An Engine of Serendipity in the Eternal City

Who Needs Gelato When You Can Visit the British School at Rome?

Some scholars make straight for the Capitol, to sit on the steps where Edward Gibbon first conceived the idea of writing The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Others take their credit cards for a wander down the Corso. Quite a few prioritize their favorite ice-cream parlors. But when I arrive in the Eternal City my first stop is the British School at Rome.

I first visited Rome in September 1990. I had just handed in my doctoral thesis–the examination would not be for months–and I was due to start …