3 Turin Bookstores I Love (and where I found books in English)
(Note: A version of this story can be read on www.jessicaalampay.com, which includes embedded Instagram posts for each store.)
One of my favorite things about living in Turin’s Centro (downtown), was living amidst so many bookstores. Walking in virtually any direction I would pass beautifully-styled window displays beckoning readers in.
While in Turin, reading became far more than a hobby or pastime. It became a way to access home, both in language and content; and a way to plunge deeper into our Italian education, by gaining a deeper understanding of the country we decided to (temporarily) call home.
I could write more extensively about bookstores, the culture of books, and reading in Turin (and intend to, in future posts), but today I’d like to simply share a selection of three bookstores that left an impression on me during my time in Turin.
If you are in Turin or plan to visit I hope you have the opportunity to visit these and other bookstores. I predict that you’ll find something wonderful that you didn’t even know you were searching for.
Location: Piazza Carignagno (Centro)
Also nearby: Piazza Castello, Piazza Carlo Alberto
Why I Love It: Libreria Internazionale Luxemburg is a Turin institution. It is one of the city’s oldest bookstores, founded in 1872. Perhaps due to its small footprint, it is exceptionally well-curated. For this reason, visitors should set aside ample time to take it all in. It is easy to lose track of time with all that Luxemburg packs onto its shelves and displays. In fact, one of the best things about Luxemburg is the large window that covers the entire exterior of the shop’s corner location. The displays are periodically updated to feature new works from Italy and beyond. I was particularly drawn to the edicola (newsstand) at the front of the store, which offers an expansive selection of international magazines and newspapers. Other sections that make this bookstore stand out are those featuring books about Turin, art, Judaica, LGBTQ+, travel, and the section dedicated to books in several languages.
Good To Know: Libreria Internazionale Luxemburg packs a lot into its ground floor, but be sure to take the stairs (don’t worry if they creak a little) to the second floor, where you’ll find books in several languages (mainly English, French, Spanish, and German); a multi-lingual children’s section; as well as language-learning books and other materials.
Our memorable moments: Buying my first Elena Ferrante book, My Brilliant Friend, and eventually all of The Neapolitan Novels. Finding two perfect books for my son right on time for Christmas. Luxemburg’s displays are so thoughtfully arranged that finding the perfect gift is easy. Finally, soothing my daughter’s homesickness, just a little, by taking her to buy each successive installment of The Babysitters Club graphic novels.
Location/Vicinity: Via Santa Teresa, 7 (Centro), 2 blocks from Piazza San Carlo (one additional location in Turin, and locations throughout Italy)
Why I Love It: Libraccio was founded in 1979, by a partnership of college students who sold new and used school books. Although Libraccio joined forces — in 2017 — with Feltrinelli, one of Italy’s largest and most influential publishing houses (and bookstore chains), it retains at least some of its simple character and continues to cater to students and others on a budget. One way that it does this is by selling second-hand books, proclaiming the slogan: “Usati ma non vecchi.” (Used but not old.)
For me, the English-language second-hand book section was a revelation. Knowing that we could only pack so many books for our journey home to California, it was nice to be able to spend just a couple of euros to buy books, and not feel bad about parting ways when we left Turin.
This location of Libraccio also carries a selection of books in French, German, Spanish, and other languages.
Good To Know: This branch of Libraccio has a small selection of school supplies, which is quite convenient for families with children, and students who live in the area.
Memorable moments: Two entertaining facts come to mind when I remember my visits to Libraccio. The first is that it is located next to the Chiesa di Santa Teresa d’Avila, which happens to be where Pope Francis’ grandparents (Giovanni and Rosa) were married in 1907 and where Pope Francis’ father was baptized.
There was a sign outside of the church that included this information as well as a photo of the Pope in front of the baptismal font that was (presumably) used for his father’s baptism.
The second fact is that every single time I went to this bookshop in search of books in English, I was confronted with at least 2 entire sets of the Twilight Saga, a four novel collection recounting the loves and lives of a family of modern-day vampires. I still wonder if this had anything to do with Turin’s occult history.
Location/Vicinity: Via Rossini 21 (Vanchiglia); in the vicinity of the Giardini Reali
Why I Love It: Just as Italy was re-opening for the first time (after 8+ weeks of a mandatory national stay-at-home order, from roughly March-May 2020), NPR’s Planet Money did a segment called Italy Reopens: A Tale of Two Bookstores. One of these two bookstores was La Libreria del Golem. The story featured an interview with Golem’s young owner, Mattia Garavaglia. His story represented the innovation that many small-business owners used to overcome the restrictions of the pandemic. In Mattia’s case, he decided to provide door-to-door service, delivering books all over Turin, on bicycle. His bookstore not only survived the stay-at-home order but continues to thrive today due to Mattia and his colleagues’ dedication to books and the people who love them.
Good To Know: The friendly staff at Libreria del Golem will happily offer book recommendations. Not being a fluent Italian speaker it was easy for me to feel intimidated about approaching people in stores, but the friendliness of this place helped me overcome this fear. Since La Libreria del Golem offers books primarily in Italian, so this was particularly helpful for me.
The fantastic children’s section occupies a fair portion of the store, which is such a delight for the community, as it is surrounded by apartment buildings. You can also find works of art throughout the store — both as decoration — and for sale, including beautiful watercolors painted on pages taken from old books and repurposed as artist Simone Mostacci’s portable canvas.
Memorable moments: My first and only visit to Libreria del Golem was immortalized on the shop’s Instagram account. If I look particularly happy in the photo it is because it was my first time leaving the house for something other than grocery shopping, in 8 weeks. I am also holding the last book I would buy in Turin before returning to California, Dino Buzzati’s Il deserto dei Tartari (which I have yet to gather up the courage to read).
Finding More Books in English
In Turin you can also find books in English at the two major bookstore chains: Feltrinelli and Mondadori, which both have English-language sections. The drawbacks of shopping at these stores are that they lack the fantastic selection of Luxemburg and the low prices of Libraccio.
Usborne Books for Children
If you are looking for children’s books in English, another great resource is Mia’s Books — Libri in inglese per bambini, where you can find a fantastic selection from the British publisher Usborne. The link above will take you to a private Facebook group, but once you request to join you can send a Facebook or WhatsApp message directly to bookseller — and my good friend — Mady, who will be happy to help you find what you are looking for.
Thank you for reading. I hope you’ll be back!
The Writing in Turin collection will be updated on Thursdays and Mondays.