Travel inspiration and insider tips

5 years, 5 months ago

The Booksellers of Rome

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It won’t come as a huge revelation to learn Rome has a few bookshops. It’s not as if the city doesn’t enjoy a reputation when it comes to reading. Back in the day, no self-respecting Roman Villa was complete without a library and if you wanted to borrow the latest blockbuster from a mate, you’d send round a slave to copy it onto a papyrus scroll. But even today on the ancient streets of Rome, the tradition of the Taberna Librari continues to thrive. And despite e-books, downloads and discounts, the city has some of the most beautiful, seductive and just plain magnificent bookshops in the world.

Libreria Emporio Gusto, Piazza Augusto Imperatore, 9


If we were to tell you Libreria Emporio Gusto has Rome’s definitive selection of cookbooks, wine books and food books, you know it’s a big deal, right? It’s also a shrine to Italian kitchenware and the place to worship espresso machines and ridiculously beautiful cutlery and napkins.

Libri Necessari, Via degli Zingari, 22 If Libri Necessari didn’t exist, Rome would have to invent it. They could also re-define the description ‘second-hand bookshop’ while they’re at it and anyone using the term ‘treasure-trove’ should just sit down now. Libri Necessari’s Art Deco limited editions have hand-illustrated covers, for goodness sake. On a more pedestrian level, they run to every other literary heart’s desire from science fiction to children’s books and you’ll even find rare movie scripts now and then. Word of warning: looks tiny but can lose you for days.

Arion Exposizioni, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Via Milano 15/17


We don’t want to go all ‘city of contrasts’ on you, but it is difficult to believe that Arion Exposizioni exists in the same Rome as Libri Necessari. Dramatic, spare and spacious, this bookshop’s designed to showcase the talent: acres of seductive volumes on art, design, architecture, illustration and just about everything else – so even if your Italian’s not up to much, you can look at the pictures (or the achingly cool Italian customers).

Libreria del Viaggiatore, Via del Pellegrino, 78


You can’t call yourself a traveller in Rome unless you’ve tucked a volume or two from Libreria de Viaggiatore into your metaphorical knapsack. The Vatican library of travel books, Libreria del Viaggiatore wears its expertise lightly, the staff are lovely and you might find yourself thinking about going old-school just to have an excuse to buy maps and guidebooks.

The Open Door Bookshop, Via della Lugaretta, 23


Famous with Rome’s ex-pats, bibliophiles and lovers of the ‘rare find’, The Open Door Bookshop has been a city institution for over 30 years. It’s more like a book-cave than a store, there are books everywhere in almost every language and the standard policy for stock-buying definitely falls in favour of the bizarre, unusual and strange. There are piles and piles of English titles, but not of the ‘best-seller’ variety.

Books You Might Like

The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone, Tennessee Williams
This isn’t a cheery travelogue, but if William’s lurking menace appeals you’ll enjoy this sinister tale.

Italian Food by Elizabeth David
Not strictly Rome and definitely not native Italian, but it is Elizabeth David and she still wears the crown for most readable cookbooks as far as we’re concerned (if you cook, it’s a good game to try and spot how many online recipes are really Elizabeth David).

I, Claudius, Robert Graves
If you like a labyrinthine read on your travels we highly recommend Robert Graves’ I, Claudius. It’s a ‘once you get into it’ book, but once you do …..Also considered to be one of the most accurate historical novels ever written.

The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
You either like Highsmith’s spare style or you don’t, but if you do, it’s a great read – also nothing like the movie.

Enjoy your Roman browsing and don’t forget the best thing about the city for booklovers: all the Palazzos, pastries and espressos clearly just begging you to spend a few hours reading in their company.

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