Literary City Spotlight: Florence
October is Italian Heritage Month, and here at Read Poetry we’re celebrating with a literary journey through Florence, one of Italy’s most magical and populated cities. Many historians consider Florence to be the birthplace of the Renaissance—a time period where art of every genre, including literature, underwent an unparalleled resurgence. Florence also stands out as one of the architectural and fashion capitals of the world. As you traipse past intricate cathedrals, through award-winning art galleries, and along the Arno river, here are some literary sites to add to your list.
Via Santa Margherita, 1, 50122
Dante is one of the most famous writers of all time, with his epic poem The Divine Comedy widely regarded as the greatest work written in Italian. The most well-known section of this three-part work, Dante’s Inferno, continues to inspire a wide range of creative work even today, most recently serving as the theme of Hozier’s Unreal Unearth album. Dante’s House, located where the poet grew up in the 13th century, gives a rare glimpse into the writer’s youth and upbringing, his exile from Florence, and his long-standing cultural impact, with three different floors for visitors to explore.
Piazza dei Cavalleggeri, 1, 50122
The Florence National Central Library is the largest public library in all of Italy. The library was founded in 1714 and today is estimated to contain six million books, including 29 thousand rare editions and 25 thousand unpublished historic manuscripts. While this teeming collection would take years to fully peruse, visitors can enjoy simply being among the stacks and taking in the library’s historic architecture—expect high ceilings, a spiraling staircase, and ornate windows.
Via Ricasoli, 49/103R, 50122
After you’ve checked out a must-see library, the next natural stop is a bookstore. Discovering Italy’s indie bookstore scene can often feel like stepping back in time, especially at the Libreria Gozzini – the oldest bookstore in Florence. The shop buys and sells antique books, meaning you’re likely to find literary treasures you won’t spot anywhere else. The business is a member of The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. Now owned by a sixth generation of family members, the shop opened in 1850.
Via di Ripoli, 7 rosso, 50126
In addition to classic and historic bookstores, Florence also has plenty of modern bookstores that implement their own twists on the book-shopping experience. One of the most beloved is Piccola Farmacia Letteraria, which calls itself a “book pharmacy.” The owner and creator, who proclaims that “books can cure the soul,” organizes the shop based on which books respond best to problems and feelings spanning everything from breakups to body image.
Via dei Fossi, 15/R, 50123
Book lovers have long been pairing wine with their reading time, a concept that bookshop Todo Modo continues and celebrates. The local independent bookstore, which opened in 2014, is a cozy reading haven, with lush plants filling the space. It also has a full wine bar and an impressive pasta menu. A solo reading dinner has never sounded more peaceful.
Looking for more literary city inspiration in Italy? Check out our roundup of can’t-miss sites in Rome.