Travel guidebooks conceive of the world as a series of obvious, important monuments. This is particularly true of a brash and magnificent city like Rome. Your typical traveler could be forgiven for simplifying this complex historic capital down to a giant marble stadium, a series of famous steps and giant chapel mural. But writer David Downie reminds us there’s a lot more to Rome than its monuments. In fact, Downie argues, Rome is a city best savored through its secret places: the sensual and contemplative spaces unknown to the average visitor.
In his new book, Quiet Corners of Rome, Downie (a Gadling contributor) treats us to an insider’s tour of over 60 of Rome’s hidden spaces based on years of exploration. What he reveals is a city that is not about grand monuments, but instead the spaces in between: quiet courtyards punctuated by burbling fountains and the fresh scent of pine, the distant vibration of church bells in a shady courtyard and ancient stone plazas bedecked with intricate architectural details. Each sight is accompanied by a serene photo taken by photographer Alison Harris. It’s less a tourist guide than a dictionary of intimate discoveries and pleasant surprises – a sprawling, overwhelming city made personable, particular and specific.
Looking for a guide to Rome’s greatest and grandest sights? This is not that book. What Quiet Corners of Rome accomplishes however, is something altogether more authentic. It’s a highly personal, approachable and enjoyable way experience one of our favorite places as it was meant to be experienced: by cherishing every hidden nook and secret city view.