Journey to the Eternal City: The Best Books to Read Before Your Trip to Rome
Updated: 6 days ago
“When in Rome, live as the Romans do; when elsewhere, live as they live elsewhere."
Rome has captivated travelers for centuries. Steeped in history, culture, and art, the Eternal City continues to enchant and inspire. Before embarking on your journey, why not immerse yourself in the city's heritage and charm by delving into some diverting Rome-centric books?
Whether you're interested in ancient history, art, or contemporary Roman life, there's a book that can enrich your understanding of this extraordinary city. Here is a list of some of the best books – on a variety of topics - to make your trip to Rome not just a vacation but a cultural and intellectual adventure.
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
By Mary Beard
[Non-fiction – Ancient Rome]
Truly understanding Rome is to know its beginnings. Celebrated scholar Mary Beard's "SPQR" offers a captivating journey through Rome's history, from its legendary foundation to its transformation into a powerful empire. Her engaging, highly readable narrative explores the politics, culture, and society that shaped Rome's rise and fall – bringing the ancient world back to life.
Angels and Demons
By Dan Brown
[Fiction/Thriller – Vatican]
With the discovery of an ancient secret brotherhood and a new weapon of destruction, this thrilling novel set in Rome takes readers on a suspenseful adventure through the Eternal City exploring the city’s connection to the Catholic Church and its world-famous landmarks. Dan Brown's intricate plot, combined with descriptions of Rome's architecture and history, will make you see the city in a new light.
The Name of the Rose
By Umberto Eco
[Historical Mystery – Renaissance Era]
This historical mystery novel is set in an Italian monastery during the 14th century, featuring a Sherlock Holmes-like friar solving a series of murders. While the story primarily takes place in a remote abbey, it offers insights into the relationship between faith, knowledge, and the Church in medieval Italy.
Confessions of a Young Nero
[Historical Fiction – 1st Century Roman Empire]
The New York Times bestselling and legendary author Margaret George tells the story of Emperor Nero, one of the most notorious and misunderstood figures in history. Her impeccable research is evident in this captivating tale about a young boy’s ruthless ascension to the throne. It is an epic tale about a young man’s quest for power at all costs.
BONUS EXPERIENCE: During your visit to Rome, step inside the true story of an attempted assassination of Emperor Nero during the Famed Chariot Races on your visit to the Circus Maximus. The Charioteer, an audio / visual self-guided tour was written by Margaret George and narrated by George Blagden (Vikings, Versailles). Available in the App Store and Google Play
The Architecture of Happiness
By Alain de Botton
[Philosophy & Architecture]
Alain de Botton's philosophical exploration of architecture and its influence on our well-being will enhance your appreciation of Rome's breathtaking structures. Discover the interplay between architecture and the human spirit in this thought-provoking read.
Sons of Rome
By Simon Turney and Gordon Doherty
[Historical Fiction – 3rd Century Roman Empire]
In the first of a three-book series (Rise of Emperors), Turney and Doherty take readers back to the 3rd Century AD, when the Roman Empire had become a shadow of its former self. This vast empire is now improbably ruled by four Emperors. Sons of Rome tells the story of two young boys whose lives become inextricably linked through shared heartbreak and glory. Ultimately, Maxentius and Constantine will converge in a fierce and deadly battle over a single destiny.
BONUS EXPERIENCE: During your visit to Rome, step inside the true story of a buried treasure on the Palatine Hill on the eve of a battle between two emperors - Maxentius and Constantine. As you tour the ancient palace, step back in time to 312 AD with The Sibylline Prophecy, an audio / visual self-guided tour written by international bestselling author Simon Turney. Digital reconstructions included. Available in the App Store and Google Play
The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist
By Matt Baglio
[Non-fiction – Exorcism]
This true story of an American priest’s training as an exorcist reveals not just an archaic past of possession and demons, but the power it still holds today. Father Gary Thomas participated in over 80 exorcisms – ultimately changing the way he perceived the world from a skeptic to a believer in the battle between good and evil. Journalist Matt Baglio uncovers that much of what Thomas experienced chillingly defies explanation.
Under the Eagle: A Tale of Military Adventure and Reckless Heroism with the Roman Legions
[Historical Fiction – 1st Century Roman Empire]
This is the first book in the bestselling series Eagles of the Empire. (Currently at 19). Set in the 1st century, Under the Eagle tells the story of the battle-scarred veteran Centurion Marco, and the young recruit Cato, as their barbaric campaign leads them into a conspiracy that threatens to topple the Empire. It’s an unputdownable story of military adventure, political intrigue, and heroism.
BONUS EXPERIENCE: During your visit to Rome, see the Colosseum in a brand new way. Step back in time to the seedy underworld of gladiator fights at Domitian's Great Games. Written by Sunday Times No. 1 bestseller Simon Scarrow and narrated by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost, Oz, Game of Thrones), the audio-visual tour Blood and Sand allows users to step inside a history lesson disguised within a great story. Includes digital reconstructions. Available in the App Store and Google Play
Eat, Pray, Love
By Elizabeth Gilbert
[Non-Fiction – Modern Memoir]
While this memoir takes readers on a global journey, a significant portion of it is set in Rome. Elizabeth Gilbert's vivid descriptions of the city's food, culture, and art will inspire you to experience the joys of la dolce vita, the sweet life, for yourself.
The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic
By Mike Duncan
[Non-Fiction – Roman Republic]
Mike Duncan is the creator of the award-winning podcast series The History of Rome and Revolutions. Lars Brownworth, (In Distant Lands: A Short History of the Crusades) offers this review "Written with the humor and the storytelling instincts that made him such a popular podcaster, Duncan brilliantly answers a vital question that is rarely asked: What weakened the late Roman Republic enough that it collapsed under the ambitions of the Caesars? This is history as it should be compelling, witty, and ultimately revealing.”
Enjoy your upcoming adventure in the Eternal City!
BARDEUM offers self-guided audio / visual tours via mobile app. These immersive experiences are written by award-winning & bestselling authors, journalists, and historians.