What I have chosen as the topic for today’s post is probably one of the most honest books about Rome I have read recently.
Actually, it is not exactly a book because of its very unique format but it can absolutely be read as a non-fiction book about Rome and about what it really means to live in the city.
This very unique publication I am writing about is The Passenger: Rome, a collection of articles and writings about one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It belongs to The Passenger, a series of magazines that, as the publisher says, “collects the best new writing, photography, art, and reportage from around the world”.
This peculiar series of magazines are published by Iperborea, an independent Italian publisher that specializes in literature from northern Europe and from the north in general. They publish mainly Scandinavian books but their catalogue includes titles from Baltic countries, the Netherlands, Canada, and Iceland as well.
In 2018, they launched The Passenger, a series of what they call libro-magazine, publications that collect articles, essays, and writings with the goal of depicting a genuine portrait of contemporary life in a certain country or a city. The first issue was about Iceland and it was incredibly successful. After that first one, they published issues about Japan, Portugal, Berlin, Paris, Norway, Greece, Brazil, and many other locations.
Since 2020, these cool publications are available in English as well, published and distributed by Europa Editions. The specific title I want to tell you about today is focused on Rome but you can find the English version of many other titles of this series (just check this webpage to see if there is a country or city you might be interested in).
Being an avid reader and a (once) keen traveler, I obviously am a fan of The Passenger and I own most of the titles of the series. I really like this unique format that takes you on a trip around a certain country or city without feeling like a tourist but more like a local.
More precisely, when you read these books you feel as if you are visiting a place with the guidance of a friend, who lives in that place and tells you really honestly about life there, underlying the pros without hiding the cons. So, even if these publications can be mistaken for a guidebook, they are something completely different.
Specifically, the book about Rome is as far from a guidebook as it could possibly be. It is so honest and raw that you might look at Rome with completely different eyes, after reading it – and might contemplate whether you should return to the city or not. Well, this might be an exaggeration but you’ll change your idea of Rome after you’ve read this publication, that’s for sure.
The Passenger: Rome contains a series of essays by important Italian writers and journalists who live in Rome, like Nicola Lagioia, Francesco Piccolo, and Letizia Muratori (plus many others) who write about the harsh reality of the suburbs, the ruling influence of the Vatican, the excessive power of real estate speculators and of mafia gangs, and much more.
The portrait of Rome that results from this book is that of a place of huge contradictions and extreme opposites: romantic and cruel, ancient and modern, fascinating and scary at the same time. As they say in the preface of this book, Rome is an “incredibly deceptive city”, always different from what it appears to be. So this book about Rome is an absolutely unique journey in an undoubtedly unique city and I am sure you’ll feel as if you know the city better after reading it.
Have you ever read a book about Rome? If so, which one? Would you recommend it?
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