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Rome Is Love Spelled Backward (Roma Amor): Enjoying Art and Architecture in the Eternal City

by Judith Testa

Emperor Hadrian is credited for pairing the patron goddess, Roma, with the long-worshiped love deity, Venus, thus creating the palindrome Romamor, which gives this unusual and worthy guidebook its name. In five chronologically arranged sections (Ancient Rome, Early Christian and Medieval Rome, Late Medieval and Renaissance Rome, Baroque Rome and Modern Rome), Northern Illinois University art history professor Testa covers the city’s art and architecture with insight, sensitivity and scholarly perspective rarely found in travel manuals. Many chapters are devoted to a single monument: S. Maria Sopra Minerva, the Trevi Fountain, Castel Sant’Angelo, the Colosseum. Others are on larger themes, such as the building programs of Sixtus V or those of Mussolini. Everything is presented in welcome detail with background information for fuller understanding of the sites that surround a visitor to the Eternal City. Anyone interested in the classic arts will learn something from Testa’s text, whether it’s the reason the Pantheon was built, the source of the Christian and Jewish catacombs, or the roles that Caravaggio and Bernini played in creating a baroque Rome. With 50 photos, narrative text and no information on shops, restaurants, or hotels, it’s a guidebook for sophisticated travelers who already know where to stay, but want more than a sentence on what they’re seeing.