Picks and Pans Review: As the Romans Do

UPDATED 09/25/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/25/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Alan Epstein

Fulfilling a longtime fantasy, writer Alan Epstein moved to Rome with his wife and two school-age sons five years ago, and this charming, Peter Mayle-like insider's view is the result: an unabashed love letter celebrating the allure, frustrations, quirks and joys of life in the Eternal City. Lively vignettes explicate Roman attitudes toward sex (quite liberal, especially when it comes to adultery), food (all good, all the time), technology (not to be trusted; better to have 10 people doing the job of one computer) and style (impeccable, even when picking up the dry cleaning). Epstein's hungry eye and gift for storytelling more than make up for a bit of repetition and self-indulgence, and in the end we're left with a rich picture of living "at the apex of what is most profound about life," as the author calls Rome. "What it offers in the way of beauty, of sensuality, of creativity," says Epstein, 51, "no other city can match." (Morrow, $20)

Bottom Line: Book yourself a one-way ticket

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