This article was written and submitted for publication on the Italy Logue by Chris Bright.
If taking a trip to the libreria sounds like the last place you would want to go on your vacation in Milan, guess again. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a libreria (pr. lee-breh-REE-uh) is a public library, it is actually the word for bookstore – and Milan has dozens from which to choose.
As an unapologetic bibliophile, I can contentedly spend hours in a great bookstore browsing the shelves for my next great discovery. I was pleased to find that on a recent trip to Milan that the city has an amazing array of bookstores, due in part to city’s status as the center of Italy’s publishing industry.
For a traveler who knows Italian or who has an interest in learning the language, a stop at a libreria is a necessity to get one’s “fix” of Italian items that are difficult to purchase elsewhere. For the fluent or those aspiring to be, copies of Italian literature or special interest books are manna that can re-invigorate one’s language studies. Also, a good Italian dictionary (not Italian-English, just Italian) is a necessity for any student of the language and can be difficult to find outside of the country.
Even for those whose Italian vocabulary does not extend beyond “ciao” and “grazie,” a bookstore is a recommended stop. One reason is that a libreria is a glimpse into the modern culture of Italy because Italians put a high value on discourse. For example, a few minutes of strolling in the political section is illuminating, with book covers and decipherable titles that show the hot topics of the day.
One of the best reasons, however, is that a bookstore is a perfect place to pick up a keepsake or gift that will be valued for many years. Although a book can be a little heavy to bring home, I can think of no better souvenir than a coffee-table book produced in Italy with photos of a favorite region, village, cathedral or artist. When in Milan, a unique gift for any classical music aficionado would be an oversized picture book about La Scala, the most famous opera stage in the world. A final idea is to pick up a stunning calendar that will serve as a daily reminder of your vacation for at least the next year.
In Milan, here are several stores that highlight the city’s offerings:
- Libreria Hoepli, – Located near the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II, the Libreria Hoepli (pr. oh-AY-plee) is a department store of books. With more than 500,000 titles on six floors, it is one of the largest bookstores in the world. The store is stronger in non-fiction and has many titles categories such as business, science, computers and history. Be sure to check out the language section if you are student of Italian, since Hoepli is the largest publisher in Italy of this variety. Location: Via Hoepli 5, www.hoepli.it
- Libreria Rizzoli, – Rizzoli is famous for its high-end publications in the areas of art and architecture, although they have less lofty fare as well. Reflecting Rizzoli’s level of luxury, the main store is located in the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle II in the heart of Milan (near La Scala). The ideal spot for a keepsake book or calendar. Location: Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II, www.libreriarizzoli.it
- La Feltrinelli – Feltrinelli is a chain bookstore that would best be compared to Borders in the U.S. The stores have a solid offering of titles in every category, but also have CDs, DVDs, video games as well as cafes! (Be careful when buying DVDs since they will not work in North America without special players.) Multiple locations, including the following: Via Manzoni Alessandro, 12; Piazza Piemonte, 2; Via Foscolo Ugo, 1; Via Romagnosi Gian Domenico, 3; and Piazza Cavour Conte Camillo Benso, 1. www.lafeltrinelli.it
- Libreria dell’Automobile – A dreamscape for anyone with a passion for cars or motorcycles. The inconspicuous shop reveals shelves packed with rare and interesting titles in many languages. Be sure to take the spiral staircase up to the second floor and browse through the section of rare books and memorabilia. Location: Corso Venezia, 43, www.libreriadellautomobile.it
- Libreria Del Mare – Are you a fan of diving, boats, sailing or just enjoy tropical destinations? The “Bookstore of the Sea” specializes in titles related to the oceans. Location: Via Dei Bossi, 8. www.libreriadelmare.it
- American Bookstore – With a sizable ex-pat population, Milan also has a bookstore with American titles just in case you need some new reading material before jumping on the plane home! Location: Via Camperio Manfredo 16.