Lingering over a book and a cup of coffee, and maybe even a conversation, is a pleasure shared by many. Around the world, making it possible for customers to browse and sip has proven a solid business model, as evident in the increase in bookstores that include cafés, cafés that offer books. Florence has a growing number of libreria caffès, and they vary in size, offerings and clientele as well as book-to-beverage (and food) ratio. Here are just a few to explore.
Caffè Libreria Alzaia
Next to Fondazione Stensen Cinema, Caffè Libreria Alzaiaexudes the aromas of freshly ground coffee and freshly printed paperbacks. The bar offerings are limited (coffee and sweets, for the most part), but Alzaia’s extensive and well organized collection covers a wide variety of genres. Quiet and air-conditioned, Alzaia offers an escape from the summer heat and crowds. Bonus feature: the bathroom is hidden behind a sliding bookshelf.
Viale Don Giovanni Minzoni, 25/e
Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 10pm; Sunday, 3.30pm to 10pm
Just across Ponte alla Carraia in the Oltrarno, La Cité seems like a hip, book-loving friend’s welcoming living room, where one can cozy up for a few hours to read, contemplate the contemporary paintings on the walls or groove to the indie music playing in the background. There is also live music in the evenings in the comfortable lounges upstairs.
Borgo San Frediano, 20
Daily: 7pm to midnight (summer); 8am to midnight (fall–spring)
Not far from La Cité in the Oltrarno, Cuculia is more restaurant (go for the green juices and vegetarian choices) than a café, but it has a small selection of books in Italian.
Via dei Serragli, 3r
Tuesday to Thursday, 3pm to midnight; Friday to Sunday, noon to midnight
This self-styled ‘bookstore with a kitchen’ is an intimate mix of bookshelves and small tables. The slender but varied collection ranges from graphic novels to nonfiction focused on the arts and children’s books. The wi-fi is free, and there are art exhibitions and occasional readings. Along with the traditional coffee bar selections, the kitchen offers a vegetarian and vegan-friendly menu (table seating is available ina separate area beyond the courtyard).
Via dei Vagellai, 18
Daily, noon to 3.30pm; 7pm to 10.30pm
Across the street (and lines of waiting visitors) from its famous namesake, My Accademia is as much a gift shop as a bookstore/café. The selection is strong on architecture and art, with a wide range of books in various languages, and a children’s section that includes toys and games as well as books. The café—in the back, away from the crowds outside—has a seating area and free wi-fi.
Via Ricasoli, 105r
Tuesday to Sunday, 8.15am to 7pm.
A major presence on piazza della Repubblica, the three-story Red is certainly the biggest of Florence’s bookstore/cafés, and it is the only one of the three Feltrinelli bookstores in town that offers an extensive menu. The expansive modern store is in the Barnes and Noble model, stocking books, school supplies, music, movies—even bottles of wine. Cushioned seating and tables upstairs accommodates who want to work or hang out for a bit. Look for the frequent book presentations and other events, usually in the evening.
Piazza della Repubblica, 26
Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 11am.
Nestled in a small street near Ponte alla Carraia, Todo Modo looks unassuming from the outside but impresses on the inside. The collection includes more than 15,000 titles (both used and new), with a wide selection in English, and a theater hosts concerts, seminars and screenings. The café has its own name (Uqbar), free wi-fi and enough table space so that you never feel as though you’re overstaying your welcome, and serves breakfast, lunch and snacks.
Via dei Fossi, 15r
Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 9pm; Monday 4pm to 9pm
(Note: closed August 10–22, 2015)