If I haven’t any time for day trips, what books can take me out of town as a substitute?
I like the assorted towns of the Castelli Romani, just a number of minutes from town. I counsel you to follow within the footsteps of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who immersed himself within 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 constituted of them, which is actually delicious! You will see that them in every restaurant, farm and cafe in Nemi. Within the Castelli, do what Stanley Tucci does on his gastronomic tours for television: taste all the pieces.
What books can take me behind closed doors and show me hidden facets of town?
“Global Rome: Changing Faces of the Everlasting City,” edited by Isabella Clough Marinaro and Bjorn Thomassen, is a group of essays that break through all of the clichés and show us a Rome that’s globalized, plural, polyglot and peripheral. That’s the Rome that you just find in the gorgeous “Strangers I Know,” by Claudia Durastanti and in “Little Mother,” by Cristina Ali Farah.
Which author is everyone on the town talking about?
Zerocalcare! A young cartoonist — his real name is Michele Rech — he has transformed contemporary Rome, dialect included, right into a universal experience. From his base within the suburb of Rebibbia he talks to the world and concerning 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 rather awkward cartoonist — a stand-in for Rech himself — with an armadillo for a conscience.
What literary pilgrimage destination would you recommend?
Should you go through Rome, a visit to the poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, buried in town’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 may as well visit the tomb of Antonio Gramsci, the Italian philosopher, author and founding father of the Italian Communist Party, who was imprisoned until near death for opposing fascism. Somewhere in there’s also the spirit of Sarah Parker Remond, an African-American abolitionist and suffragist campaigner to whom, in recent times, a plaque was dedicated near the doorway. Should you visit, bring some good thoughts and a rose.
Any bookstores I should visit?
Tuba is a special place — a feminist bookstore in the guts of the pedestrian oasis of the Pigneto quarter, where you’ll find not only books but additionally original aperitifs and plenty of women writers to talk with. Also to not be missed is the bookstore Griot, in Trastevere, which makes a speciality of African literature and offers an enormous choice of books in English. And before you allow, make certain you dive into Borri Books, contained in the Termini Station — a virtually infinite treasure trove of books.
And for the youngsters, any recommendations?
Rome is town of cats. In Largo di Torre Argentina, a colony of felines could be found napping among the many Corinthian columns. In Eleanor Estes’s “Miranda the Great,” two cats, Miranda and her daughter Punka, try to avoid wasting themselves from the invasions of the Huns and Visigoths by taking refuge within the Colosseum. These ancient Roman cats are the progenitors of the cats we see today.
Igiaba Scego’s Rome Reading List
“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 Everlasting 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 in addition to 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