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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Book Review: "E Mo' Te Spiego Roma" by Francesco Totti

Photo credit:
Biblioteca Umoristica Mondadori.


With his final game on Sunday versus Genoa on the near horizon, AS Roma legend, Francesco Totti, makes a humorous yet historically accurate examination about his favorite places in the eternal city of Rome.


1. Organized Format and Writing Style
2. Historical Component and Language References
3. Humor and Interesting Facts
4. Compelling Photographs
5. Notable Quotes
6. Modern-Day Gladiator

Publisher's Note:

Here were Totti's brief farewell comments made on 25 May 2017 as reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport:

"Roma versus Genoa, on the 28th of May, 2017, is the last time I'll be able to don Roma's colors. It's impossible to express in a few words all that these colors represented, represent, and will represent for me. Always.

I feel only that my love for football isn't fading away. It's a passion; my passion. And such that it is so profound that I can't think of stopping to feed it. Ever. From Monday, I am ready to start off again. I'm ready for a new challenge."

Career Numbers:
  • 25 years for Roma (23 in which he scored a goal which is the absolute record.) Paolo Maldini and Totti share this record for longevity.
  • 307 goals.
  • 250 Serie A goals which is second behind Silvio Piola's 274 goals. Totti is the all-time Italian leader for goals with the same club.
  • At 38 years of age, he became the oldest to score in the UEFA Champions League in 2014 versus CSKA Moscow.
  • 11 goals scored versus Lazio in 44 games. Joint leader with Da Costa.
  • 785 appearances (786 with his final appearance v. Genoa according to AS Roma.)
  • 618 Serie A appearances (619 v. Genoa.) Second behind Paolo Maldini and tied now with Gianluigi Bufffon.
  • 9 goals in 58 Azzurri caps.
  • FIFA 2006 World Cup winner.
  • 91 penalty kicks converted from 113 taken. Absolute Serie A record.
  • 9 team presidents during his time at Roma.
  • 3 Popes.
  • 17 managers.
  • 37 Serie A games versus Lazio and Milan. 36 versus Internazionale.
  • 19 goals scored against Parma. Then, Sampdoria at 15, Cagliari and Udinese, 14.
  • 11 goals scored against Gigi Buffon in 28 games. 
  • 46 braces scored in Serie A. He also had six braces in European Cup competitions.
  • 4 hat tricks.
  • 7 trophies won: One Scudetto, two Italian Cups, two Italian Super Cups, an European U-21 and a World Cup
Source: Chiara Zucchelli of La Gazzetta dello Sport on 27 May 2017. My translations.

"Niente da fare, quando vengono a Roma, i giocatori stranieri rosicano. Fateci caso alla prossima partita della Roma contro una squadra europea se non picchiano giu' duro: e' per colpa della bellezza dei nostri monumenti. Uno sgambetto per L'Altare della Patria. Un tackle in scivolata per la Domus Aurea. Un'entrata da dietro per le Catacombe di San Callisto.

Allora mi sono detto: un po' per il famoso fair play della Champions League, un po' per il tifoso che viene in trasferta con la sua squadra, un po' per la voglia di parlare della mia citta' -- che e' un po' come se ci potessi passeggiare --, mo' la scrivo io una piccola guida da Roma. Una cosetta semplice, con i luoghi piu' rappresentativi, i personaggi famosi e qualche curiosita' storica. Sperando, alla prossima partita, di avere un calcio nelgi stinchi in meno e un turista in piu': il mediano del Borussia Monchengladbach."

'"With nothing to do, when they come to Rome, foreign players eat their hearts out. Tell us if during the next game of Roma versus a European team if they don't knock us around harder: It's due to the beauty of our monuments. A trip for the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II. A sliding tackle for the Domus Aurea (Nero's Golden House). A challenge from behind for the Catacombs of St. Callixtus.

Then I said to myself: A little for the famous fair play of the Champions League, a little for the away fan who travels here with his team, a little for the desire to talk about my city -- that it's a little like if you could walk about --, I'm writing a small guide to Rome. A simple text, with the most popular places, famous persons and some historical curiosity. Hoping, at the next game, to have one less kick in the shins and one additional tourist: the holding midfielder of Borussia Monchengladbach."

--- Francesco Totti, author of "E Mo' Te Spiego Roma: La mia guida all'Antica Roma," (And Now I Explain Rome to You: My Guide to Ancient Rome) page 11, published in 2012 by Biblioteca Umoristica Mondadori, with a retail price of 12,50 euro.

Francesco Totti: The King of Rome.

Francesco Totti. Er Purpone (The Big Baby). il Capitano. Roma icon. "The King of Rome" as he was christened by Richard Whittle a few years ago.  L'uomo simbolo (the flag bearer) who has spent over 20 professional seasons donning the maroon red and yellow colors of AS Roma.

