The author writes in his introduction that evening is the magical moment to wander about Rome: "That is the moment to see the city of conflicting moods as it always has been and still is, hateful and holy, wicked and wise, pagan and papal, sometimes so beautiful that it is scarcely to be endured, and always quite inscrutable. That is the supreme moment to rhapsodize and pay homage, to make the final assault upon the hidden secret of Rome's eternal decay, and to be deliciously deceived...The early morning on the other hand is more to our purpose, for it is not at all romantic." The early morning serves to light for Lees-Milne the eight Roman buildings-from the somber Pantheon first built by Marcus Agrippa in 27 B.C. to the Trevi fountain, whose waters were brought to Rome via aqueduct by the same Agrippa, but whose completion had to await the eighteenth century-that are in the author's opinion the chef architectural monuments of the city. All of them, he says, are powerful archetypes, and two among them, the Pantheon and the Tempietto, have individual features that are reflected in practically every town in Europe, the British Commonwealth, and America.
James Lees-Milne was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford. He was the first Secretary of the National Trust's Buildings Committee and he was in charge of its country houses and historic buildings. Roman Mornings won the Heinemann Award, as did his biography of Harold Nicolson. Venetian Evenings, a companion work to Roman Mornings, is also published by New Amsterdam.