Read Your Way Through Rome

I love the various towns of the Castelli Romani, just a few minutes from the city. I advise you to follow in the footsteps of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who immersed himself in the peace of Castel Gandolfo, or Hans Christian Andersen, who plunged into the flowers of Genzano. In Nemi, you’ll find the famous fragoline (wild strawberries) and the marmalade made from them, which is truly delicious! You will find them in every restaurant, farm and cafe in Nemi. In the Castelli, do what Stanley Tucci does on his gastronomic tours for television: taste everything.

“Global Rome: Changing Faces of the Eternal City,” edited by Isabella Clough Marinaro and Bjorn Thomassen, is a collection of essays that break through all the clichés and show us a Rome that is globalized, plural, polyglot and peripheral. That is the Rome that you find in the beautiful Strangers I Know,” by Claudia Durastanti and in “Little Mother,” by Cristina Ali Farah.

Zerocalcare! A young cartoonist — his real name is Michele Rech — he has transformed contemporary Rome, dialect included, into a universal experience. From his base in the suburb of Rebibbia he talks to the world and about the world, from Iraqi Kurdistan to underemployed youth and the pandemic. He recently landed on Netflix with an animated series, “Tear Along the Dotted Line,” which follows the life of a slightly awkward cartoonist — a stand-in for Rech himself — with an armadillo for a conscience.

If you pass through Rome, a visit to the poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, buried in the city’s Non-Catholic Cemetery, is a categorical imperative. The cemetery is an oasis of peace amid the traffic that imprisons the Ostiense area. While there, you can also visit the tomb of Antonio Gramsci, the Italian philosopher, writer and founder of the Italian Communist Party, who was imprisoned until near death for opposing fascism. Somewhere in there is also the spirit of Sarah Parker Remond, an African-American abolitionist and suffragist campaigner to whom, in recent years, a plaque was dedicated near the entrance. If you visit, bring some good thoughts and a rose.

Tuba is a special place — a feminist bookstore in the heart of the pedestrian oasis of the Pigneto quarter, where you’ll find not only books but also original aperitifs and many women writers to chat with. Also not to be missed is the bookstore Griot, in Trastevere, which specializes in African literature and offers a vast selection of books in English. And before you leave, make sure you dive into Borri Books, inside the Termini Station — a nearly infinite treasure trove of books.

Rome is the city of cats. In Largo di Torre Argentina, a colony of felines can be found napping among the Corinthian columns. In Eleanor Estes’s “Miranda the Great,” two cats, Miranda and her daughter Punka, try to save themselves from the invasions of the Huns and Visigoths by taking refuge in the Colosseum. These ancient Roman cats are the progenitors of the cats we see today.

  • “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,” Frederick Douglass

  • “Termini: Cornerstone of Modern Rome,” Arthur Weststeijn and Frederick Whitling

  • “SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome,” Mary Beard

  • “The Portrait of a Lady,” Henry James

  • “The Marble Faun,” Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • “Roman Fever and Other Stories,” Edith Wharton

  • “The Ragazzi” (or “The Street Kids”), Pier Paolo Pasolini

  • “This Is What I Live For,” Amir Issaa

  • “In Other Words,” Jhumpa Lahiri

  • “Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio,” Amara Lakhous

  • “Italian Journey,” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

  • “The Improvisatore,” Hans Christian Andersen

  • “Global Rome: Changing Faces of the Eternal City,” Isabella Clough Marinaro and Bjorn Thomassen

  • “Strangers I Know,” Claudia Durastanti

  • “Little Mother,” Cristina Ali Farah

  • “Miranda the Great,” Eleanor Estes

Igiaba Scego has written nonfiction as well as fiction for adults and young adults. Her memoir “My Home Is Where I Am” won Italy’s Premio Mondello, and her latest novel, “The Color Line,” won Italy’s Premio Napoli.

Translation by Gregory Conti

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