"Entering the forbidding portal, climbing the staircase and then passing through the darkened rooms of the vast building, I was going through my tunnel, through with no thought or presentiment of all the light on the other side, of what a contrast lay in store for me as though deliberately devised by some friendly genius leading me to discover Rome by subtle pathways and with the keenest sense of adventure."
After reading Rome Tales you are left with a mixture of feelings about the City. You sense its history, both political and religious, its culture and its transition as the population changes and city becomes more multicultural.
Through a series of short stories, by different authors from various eras, it is possible to get an insight into a city that contains its imperial Roman history along with the shame of fascism under Mussolini as well as the superstitions and ghost stories handed down through the years.
This collection is also a place to be entertained with tales of film makers recreating the city on celluloid and intrigued by some of the colourful characters that are drawn to Rome to make money and a new life for themselves.
The collection starts with a story taking a pop at the pope and it ends with one looking out at the City through the eyes of the man sitting in the Vatican. In between there are stories of ghosts, lovers and the sort of details of daily life you would never get from a tourist visit to Rome.
Interspersed with pictures of the city and containing helpful information about the authors and a map to illustrate where the tales are set this would make the perfect companion for a trip to Rome.
What you come away thinking about is not just how much history there is in the city but how much life continues to flow through its streets. The shadow of the Roman history could potentially block out anything else but stories here about a girl heading for an abortion, a lesbian tourist caught trying to embrace a statue and an insight into the streets that were the setting for La Dolce Vita in the late 1950s demonstrates that the heart of Rome still went on beating.
The other point to make about this book is that it proves, not that I think it needs to be proved, that the short story format can be a very powerful way of illustrating emotions and feelings about a place. This collection contains various authors that produced work over hundreds of years but because of the intelligent way it is complied it still manages to flow. The pieces are united by the City but they are also united by talent making it easier to go from one writer to another.