Rome has a wealth of information contained in its over 700 libraries. Not only does the capital have world-class collections, first editions and original manuscripts, but many are also housed in historic buildings and beautiful surroundings.

Most of the foreign cultural academies and institutes have excellent libraries. Noteworthy are those at the British School at Rome, the American Academy and the Ecole Franaise in Palazzo Farnese. The numerous archives in the city are also supplemented with a good library, such as the Archivio di Stato di Roma in Corso Rinascimento.

The institutions do not usually allow books to be taken out on loan. However, some will allow you to keep a selection on reserve for a few days.

Not all libraries are accessible to everyone. Some require a first degree and others a letter of introduction from an academic institution detailing the nature of your research. It is not always possible to study from the books you bring with you unless you have a reason to be in that particular library.

Another thing to note is that not all institutions have an open-stack policy, allowing you to browse the shelves and consult the books at leisure. At these libraries, you will be asked to specify the book/volume/periodical you wish to consult, fill in a form with the reference number and wait for it to be delivered to you. Most institutions now have online catalogues, so much time can be saved by researching at home.

Biblioteca Angelica

Piazza di S. Agostino 8, tel. 066840801, fax 0668408053, email: angelica@librari.beniculturali.it. www.biblioangelica.it. Over 200,000 volumes and 574 periodicals on specialist subjects such as Augustinian studies, Italian literature from the 13th to the 18th centuries and Roman history. No letter of introduction required; access to over-16s; also a good place for private study. Mon-Fri 08.30-18.30; Sat 08.30-13.00.

Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana

Citt del Vaticano, Porta S. Anna, Cortile Belvedere, tel. 0669879402/403 (admissions office), fax 0669884795, email: bav@vatlib.it, http://bav.vatican.va/it/v_home_bav. One of the richest collections of theology, science, history, law and philosophy in the world, including some 1.6 million volumes, 150,000 priceless manuscripts and a valuable collection of coins. Online catalogue of printed books and manuscripts. Restricted access (letter of presentation and a first degree are required). Mon-Fri 08.45-17.15.

Biblioteca di Archeologia e Storia dellArte

Piazza Venezia 3, tel. 066789965/066797739, fax 066781167, email: archeologica@librari.beniculturali.it, www.archeologica.librari.beniculturali.it. Dedicated to art history and archaeology, with 599,000 volumes and 3,500 periodicals, 263 CD-Rom and 59,411 microfiches. Note that although there is an open-shelf policy, this library can become overcrowded and noisy. Open access to over-19s (18 if enrolled at university). Mon-Fri 08.30-19.30; Sat 09.30-13.30.

Biblioteca Casanatense

Via di S. Ignazio 52, tel. 066976031, fax 0669920254, email: casanatense@biblioroma.sbn.it, www.casanatense.it. Includes over 25,000 books, more than 2,000 periodicals and 70,000 documents on religion, philosophy, theatre, music and Rome itself. Also includes rare early books, 15th-century illustrated manuscripts and musical scores. Entry to over-16s. Mon-Fri 08.30-18.50; Sat 08.30-13.20.

Biblioteca Centrale della Rai / Comunicazioni di Massa

Viale Mazzini 14, tel. 0637264689, fax 0637265185 / Via Teulada 66, tel. 0637263051, fax 0636863063, www.teche.rai.it/biblioteca. Around 68,000 volumes, 500 periodicals and 250 CD-Rom on radio, television, cinema and theatre. Letter of introduction required. Mon-Fri 09.30-13.00.

Biblioteca di Centro Studi Americani

Via M. Caetani 32, tel. 0668801613, fax 0668307256, email: info@centrostudiamericani.org, www.centrostudiamericani.org. Around 400,000 volumes on American literature and history. Entry to this private collection is only to over-18s via subscription ?5 daily, ?50 yearly (unless with affiliated academic institution). Subscription is not necessary for consultation of dictionaries and current periodicals. Mon-Thurs 10.00-18.00; Fri 10.00-14.00.

Biblioteca Hertziana

Via Gregoriana 28, tel. 0669993242, fax 0669993333, email: info@biblhertz.it, www.biblhertz.it. One of the best history-of-art libraries in the world with some 180,000 volumes and 700 periodicals, focusing on the history of Italian art from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The library in Via Gregoriana is undergoing reconstruction, which is expected to continue for another 4-5 years. However, the collection is still consultable in a reading room inside the Galleria Nazionale dArte Contemporanea (GNAM) in Via delle Belle Arti 131. Once you have a membership card, you can order the desired volumes online, which will be waiting for you in the GNAM reading room the following day. Letter of introduction to be presented at the library office in Via Gregoriana (Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri 09.00-11.00; Weds 15.00-17.00). Reading room opening times Mon-Fri 09.00-14.00.

Biblioteca dellIstituto Luigi Sturzo

Via delle Coppelle 35, tel. 0668404220, fax 0668404244, email: biblioteca@sturzo.it, www.sturzo.it. Over 75,000 volumes and 600 periodicals, on primarily Italian social sciences and modern and contemporary history. Open access. Mon-Fri 09.00-18.00.

Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Vittorio Emanuele II

Viale Castro Pretorio 105, tel. 064989, fax 06445763, email: bncrm@bnc.roma.sbn.it, www.bncrm.librari.beniculturali.it. The library has a copy of all publications printed in Italy. Over six million volumes, along with drawings, engravings, photos, slides and microfilm. Over 45,000 periodicals. Newspapers, journals and official acts on micorfilm. Entry to over-18s on production of an identity document. Mon-Fri 08.30-19.00; Sat 08.30-13.30.

Biblioteche di Roma

These 35 libraries across the city are coordinated by the city. There are magazines, newspapers, books (which can be borrowed), as well as internet access. Private study allowed at all venues and there are often other events, such as film screenings, poetry readings and exhibitions. A special bibliopass and bibliocard (?5 yearly) enable members to use all libraries and an online catalogue covers the 35 venues. For information see www.comune.roma.it/cultura/biblioteche.

Biblioteca di Storia Moderna e Contemporanea

Via M. Caetani 32, tel. 066828171, fax 0668807662, email: moderna@beniculturali.it, www.bsmc.it. Around 350,000 publications on modern and contemporary history, from the 19th century to the present day. Entry to over-16s. Mon-Fri 08.30-19.30; Sat 08.30-13.30.

Biblioteca Vallicelliana

Piazza della Chiesa Nuova 18, tel. 066869237, fax 066893868, e-mail: vallicelliana@biblioroma.sbn.it. Some 40,000 volumes, including ancient Latin and Greek manuscript collections. The library also features photographs of mid-19th to mid-20th-century European cities, Egypt and the Holy Land. Entry to over-16s. Mon, Tues, Fri 08.15-13.30; Wed, Thurs 08.15-19.30; Sat 08.15-11.30.