Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Joy of Reading

Every few days I see a funny sight on my walk to work, someone - a female more often than not - walking down the street with their head in a book or a newspaper. Italians do seem quite determined to read sometimes, whether it's walking whilst reading like I see, or reading in a packed metro/train/bus when their nose is squashed under someone's armpit! This morning I even saw a lady reading a newspaper as she was crossing the road! It was a proper crossing with lights & all, but still, you never know in this country sometimes!

The impression that I'd always got from being here was that Italians loved to read, but for newspapers at least that's not the case - I was surprised to find out the other day (from newsfromitaly on Twitter, who read the story here) that only 1 in 10 Italians actually reads one every day! I wish I had some statistics for the novels that Italians read, but I can only go by the impression of living here.

There do seem to be more bookshops here than the UK, and I love having a look through what's on offer here. There was this one bookshop in the centre of Urbino (I say was, it's probably still there now, seeing as Urbino's a university town, there's plenty of students there that need to buy books) that I loved - it was beneath street level, dug underneath the main piazza. To me it was how a bookshop should be, slightly dark, yet cosy at the same time, and it had this almost mysterious atmosphere, like you never quite knew what you might find. It had a good selection of discounted books, I could never tell if some were second hand or if they were just old. The copy of Dante's Inferno that I had for the course on the Commedia was one like that, it was a hardback copy from 1986 (the year I was born!), still had prices in Lira on it, and the price in euro was around 20 less than the original price. To me that book had more character than the new copies of Puragtorio and Paradiso I bought when I studied Dante again during the last year of my degree.

In Milan my favourite bookshop is the complete opposite of that little one in Urbino, it's the big Montadori (a publishing house) on Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, in the centre of Milan. I could wander around there for hours, especially as they sell things other than books (CDs, DVDs, and stationary for example). And the selection of international books is great, I bought an English one a couple of weeks ago (Juliet, Naked by Nick Horby, if anyone's interested; fantastic book, I'd devoured it by Sunday evening!) and the German translation of a book I've got in English (it was a bit of an impulsive decision, but I decided that my German's now as good as my Italian was when I first started buying novels in Italian. Or thereabouts...). I was wondering around the shop for what felt like ages on Tuesday night, having a good old mooch around the CDs, books, and magazines.

Thing is though, as much as I love reading, I don't think I could trust myself to be walking around Milan reading, I'm far too accident prone for that - and I think reading whilst crossing the road would be asking for trouble!!

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