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Romance novel set in Rome (The “Princess Diaries” of Rome)

30th September 2015

Rome in Love by Anita Hughes, romance novel set in Rome.

IMG_1683A confection of romance, thwarted love, food, drink and that wonderful city: Rome. A great combination for a novel to have the reader humming Watch You Walk Away, the theme tune from Roman Holiday;  you would be spot on with that, because this is a modern day take on the filming of that very movie, originally filmed way back in 1953.

Amelia Tate is bravely stepping into the shoes of Audrey Hepburn, as Princess Ann, for this modern version of the film. She is staying in the Penthouse Villa Medici Suite at the Hassler Hotel, atop the Spanish Steps, 7th floor with expansive vistas across the city. This suite is invariably the go-to accommodation for the rich and famous and has seen many top celebrities grace the sumptuous beds.  But back to the story. One evening, at the start of filming, Amelia seeks a bit of escape from the rigours of partying with the paparazzi  and chooses to dress herself as a maid in the Hassler’s Laundry Room so she can step out into the city incognito. Of course, she is scooped up and looked after by a young man, an American journalist. Fast forward to her return to the hotel, where she meets Sophie, hiding in the Laundry Room, who implores Amelia to accompany her to see a doctor because she has twisted her ankle.

It transpires that each young woman, in her own way, is a Princess, and Sophie is in fact Princess Sophia Victoria de Grasse, heir to the throne in Lentz, a little principality in Europe. She has led a sheltered life and is having a few weeks of fun before she follows through with her betrothal  to Prince Leopold. The two young women soon forge a friendship that sees them take on more adventures… and mostly of the convoluted romantic kind involving aforementioned American journalist (Philip), and ankle doctor (Theo), who happens to have a heart of gold! (Not a spoiler, you know romance is in the air!)

Back to Amelia at the Hassler, she discovers some old letters secreted in her suite, written by the original star of Roman Holiday. Yes, Audrey Hepburn! Original correspondence, in which she writes to Kitty summarising her feelings and her experiences on the set of the film.  The two storylines, past and present are woven together and work quite well in the book.

On the food front, the book will cause weight increase just by reading it, as luscious dishes, appetisers, snacks and alcohol appear at extremely regular intervals. I am surprised the main characters aren’t overweight, to be honest. It’s not a gastro novel by any means, but there are certainly enough restaurant suggestions to keep any avid foodies going for a long a weekend in the city…. Antico Caffè Greco makes several appearances as do StregaIl Gabriello and Recafé (amongst many more). I do hope the author had the good fortune to research all these dining opportunities in person! There is also much mention of Fettuccine Alfredo which was a dish made famous by Taylor and Burton, and also at the heart of Gill Paul’s novel The Affair – also set in Rome, also on a film set (Cleopatra). It would make a good companion book to Rome in Love.

It is a novel that bowls along at an easy pace and is redolent of Rome. Of course a book that really brings a place to life is right up our street!

It does at times become over excitable and dips when Philip’s mother Lily appears on the scene. The characters pack into a single day what could quite possibly take a week – Lake Trasimene, Gubbio, Orvieto, Spoleto and Assisi, bearing in mind also that Lily also has to catch the last flight out on that particular evening to Paris. Or, the sun seen rising from the Hassler over the Pantheon (that’s South West of the hotel and not East, where the sun rises). And it can be a little heavy on product placement, as Amelia spritzes her wrist repeatedly with Estée Lauder’s Lovely perfume (which of course reminds us what a lovely youthful woman Amelia is – but secretly I thought she was sassy enough to move on from that light fragrance, and I really wanted her to spread her wings and try something more “Italian” like Acqua di Parma perhaps.. but I digress). The discrepancies and niggles however soon get hoovered up in the enthusiastic storyline – a fairytale for adults (there are, however, scenes of a sexual nature). A delightful read that transports the reader to Rome in the present day, as well as back to the romantic era of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.

It was a book I myself took to Rome – practising what we preach, of course – and it was delightful to be able to immerse myself in the novel and then look up at the grand Roman remains and imagine the action within the book panning out in front of me. It was a surround-around experience!


TripFiction visits the Colosseum

A personal tip for a visit to Rome: My personal tip isn’t a restaurant – Anita covers them superbly and deliciously – but the opportunity to visit Nero’s Domus Aurea, built shortly after the fire in AD 64 that destroyed many of the patrician houses on the Palatine. Stucco and frescos are being revealed as the excavations progress, as clearing continues of the rubble from the Baths of Trajan built on top at a later period. Nero, it is said, gave the best parties and you can believe it from the remains in evidence. Interestingly some of the Renaissance painters Pinturicchio, Michelangelo and Raphael crawled through holes in the roof to investigate the art, and went on to reproduce what they saw in their own art.

Open only at weekends on a guided tour, as excavations take place during the week. A really worthwhile visit.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

You can catch up with Anita via TwitterFacebook and her own website. Anita’s books are locational gems, from The South of France, to Lake Come and more…. catch more of her books here

And of course come and join us for more literary travels on Social Media: TwitterFacebookPinterest, and when we have some interesting photos, we can be found over on Instagram too. For more books to transport you to Rome, click here.


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