3 Tranquil Spots to Read a Book in Rome

City Travel, Italy — By on May 18, 2011 at 7:45 am

by Briana Palma
LG Contributor

Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, an alive, outdoor museum of ancient civilization. But today, it’s also chaotic and noisy in a sometimes overwhelming way.

From my second floor apartment on a side street near Vatican City, I experienced very few moments of quiet and tranquility, the majority coming during those few hours when night owls have returned home and early risers are still tucked in bed. Otherwise, I unwillingly listened to the bustle of people at the nearby market and the constant roar of mopeds, cars and buses speeding down the street.

Though you often can’t escape at home or in your hotel room, Rome does offer some places where you can go to lose yourself in the pages of your favorite book or newspaper, without facing too many critical looks from locals.

1. Book-bars
These establishments, which have recently grown in popularity, have dual personalities. During the day, they offer customers a cozy place to sip cappuccino and peruse a selection of books and periodicals. At night, they transform into bars, though they typically maintain the laidback atmosphere.

In the Piazza Navona area you can drop into L’Emporio alla Pace, a small but popular book-bar with comfy couches, friendly staff and jars of sweet treats for sale. If you have an Italian mobile phone, you can even register for and connect to the city’s free public Wi-Fi, which reaches the café.

Another option lies across the Tiber in the trendy Trastevere neighborhood. At the much larger Bibli, you can discover thousands of books, try the weekend brunch menu or catch a concert or reading. Rome also has many bookstores both small and large with space to sit and read, though the ambiance tends to differ from that of its book-bars.

2. Art Institutions
You can do more in museums than take in famous works of art. Many also provide patrons with cafés, restaurants and other public spaces that encourage the indulgence in a good story.

Castel Sant’Angelo is one of Rome’s iconic structures, but undoubtedly receives fewer visitors than the nearby Saint Peter’s Basilica and the famous Colosseum. Inside the former prison, lose yourself in the spiral arrangement of rooms and passageways before making your way to the top terrace. High above the noisy streets, sit on one of the benches, relax for a bit and crack open a book – if you can take your eyes away from the stunning panoramic views, that is.

Parco della Musica, the city’s contemporary music auditorium, is another place of leisure. The complex, located in the upscale Parioli neighborhood, attracts little attention on weekdays and anytime without special events. Parco della Musica’s restaurant and lounge, ReD, offers comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, including wicker loungers. And if you haven’t got any reading material, head into the bookstore next door to pick something up first.

3. Parks
Some cities like London and New York, are famous for their impressive and welcoming green spaces, and Rome boasts a few of its own, too. You’ll find the most famous, Villa Borghese, right in the heart of the city. Cardinal Scipione Borghese developed the park in the early 1600s, but it remained closed to the public for about 300 years. Though traffic passes through, you’re sure to discover some quiet spots in the 148-acre expanse. And if you need a break from your book, check out the statues, fountains and museums, including the spectacular Galleria Borghese.

Further east, you’ll encounter another villa with a similar aristocratic past and special attraction for history buffs, as Mussolini called it home for nearly 20 years. Since taking over ownership of the 30-acre Villa Torlonia, the state has transformed three of the houses into museums and continues to restore the property, including the gardens. The exotic, English-style park has palm trees, fountains and one of Rome’s many obelisks.

Photo credits (from top to bottom): Bibli, Eleonora BaldwinMarianone