Arts and Entertainment Rome sweet Rome: Tony Servillo in 'The Great Beauty'

From its delirious opening montage of disco divas, ageing socialites and strippers at play – one imagines Berlusconi's bunga bunga in a nutshell – Paolo Sorrentino's Roman satire has its sights fixed on epic greatness. There's a touch of La Dolce Vita in its fluid portrait of the city as carnival, with its parade of nuns, tourists, freaks, hangers-on, performance artists and other jokers. It is overseen by the dapper, disenchanted Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a journalist who once wrote a great novel but is now more famous for his roof-terrace parties and languid cynicism. The haute bourgeoisie circles Jep moves in turn a blind eye and a Botoxed pout to the depressed, debased society around them, preferring to dance themselves dizzy and drink themselves silly. (Sample dialogue: "What job do you do?" "Me? I'm rich". "Great job"). Nor is there any recourse to religion when Vatican prelates offer not spiritual succour but top cooking tips.

Street Fight in Naples: A City's Unseen History, By Peter Robb

Neapolitan, and not easily forgotten

Boyd Tonkin: Travesties and titillations

The week in books

Le Quattro Volte, Michelangelo Frammartino, 88 mins, U

Slow Italian art cinema might not set the pulse racing, but be patient: with barely a word of dialogue, this gentle drama is beautiful, mysterious and funny

My Secret Life: Derek Deane, choreographer, 57

My parents were... very kind people. My father was in the RAF and my mother trained as a nurse. I had a very distant relationship with them, though, mostly because of their work commitments.

Le Quattro Volte (U)

Starring: Giuseppe Fuda, Bruno Timpano

The Lost Battles, By Jonathan Jones

Da Vinci's sprint in the great art Renaissance race

Tom Sutcliffe: Real time is a bad time on screen

The week in culture

Where all roads lead to the dome

City Slicker: Florence - A new flight makes it easier to reach the city of the Medicis. Kate Simon has some tips for new and returning visitors

Michelangelo's Finger, By Raymond Tallis

Raymond Tallis is that rare thing: a genuine polymath. A former GP and specialist in gerontological medicine, he is also a highly regarded poet and literary critic. Michelangelo's Finger, his latest book, is an elegant philosophical essay that argues for the "supreme importance" of an apparent trifle: the peculiar movement of the human index finger in the act of pointing.

Tom Sutcliffe: Why we change the crime to fit the story

Social Studies: We want life to have significance – and so we're eager for details that make sense of the senseless

Picture of the Day: Flavour of the moment

It's not every day that you can boast about being on Jelly Baby cleaning duty. But that was the situation yesterday for a worker at London's Marble Arch, where Italian artist Mauro Peruchetti's glossy sculpture Jelly Baby Family is on display.

Great works: 'Crucified Christ' (circa 1540), Agnolo Bronzino

Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nice

48 Hours In: Naples

Sample life in the shadow of Vesuvius this autumn with an eruption of stunning views, sumptuous cuisine and fascinating heritage.

Jack Vettriano: The poster boy of popular art

He's been accused of plagiarism, painting by numbers and shameless commercialism, yet Jack Vettriano has still managed to produce the most recognisable, and popular, art work of the last 20 years with The Singing Butler. It hasn't made him happy, though, he tells Alice Jones
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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
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Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness