While out and about on our most recent Streetsmart mission, TF director Marco Badiani and I landed in a literary paradise. Most local bibliophiles already have this libreria (via Ginori 53/r) burned in their brains: the mountainous book piles that beg to be perused, the scent of coffee-stained pages and the shelves haphazardly lined with colorful titles. As chain stores of all stripes continue to crop up in central Florence, shops this distinctive are becoming few and far between.
Captivated by the charms of these places, most of us don’t give much thought to the burdens they carry as businesses. Though we may leaf through yellowed pages for hours on end, leaving with actual purchases in tow is rather rare. As we eagerly explored the bookshop, taking photos and comparing Instagram captions, the staff’s comments snapped us back to reality. Listening to talk of the store’s inevitable—if not imminent—closure, I discreetly tucked my iPhone out of sight.
Shortly thereafter, as we wove our way through the stacks, a shout from the street demanded our attention: ‘Guys! You have to see this!’ Turning, we faced a visibly awestruck young man who cried out dramatically, ‘Everything in this country is beautiful!’ Amused and curious, Marco asked where he was from. Canada, he replied, ‘where nothing like this exists anymore.’
We watched him gleefully browse through a particularly dusty pile, commenting that he wished he could read the Italian text. Snapping a photo, he gave the shop a final once-over and followed his friends back out into the street. From up on a ladder, the man restocking the shelves shrugged. He is used to this by now.
This well-intentioned visitor is hardly to blame for the store’s struggles; our giddiness when we stumble upon such treasures is nothing to feel guilty about. But if we aren’t offering concrete support to these places—by putting our money where our mouth is—we can’t continue to act surprised when we see yet another Florentine mom-and-pop shop shut down. Historic bookshops, artisan botteghe and unique boutiques are the cornerstones of Florence’s character, so let’s take our support beyond window shopping and social media sharing. Stop by the bookshop and stock up on some springtime reads. It’s good for you—and for Florence.