Good Reading : May 2007
MAY 2007 ı goodreading 9 Until last month Torino held the title, with Rome, of Book Capital of the World. But Torino’s reputa- tion as a city of book lovers and bookshops seems safe for all time. A guide to the city’s bookshops and public libraries,La Via del Libro, lists more than a hundred bookshops and almost 190 libraries.The bookshops can be found all around the city’s historic centre, Il Centro, fronting some of the elegant 18 km of colonnaded porticos providing shelter for pedestrians. With such a large number of book- shops, it is obviously important for each to establish its own special identity. One of the newest, Il Tastebook, is on a corner of Corso Victor Emanuele II and Via XX Settembre. Established two years ago by Federico Castelletti and often managed by his mother, Delia, this bookshop shows the advantage of their combined talents after working for many years with Italy’s first advertising agency, Armanto Testa, in Torino. Delia had been first a copy- writer, then creative director of that agency before her retirement. Federico worked there for 21 years, becom- ing its marketing director. Proud to term itself ‘different from the usual’, Il Tastebook stocks everything that can make reading a comfortable experience. ‘Every super market now sells books so we have to offer other things. As well as a wide range of books, we have wine, lamps, tea, coffee and chocolates. We are happy for people to come here, sit in our comfortable chairs, and maybe read or write,’ said Delia, wearing a distinctive tangerine apron sporting the shop’s logo, with a bite taken out of the edge. ‘We offer packaging ideas too,’ she explained, showing the tangerine and white tissue in which she could quickly present a book and some coffee in a frou-frou of style, or enclosed in a box normally used for Italy’s famous panettone cake. ‘If a customer wants to buy a gift we ask questions about the recipient’s age and hobbies, so we can help advise on the best possible book.’ Some of Torino’s most interesting bookstores and stalls line the Via Po, linking the Piazza Castella and the Piazza Vittorio Veneto. A series of doors lock away the stalls at night on the edge of the por- ticos.The Luxembourg International Bookshop, fronting the Piazza Carignano in the northern part of Il Centro, stocks books in Italian, English, French, Spanish, German and Hebrew, and also con- ducts an English language course. Some of the city’s most famous antique bookshops are located in the glorious Galleria Subalpina.This elegant arcade, with its iron and glass roof and fittings and decorations in Art Nouveau style, was built in 1873 and links the Piazza Castello and the Via Battisti. If exploring the depths of Torino’s many bookshops is not enough for avid readers,Turismo Torino has also produced a booklet, ‘A Literary Tour of Torino’. This is available from information points, railway stations and many hotels, guiding participants around the areas in the city associated with literary figures.These range from Rabelais and Walpole to the Marquis de Sade, Balzac, Dostoevsky and Herman Melville. Rousseau and Nietzsche have left memorable passages describing their stays in Torino; Mark Twain found it a very fine city; but Henry James was not so impressed. Torino was Carlo Levi’s home town; as it was for Cesare Pavese, a writer and publisher credited with creating the city’s modern literary image, and Primo Levi, best known for writing about surviving the Nazi concentration camps. Each May an International Book Fair is held in the city, with 1200 publishers and 230,000 visitors making it one of the most important in Europe. But if you can’t make that event, just remember that on the first Sunday of every month, except August, the porticos of the Piazza Carlo Felice host a rare and specialist book fair, almost irresistible for bookworms of all ages. JENNIFER SOMERVILLE recently visited Torino (Turin) in Italy’s north-west, and was delighted at its huge array of bookshops. fully booked Delia Castelletti in her son’s bookshop, Il Tastebook. bookshops galore! Above: One of the book- stores in the glorious Galleria Subalpina. Left: Pedestrians can peruse used books at this streetside stall in the Via Po.