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.

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.

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

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
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 1 May 2015
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

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In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
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Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
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Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'