Literary City Guide | ROME, ITALY
Tour Guide: Alexandra Turney
Relationship to Rome: Resident for two and a half years
Writer you’d like to invite to dinner: Byron would be entertaining
Chef you’d like to prepare the meal: My friend Rachel. She’s a fantastic cook and recently published her first book.
Writing soundtrack: Silence
Pen or Pencil: Pen
Coffee or Tea? Coffee
Paperback or Hardback? Paperback
Open Door Bookshop (Via della Lungaretta 23). A cosy little bookshop in the heart of Trastevere, with a great selection of second-hand books in English and Italian.
Anglo American Bookshop (Via della Vite 102) Seeing all those Penguin classics makes me feel a little homesick.
Libreria del Viaggiatore (Via del Pellegrino) Guide books galore, as well as a huge variety of travel books and maps. The bookshop hosts regular events, such as book launches and aperitivi. Most of the books are in Italian.
Almost Corner Bookshop (Via del Moro 45) Another great bookshop in Trastevere, selling English language books (used and new). It’s especially useful for expats, as there’s a noticeboard advertising jobs, flats and Italian lessons.
Invito alla Lettura (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 85). A very eclectic shop, where you’ll find second-hand books in Italian, art, souvenirs, vinyl, and old copies of film and music magazines. There’s also a lovely café, a rare example of a café in Rome where you can really linger over your drink, instead of just gulping it down at the bar.
Biblioteca Angelica (Piazza Sant’Agostino 8). One of the most beautiful and historic libraries in Rome, with a vast collection of manuscripts.
Santa Susanna Lending Library (via XX Settembre 15). Next to the church of Santa Susanna, this English language library has a good selection of novels, and is popular with Rome’s expat community.
READINGS & CONFERENCES
Festival delle Letterature. An annual summer festival that takes place in and around Piazza del Campidoglio. There are usually a variety of poetry readings, author interviews and music recitals.
John Cabot Inverse. The American university John Cabot hosts this annual event, designed to celebrate contemporary Italian poets.
Rome is full of fascinating ruins, like the Terme di Caracalla and the Villa dei Quintili on the Appian Way. I recently explored the newly opened House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill on a walking tour with Through Eternity. The frescoes are stunning.
For me, the Protestant Cemetery is the most beautiful place in Rome. A young Oscar Wilde, who visited the cemetery to pay his respects to Keats, also called it “the holiest place in Rome”. It’s incredibly atmospheric and peaceful - so peaceful that it’s hard to believe you’re in the city centre.
Il Papiro (Via del Pantheon 50) is a stationery shop that originated in Florence. They sell exquisite notebooks, cards, wrapping paper, and even personalised wax seals. If you’re friends with a writer and you’re looking for the perfect gift, this is the place to go.
Caffè Greco (Via dei Condotti 86) Located near Piazza di Spagna, this historic café has served coffee to everyone from Goethe to Casanova. Sitting down can be pricey, but if you have your coffee standing up at the bar like an Italian it doesn’t cost too much.
Caffè della Pace (Via della Pace 3/7) One of the most famous and beautiful cafés in the centro storico. Sip your coffee at the bar in the morning, and take a table outside for your aperitivo in the evening.
Bar Monti (Via Urbana 93) Italians don’t linger over their coffees in the way that other Europeans do, but this bar in Monti is perfect if you have time to kill. It’s cosy, quiet and comfortable, and I’ve spent many afternoons sitting here with a book or my laptop.
Babington’s (Piazza di Spagna 23) Right by the Spanish Steps, this is the place to go if you want a good cup of tea – not easy to find in Italy! It’s not exactly cheap though, so it’s the kind of place you save for special occasions, or when you’ve got a relative footing the bill.
A PROPER MEAL
Osteria al 16 (Via del Boschetto 16) Whenever I have a visitor in Rome, I take them here. This restaurant in Monti seems to do about fifty different kinds of pasta, and everything I’ve ever had here, from the cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta) to the polenta, has been delicious.
Aromaticus (Via Urbana 134) A quirky little place in Monti, which sells herbs and gardening supplies, but also serves lunch. Go here if you’re feeling bloated from too many carbs, and if you feel like something fresh and light, like couscous and fruit juice.
Il Grottino (Via Marmorata 165) It’s not the most famous pizzeria in Testaccio, but I think it’s the best. They do the classic thin and crispy Roman pizza to perfection, but you can order it Neapolitan style if you want something more filling.
Da Bucatino (Via Luca Della Robbia 84) Excellent trattoria in Testaccio with lots of classic Roman dishes. Whenever I go there, I struggle to order to anything other than the fettuccine with truffle and mushrooms – so rich and heavy, but so good.
Momart (Via XXI Aprile 19). Far from the tourist trail, this bar near Piazza Bologna does a legendary aperitivo. 11 euros for a cocktail and as much as you can eat – salad, pasta, pizza, and even dessert. It’s incredibly popular with the locals, so make sure you get there early.
Pompi (Via Albalonga 7B). The main café is near Re di Roma, but there’s also a tiny takeaway branch near Piazza di Spagna. They call themselves “the king of tiramisu,” and no one who’s tasted their tiramisu would argue with that. Eating their pistachio or strawberry flavoured tiramisu while sitting in the sunshine is one of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon.
Fassi (Via Principe Eugenio 65). Simply the best gelato in Rome. They’ve been around since 1880, and satisfied customers include Mussolini and Hitler. They’re cheaper than the gelaterie in more touristy locations, and portions are generous.
ALEXANDRA's 5 Favorites
1. Favorite bookstore: Feltrinelli in Largo Argentina. A great choice of Italian books, but also a decent selection of books in English, if I’m feeling homesick.
2. Favorite place to write: I’m happiest writing in my bedroom, but when it’s warm I sit on a bench in the old part of the Protestant Cemetery, facing the pyramid.
3. Favorite museum: Keats-Shelley House, for sentimental reasons. Keats and Shelley are my favourite poets, and it was during an internship here in 2011 that I decided to move to Rome.
4. Favorite coffee shop: Linari in Testaccio. I go here every morning for breakfast, as they do the best cappuccino, and a mouthwatering selection of cornetti.
5. Favorite thing about Rome: The beauty. There’s art and history everywhere you look, and the beauty of Rome never fails to take my breath away.