Emily Rosner

A musician at heart selling books in Florence

Melinda Gallo
October 22, 2009


Florence is home to many expats: those who have longed to live here, those who have found love and moved here, and those who have come to Florence and felt immediately at home here. Many people arrive here at a point in their lives when they seek to redefine themselves: whether they were not completely happy, were searching for something new, or were looking for love, it seems that those who come to Florence are reborn. Florence will always be the ‘cradle of the Renaissance' for the art world, but it also welcomes people of all walks of life who are seeking to follow their hearts.


When Emily Rosner took a semester off from her studies at New York University (NYU) to travel around Europe, she had no idea that she'd end up meeting the man who would become her husband, Maurizio. In 1970 when she arrived, Florence had an exciting atmosphere with the numerous anti-war movements that students were organizing. It was far different from suburban Long Island, where Emily was from. She soon found herself a part of a group of 20 or more students that would meet every night and discuss politics over dinner. Among them was Maurizio.


As do many expats who arrive in Florence without a plan, Emily went out looking for work, first finding a job at a disco, and then at a leather shop in Santa Croce.


The following year, she traveled back to the United States to complete her final year at NYU. Although she had previously studied music and dance, she realized that she wasn't a performer and didn't want to become a musicologist, so she changed her major to English literature. It wasn't long after her return that she realized that New York was not the place she wanted to be. Feeling that she was learning much more about society and her own life in Florence, she decided to go back to Italy without finishing her studies.


Back in Florence, Emily and Maurizio got married and had two boys, Jacopo and Arturo. In the beginning, she taught English and developed audio/visual courses to teach English to children.


Although she visited the US infrequently after making Florence her home, one trip turned out to be key to her current life.


Her parents had moved back to her mother's hometown, Boston, where they opened a business, selling used books, a new idea that was taking off in the US. Emily thought that she and Maurizio could work together and open a store of their own in Florence.


Upon returning from the US, she and Maurizio opened up the Paperback Exchange where they not only exchanged and sold used books but also sold new books. Along with supplying most of the American and British universities in Florence, the bookshop also provides books for students in many universities in Tuscany as well as other regions. Tourists, expats, and Florentines browse the wide selection of new and used books in English. The Paperback Exchange also hosts events for international authors to present their books.


In December 2005, after 26 years in their original location in via Fiesolana, they moved to the store's current location in via delle Oche, just a few steps from the Duomo.


After being in Florence for most of her adult life, Emily still finds time to appreciate the city. She often stops while riding her bike across Ponte alla Carraia, taking a moment to enjoy one of the most splendid views of the river and the city. When she's walking around the city center, she makes a concerted effort to look up and  notice the details of the buildings.


By living in what she considers ‘the heart of culture,' Florence, her own cultural interests have also blossomed. For the last 20 years, Emily has been keeping her passion for singing alive singing with of an adult amateur choir, Schola Cantorum ‘Francesco Landini' della Scuola di Musica di Fiesole. The choir performs in many churches around town, among them San Miniato, Santo Stefano and San Salvatore al Monte.


Now Emily is thinking of ways to bridge these two loves together, possibly by inviting musicians and singers to perform at the Paperback Exchange.



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