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As the Romans Do: The Delights, Dramas, And Daily Diversions Of Life In The Eternal City Hardcover – March 22, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (March 22, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688172725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688172725
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,999,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although it retreads ground familiar to readers of Tim Parks, this slight if enjoyable collection of essays on life in Italy provides many amusing anecdotes. Epstein is a city-lover, particularly enamored with the Eternal City, and in 1995 he moved there from California with his wife and two young sons. These pieces collect his thoughts on the quirks of Italian life, but they often pertain to Italy in general rather than Rome (and too many of them concentrate on the joys of living in a city where women "not only don't mind that you look at them, but actually seek your gaze, your glance, your stare"). The most successful of these pieces examine the differences in the minutiae of life as experienced in Rome and in the U.S. Epstein's thoughts on making photocopies, something that in Rome is as difficult as "trying to get into Fort Knox," is well detailed, and the material on child-rearing (which the Italians consider both a communal responsibility and a pleasure) is sweet and poignant. Epstein often remarks that present-day Rome resembles the 1950s Philadelphia where he grew up, but he is too easily blinded to the weaknesses of both cultures. For example, in the face of growing xenophobia and violence against immigrants, he writes glowingly of how friendly Italians are to foreign vendors. Nevertheless, Epstein's love for his adopted home is often charming. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Epstein, European correspondent for American radio and president of a travel association aptly named As the Romans Do, has written a colorful account of his experiences and observations of daily life in Rome. Focusing mainly on the Italian people, Epstein compares and contrasts their lifestyle as well as their views on religion, marriage, and family. The reader is taken on a magical journey through a land of plenty, as Epstein discusses the importance of the piazza (not only for watching people but for catching up on neighborhood gossip) and such traditional activities as baking bread, playing bocci, and eating in trattorias. The account ends with the preparations being made for the end-of-the-century millennium party. The love and awe Epstein feels for the Italian people shine through in his vivid descriptions. Warmly recommended for all lovers of Italy.
-Stephanie Papa, Baltimore Cty. Circuit Court Law Lib., Towson, MD
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

I finished the book frustrated by the writing style and disappointed because I'd hoped for much more.
Ivy
The book is a lovely read and is perfect for those who have visited Rome or for those who have never been but would love the experience.
carroll
Epstein's engaging style and keen observations so beautifully describe the Roman experience that I was transcended as I read.
Ellen Brown

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"In November 1998, Rome, Italy changed our 17-year-old daughter's life, thanks to our one week tour with Alan Epstein. It isn't easy to thrill three teenage girls, unless of course you are a teenage boy, but Alan's tour achieved the almost impossible. His astute observations and his infectious enthusiasm provided incredible insights about life in the Eternal City. A walk with Alan becomes a vehicle for understanding the complexities and beauty of Roman culture. His stories opened our daughters' eyes to a world brimming with pleasure and passion, unlike any they had seen before. Our oldest daughter, realizing that her world had the potential to expand beyond suburban Philadelphia, experienced an attitude change. She can't wait to embrace her life with open arms, "as the Romans do," eager to learn more about the world and continue on the journey she began with Alan. From the water fountains that we thought were broken fire hydrants, but that, in fact, are bubbling with the pure, potable water of the underground springs, to the ancient works of art tucked away on almost every street, Alan regaled us with fascinating stories and facts. Alan's help was invaluable, not just entertaining. From understanding why one should never sit down in certain coffee bars, to finding out where to eat like kings but pay like paupers, and even how to use the public bus system, Alan's tips helped us find our way effortlessly, even though we don't speak Italian. Without question, after 25 years of travel, this is the best trip we've ever taken. Don't miss Rome and don't go without Alan Epstein!
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By "lapost" on June 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There are many aspects of "As the Romans Do" that resonated with me. A few that leap to mind: Epstein's expert weaving of Italian words and phrases into the English text, which add pizzazz to his encounters; the juxtaposition of Roman history -- in all its epochs -- with current Roman life; the contrasts between contemporary Roman and American society, as noted in general observations and in descriptions of Epstein's and his Roman neighbors' personal experiences; the overall smooth rhythm and pacing of the book.
"As the Romans Do" should have broad appeal, enchanting people who love all things Italian, who have visited Rome -- or who would like to, and who enjoy reading about expatriates living in foreign cultures. Epstein does an artistic, classy job with a subject that lends itself to art and class, but that can fall easily into cliches and descriptions of Rome we've all read before.
Epstein has a fresh perspective. His individual approach to the Eternal City defines his book, and as readers, we get to dream about Rome as we mull over our own definitions.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"If you've been to Rome and thrown your coin in the Trevi Fountain, but still haven't been able to take your return trip, As the Romans Do will bring you back. And, if you haven't lived and loved a trip to Rome, the book will take you there. As you read it and figuratively walk the streets with Alan Epstein, Rome envelopes you. The beauty, the sights, the smells, the history that is Rome with its vibrant past and present, fill every page. Alan's insights and observations bring the city to you in a way no guide book or novel ever could. You can learn the secrets that the Romans know about a life brimming with passion and joy, simplicity and sensuality. If you've ever fantasized about beginning life anew in an exotic place, this book will enthrall you. And, even if you stay right where you are, reading As the Romans Do will inspire you to weave a bit of that Roman wisdom into your daily life."
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "alec74" on March 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Although Epstein has lived in Rome for years, I think he actually doesn't really understand and know much of this city; his assertions are full of imprecisions, stereotypes and commonplaces. His insights are trivial and most of the times far from the actual facts; his knowledge of italian society is faulty (at least) and sometimes rather absurd: supermarkets that don't change money and other fantasies prove that Epstein don't know much of this city. I bought this book full of hopes and enthusiasm but in the end I was really disappointed by it. As a roman (a really one, not a pretended one as Epstein) who lives in Rome I found the book and his author quite annoying.
Alessandro Cantonetti
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Ivy on April 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
When it comes to the living-abroad type of travel memoir, I have expectations of depth, insight, and extensive knowledge - hey, an author living in the midst of his subject should have all the time in the world for research and thought, right? And Alan Epstein, with his degree in European history and his work as a guide and lecturer, ought to be able to do even better than your average Mayes, Mayle, or Gervais. Or so I thought when I picked up this book. What I found, though, was that there just wasn't a lot to As the Romans Do; it lacked both the skillful writing and the insightful depth that make up the best travel books.
The poor grammar and editing of this book drove me nuts. Epstein uses an awful lot of enormously long, convoluted sentences with no special stylistic rationale. And even he gets lost in his own sentences - if you parse them out, you'll notice lots of missing subjects and lost clauses, lots of five-line fragments. One of the strengths of much of the memoir-style travel writing is the craftsmanship of the writers, but that's definitely not the case with this book.
Still, weak writing is survivable; weak content isn't. That's the biggest problem with the book - there just isn't a whole lot of Rome in As the Romans Do. Epstein only skims along the surface, without ever going into depth or revealing anything bigger than himself. Each chapter is just long enough to give the gist of the topic. The true insights that can come from reading about living abroad - insights about the way we are, as well as about the way other people live - are missing in action. In one chapter, Epstein briefly discusses a meeting at his sons' school, using it to illustrate a weak point about the way people argue in Italy.
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