Needless to say, I was curious to learn Totti's perspective about his beloved Rome. He has authored a few books in the past. Notably, two joke books poking fun at himself with the proceeds donated to UNICEF (where he is a children's ambassador.) But a book about ancient Rome by Totti? Would it be the literary equivalent of a ride around the eternal city on a Vespa scooter yelling insults at Lazio supporters?

This guide was more akin to a sprint around Rome by the decorated Italian motorcycle racer, Valentino Rossi. I would dare to say that Frommer's or Lonely Planet would be hard-pressed to beat Totti on this interesting, informative, intriguing and provocative guide about his native city.

1. Organized Format and Engaging Writing Style

There is a brief introduction, detailed table of contents along with 10 chapters (in Roman numerals of course.) There is also a photo credits page although the author didn't include an index or acknowledgments list. Each chapter details one of the author's favorite places in Rome. He covers Apollo's Temple, La Bocca della Verita' (The Mouth of Truth), the Coliseum, the Forum, Ponte Milvio (the Battle of Milvio's Bridge), the Pantheon, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Seven Hills of Rome.

Totti's writing style is conversational, entertaining, humorous but his serious side is readily apparent. His love of Rome, along with its history and people, is as apparent as his Roman nose. He entertains and educates his readers.

2. Historical Component Combined with Several Language References

Totti e Pallotta brindano al rinnovo. Ansa
Francesco Totti and AS Roma President, James Pallotta.
Photo credit: ANSA.
The seriousness of this undertaking, despite notable humorous passages, was surprising. He wants you to learn about his city from a historical and personal perspective. The author did his homework: I did not expect to see Totti writing in English, Greek, Latin and Roman dialect about various topics. He even translated Latin to Italian in a few places:

"Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant!"

"Hail, Caesar, we who are about to die salute you!" (Page 43)

The author also had a grasp on Greek mythology explaining how the son of Apollo, Apelle, made a ball of chicken skin. Speaking of Greeks, Totti recounted an interesting way that he learned Greek vocabulary from a former Roma teammate, Traianos Dellas. The Greek player used to tease Totti that most Italian words had Hellenic roots. Until one day in the dressing room, Totti said: "Lo sai che ce n'e' una che no viene dal greco? 'Impossible.' Vuol sapere qual e'? La parola e' 'greco'. Caro Dellas, 'greco' viene dal latino graecus. Dal latino, capisci?"

"Do you know that one word doesn't come from Greek? 'Impossible.' "Would you like to know which one it is? The word is 'Greek.' My dear Dellas, 'Greek' derives from the Latin, graecus. From Latin, do you understand?" (Page 37)

While this book is a guide to Rome, Totti does interject a few anecdotes from his playing career, as demonstrated in the above quote, with great effect.

Limestone + Ostriches = Concrete (calcestruzzo)

He explained in his chapter about the Pantheon that it was the largest building in Roman antiquity constructed of concrete. Totti quoted from a book by the architect of the Pantheon, Marcus Agrippa (Abusii Edilitiae), who explained that concrete was constructed from blocks of limestone (rocce di calce) mixed with ostriches (struzzo) imported from Africa. The quoted material from Agrippa's book also contained the Italian word for stone mason, muratore. This was originally given to ancient gladiators (muratores) who had the special task to catch the ostriches according to Totti in a humorous sense.

Translator's Note

Regarding the word "Calcestruzzo," according to Jacopo PiottoTotti was half right. The derivation of "struzzo" comes from a Latin word for structure even if struzzo as Totti noted, does mean "ostrich".

3. Generous Doses of Humor Intertwined with Interesting Historic Facts

Francesco Totti and Michael Bradley et al at Disneyworld Winter Break Training in 2013.

From a picture of the Brazilian goalkeeper, Julio Cesar, situated next to a sculpture of Julius Caesar, in images but more frequently in words, the author displayed a sharp wit. Totti also used ancient history to introduce the more present variety. For example, he described the Seven Hills of Rome in a unique yet enlightening way as if they were football teams: "Dall'altra parte, gentili telespettatori, risponde il dream team dei Seven Kings con il capitano della Nazionale, Romolo, affiancato dai due difensori esterni Numa Pompilo and Tullo Ostilio..."

"From the other side, dear viewers, the dream team of the seven kings responds with the captain of the national team, Romulus, accompanied by two fullbacks, Numa Pompilius and Tullo Hostilius..." (Page 22)

Totti then interjected a discussion about the Jean-Marc Bosman Ruling that has had significant effect in world football in his chapter on the Seven Hills. He provided an ancient history lesson with a current one in a humorous and informative display.

