Rome Through a Novelist's Eyes

Jerry Bauer
Anthony Doerr

Anthony Doerr spent a year in Rome with his wife and newborn twins.

Anthony Doerr, 33, was picked as one of the best young American novelists by Granta magazine in its latest issue. He has been awarded the Rome Prize, the Discover Prize, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and two O. Henry Prizes.

Doerr recently veered from writing fiction to non-fiction, penning a memoir and travelogue titled:Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World. The book--which hit stores earlier this week--recounts with humor the year that he lived in Rome with his newborn twins sons.

Doerr savored his stay in Rome, not least for the city's excellent coffee: "The best cappuccino in the universe is in a place called Café Sant'Eustachio (Piazza San Eustachio), close to the back of the Pantheon. It probably appears in a guidebook or two, but who cares if other people know about it; their coffee is knee-bucklingly good. Drink it standing up with a square of dark chocolate. If you like coffee, this place will freak you out. Just don't ask for extra milk and don't order a latte after eleven A.M."

Read an excerpt of Four Seasons in Rome by clicking here. Buy a copy here. And read our Q&A with the author below.

For your travels in general, what is your preference: Window or aisle?

Depends how far I'm going and how much water I'm planning to drink.

The last thing I ate from a minibar?

A very short can of paprika-flavored Pringles in San Jose, Costa Rica. I think it cost five dollars, but it was sort of a chips emergency.

I won't leave home without....

A book that I am confident is good. Especially if I'm going somewhere without bookshops. I'm very careful to avoid the dreaded traveling-with-an-uninteresting-book situation.

The best trip I've ever taken? And why?

I once spent 6 months hiking around New Zealand with a friend from college. We bought a mustard yellow Austin at a car fair for the equivalent of about $600 and drove it from the northern tip of the North Island to the southern end of the South Island, fishing in every river and lake we passed. I'm sure there must have been difficult moments, but in my memory every day of that trip was magical: the huge distances, the crystalline streams, the hour or two we stood and watched fiordland penguins waddle across a beach in a rainstorm.

My dream trip?

I wouldn't mind living for a little while in the Maldives. Or walking across Madagascar.

The movie or book that inspired me to pack my bags?

Strangely, perhaps, it was probably C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, which is about some children who routinely visit an imaginary realm. My mom read those books to me when I was very young, too young to understand everything, but I remember the power of Lewis' idea--that you might be able to step through the back of a wardrobe and enter another world. The impulse that sent those kids into Narnia came from the same curiosity about distant places that sends any of us traveling, I think; the conviction that there is always something new to see, someone interesting to meet.

My greatest travel pet peeve?

Windows that won't open.

How I deal with jetlag?

I lay awake in bed feeling lost and confused and then complain a lot the next morning.

If I could travel with any living person.

Any living person? My wife.

I'll never go back to ____________ And why?

Gosh, everywhere I've been lucky enough to visit or live has been fundamentally interesting in some way. Every place has its own stories, its own marvels, even places that don't necessarily strike travelers as dream destinations, like Puerto Natales, Chile, say, or Detroit, Michigan. Ultimately, the success of any trip has more to do with the heart of the traveler than with the place itself. If you're heartbroken in Indiana, you're going to be heartbroken in Fiji, too. But if you're well-fed, and dry, and curious, every place in the world is worth trying to understand.

If I could be anywhere right now.

I'd be eating huge spoonfuls of gelato with my family in Rome's Campo dei Fiori.

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