Books

All Roads Lead to Robert Hughes: The Critic Offers a Personal Take on Rome

"Rome" by Robert Hughes.

A few years ago, while staying with a friend in Florence, The Observer decided to take a day trip to Rome. There was something liberating in the absurdity of spending only one day in the ancient capital where Julius Caesar was assassinated, Michelangelo spent three years on his back in the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter was crucified upside down, Mussolini made his opponents eat living toads, and a young Australian named Robert Hughes, later to spend 31 years as Time magazine’s chief art critic, first ate a zucchini flower. Because we knew we couldn’t see everything, we felt no obligation to try, and we could simply enjoy whatever small fraction of the city we happened to find by chance. We could accidentally discover an equestrian statue of Constantine; take our time getting drunk over lunch; spend an hour sitting in the portico of the Pantheon, watching other tourists walk by and imagining all the men in doublets and togas and English linen who’d once sat where we were sitting doing precisely the same thing. Read More