When I was in high school, there was a library nearby the school which I adored. I can’t remember what it was called, but it was big. Inside, it held a huge assortment and completely unexpected variety of all types of books. The windows were always full of the best-selling popular or literary works of the moment. But, it was enough just to go in and chat with one of the owners and the world instantly became more beautiful, more full of stories, writers and characters. I had a particular passion for the place until it closed. I missed it immensely but became fond of another library – with a tea room inside – but then that closed also. One cannot say that there are few bookshops in Catania, but they have been affected by the economic crisis and declining readership. There are at least three, though, that continue to carry on in such a delightful way that you just have to go and see them.
Vicolo Stretto (Narrow Alley)
This shop is the result of its owner’s passion for books. It’s a place so agreeable that you can pass hours there. It’s very tiny and is located on Via Santa Filomena beside a narrow ‘vicolo’ (alley) from which it takes its name. The bookshop hosts many events, including book signings, readings and discussions. What’s so striking about the place is its range of books. Although it may not have everything, it has a lot. And most importantly, what it has represents a beautiful selection. Maybe you won’t find the latest blockbusters, but you’ll certainly find local authors, significant works and, above all, the excellent advice of people who live for books and want to share their passion. Places like this deserve all our support. There, you can get to know the spirit of Catania-on-the-move a little better.
Read a good book while sipping a glass of wine, some tea or a craft beer. Macondo rises up all of a sudden along Via Vittorio Emanuele, occupying a narrow, traditional street near Via Landolina and Piazza Teatro Massimo. That is, it’s situated near places at the heart of the city’s nightlife. In fact, it’s an oasis of peace and serenity. From the small tables inside – the furniture is mostly made of recycled materials – to those outside, there’s a homey atmosphere that seems outside time. I’ve engaged in long conversations there in summer and winter or spent several hours reading undisturbed by anyone. Macondo, like the fictional country it takes its name from, is an enchanted place. Sometimes, they have live music or a DJ. But to be there when its calm and quiet, you just have to know the schedule and avoid it during those times.
An historic library par excellence. It was founded in 1894 (originally functioning also as a bookbinding shop) and is also located on Via Vittorio Emanuele, although quite a distance from Macondo. It’s named after its founder, Giuseppe Prampolini, and was managed for many long years by his family up to the death of Romeo Prampolini. It’s now named after Romeo and run by one of his students. The Prampolini bookshop is a literary salon as well as a place with a fascinating history. The premises have remained the same for over a hundred years. It has antique bookshelves and many of the texts on display are now of huge historical as well as literary value. To be clear, it’s been a meeting place for Catania’s literary elite over the years and the décor hasn’t changed since this began. Of course, it’s not that once you sit on the same sofa as Vitaliano Brancati you’ll instantly turn into a brilliant intellectual. But, it may help a bit.