Totti used a similar technique in his chapter about St. Peter's Basilica. He noted the polyglot nature of Vatican City which prompted him to launch into an interesting story when he tried to communicate in English with a referee in the Champions League.

'"Mamma che fatica! Mother what a hard job! The attack man has... massacrato lo stinco, come se dira'? (torn apart my shinbone, how will you say it?), ... mascrecion the sting of my difensor! 'Sorry, I don't understand!' " (Page 61)

Historical Dialogue to Reinforce Points

The author created a dialogue between historic figures with a present-day examples which was another intriguing literary device. In this example, Simon Peter, Andrew and Jesus of Nazareth discussing the reason of Simon's name change to Peter.

"Pensa che fra due mila anni verra' uno che si chiamera' Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite ma gli cambieranno il nome in Kaka'. Eppure non dira' niente. E sara' un famoso calciatore messaggero di fede. Tu vuoi chiamare Kaka' pure tu? Poi cosa gli facciamo scrivere nei Vangeli? 'Il Salvatore insegna a Kaka'?' Su Simone, fa il bravo e fatti chiamare Pietro."

"Think that in 2000 years there will be one who'll be named Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite but they'll change his name to Kaka'. Or you will not say anything. And he'll be a famous footballer who transmits faith. Do you also want to call him Kaka'? Then what will we write about him in the Gospels? 'The Savoir teaches Kaka'?' On Simon, do the right thing and call him Peter." (Page 62)

Totti's long "conversation" with Julius Caesar was equally entertaining:

"Ma lo sai, ragazzo, che io, Caio Giulio Cesare, figlio di Caio Giulio Cesare il Vecchio, nel 50 a.C. ho conquistato la Gallia, che poi, per capirci, i galli sarebbero i francesi, e ho conquisato l'egemonia in tutta l'Europa?" 'Ma lo sai, a Giu', che pure io, Francesco Totti, figlio di Enzo Totti il Giovanile nel 2006 ho battuto la Francia e sono diventato Campione del mondo?'

"But do you know, young man, that I, Gaius Julius Caesar, son of Gaius Julius Caesar the Older, in 50 B.C. I conquered Gaul, who then to make you understand, the Gauls would become the French. And I conquered the hegemony in all of Europe?" 'But did you know, Jules, that even I, Francesco Totti, son of Enzo Totti the Younger, defeated France in 2006 and I became a world champion?' " (Page 75)

His imaginary dialogue with Zeus in the Pantheon was also enlightening and was another example of Totti's knowledge of Greek mythology and various religions:

"Chiamami pure Zeus... 'Si, Zeus, dicevo, sei veramente una potenza. Io invece sono cresciuto in un ambiente cattolico. Quasi quasi mi dispiace, se no potevo diventare un tuo seguace... E' difficile che un bambino cresciuto in una famiglia cattolica, in Italia, che va a messa tutte le domeniche, improvvisamente diventi, che so, un Hare Krishna. Cosi' come un ragazzino di Palermo che gioca a pallone in mezzo alla strada e cresce col mito di Miccoli, difficilmente diventera', da grande, un ultra' dell'Udinese.' "

"Also call me Zeus... 'Yes, Zeus, I was saying, you're truly a power. I, on the other hand, grew up in a Catholic environment. Almost almost, I'm sorry, if I could not become one of your followers... It's difficult for a child who grew up in a Catholic family, in Italy, who goes to Mass every Sunday, to improbably become, that I know of, a Hare Krishna. Just like a child in Palermo who plays football in the streets and grows up with the mythical figure of (Fabrizio) Miccoli, it will be very difficult when he grows up to be an ultra for Udinese.' " (Page 92)

4. Compelling Photographs

Rome Walks: 48 Hours in Rome.

I really liked the black and white photographs that he used. They provided an antique look to complement the historical content. My favorite: La Bocca della Verita' (The Mouth of Truth).

5. Other Notable Quotes

"E cosa dire, oggi, del portiere del KS Cracovia? In campo porta con orgoglio, scritti sulla schiena, il suo numero e il suo nome: 35 MERDA. Ecco, ve lo dico subito, se mai incontrero' il KS Cracovia e a fine partita il portiere vorra' scambiare la maglia con me, io gli diro' di no. Non e' per cattiveria, ma sarebbe un fardello troppo grande da portare sulle spalle."

"And what to say, today, about the goalkeeper for Wisla Kracow? On the pitch, he wears with pride, written across his back, his number and name: 35 MERDA. Well, I'll tell you straight away. If I ever meet Wisla Kracow and at the end of the game, the goalkeeper wants to exchange shirts with me, I'll tell him no. And not due to bad manners, but it would be too much of a burden to wear that across your shoulders." (Page 28)

Translator's Note:

"Merda" means "s*it" in Italian and is also a derisive term used by some Italian soccer fans for Internazionale Milano. Lukasz Merda was the player in question from this quote.

