Rome, By Robert Hughes


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The Independent Culture

The august Australian art critic and historian turns the Eternal City into a theatre of dreams and delusions. His Rome grows around a spine of of energetic, if erratic, historical narratives - from ancient legend to the "nightmare" of Berlusconi's "crap" TV.

Yet the book's muscle and sinew lie in Hughes's eloquent vignettes of churches and palaces, statues and paintings – crafted with all his peerless swagger and savour.

Hughes shines among giants, with a Bernini or a Caravaggio, and also whets our appetite for lesser-known treasures. Yet he reveals a see-sawing ambivalence about the lure of Rome.

For all his zest, he scolds the fantasy of a spotless past, regrets the city's present and fears that "cultures, like individual people, do run down."