If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that one of my greatest passions is travel. So you can imagine my delight when I met David Bastiani on Twitter and discovered that he sets his Milo Peretti mysteries in Rome! I devoured his first novella Blood Will Tell (which is available to download FREE on Kindle now) in a couple of days and really enjoyed.
Today David joins us to talk about the delightful setting for these intriguing books:
Everyone knows about Rome… The Eternal City. The City of the Seven Hills. Caput Mundi. The capital of the world with its instantly recognisable imagery. The arches of the Coliseum. The great dome of St. Peter’s Basilica bulging up on the skyline. Tourists tossing coins into the Trevi Fountain. But is that Rome? Or is there more to the city than the clichés and a horde of ancient and ever more rapidly decaying relics?
Well, it’s certainly no secret that Rome has seen better days. Modern-day Romans have to contend with an economy in crisis and corruption in government. The ancient ruins are in desperate need of preservation and certain neighbourhoods have that slightly down-at-the-heel look of many European cities.
But what Rome still has is charm. Whether you’re wandering through the maze of narrow cobbled streets in Trastevere, sampling the delights of bakeries in the Jewish Ghetto or browsing the open air market at Campo dè Fiori, Rome has it in abundance. It’s a kind of small town charm in a big city and it’s what makes Rome unique. The Centro Storico (Historic Centre) of Rome is divided into twenty-two rioni or neighbourhoods and the variety within that twenty-two piece patchwork gives Rome a delightful unpredictability.
So here are my top three must-visit Roman neighbourhoods:
1. Trastevere – This is quintessentially Roman. No major historic monuments but a maze of medieval streets which hide cafes and some excellent traditional trattorias. At night, the floodlit Piazza di Santa Maria is stunning and on a lazy Sunday morning, nothing beats rummaging for curios at the famous flea market.
2. Testaccio – An up-and-coming working-class neighbourhood, this is foodie heaven. Famous for the traditional offal dishes of the workers at the local slaughterhouse, these days Testaccio offers far more than that. This is the place to eat like a Roman at one of the Spartan-looking trattorias or to sample fresh produce at the vibrant mercato – stalls piled high with fresh fruit, prosciutto and mozzarella di Bufala.
3. Monti – Tucked away not far from the Coliseum, this is one of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods. Still keeping a local flavour, Monti has plenty of good little traditional restaurants and bars alongside the bookstore-cafes, vintage shops and organic markets. The highlight, though, is taking in the stunning view along Via Panisperna, one of the most famous roads in Rome.
So why do I set my crime fiction in Rome? How can death and other dark things sit alongside some romantic vision of La Dolce Vita? The truth is it isn’t hard to imagine that the city’s historic charm is hiding a much darker underbelly. Especially when using your imagination is not always necessary. After all, the very history of Rome was written in blood. Romulus slaying his brother Remus to take the crown. The blood-stained sand of the Coliseum. The Ides of March, ‘Et tu, Brute?’ and all that. Not to mention murders at the Vatican, the Mafia, and endless political backstabbing, both literal and figurative.
For me, as a crime writer, Rome is the perfect city. There are so many hidden places. So many secret passages and alleyways. Conspiratorial whispers as friends stroll arm in arm. Conversations over an espresso cup. At first glance, everything seems idyllic but watch for long enough and you’ll see the dark clouds hanging over Italian society. The pessimism over a failing economy, the tensions rising from illegal immigration, social injustice and the utter ineptitude of successive governments. Add into the mix the naturally suspicious Italians and their love of a good conspiracy theory and the possibilities are endless.
David Bastiani writes crime fiction. He is the creator of Milo Peretti – Rome’s newest private detective – and is currently working on The Colour of Weeping – the first full novel in the Peretti mystery series.
David was born in Northampton but has his family roots in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. He lives with his wife and their young family in Cheshire.
The photos in this post were supplied courtesy of:
Monti – photo credit Alexandra AS
Testaccio – photo credit Grosbeak
Trastevere – photo credit Debs-eye