"Ma certo: l'elmo, lo scudo e la spada, il gladio. Vorrei ricordarti che la parola 'gladiatore' viene proprio dalla parola latina gladius, cioe' 'spada'..."

"But surely: The helmet, the shield and the long sword, the small sword. I'd like to remind you that the word, 'gladiator' derives from the Latin, gladius, that is, 'the sword.' " (Page 41)

Translator's Note:

"Gladio" refers to the smaller type of sword used by ancient Romans and is pictured on the book's cover image above.

"A Ponte Milvio, nell'ottobre 312, sia accaduto quello che successe a Genova nell'ottobre 2010. Deve essere proprio il periodo: a ottobre i serbi sono un po' inquieti."

"At Milvio's Bridge, in October 312, the same thing which happened in Genoa in October 2010 took place there. It must really be the time frame. In October, the Serbs are a little out of sorts." (Page 52)

Translator's Note: Totti was referring to the 312 A.D. Battle of Milvio's Bridge with Constantine I who ruled what is now present-day Serbia. The October 2010 European Nations Cup qualifier between Italy and Serbia was suspended in the first half due to fan problems. Italy was awarded a 3-0 win by UEFA.

"E gli e' andata pure bene, agli americani, che il navigatore italiano si chiamava Amerigo. Pensa se, per esempio, si fosse chiamato con uno dei nomi piu diffisi in Italia, Giuseppe. Avrebbe battezzato il nuovo continente col nome di Giusepponia o Peppelandia. Te l'immagini la Peppelandia che invade l'Iraq?"

"It it also went well for the Americans that the Italian navigator was named Amerigo (Vespucci). Think if, for example, he was named with one of the most common names in Italy, Giuseppe. He would have baptized the new continent with the name of Giuseppeland or Peppeland. Can you imagine Peppeland invading Iraq?" (Page 72)

"Sven Goran Eriksson, allenatore della Roma, condannato per l'eternita' a parlare una lingua incomprehensibile 'Logico, squatre Romi fato beli partite contri Giuventus ma dopiamo esere piu attento in difese.' " (ndr)

"Sven Goran Eriksson, manager of Roma, condemned for eternity to speak an incomprehensible language: 'It's logical. Romi teams have good games against Giuventus but we must be more attentive in defense.' " (Page 109)

"La Bocca della Verita' e' uno dei monumenti piu conosciuti di Roma, e quindi del mondo. Hanno anche provato a imitarla: a Buenos Aires, in Argentina, hanno fatto una Bocca della Verita' piu' piccola e l'hanno chiamata Boca Junior. Ma dai! Sto a scherza'..."

"The Mouth of Truth is one of the most-recognized monuments of Rome and therefore of the world. They have even tried to imitate it. In Buenos Aires, Argentina, they created a smaller Mouth of Truth and called it Boca Junior. But hey! I'm only joking." (Page 112)

Translator's Note: 

Totti used the singular for Boca Juniors (Junior) as perhaps a play on words for "a smaller Mouth of Truth." Boca in Spanish means "mouth."

6. A Modern-Day Gladiator with a Pen

Francesco Totti - The King of AS Roma
Francesco Totti.
Photo credit: Beyond The Pitch.

"Io non ho mai pensato di fare lo scrittore. Io nella mia mente sono sempre stato un gladiatore moderno." "I never thought of being a writer. In my mind, I have always been a modern-day gladiator." (Page 120)

With that concise phrase, Francesco Totti sums up this book in a brilliant fashion. I see him as a Roma icon with an uncommon love for his native city along with the ability to share it in such an entertaining and enlightening fashion. This book is a brief guide with a lasting imprint. It will make a valuable addition to your historical library. Even for Lazio fans. :)

"E' meglio che ognuno faccia quello che sa fare meglio nel mondo e nel periodo storico che gli appartiene."

"It is better that everyone does what he knows how to do best in the world and in the historic period that he belongs to." (Page 129) --- Francesco Totti

Please Note

I did not receive a complimentary review copy from the publisher, Biblioteca Umoristica Mondadori, any representative of AS Roma or the author's agent. I was not compensated by the author, publisher, AS Roma or any party who would benefit from a positive review. A representative of Editore Mondadori is aware that these extensive excerpts were published at World Football Commentaries (similar to Arrigo Sacchi's book and the one by Giuseppe Rossi.)

(c) 2012 Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A., Milano.

"My heart belongs to Roma."

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Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator based in Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and published The Soccer Translator from 2008 to 2015. 

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