k.a thousand-year-old statues, before they share a sweet moment at the Tabularium.

Located inside the forum, the ancient records office was among the first locations Simms and Holderman scouted and found "awe-inspiring," Simms says.

Holderman describes it as "this incredible corridor and these huge, massive brick arches overlooking the Roman Forum" that had "everything we wanted" for the heartfelt scene.

Fabio Zayed/ 2023 FIFTH SSEASON, LLC
Fabio Zayed/ 2023 FIFTH SSEASON, LLC

"The architecture's stunning. And we really were fantasizing about getting our four iconic and incredible actors in front of this incredible view," he continues.

In addition to filming at the Roman Forum, the duo said they made sure to include other historical landmarks like the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps in the opening montage when the girls first arrive at their dream destination.

When they weren't filming, Holderman and Simms said they would enjoy a "granita di caffe con panna" almost every day at La Casa del Caffè Tazza d'Oro — about a 15 minute walk from the Roman Forum.

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Getty Images

Via dei Coronari in Rome

Known for its amazing restaurants, cafes and shops, Via Dei Coronari is a historic street that the best friends take a stroll through after some sightseeing. They stumble upon a stunning wedding dress shop that Carol takes as a sign for Vivian to try on some dresses for her big day.

Related:Jane Fonda on Why at 85 She's the Happiest She's Ever Been: 'Life Gets Better with Age' (Exclusive)

Riccardo Ghilardi/ 2023 FIFTH SSEASON, LLC
Riccardo Ghilardi/ 2023 FIFTH SSEASON, LLC

Holderman refers to the street as "one of those arteries through Rome" that embodies everything the city is known for. Simms agrees that it was a "magical" place to include in the film.

"There's just so much magic behind every corner, behind every door in Rome," she adds.

Related:Jane Fonda on Past Relationships: 'Life Would Have Been Very Different If I'd Noticed Red Flags' (Exclusive)

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Getty Images

The Grand Canal in Venice

"A big part of The Alchemist is about an adventure and travel, and trying to find a pyramid. But for us, in the movie, the canals of Venice were sort of our pyramid," Holderman says. "We knew we wanted to get these four icons on a boat going down the Grand Canal, and to us, there is no sequel without Italy and there's no Italy without Venice."

While the Grand Canal was home to some of the funniest, and cheekiest, scenes in the movie — like when Sharon gets busted by the police for a late night rendezvous on a boat — Holderman and Simms say the stunning location certainly came with its challenges.

"All the equipment has to come in and out of boats. Everything is by canal," he recalls. "And you can't leave anything overnight. You got to pack in, pack out every day."

Courtesy of FOCUS FEATURES/ 2023 FIFTH SSEASON, LLC
Courtesy of FOCUS FEATURES/ 2023 FIFTH SSEASON, LLC

Simms says that the location was worth it, though: "There's nowhere else like it in the world." Holderman adds that "the light sparkling off the Grand Canal" felt otherworldly.

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They were also blown away by the terrace restaurant at Hotel Danieli where the best friends enjoy breakfast after a wild night out.

"It overlooks the lagoon that is at the end of the Grand Canal, and you cannot help but be in awe of the world around you when you're at a place like that," Holderman says.

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