Thursday, July 25, 2013

As the Romans Do: The Book

Remember back in January, when I started my end-of-the-month Happy lists? I mentioned one of Alan Epstein's other books, As the Romans Do. Thanks to the miracle of InterLibrary Loan, I have that book in my (borrowed) possession!

Now I'm reminiscing vicariously through Epstein's experience of living in Rome with his family. He says in the introduction that travelers might leave Rome, but Rome never truly leaves them, and I fully agree. One could make that argument for many travel destinations, but for some reason it feels truest with Rome. It's the history of the city--no other city has experienced all that Rome has experienced.

Recently, I've been thinking about my life in Rome. Maybe it's because I'm reading this book, maybe it's my travel bug acting up (Have no fear, little bug, my next trip is around the corner!). My neighbor smokes a cigarette every night at about midnight, and for those few minutes I can close my eyes and pretend I'm back on Via Pascarella. Cigarette smoke mixes with warm summer air, cooling after dusk, and the train, the traffic, the tourists, and the ambulances all compete for my auditory attention.

Epstein catalogs life as Roman from every angle: money and business, public transportation, Roman women, monuments, statues, and fountains, family, public service strikes, politics, daily schedules, coffee, technology, tourists, immigrants, and natives, and of course, food. Roman values and philosophies fill the pages: don't worry, things will happen as they should, family and friends are more important than money, drink a coffee, eat, eat, eat. It's clear he lived in Rome, and what's striking is that even though he lived there in the late 90s and I visited in 2009, I could relate to almost everything he wrote. It's called the Eternal City for a reason.

If you can find this book, I recommend it. I have a huge bias, yes, but many chapters read like one of my blog posts, just a bit longer. As I read, I wonder why I couldn't have found it sooner and just reviewed it chapter by chapter while I was in Rome.

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