Yo, Philly!

Sylvester Stallone poses with a bronze statue of Rocky Balboa, recently installed at the foot of...

Sylvester Stallone poses with a bronze statue of Rocky Balboa, recently installed at the foot of the 72 steps leading to the Philadelphia Musem of Art. -- Photo courtesy of Greater Philadelphia Tourism

DIANE SLAWYCH -- Special to Sun Media

, Last Updated: 4:06 PM ET

Anyone who has spent any time in this city knows that Philly loves Rocky.

Three decades after the first movie starring Sylvester Stallone as a fictional underdog boxer was released, citizens still embrace its message of perseverance. And city sites featured in the original and subsequent Rocky films have become tourist attractions.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Rocky, the Academy Award winning film, as well as the debut of Rocky Balboa, the sixth, and possibly final film in the series, which will be released in December.

Over the years, many visitors have enjoyed re-enacting Rocky's famous run up the 72 steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Jimmy Binns, the organizer of Philly Loves Rocky Week has even claimed the stairs are the "single most sought after tourist attraction in the city."

Last month, a two-and-a-half metre bronze statue of Rocky Balboa was brought out of storage and installed at the foot of the museum. Originally used as a prop in the movie Rocky III, the sculpture is the work of artist A. Thomas Schomberg, and shows the character in a triumphant pose.

"The statue is not about me," Stallone told a crowd of enthusiastic fans at the recent unveiling, "It's about you, because inside of every one of you lives a real Rocky."

Stallone, who is originally from New York, recalled how he got the idea to run up the stairs of the art museum.

"We were driving around in the van looking for something interesting for Rocky to do and I thought "boy look at those steps, that's incredible."

At first, Sly said he tried running up with his 130 lb dog, a Bull mastiff, to demonstrate his strength. But that looked awkward visually, he said, in part because the dog was the size of a small dinosaur.

"So I ran up the stairs alone, I did that turn, I looked out on the city and my life has never been the same since. "

Some may argue Philly has never been the same since Stallone arrived in town. To this day, at sporting events when the home team is losing, an uplifting scene from the Rocky film is sometimes replayed on the JumboTron.

Some civic officials believe many tourists who come to see (or run up) the famous museum steps may also take the time to venture inside the renowned gallery. The striking neo-classical building, founded in 1876, houses a collection of art from Asia, Europe and the U.S. spanning 2,000 years.

As for the Rocky statue, it seems everyone wants to have their photo taken standing next to it. A few days after the sculpture was unveiled, visitors, including some from as far away as Poland and the United Arab Emirates, could be seen waiting patiently for their turn.

There were plenty of local fans too. Leaving the site, I noticed a car in the museum's parking lot. The back window had been painted in bold white letters that read "Rocky Balboa is No. 1."

Fans can eat and drink their way through Rocky film sites at the following locations :

* Victor Cafe, an Italian-inspired eatery in South Philly is a "music love rendezvous." It makes appearance in the new movie as Adrian's, the hero's restaurant. Many of the wait staff are classically trained singers who entertain diners throughout the evening with operatic arias.

* Italian Market. Remember the scene where Rocky uses hanging meats punching bags? It was filmed at the butcher shops in the Italian Market, billed as "the oldest and largest working outdoor market in the U.S." In the newest film, Rocky Balboa, the hero spends time here stocking up on provisions for his restaurant.

* Pat's is the famous shop where the Philly cheese steak was invented more than 70 years ago. Follow in the footsteps of Rocky who indulged in this authentic Philly creation during his training.

* The Irish Pub in the Rittenhouse Square neighbourhood is a good place to enjoy a pint. Rocky's son hung out with his pals here in the new film.

* To shed those pounds after your eating tour, consider a jog along the waterfront at Penn's Landing, which was on the route of Rocky's training runs, or tour City Hall (the world's tallest masonry structure), the scene of Rocky and Adrian's engagement in Rocky II.


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