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Browsing Italian Bookstores: Good for the Heart and Mind

I AM Books (photo courtesy Renee Kristine Ricciardi)

I AM Books (photo courtesy Renee Kristine Ricciardi)

What could be better than strolling the aisles of a bookstore, where one may choose a selection from among hundreds, balance the weight of a hard or soft cover volume in one’s hand, sniff the paper as one turns the pages, listen to the sheets softly ruffle with ample promise beneath his or her fingertips, knowing that the gem in your hand represents something akin to the mystery of turning wine into blood, or rather the transformation of ink into imagination?

If you’re like me and enjoy perusing bookstores, a pastime that’s both comforting and stimulating at the same time, then it’s likely you enjoy poking your head into book shops no matter where you go–in your hometown, while visiting a neighboring locale, or when traveling to a distant land. For me, there’s something about it that grounds me when I’m far from home, but that transports me when I’m shopping local.

When I studied in Rome during college, the gargantuan chain store, La Feltrinelli, in Piazza della Repubblica near Termini station, was a no-brainer stop-off for something to read before hopping a train on the weekend. Stephen King novels were my go-to books of choice 12310629_1645486015726184_8555189962967989860_nback then, and I picked up my copies of The Stand, It, and King’s collection of Bachman books there. The multi-lingual chain is still huge throughout Italy, and those books still reside on my bookshelf.

My husband, Jamie, who lived in Trastevere during college, introduced me to his favorite bookstore in that neighborhood, Open Door Bookshop. It’s a family-run, independent bookstore that has been around a long time, and it’s chock full of second-hand books. It’s the only used bookshop in all of Rome, and the inventory rotates regularly, so it’s worth checking out.

A couple years ago, while Jamie spent a day wine-tasting in Verona for work, I spent the day in a little piazza near Juliette’s balcony sifting through Italian and English titles at a lovely bookstore there. I cozied up in a chair for a of couple hours with an Italian-version and an English-translated copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, devouring the classic novel, while improving my understanding of the Italian language. I did the same with a Patricia Cornwall novel and a book on soccer, leaving no genre unturned.

I AM Books (photo courtesy Renee Kristine Ricciardi)

I AM Books (photo courtesy Renee Kristine Ricciardi)

I highly recommend this fruitful learning experience of soaking up literature, culture, and language while juxtaposing both versions of a title. And Bostoniani can do it anytime, locally! There’s a new bookstore that co-owner Nicola Orichuia recently opened in the heart of the North End, called I AM Books. It’s a dream come true for Nic, editor of Corrieretandem magazine, who’s an Italian native and no stranger to his hometown of Rome’s bookstore scene. I AM Books is the embodiment of a cultural adventure, serving as both a bookstore with titles for children and adults in both English and Italian, and as an active hub for musicians, authors, and artists to share their passion with the community. Come and enjoy perusing the shelves of this friendly, warm, inviting atmosphere, at an Italian American bookstore right in your own back yard.

About Gina Fava

Gina Fava is the author of two suspense novels set in Italy, The Race and The Sculptor. She freelances too, sharing stories she's gathered roaming Italy in search of her characters' favorite wines. Visit her website at GinaFava.com and connect via Facebook and Twitter.