ACTORS, artists, politicians' and ordinary Romans alike bade farewell to screen idol Marcello Mastroianni yesterday, before his body was taken to Rome's largest cemetery for burial.

The actor's coffin, which had been lying in state in a marble hall at the Capitol since Saturday, was moved out into the surrounding square to the nostalgic sound of the music from 81/2, one of thee Federico Fellini films in which he starred.

Mayor Francesco Rutelli Deputy Prime Minister Walter Yeltroni and many others made speeches, as a crowd of thousands followed the ceremony from a giant screen on nearby Venice Square.

Mastroianni died of cancer in Paris on Thursday at the age of 72. His remains were flown to Rome on Saturday.

Following the ceremony, Sophia Loren said it was the saddest day of her life after the death of her mother.

Raunchy group the Spice Girls have rocketed straight into the British charts to become the Christmas Number One, fulfilling the bookies expectations. The feisty five some pushed the Dunblane anti-guns song Knockin' on Heaven's Door off the top slot with their 2 Becomes 1.

Spice Girls scored a double success, also remaining at the top of the album chart with their debut album, Spice.