Rome is known as a city of romance, history, art, amazing comfort food, and hidden wonders. Plenty of tours will take you through Roman ruins, Papal history, or food tastings—and I’m here to offer a self-guided tour of the best book books Rome has to offer.
I spent a day on my last trip visiting Rome’s top bookstores and libraries and reviewing them for you! A lot of them are around the corner from popular attractions, so you can sneak away while your traveling companion(s) order another scoop of gelato.
Our tour begins next to the Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna) The Keats-Shelley Memorial Association maintains this small museum dedicated to John Keats and other Romantic poets. Keats, author of poems such as “Ode to a Nightingale” spent his final months here. Here you can take a tour of the house and view the library.
RED (Read, Eat, Dream) is a bookstore café that is a must-see for any book lover visiting the Eternal City! Located in the city center, RED not only has an interesting selection of books and souvenirs, but offers a full bistro and rooftop terrace. Come here for your morning coffee, a mid-morning pastry, lunch, or even a cocktail in the evening.
Zig-zagging back across the Via del Corso shopping district, head over to Anglo-American Book. It is a “typical” bookstore with a large selection of books, games, and knick knacks. They had one display full of Rome and Italy related books (Nonfiction, Fiction, YA, etc.) for a travel-specific read for every type of reader.
Around the block from the Trevi Fountain, the Ex Libris rare books store holds a variety of historical volumes, maps, and first editions. Make sure to double check the hours online before you go!
Now heading towards the Pantheon, sneak away to the Biblioteca Angelica—a gorgeous reading hall created to house a 16th-century collection of manuscripts. The collection was entrusted by an Augustine bishop in that century with the request that it would be made available to the public, regardless of the reader’s class or wealth. By doing so, Rome came to hold Europe’s first public library!
Tourists can silently view the library from the entranceway. If hoping to work/read there a little bit (as I did), bring an ID and the receptionist will help you fill out a short form so you can sit at one of the desks inside.
Near the Pantheon, the Library of the Senate is nestled next to the Basilica di Santa Maria. Unlike the Biblioteca Angelica, it is only open for serious visitors. No photos are allowed inside the multiple story wings and there is a slightly rigorous security and application process.
I applied for a library card to enter and it was easy but took a bit of time. If you are in Rome for a little while and are a student, academic, or traveling to Rome for work and need some quiet space—I’d recommend looking into getting a card here.
Otherwise is an independent English-language bookstore located around the corner from Piazza Navona and minutes from the Pantheon. I highly recommend coming here for souvenirs because they specialize in having English translations of books from a variety of languages. They also have a selection of kids books and graphic novels.
#LitTripTip🔥 Books make excellent souvenirs!
- You might find a local edition of your favorite book, which not only would look awesome on your home shelf, but could help you learn a new language!
- Try looking for books by authors from the area you’re visiting so you can learn about the history and culture.
- Lisa and I have started collection children’s books as we travel so we can share these places with our kids one day. In Rome we picked up the myth of Romulus and Remus, the twins who founded Rome. (Next time I visit Italy I’m planning on picking up Elena Ferrante’s The Beach at Night).
Otherwise was an awesome place for this because all their books were in English (!) and they had shelves dedicated for translated works from other languages.
Across the street from Otherwise, Altroquando’s shelves are crowded with Italian titles. Come in to look for your favorite books translated into Italian and stay for the pub in the basement where they serve craft brews.
A hole-in-the-wall shop with a collection of used books, located in Rome’s prettiest district, Trastevere. Since it is outside of the city center, I’d recommend visiting here separately. It’s definitely worth the trek!