I just returned from the most amazing trip to Italy. We spent most of our time in Rome, with a side trip to Pompeii via Naples, and the days were an endless succession of ancient ruins, priceless art, delicious cuisine and cappuccino.
Pictures of the Colosseum are great, but walking in the footsteps of emperors and gladiators was on a whole different level.
Now I am keeping memories of our adventure alive by reading about Italy. Armchair traveling with good books is the next best thing to being there.
We visited the Colosseum and Palatine Hill the first day, and as soon as I got back to the hotel I downloaded “SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome” by Mary Beard. Beginning in the eighth century BCE and ending in 212 CE under the rule of emperor Caracalla, Beard elucidates the lives of the most famous people of the time, from Julius Caesar to Nero to Cicero.
I especially liked the illustrations that supplemented the text. By the way, SPQR stands for Senatus PopulusQue Romanus, or The Senate and People of Rome, which we saw inscribed on a number of objects throughout the city, including utility covers.
While wandering the streets of Rome one evening, we happened upon a bookstore with a small English-language section, and I picked up “The Lost Girls of Rome” by Donato Carrisi, a thriller with a secret religious society and a police photographic analyst at its heart. I loved the book because of its nonlinear plot and the two primary characters, both of whom were mourning losses. Plus, it took me on a tour through Rome’s historic neighborhoods.
One of my next fiction re-reads will be “Angels and Demons,” the Dan Brown thriller that is a grand tour of the Eternal City. Now that I’ve been there myself, I can’t wait to follow Robert Langdon to the Pantheon, Castel Sant’Angelo and Vatican City, among many other locations. I plan to read the book then watch the Tom Hanks-starring film.
It seems Rome, and Vatican City in particular, lends itself to the thriller genre, so I’m adding “The Templar Salvation” by Raymond Khoury, “The Fallen Angel” by Daniel Silva and “The Malta Exchange” by Steve Berry to my must-read list.
Finally, although I am not much of a cook, I was inspired by several great meals to take a peek at a couple of cookbooks, including “The Elements of Pizza: Unlocking the Secrets to World-Class Pies at Home” by Ken Forkish and “Pasta Modern: New & Inspired Recipes from Rome” by Francine Segan.
Rome is a beautiful and exciting city with a rich history, and the library has books in physical and digital formats to take you there from the comfort of your favorite armchair. Happy reading!