"The Sopranos" was a hit when it first aired in Italy in 2001, with critics giving it rave reviews, despite some criticism from Italian-Americans across the Atlantic who thought it stereotyped them.
"Rarely does one see fiction so intelligent, ironic, full of psychological and narrative subtleties. And the dialogue! The photography!" Italy's most prominent TV critic, Aldo Grasso, gushed in the leading daily Corriere della Sera after the first episode aired. "Trust me, don't miss 'The Sopranos!'"
The daily La Repubblica called the show a "masterpiece." The paper deplored that it was being "hidden" from viewers by being aired at the unenviable 12:30 a.m. timeslot and urged it to be moved up — something former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset network eventually did, showing it at 11:30 p.m.
Gandolfini's death was one of the top news stories in Italy on Thursday, with American tourists outside his hotel well aware of the tragedy.
"I thought he was a great actor," said William Capece, visiting Rome from Houston, Texas. "Pretty sad because it is a big loss to the field of acting."
The U.S. Embassy in Rome, which said it had learned about the death from the media, said it would be available to provide a death certificate and help prepare the body for return to the United States. The embassy said it can often take between four and seven days to arrange for it to be sent outside of Italy.
The embassy spokesman declined further comment, directing inquiries to the family.
It isn't yet known yet what caused his heart to stop beating. Sudden cardiac arrest can be due to a heart attack, a heart rhythm problem, or a result of trauma. The chance of cardiac arrest increases as people get older; men over age 45 have a greater risk. Men in general are up to three times more likely to have a sudden cardiac arrest than women.