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When in Rome: A Journal of Life in the Vatican City

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  132 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
Lighthearted and altogether fascinating, When in Rome is a delightful backstairs tour of one of the world's most mysterious and eccentric cities. With his wife and three young sons, Robert Hutchinson moved to Rome shortly before his thirty-ninth birthday, intending to explore the Vatican in depth. He sought to capture "the personality of the place: the smells and the traff ...more
Paperback, 289 pages
Published June 15th 1998 by Main Street Books
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Friends of  Linebaugh Library
Jan 23, 2011 Friends of Linebaugh Library rated it it was amazing
This book was both hilarious and extremely interesting. I read it after a conversation with my husband’s Godfather, a Brother in the Roman Catholic Church who mentioned loving the Church in spite of its many, many flaws.

It is the story of an American journalist (a Vatican correspondent for 15 years) and "confused Catholic" who decides to spend a year in Rome researching the Vatican through "asking lots of dumb questions". For instance, who has to clean all those statues? Where do the curia go sh
Oct 18, 2010 Raina rated it it was amazing
This book was both hilarious and extremely interesting. I read it after a conversation with my husband’s Godfather, a Brother in the Roman Catholic Church who mentioned loving the Church in spite of its many, many flaws.

It is the story of an American journalist (a Vatican correspondent for 15 years) and "confused Catholic" who decides to spend a year in Rome researching the Vatican through "asking lots of dumb questions". For instance, who has to clean all those statues? Where do the curia go sh
Sep 08, 2009 Drew rated it it was amazing
This book was both hilarious and extremely interesting. I found it a few weeks ago at the library after my pastor mentioned it in a homily about loving the Church in spite of its many, many flaws.

An American journalist and "confused Catholic" decides to spend a year in Rome, researching the Vatican through "asking lots of dumb questions." For instance, who has to clean all those statues? Where do the curia go shopping for huge rosaries and funny-looking red hats? Is Saint Peter really buried un
Sep 01, 2014 Sandy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The author Robert Hutchinson decided to move his family to Rome and write a book about the Vatican, but found the process more difficult than he thought due to a Code of Silence employed by Vatican employees.
Through perseverance he finally got a few people to talk to him and got some tidbits to share. There is info about the Vatican bank, the Secret Archives, what the different dress codes mean, and quite a lot about the history of the Popes and St Peters.
Jun 04, 2014 Eric_W rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
“Like most Catholics, I spent most of my life knowing practically nothing about the Vatican, despite twenty years writing, off and on, about religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular.” When in Rome is Hutchinson's remedy to that deficiency, a delightful romp through the mores and politics of the Holy See.

It's ironic that being a Catholic you get to see a lot of beautiful naked women. "It's true. You may never have realized it before. I never could understand why thickheaded, droo
Dec 26, 2016 Chelsea rated it liked it
Very interesting, but HUGE historical gaffe when he mentions that Mary Tudor (!) was beheaded by Elizabeth I. I enjoyed his observations of the Italian personality and philosophy in the small businesses.
Aug 03, 2011 Matthew rated it did not like it
Despite the times that I did laugh or learn a particularly interesting tidbit of information during Hutchinson's travel log, I found the majority of the book to be extremely dry and boring.

Hutchinson smacks the reader in the face with street names and bus stops and a whole bunch of useless information to the general reader ... unless, I suppose, his general reader is someone who actually has been to Italy and the Vatican before.

If I wasn't transferring over my reviews from the other "Books" appl
May 29, 2016 David rated it really liked it
Delightful. Hutchinson gives a funny, interesting view of life in Vatican City, focusing short chapters on different aspects of the smallest country in the world, many of them stemming from gaining unusual access to a particular person or place. He gives a good feel for the people--the Italians, the Vatican Guard, the average Joes who maintain St. Peter's, the paranoid, tight-lipped Vaticani; he tells a good story--how St. Peter's bones (maybe) were discovered, how creepy the bone house of the C ...more
Joanne Centa
Feb 08, 2011 Joanne Centa rated it really liked it
Let me quote someone else for a good review of this book: "When in Romne is a witty, delightfully disrespectful travelogue through the Vatican, done by a loyal Roman Catholic who has had his eyes opened long ago about goings on in the Church and still loves it. His loyalty, however, does not prevent him from ridiculing the ridiculous, poking fun at the pompous, aiming his laser at things long hidden in darkness, laying bare the secret, pricking the balloons of the inflated. I thoroughly enjoyed ...more
Jun 23, 2015 Carolyn rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
I picked up this book in prep for our trip to Rome. I read the first 100 pages on the flights over. By then, it was getting boring and repetitive about the Vatican culture and we were busing seeing the sights, so I moved on to my next book/destination (Under the Tuscan Sun).

