In preparing for a trip to Rome, it's almost impossible to narrow down the huge lists of books that can inspire, advise, and inform your trip. There are probably 10 specific periods in Rome's history that fascinate me, so the stack of books could be daunting.
But here are three that made my list, and inspired my trip. More books (especially about my favorite Roman time period) later this week.
by Robert Hughes
Robert Hughes gives us a very personal journey through Rome's history and culture. He skips a bit quickly through ancient Rome for my taste, but paints an incredible view of the Renaissance. As the former art critic for Time, that really shouldn't surprise, but to be fair Rome had an amazing diversity of artists, sculptors, composers, and architects who created stunning works during the Renaissance.
I used Hughes' book to find hidden gems like Villa Medici.
It's astonishing to realize that Michelangelo only received the commission to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel almost as a consolation prize. The project he most wanted was to sculpt the Pope's tomb, but instead he was convinced by Pope Julius II to paint his now-famous scenes. Michelangelo was not know for his paintings and he didn't have experience with frescoes. Add to that the cost to his health (and his pocketbook), and you can understand how the gorgeous ceiling became the bane of Michelangelo's existence.
Sprezzatura: 50 Ways that Italian Genius Shaped the World
by Peter D'Epiro
Sprezzatura means the art of effortless mastery, and after just a few days in Rome, it does seem as if the Italians mastered (or created) almost every form of art.
D'Epiro showcases 50 of the top Italian cultural achievements, from developing the calendar (twice) to the first orchestra, and from love poetry to logic. This is a sharp and humorous look at how the history of Italy has shaped the world's culture.