It doesn’t matter whether you’re an armchair traveler or an intrepid nomad. If you’re interested in Rome, then delving into a good book is the best way to gain more insight into this bold and vibrant city.
From fiction to cookbooks and history, here are five must-read books about Rome that you need to put on your literary bucket list.
I am Livia – Phyllis T. Smith
More often than not men take centre stage when it comes to history, but in Smith’s historical novel, I am Livia, the famous emperor Augustus’ influential wife takes the lead. The story follows the life of Livia Drusilla (58 B.C.- 28 A.D.) and also tells the story of the emperor Caesar Augustus, from Livia’s point of view, in the form of a personal memoir.
Why it’s a must-read: This book is a wonderful way to enjoy a good story and learn a bit of interesting history about ancient Rome at the same time.
Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio: A Novel – Amara Lakhous
In Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio, Lakhous tells the story of a small, culturally mixed community, living in an apartment building in the centre of Rome that gets thrown into disarray when one of the neighbors gets murdered.
Why it’s a must-read: Rome is so much more than it’s ruins and souvenir shops, and this bittersweet comedy shows a side of contemporary Rome that no tourist ever gets to see.
My Kitchen in Rome – Rachel Roddy
This charming cookbook invites you into the kitchen of Rachel Roddy, a former Londoner that decided to start a brand new life in Rome. My Kitchen in Rome takes an honest, no-frills, no fuss approach to Italian cooking, and the recipes are seamlessly interwoven with Rachel’s delicious stories and anecdotes of everyday life in the Roman neighbourhood of Testaccio.
Why it’s a must-read: Not only does this book allow you to catch a glimpse into the daily life of a functional Italian kitchen, but it also let’s you recreate a bit of that life through Roddy’s mouth-watering recipes.
Eating Rome – Elizabeth Minchilli
This one-of-a-kind cookbook isn’t only for the kitchen. As the title suggests, in Eating Rome Elizabeth Minchili takes us out onto the streets of the city and shows us where her favourite restaurants, trattorias and pizzerias are. She even tells readers the best way to order a coffee, and how to shop at a Roman market. Interspersed between all the gems of information are easy-to-follow Italian recipes, some from restaurants and others Minchilli’s own.
Why it’s a must-read: This book is the ultimate food lover’s guide to Rome that will inspire you to immediately book your next culinary trip to the city.
SPQR – Mary Beard
Far from being dry and dull, this book about Ancient Roman history is an easy and entertaining read that takes a very complicated narrative and breaks it down into easily digestible chunks. It not only covers the big, important historical events, but also gives us insight into who the Romans were, as normal everyday people. Cambridge classic’s professor, Mary Beard, writes in a way that is intimate, yet direct. She debunks some widely believed myths and adds a bit of spice with lesser-known facts.
Why it’s a must-read: If you’d like to brush up on your Ancient Roman history in a fun and enjoyable way, then, SPQR is the book for you.
I would like to suggest: Roma Beata by Maud Howe Eliot a memoir of Rome
available online for download. Maud and John Eliot the painter rented an apartment in Pallazzo Rustcelli
at the tip of the old Borgo, currently, Piazza PioXII fronting Saint Peters Square.
Based on letters to her sisters Maud touches on the mundane: purchasing a plant at the local market to visiting with the queen.
Maud’s mom was Julia Ward Howe check her out online.
Tom McGrath, Boston MA USA