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What to Read Before You Head to Rome

Author: Concepción De León
Newspaper: The New York Times
Date: Jun 1 2017

To many travelers, visiting Rome is akin to experiencing magic. The reputation is deserved — it is hard to walk through sites like the Colosseum and not be reminded of the city’s former splendor, to be struck by its air of romance and mystery. But Rome has evolved, even though our imagination of the Eternal City has not. These books explore the culture, art and grandeur of ancient Rome, but also bring visitors to the present, including a guided tour by a former art critic and a deep exploration of one fictional Italian family.


By Domenico Starnone

This novel by one of Italy’s leading novelists is told from the perspective of a couple, Vanda and Aldo, as well as their grown children, across decades — and shows the effects betrayal can have on a marriage. Vanda and Aldo’s relationship experiences a rupture when Aldo sleeps with a younger woman. With 1970s politics as a backdrop, Vanda accuses Aldo of falling victim to the times: “You came across a respectable young girl close at hand and in the name of sexual liberation and the dissolution of the family you became her lover,” she writes in a letter that opens the book. The two eventually get back together, but decades later the adultery re-emerges — after they return from a vacation to find their Rome apartment ransacked — as artifacts of the betrayal come to light. An emotionally affecting work, "Ties” explores what binds people together and what forces them apart.