Monday, November 24, 2008

Lunedì Letterario

The Companion Guide to Rome
by Georgina Masson
Revised by John Fort

originally published in 1965
revised and updated in 1998

The Capitol... rising as it does like an island of peace out of the strident roar of the Piazza Venezia in the heart of the city, leading us backwards by degrees through the centuries to the time when Rome first emerged from a collection of pastoral villages set upon seven hills... And at night it is not so difficult to picture the stately ranks of colonnaded temples crowned with gilded statues and the basilicas rearing their great bulk against the night sky, or to imagine the faint glow of the sacred fire warming the marbles of the Temple of Vesta, and above them all the vast palace of the emperors on the Palatine overshadowing the whole scene, as it then dominated the civilized world.

So begins the guide book that has been called the definitive historical and cultural account of the city. (In the almost 700 pages there are only 31 photos... in black and white.) I used the first edition when I was a college student in Rome, and during that year I carried it around every day, almost like a bible. For the last year and a half I have been carrying the revised edition around Rome and I have let its pages help me rediscover places that I first visited over 30 years ago, as well as letting it guide me to sites that were new for me.

Georgina Masson's baroque and opinionated writing is very enjoyable. But, it is more reading than most tourists have time to digest. However, for the long term visitor to Rome this guide book is a must!

1 comment:

Willym said...

Dear Friend - one of the great delights was when you introduced me to Masson's book. It has become a bit of a bible in our house as you well know. And several of our friends have picked it up based on our recommendations or on reading it at our home. Her publishers are going to have to start paying you royalties...