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A Bibliophile’s Guide to Tuscany

By Lisa Abend

Dec 18, 2020

From the January/February 2021 issue

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Book conservator Bertolozzi Caredio Piergiorgio illustrates a new piece at his Siena shop, Sator Print.

Photo by Francesco Lattrusci

Book conservator Bertolozzi Caredio Piergiorgio illustrates a new piece at his Siena shop, Sator Print.

In Italy’s most literary-minded region, a group of bookmakers, book restorers, and bookstore owners are preserving ancient traditions—and you can shop from afar.

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Tuscany is the birthplace of the Renaissance (and the poet Dante) and has long served as a muse to writers, from Machiavelli to Frances Mayes. More than 700 years later, the literary light still burns bright. Bookmaking, restoration, and craftsmanship have survived the centuries—and offer riches for the book-obsessed traveler. While we can’t easily visit the Tuscan cities of Florence, Siena, and Lucca right now, we can support their bookstores, bookmakers, and other artisans from a distance. Here’s where to begin. 

AtelierGK Firenze, run by husband-and-wife team Lapo Giannini and Michiko Kuwata.

Florence

Art + Libri

Art history lovers will encounter hard-to-find books at this specialty store, whether they’re looking for the definitive guide to Michelangelo or the latest tome on Giotto.

Shop now: artlibri.it

AtelierGK Firenze

Tokyo native Michiko Kuwata is a book conservator who opened a tiny studio with her husband, Lapo Giannini, where they restore books and put contemporary spins on ancient crafts, such as hand-decorated paste paper and leather books.

Shop now: ateliergk.wordpress.com

Libreria Antiquaria Gozzini

This bookstore, which sells rare antique books out of a location in central Florence, has been open for more than 150 years, and Edoardo Chellini, one of the owners, is a descendant of its founder.

Shop now: gozzini.it

Marucelliana Library

Established in the 18th century, this public library was created as a resource for the poor at a time when libraries were considered places for the elite. Today, the collection is made up of more than half a million volumes that date back as early as the 15th century.

Explore now: bmlonline.it

At Giulio Giannini e Figlio in Florence, sixth-generation bookbinder Maria Giannini lays paper on paint-topped water to create a marble effect.

Giulio Giannini e Figlio

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Owned by a family of sixth-generation bookbinders, Giulio Giannini e Figlio sells letterpress cards and notebooks crafted in leather. Don’t miss the Florentine-style marbleized paper handmade by Maria Giannini, who also offers paper handicraft classes.

Shop now: giuliogiannini.com 

Piccola Farmacia Letteraria 

Elena Molini opened her bookshop in 2018 and, with the help of psychologists, created a selection of 6,000 books—most of them contemporary novels—that are categorized by an emotional state (love, loneliness, anger, etc.).

Shop now: piccolafarmacialetteraria.it

Laurentian Medici Library

While the original works of this history library have been moved, most visitors flock to the Medici Library for its reading room designed by Michelangelo, who was commissioned by the Medici Pope Clement VII in the 16th century. 

Todo Modo

Contemporary fiction, including graphic novels, is the specialty of this well-curated bookstore, which is frequented by the city’s most bookish hipsters. Keep an eye out for special events, such as readings and talks.

Shop now: todomodo.org

Antica Tipografia Biagini in Lucca, where owner Matteo Valesi crafts bookplates, books, and stationery.

Lucca

Antica Tipografia Biagini

Matteo Valesi’s chandelier-lit printshop creates custom-designed stationery, wedding announcements, and limited-edition books. The shop also makes ex libris, or illustrated bookplates that are pasted into books to identify their owner.

Shop now: anticatipografiabiagini.it

At Sator Print in Siena, Bertolozzi Caredio Piergiorgio restores books and creates painted cards.

Siena

Itinera di Duccio D’Aniello

The pocket-size shop near Siena’s cathedral sells antique volumes and prints, such as herbolariums that date to the 16th century.

Sator Print 

Bertolozzi Caredio Piergiorgio restores and binds antique books; he’s also trained in calligraphy and manuscript illumination, evidenced in printed cards sold in his atelier.

Shop now: satorprint.com

>>Next: Meet the Artisans Keeping Tuscany’s Bookmaking Culture Alive

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