To write about Rome is no small undertaking. And an even greater challenge faces anyone attempting to interpret and judge the life of this age-old city, protagonist or at least runner-up of every epoch and situation, in good times and bad. Anything and everything can be said of Rome. That it is a stunning city goes without saying: its monuments and works of art - a magnet for tourists and scholars from every corner of the globe - speaking for themselves. Think of the Imperial For a, for instance, where excavations continue in the hope of unearthing further splendid traces of a bold and determined civilization, the creator - in the space of a few hundred years - of the world's most powerful empire; or the palaces of the Renaissance period when papal families spent fortunes embellishing dwellings and churches, almost competing to outshine one another in magnificence and patronage. Rome is self-evidently also an amusing and hospitable city. The easy-going, quick-witted Romans are themselves living proof of this, and there has to be a good reason why, if you ask visiting foreigners in which Italian City they'd like to live, the majority say 'Rome' without hesitation.