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The Smiles of Rome: A Literary Companion for Readers and Travelers

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Take a Roman holiday with some of the world’s greatest writers Explore the Palatine with Elizabeth Bowen. Visit the temple of the Vestal Virgins with Georgina Masson. Analyze Michelangelo’s Moses with Sigmund Freud. Stroll through ancient streets with Goethe and with Henry James. Share Alice Steinbach’s midnight epiphany on a shabby hotel balcony. Learn the art of love Take a Roman holiday with some of the world’s greatest writers Explore the Palatine with Elizabeth Bowen. Visit the temple of the Vestal Virgins with Georgina Masson. Analyze Michelangelo’s Moses with Sigmund Freud. Stroll through ancient streets with Goethe and with Henry James. Share Alice Steinbach’s midnight epiphany on a shabby hotel balcony. Learn the art of love from Ovid. Visit villas and gardens with Edith Wharton. Enjoy Rome’s myriad moods and pleasures with Robert Browning, Eleanor Clark, Susan Vreeland, and many others. An irresistible collection of writing about one of the world’s most beloved destinations, The Smiles of Rome spans the centuries from ancient times to the present day. Each essay resonates with the richness and turmoil of the past and overflows with a great wealth of fascinating facts and intriguing tidbits for today’s avid readers and travelers. “Rome,” writes Susan Cahill, “has the power to blow your mind and heart.” This delicious, many-layered collection honoring the city that is the heart and soul of European civilization has the same power to thrill.


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Take a Roman holiday with some of the world’s greatest writers Explore the Palatine with Elizabeth Bowen. Visit the temple of the Vestal Virgins with Georgina Masson. Analyze Michelangelo’s Moses with Sigmund Freud. Stroll through ancient streets with Goethe and with Henry James. Share Alice Steinbach’s midnight epiphany on a shabby hotel balcony. Learn the art of love Take a Roman holiday with some of the world’s greatest writers Explore the Palatine with Elizabeth Bowen. Visit the temple of the Vestal Virgins with Georgina Masson. Analyze Michelangelo’s Moses with Sigmund Freud. Stroll through ancient streets with Goethe and with Henry James. Share Alice Steinbach’s midnight epiphany on a shabby hotel balcony. Learn the art of love from Ovid. Visit villas and gardens with Edith Wharton. Enjoy Rome’s myriad moods and pleasures with Robert Browning, Eleanor Clark, Susan Vreeland, and many others. An irresistible collection of writing about one of the world’s most beloved destinations, The Smiles of Rome spans the centuries from ancient times to the present day. Each essay resonates with the richness and turmoil of the past and overflows with a great wealth of fascinating facts and intriguing tidbits for today’s avid readers and travelers. “Rome,” writes Susan Cahill, “has the power to blow your mind and heart.” This delicious, many-layered collection honoring the city that is the heart and soul of European civilization has the same power to thrill.

30 review for The Smiles of Rome: A Literary Companion for Readers and Travelers

  1. 5 out of 5

    Baglady

    Tremendous variety of authors / interviews / other writings about Rome, with travel information related to each. Chapters are somewhat disjointed, but treating each chapter as stand-alone rather than integrated helped. Having just returned from Rome, I enjoyed the literary items more than the travel, but I agreed with most of the travel recommendations which by happy accident I had seen. It is also possible to scan the chapter headings and read only those which appeal to the reader.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    makes me ready to return to Rome.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Wendell

    Though The Smiles of Rome is one of those books that are classically recommended to travelers to Italy, especially first-time travelers, it struck me as a colossal bore. What becomes obvious is that Cahill made her selections less on literary merit and more on their ability to lend themselves to an itinerary or the frequency with which they mentioned churches, bridges, museums, or other monuments that Cahill wanted to highlight. The result is that the writing is extremely uneven when it isn’t ut Though The Smiles of Rome is one of those books that are classically recommended to travelers to Italy, especially first-time travelers, it struck me as a colossal bore. What becomes obvious is that Cahill made her selections less on literary merit and more on their ability to lend themselves to an itinerary or the frequency with which they mentioned churches, bridges, museums, or other monuments that Cahill wanted to highlight. The result is that the writing is extremely uneven when it isn’t utterly obscure (Freud’s essay on the Moses of Michelangelo is just plain odd, while Browning’s and Vittoria Colonna’s poetry, along with Michelangelo’s sonnets, is just plain dull). Other selections are eccentric and bad-fitting (excerpts from Morante’s History, a few of Peter’s Letters to the Romans, and a strange little interview with Fellini about La Dolce Vita are examples of pieces whose unease in this context is palpable), giving the sense of having been smacked into place with blows of a hammer rather than gentled into the book because of their beauty or appropriateness. Eleanor Clark’s piece on the Protestant Cemetery is readable only because its subject matter is so interesting, though the truth of the matter is that her baffling thickets of clauses and qualifiers are utterly maddening; Updike’s contribution is a genuine nullity, though he is far from the only writer to be included here for his name rather than for the quality or intrinsic interest of the writing that Cahill anthologizes. As a practical matter, The Smiles of Rome was published more than four years ago and its advice about restaurants or museum hours is no longer useful; browse the book in the library for the walking tours at the end of each chapter or cadge its bibliography, but spend your money on another book about Rome.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jaleh Rose

    I studied abroad in Rome and this book was part of the required reading for the writing class. The book overall struck me as disjointed. All the essays are about Rome, but it can be jarring jumping from one story to the next since this collection includes everything from a excerpt from a novel written in the point of view of Hadrian to an interview with Federico Fellini. The suggestions at the stories are often longer than the stories themselves, and, in my opinion, are not very good ones. I did I studied abroad in Rome and this book was part of the required reading for the writing class. The book overall struck me as disjointed. All the essays are about Rome, but it can be jarring jumping from one story to the next since this collection includes everything from a excerpt from a novel written in the point of view of Hadrian to an interview with Federico Fellini. The suggestions at the stories are often longer than the stories themselves, and, in my opinion, are not very good ones. I did not read all of this book, but I did read a good chunk of the stories for class, and I did not find any of them interesting. Fellini's interview seemed out of place, Eleanor Clark's musings on the cemetary where Keats is buried is just odd and hard to follow, and Alice Steinbach's dislike for Rome and the subsequent situation she ends up in only led me to wonder about how someone could be so annoying and stupid after having traveled around Europe before ending up in Rome. This was not a good collection of stories.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jordyne

    Great literary compilation of essays, excerpts, reflections on Rome. Includes writings on Ancient, Renaissance and Baroque, Grand Tour period. Favorites: John Updike's Twin Beds in Rome, Muriel Spark's My Rome, Alice Steinbach's Piazza di Spagna. Great literary compilation of essays, excerpts, reflections on Rome. Includes writings on Ancient, Renaissance and Baroque, Grand Tour period. Favorites: John Updike's Twin Beds in Rome, Muriel Spark's My Rome, Alice Steinbach's Piazza di Spagna.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mary Step

    A beautiful book, incredible preparation and companion on a trip to Rome.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany McIver

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marjorie

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

  11. 5 out of 5

    Erika

  12. 4 out of 5

    Wes

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bronwyn Thompson

  14. 5 out of 5

    Maripat

  15. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Good ideas for places to visit in Rome.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Angela Leddy

  19. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  20. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Libby

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jen

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bernice Williams, W

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lola

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mary Anderson

  27. 4 out of 5

    Julie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bencrix

  29. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Jelley

  30. 5 out of 5

    P L

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