06/20/2013 13:45 EDT | Updated 08/20/2013 05:12 EDT

Sopranos star James Gandolfini tributes pop up in N.J., Italy

An Italian film festival and the New Jersey towns where James Gandolfini reigned as TV's iconic mob kingpin Tony Soprano are joining family, friends and fans in paying homage to the late actor today.

The popular American actor died Wednesday night after suffering a fatal cardiac arrest while on a trip to Italy.

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As required by Italian law, an autopsy will be performed beginning 24 hours after the death, according to Dr. Claudio Modini, emergency room head of Rome's Policlinic Umberto I hospital.

The 51-year-old actor had travelled to Italy, accompanied by his son Michael, 13, to give a special class at the annual Taormina Film Festival in Rome on Saturday morning before attending the festival's closing ceremony later that day.

Now, instead, festival staffers are hastily planning a tribute "to celebrate his great achievement and talent," said organizers Mario Sesti and Tiziana Rocca.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Rome said the agency would be available to provide a death certificate and help prepare the body for return to the U.S., but declined further comment.

'As Jersey as it gets'

Meanwhile, New Jersey citizens offered a range of tributes to the actor, who was born and raised in the state. Elizabeth, North Caldwell and other New Jersey communities served as filming locations for The Sopranos during its award-winning, six-season run.

"He was as Jersey as it gets, through and through," said fan Vito Mazza.

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Gandolfini offered a realistic performance as Tony Soprano, said Pete Canu, a limousine fleet owner sipping coffee in an Elizabeth, N.J., butcher shop Thursday morning.

"He had frailties and failings; he was human, aside from all that gangster crap," Canu told The Associated Press.

"A lot of people were offended by it. They say it makes it look like all Italian-Americans are mobsters, but people know we're not. We're just hardworking people who get up every day and do our jobs and provide for our families. It was just a TV show."

Candles and a dried bag of ziti were among the items left outside the house that stood in as the Sopranos family home on the HBO drama. Meanwhile at Holsten's, the ice cream parlour where the show's final scene was shot, masses of fans gathered and a "Reserved" sign prevented patrons from sitting at the table where Tony had his last on-screen meal.

A wave of tributes and remembrances from colleagues and admirers have flooded social media since the news of Gandolfini's death Wednesday evening.

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"He was a man of tremendous depth and sensitivity, with a kindness and generosity beyond words. I consider myself very lucky to have spent 10 years as his close colleague," said actress Edie Falco, Gandolfini's Sopranos co-star and on-screen wife, Carmela.

"The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I've ever known."