When in Rome - 2000 years of Roman sightseeing

Wednesday 22nd June 2011  18.00

Matthew Sturgis will give a lecture on his book “When in Rome, 2000 years of Roman Sightseeing”


Press release

When Ancient Rome existed in all its marble glory, what did visitors most admire about the city? Back then did they regard the Colosseum as little more than an oversized sports arena – like Wembley Stadium – and reserve their real enthusiasm for other, less conspicuous or now lost, monuments?

During the Middle Ages what were the things – the classical ruins, the churches, the pictures, the statues – that excited the imagination of pilgrims and travellers? And how did they differ from those that appealed to the visitors of the Renaissance or the Baroque age? What were considered to be great sights of Rome by the ‘milords’ on the Grand Tour, by the Romantic poets, and by the Victorian tourists clutching their Baedekers?  These are just some of the questions
addressed – and answered – in this book.

There is no place like Rome. Throughout its long history, its many changes in form and fortune, the city has always been a major tourist centre. In this it is unique. For over two thousand years people have been drawn to see its wonders. They have all been excited by what they encountered, but the actual things that have excited them – the specific buildings, artworks, sights – have changed with each century.

When in Rome charts this remarkable double story. It is a history of changing Rome and changing taste.

Nowadays who, amongst the millions of visitors who come to Rome each year, seeks out the Cloaca Maxima or the Forum of Trajan? The bones of St Pancras or the statue of the reclining Cleopartra? The little church of S. Martino ai Monti or the painting of Beatrice Cenci attributed to Guido Reni? Almost no one. But – at different times – these were amongst the great tourist attractions of the city – indeed, of the world.

Using a wealth of primary sources, Matthew Sturgis pieces together these lost histories, reclaiming many of Rome’s forgotten marvels and neglected masterpieces.  When in Rome is a book to show you the Eternal City through fresh eyes – the eyes of an ever-changing past.