The Biblioteca Angelica in Roma was the first and is currently longest consistently operating library open to the public. It was founded by Bishop Angelo Rocca (1546-1620), who donated more than 20,000 volumes to the friars at the convent of St. Augustine, near the Pantheon in the center of Rome. Today, there are more than 200,000 volumes, including many from 15th – 17th centuries, as well as original manuscripts on religious, scientific, and other themes. Its trademark (above) is an angel guarding the castle, and what a castle it is—filled with bibliographic treasures, including tomes on Trajan-style Roman lettering, like Luca Pacioli’s 1509 “De Divina Proportione” (bottom). Anyone can walk in and read in the movie set-like reading room. In fact, it was the set (a substitute for the Vatican library) in Angels and Demons. Just walking into the hall, one can feel that Tom Hanks had walked there before. Caravaggio may have been there too; his exquisite Madonna dei pellegrini is in the St. Augustine church next door.
(See more of Roma here.)