Bestselling book on Rome Italy
Bestselling book on Rome Italy


Editorial Reviews

People Magazine
September 25, 2000

Picks: As the Romans Do

Fulfilling a longtime fantasy, writer Alan Epstein moved to Rome with his wife and two school-age sons five years ago, and this charming, Peter Mayle-like insider's view is the result: an unabashed love letter celebrating the allure, frustrations, quirks and joys of life in the Eternal City. Lively vignettes explicate Roman attitudes toward sex (quite liberal, especially when it comes to adultery), food (all good, all the time), technology (not to be trusted; better to have 10 people doing the job of one computer) and style (impeccable, even when picking up the dry cleaning)... Epstein's [has a] hungry eye and gift for storytelling [and] in the end we're left with a rich picture of living "at the apex of what is most profound about life," as the author calls Rome. "What if offers in the way of beauty, of sensuality, of creativity," says Epstein, 51, "no other city can match." (Morrow, $20)

Bottom line: Book yourself a one way ticket.

Author Alan Epstein composes a Roman-tic aria to the Italian capital."

Hope Reeves
People Magazine

Christian Science Monitor
Book Section
July 27, 2000

A Man's Love Affair with a City

It was love at first sight for Alan Epstein. Twenty years ago, on his first trip to Italy, he was captivated by the beauty, warmth, and grandeur of Rome. He dreamed of making the Eternal City his home and schemed how to turn his desire into reality.

In 1995 - with a wife and two young sons in tow - he finally made the move, first to a hulking suburban villa, then to a palazzo in the heart of the city. Life in Rome was as delightful as he imagined: dropping by the cozy neighborhood bar each morning for cappuccino and a cornetto, attending lavish parties, and paying a pittance for bountiful trattoria lunches - where, no matter how long you linger, the check is never presented until you ask for it.

Unlike Frances Maye's tales of Tuscany ("Under the Tuscan Sun") and Peter Mayle's chronicles of Provence ("A Year in Provence"), which are lyrical accounts of vicissitudes of day-to-day living in another country, "As the Romans Do" uses a series of vignettes to celebrate the joys, quirks, and foibles of Italian life - from the city's hidden bakeries to the "flesh and flash" of Roman women.

First and foremost, Epstein never misses an opportunity to expound on the gustatory pleasures of his new home. Eating, he says, is the true passion of the city. Americans going out to dinner can choose from many cuisines. Not so the Romans...."Who needs Chinese takeout when fettuccine with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella, or linguine with radicchio tomato sauce and cream are available around every corner?"

Still, life in Rome isn't just one bountiful meal after another. An American has to make adjustments to the quirky - occasionally exasperating - ways that things are done: not being able to find a photocopier, storekeepers never have change, shops closing at whim throughout the day, frequent work stoppages, and the fact that doing errands is going to take at least three times as long as expected. Residents must develop patience and learn the art of waiting.

He recalls the afternoon in an outdoor market when he and his wife spotted exactly the bathroom rug they had been looking for. But the merchant had begun piling his rugs back into the truck. When the Epstein's asked to see it, he nonchalantly said the rug was too hard to get to - although they were close enough to touch it. Besides, it was time to eat. The reader waits for Epstein to react to this irritating behavior. Or atleast grumble about the inconvenience. But no, he turns philosophical: In Rome, "life is not organized around the principle that doing business and making money are the reasons we are put here."...

Judy Lowe
Travel Editor
Christian Science Monitor

Philadelphia Inquirer
Sunday Book Section
June 11, 2000

Learning to Get Along As the Romans Do

Alan Epstein is taking his own advice - doing as the Romans do by living la dolce vita. And now, five years after moving to Rome, Epstein has collected his impressions of his adopted city in a charming new book, As the Romans Do: The Delights, Dramas, and Daily Diversions of Life in the Eternal City (William Morrow, $20).

In the book, Epstein not only covers all the things one would expect in a book about the Eternal City, but also such topics as the sexiness of Romans, being a Jew in Rome, tasty trattorias and hidden bakeries, and two of his favorites, a chapter on anarchy and another on hanging the wash and other joys.

"I have to continually remind myself that just because these people are screaming at one another at the top of their lungs, it doesn't mean at all that they don't like each other. It's their way of venting, releasing their tension, which ultimately makes, statistically speaking, for a much less violent society," he said during a recent interview.

Referring to the chapter on hanging their wash, Epstein said: "People [in Rome] don't have dryers. They all hang their clothes. No Italian man would ever be caught hanging his wash. It would just be completely shameful. Whereas with us, it's whoever's available and whoever can do it does it. But it's a chapter about how the Romans are not technologically advanced, and they don't care, whereas in America it's a mania. It's a way of life that expresses what we are as people, whereas here the way they eat expresses what they are as people."