Still, what I read was helpful, because it describe a cynical journalist of the 90's take on what it was like to live as an expat in Rome. It's not flattering, but it was relatable and interesting and allowed me to be happily
Jun 19, 2007 Jordyne rated it really liked it
I read this to get in the mood for my visit to Rome and the Vatican. I was looking for an light, easy starter (but not too fluffy!) before tackling any dense historical treatises (which I never got around to anyway). It turned out to the perfect (and funny!) introduction to the Vatican, its rituals, and even pontifical fashion... all written in a witty, self-deprecating, and respectfully irreverent way.
Jackie Specht
Mar 12, 2012 Jackie Specht is currently reading it
I was raised and educated Catholic so the subject material of this books was of great interest to me. This is a light-hearted(at times) and factual book about the history of the papacy and Vatican City and its importance to the city of Rome. I had just returned from a trip to Rome and this book explained many questions I had about the Vatican. I would recommend reading this book before a trip to Rome.
Jul 16, 2007 Irwan rated it liked it
Shelves: finished
A very personal account on the author's staying in Rome and the Vatican. Light and funny reading. Gives an intimate feeling about the City, the Italian attitudes and behaviours towards foreigners or foreign cultures. Although not all of them are true according to my own experience.
I learned more about the the Vatican: their inner politics, behaviour, and its history. Not to mention, the bisexual Swedish queen whose convertion to Catholisms arose controversies.
James Alvino
Oct 23, 2008 James Alvino rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book was a pleasant surprise. I was looking for some light reading to counterbalance the sci-fi I have been getting into, so I picked this up on a whim and it quickly became a favorite. Part travelogue, part history book and surprisingly humerus, you don't even realize you are getting a history lesson. Who know there were bisexual Popes? Now I do.
Oct 06, 2014 Bonnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
He had me laughing out loud. If you've ever been to Rome, if you've ever planned on going there, if you've ever been Catholic, then this book is for you. A real inside look at the Vatican with lots of chuckles. Written in 1998, I doubt much has changed. And he mentions lots of unknown places it would be fun to check out.
Feb 17, 2010 Michele rated it it was amazing
A really great account of the author's experience living in Rome and working within the Vatican. This book is a lot of fun to read - It has a ton of interesting historical information that really put things into context on our recent trip. I'll probably read it again at some point now that I've seen a lot of the places mentioned. Highly recommended!
Ted Dettweiler
Jul 22, 2009 Ted Dettweiler rated it liked it
Read this after our trip to Rome and Italy in January of 1999. The author has written alot on the Vatican and this book is an insiders look at that institution.

Loved the author's detail about his experience living in Rome along with his wife (and baby?).

I think this is a good candidate to go on my re-read shelf.
Oct 03, 2016 Mj rated it it was ok
This is at times an interesting tour of Vatican City that has a lot of small factoids peppered throughout, but it never really elevated into anything that really grabbed my attention. If I hadn't read this for a class in college, I doubt I would have ever picked it up. That being said, my father is really interested in the Vatican, so he found this book really enjoyable.
Kathy  Petersen
I expected an exploration of Rome, but I got an intimate and slightly irreverent look at the Vatican. Hutchinson, like me, is a committed Catholic but one, again like me, whose eyes are wide open. He writes with wit - occasionally laugh-out-loud funny - and perception.
Feb 09, 2013 Alice rated it really liked it
A light, funny look at life in the Vatican and what it means to be Catholic today. Sometimes it was hard to believe the author is Catholic, but it seems that only a Catholic could really make fun of the inner workings of the church the way he does without it being offensive.
Linda Smith
Aug 16, 2014 Linda Smith rated it liked it
Interesting stories about the Vatican with a bit of humor. The Catholic Church is just another huge wealthy corporation encumbered by a slow moving bureaucracy and with a lot of skeletons in its cellars.
Mary Ann
Mar 18, 2013 Mary Ann rated it really liked it
Fabulous inside look at the Vatican. The perfect read in preparation for our trip in May! Funny, interesting, great read!
Jul 13, 2007 Beth is currently reading it
Recommends it for: historians, travelers or fun people
So far, so good -- a kind of Bill Bryson look at the history of the Vatican. Haven't had enough time to sort through it.
Jul 08, 2014 Thomasm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this light yet informative book before you go to Rome and the Vatican. You will enjoy your visit with the insightful and funny insider information Hutchinson provides.
Donna Maroulis
I thought this would be either very dry and fact-ridden , or scholarly " funny ', but it was a very interesting book, even to a Lutheran ! I learned a lot and enjoyed it !
Apr 14, 2010 Erin rated it really liked it
This book brought the history of The Vatican to life (especially the sex) and made going some places in Rome, particularly Castel Sant'Angelo, all the more interesting.
Feb 24, 2007 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: italy, nonfiction
I adored this book. It’s a hilarious run-down of the papacy through the ages. The author was a Vatican correspondent for 15 years.
Edmond Smith
Edmond Smith rated it it was amazing
Dec 26, 2009
Emily rated it really liked it
Jul 03, 2013
Nancy rated it really liked it
Mar 31, 2013
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Robert J. Hutchinson is the author of The Dawn of Christianity: How God Used Simple Fisherman, Soldiers and Prostitutes to Transform the World (Thomas Nelson, 2017), a journalistic retelling of the last week of Jesus’ life and the twenty years that followed that draws upon recent discoveries in archaeology and biblical studies. A highly readable synthesis of scripture, scholarship, and journal ...more
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