Palermo has a thousand-year-old history, often captured in its libraries. If you decide to spend a period of study or complete an academic thesis there, you can take advantage of its many cultural centres where you will come in contact with people interested in learning.
THE NATIONAL LIBRARY
On Corso Vittorio Emanuele in the city centre, this library has now reopened after a long period of closure. It houses more than a million books, manuscripts, and incunabula, the earliest type of printed texts. The oldest text dates from the 10th century. It also maintains all the publications produced in the Sicilian region. This beautiful sixteenth-century centre was the High College of the “Compagnia di Gesù” as well as a centre of learning. Among the treasures there you can consult Latin bibles, missals, monastic documents, antique parchment maps of the Mediterranean, the Encyclopédie of Diderot, and the documents from its Jewish, Islamic and Chinese sections. Many college students who live in the historic centre go there to study its texts, stopping to take a break on the balcony. I studied some difficult subjects there during my university career. It’s a place that helps you concentrate and able to give your all.
THE STATE ARCHIVE
This has two locations: “La Catena” (the former convent of the Teatini, where a large iron chain or “catena” was kept which in ancient times was meant to block access to the city by ships that came from the sea –and very close to this spot) and “La Gancia” (the former convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli which has a beautiful cloister accessible to scholars). The State keeps the surviving records of the central offices of Sicily’s former rulers including the Kingdom of Sicily, the Normans, Swabians, Angevins, Aragonese, the Spanish Viceroys from 1412, and the lieutenancy of the Kingdom of the two Sicilies from 1816. Many documents come from the archives of notable people and their families. They allow reconstructing the stories of noble and religious figures as well as the history of the lands and cities of Sicily from the middle ages to the 20th century. Those who have ancestors from Sicily and want to construct their family tree must make a stop here.
THE MUNICIPAL LIBRARY
This s a former Jesuit monastery not far from the Town Hall. Publishers from Palermo submit a copy of all their published texts here. The entrance on Piazza Brunaccini, where you’ll find a reconstructed neo-gothic colonnade of a Greek temple, is worth a photograph. A comprehensive restoration of the building was carried out in recent years. Here, you can see the “Codice Resta” or graphic collection recently recovered by the National Graphics Institute, which represents a real “portable gallery” for art lovers.
On the ground floor of the Casena di Villa Trabia alle Terre Rosse, located inside a beautiful park of about 60 thousand square metres, there is a library managed by the Municipality of Palermo. Here too, you’ll find many students strolling through the garden to take a break and get off the Internet.
This is not a library but a bookstore which often hosts book presentations, debates and Sunday morning literary breakfasts. Fabrizio, the owner, is an “old-school” bookseller who started doing this job by chance. In addition to asking him about his story, he is also able to find authors and titles even with very little clues. The informal character of this bookstore keeps it going and makes it well-loved.