Epstein, who first visited Rome in 1981 and moved there in 1995, says: "I love the visual beauty of the city. I love the fact that even though you're in a grand, world-class city, you live among physical beauty in a way that very few other cities can match. . . . It's not only a beautiful place, but it's a very livable place. It's a place where people's values are set up to try to live as comfortably and as sweetly and as intimately as they can. As I mention in the book, it reminds me to a great extent of the way I grew up in Philly in the '50s, which was we lived in a neighborhood where people knew one another, where there were stores on the corners and you shopped among people who knew you and knew what you liked and knew what was going on in your family. That you walked to school, as our children do. That things were based in the neighborhood and that your frame of reference was people who knew you and knew about you. And I like that about Rome."

Indeed, Epstein was born 51 years ago in Philadelphia and spent his first 13 years in the Logan section and after that in the Far Northeast. He went to Central High School and then to Temple University, from which he received his B.A. in history. He then taught sixth grade for a year in North Philadelphia before heading for New York University, from which he received a Ph.D. in European history.

He says that when he and his wife, Diane, spent an extended honeymoon of four months with Rome as their base in 1987, "we said we've got to move here someday. Someday finally came eight years later." At the time, they were running a matchmaking service in San Francisco. These days, they and their sons, Julian, 11, and Elliott, 8, live in the Aventino. In addition to writing books (this is his fourth) and doing radio commentary for broadcast in Boston, Epstein also conducts seminars and tours of Rome and the rest of Italy. Diane Epstein conducts a successful therapy practice.

He says that what he misses most about America "are the championship sporting events, the tradition of everybody, no matter who they are or where they are, stopping what they're doing to partake of this sort of communal spectacle. I miss that. And I miss watching the Academy Awards," which he says are shown early in the morning in Rome "and I can never stay up." He says he also misses his relatives. His parents continue to live in the same Northeast Philadelphia home where they've lived since 1962. He and his wife and children return to the United States at least once a year for about six weeks. "We see all the friends and relatives and parents and grandparents and everybody, and then the feeling of missing Rome comes in and we kind of scoot back."

Epstein is working on a documentary about Rome as well as on a book "about people here either by birth or by coming here whose lives represent what I love about this city."

Epstein says that his Roman adventure has shown him "how satisfying it is to live your dream. And that if there's something in your life that you have a hankering to do and that you feel very strongly about and it speaks to you, that you should do it. We just always wanted to come and live in Italy. . . . It's just been a most wonderful experience and much more fulfilling and much more interesting and life-changing than we ever imagined."

Ever the historian, Epstein says, Rome "is like manna from heaven for me."

Tom Brady
Staff Writer
Philadelphia Inquirer

The Providence Journal
May 2000

Plan your Roman Holiday Before it's too Late

Are you planning a Roman holiday this summer? Then, for the inside scoop, pick up this entertaining little book by expatriate Alan Epstein, As the Romans Do . For the last five years, Epstein, his wife and two sons have made Rome their year-round home, abandoning San Francisco without a qualm for the charms of the Eternal City. Even though like every beloved place Rome has changed from the time two decades ago when Epstein became smitten with it, it remains for him the city that "offers in the way of beauty, of sensuality, of creativity, what no other city can match. Even if New York is more avant-garde, Paris more elegant, San Francisco fresher and more naturally dramatic, Rome still holds first place when it comes to utter devotion to pleasure," he believes.

Gracefully, casually he provides insights into his beloved city and the Roman mentality through his stories of sightings of beautiful local women, of the life of his children in school, of his early Sunday jogs past the Spanish Steps where the English poet John Keats died, to the monumental Pantheon built as a temple to the gods 2,000 years ago. He is simply ecstatic about Rome and his ecstasy bubbles over.

He finds Romans accepting of children in a way Americans never were. He finds families loving and family ties binding, mistresses and lovers notwithstanding. In Rome, he sees the enjoyment of life perfected to an art. Eating, he says, is the true passion of the city, and he offers tips on when to choose a cafe (for breakfast, for little sandwiches, sweets and mini-pizzas); a trattoria (a simple, unadorned place but with plenty of food); or a ristorante (linen tablecloths and napkins, polished waiters, expensive).

He explains Roman mores: "One marries for family reasons, takes a lover in the same way as one would form a close friendship, and has a 'scapatella' purely for sexual pleasure. All the energy Americans devote to the accumulation and management of money, the hours spent thinking how to amass it, organize it, invest it, will it, keep it, share it or not share it, Romans instead devote to other things: to looking well, eating well, loving well and spending time with their families."

Rome , he says, is a remarkably unhurried place. It is a forgiving place, a hospitable place. Visit soon, however, for although the Italian capital's movement towards modernization and globalization is slow in the way of all things Roman Epstein can see that its days of afternoon siestas, quality local cuisine, stay-at-home mothers and people who enter a store with a greeting, are numbered.

Epstein, who has a doctorate in European history from New York University, has reported on Italian life for American Online. He is the president of an association, As the Romans Do, that offers corporate and private escorted tours of Rome and other parts of Italy."

Phyllis Meras
The Providence Journal

More Editorial Reviews

As the Romans Do
Diane & Alan Epstein featured in the media:

Oprah Winfrey Show
Books Seen on the Show
Past Shows: Choose Your Life, June 21, 2000

Redbook Magazine
Dream Job, Fantasy Life, January 2001 issue


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