The laptop computer is the essential accessory for travelling professionals and students alike. To accommodate such portable technology, big city bars, cafs and libraries have begun offering complimentary WiFi, or wireless fidelity, to their patrons. Rome, unfortunately, has caught the trend rather late, to the chagrin of its transient, expatriate population. Despite its plethora of internet centres, from which customers access the internet via desktop computers, Rome offers very little in terms of wireless access, or rete senza fili, for laptops. However, what Rome lacks in its available number of WiFi hotspots, it compensates for with ambience, transforming the quotidian internet activity into a relaxing and delicious experience.
In 2005, Rome authorities created a WiFi network for several of its major parks, and it is possible to access a free wireless signal from Villa Borghese, Villa Ada and Villa Torlonia. The city plans to continue its WiFi project throughout the historic centre, but in the meantime several bars and cafs have taken up the wireless trend, offering patrons WiFi with their drinks.
One particularly charming and friendly WiFi hotspot is The Library, located near Piazza Navona in the historic centre. The bar sits in the inconspicuous Vicolo della Cancelleria, shaded by bamboo plants and the remains of an ancient Roman wall. Eclectically decorated with antique tables and a plush velvet couch, the bar offers a quiet, candle-lit atmosphere, strong cocktails and a very friendly English-speaking staff. The WiFi facility free to customers is a new addition to the bar, introduced just six months ago.
Rome-born Daniela Ferreri, who owns and runs The Library, explains that the cafs WiFi service is a feature created for foreign people visiting Rome. A large proportion of The Librarys patrons consist of laptop-wielding foreigners, many of whom complain about the scarcity of WiFi within Romes city limits, according to Ferreri. Every Wednesday night at 21.30 the bar hosts an informal language exchange an opportunity for native speakers and expats to chat for a few hours over drinks.
Theresa Pontenza, a young tour guide from Buffalo, New York, happened upon The Library this summer after living in Rome for four years. She, like many other expats, was delighted to see the arrival of WiFi at such an elegant locale and applauds the bars individuality: The Library is like a nightime garden among all the hustle of Rome, a place for study, solitude or romance.
Several other bars have also adopted the wireless trend. Just off Piazza Trilussa in Trastevere is Caf Friends, a trendy watering hole that functions as a caf by day. Since June, Caf Friends has offered complimentary WiFi access with the purchase of a drink or meal, a step taken to accommodate the bars large proportion of American students seeking a peaceful refuge and wireless access. Although the hip locale attracts crowds of locals and tourists along its plexi-glass bar at around 19.30, when the happy hour, or aperitivo, begins, by day Caf Friends is sparsely populated, offering a quiet milieu in which to work.
Just one block away from Caf Friends is Good Bar on Via di S. Dorotea, which advertises food, drink and free wireless. Good Bar is relatively isolated from Trasteveres tourism traffic and the locale emanates the warm ambience of an old trattoria. WiFi access is available from 07.30. Good Bar is peaceful until 18.30, when the aperitivo commences and the evening drinkers arrive. Consequently, the bar ceases to offer WiFi to its patrons after 20.30.
Wine Time is a posh but reasonably priced wine bar and restaurant, which accommodates a constant stream of tourists with food, wine and free WiFi. Positioned off the Lungotevere at the end of Corso Vittorio Emanuele (by the post office), the restaurant, which is open 10.00-02.00 non-stop, offers an impressive menu of Italian cuisine, all served with a strong wireless signal. The stylish dcor appeals to a sophisticated taste, and its proximity to the Tiber makes it a popular stop for passing tourists. Unfortunately, large, noisy crowds make the restaurant a more desirable option for drinkers and diners rather than net surfers.
Romes cosmopolitan core should continue to push for the wireless trend, expanding the WiFi network to public parks, cafs and bars outside the city centre. Until then, several exclusive localities will have to suffice. In true Roman fashion, WiFi will incorporate itself into the eternal city at its own distinct pace, offering laptop users la dolce vita, unplugged.
The Library, Vicolo della Cancelleria 7, tel. 3333517581, www.thelibrary.it.
Caf Friends, Piazza Trilussa 34, tel. 065816111.
Good Bar, Via di S. Dorotea 8-9.
Wine Time, Piazza Pasquali Paoli 15, tel. 066875706, www.winetime.it.