Subtitled ‘A Love Affair with Rome’, this short guide to the eternal city is a very personal view of a place very popular with tourists. Having visited as part of a short tour of Italy in September 2018, I was willing to read the book, which was sent to me by the author.
I’m sure this intimate view of the city will find favour with many readers. However, for me, the concentration on the Vatican, the churches, and associated aspects was of little interest, as I’m an atheist and find religion largely distasteful.
Most of the places referred to in the book were actively avoided on our short stay in the city. But we did enjoy the accounts relating to the street performers, of whom we saw few. Their personal accounts brought life to the book. Our secular visit took us to the overcrowded Coliseum, the Palatine Hill, Forum, Circo Massimo, Arco Di Constantino, and several walks along the banks of the Tiber, with crossings of the many bridges, as well as a day trip to Pompeii, which was a place we could have spent many days studying.
I agree with the author’s description of the dirt and general untidiness in the city. We encountered graffiti in many places, and litter from overflowing rubbish bins. The evenings, however, held a certain magic after reasonably-priced food at a local trattoria close to our hotel that was too pricy for evening meals. The visual displays on some of the ruins, accompanied by appropriate music, lent those evening walks a romantic and magical air.
We ate most times at an open-air trattoria where, one evening when a storm erupted overhead, we all helped close-up the tables under the awnings to protect those at the edge of the place from the downpour. That made for a very friendly atmosphere, and we met and chatted with a number of visitors and locals. The food was excellent, and the wine very good.
We dislike cities generally, but it was history that took us to Rome, and we’re glad we visited, but are unlikely to return. The visits to the Trevi Fountain and the Coliseum in particular demonstrated the fact that, in common with many other locations, popularity has rendered the place no longer viable as a destination for those who wish to ‘stand and stare’.
So, for me, this book was an interesting read, but certainly not one to encourage my return. But I recognise many visitors make their visits as pilgrimages to the overblown and hypocritical Vatican, and they would be much more likely to find real value in this book.
I wrote this review based on an advance reading copy the author sent me.
[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can manage is an honest reaction to any given book.]