It’s good to be blogging again! I returned a few days ago from a long trip overseas, with stops in London, Dublin, Rome, Venice, and Florence (with a tiny stop in Keflavik). While I didn’t do any sort of comprehensive tour of libraries or bookshops, I did my best to visit and explore them when I could. In this post I’m going to share my favorite bookshops I found while traveling. In a later post, I will share about other literature-related places I visited, including a certain fantastic library.
Okay, it’s not technically a bookstore, but the Globe Theater gift shop sells a lot of books by William Shakespeare. The theater is a reconstruction of the Globe Theater that Shakespeare worked in and wrote his plays for. We were able to do a tour as well as see a show. I highly recommend the experience! As far as books are concerned, the gift shop sells many different editions of the plays and sonnets, including big fancy folio-like reproductions.
I also managed to visit Forbidden Planet, which has been on my list for a while. If you like science fiction or fantasy, this is a magical place. The ground floor is entirely non-book nerd gear: toys, games, shirts, etc, from alllll the franchises. The Star Wars wall was really delicious. The basement floor is all books! They had many signed editions, along with a fantastic selection. Yay Forbidden Planet!
Manor Books Limited in Malahide (just outside Dublin) was a fun little shop. They had a lot of Ireland-related books and books by Irish authors. What I love about independent bookstores is that I discover books I would never otherwise know the existence of. I bought a book here titled How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of The Crossroads (by Daniel Cassidy). I haven’t read it yet, but our tour guide at Malahide Castle mentioned quite a few common expressions that supposedly came from Ireland, so I’m very intrigued!
The Winding Stair Bookshop was one of my favorite finds on the trip. It’s pretty small, but very carefully curated to include both new books and used, with an emphasis on feminist books and Irish authors. I found a tiny little book titled A Little History of Dragons by Joyce Hargreaves, but there were a bunch of other books I wanted to carry off with me. It’s also right next door to The Winding Stair restaurant.
I went into at least one branch of the Dubray Books chain. Besides being a decent all-around bookstore, they always had sizeable displays on Irish authors and Ireland-related topics, which, as a tourist, I really appreciated.
So the thing about Italy is that they speak and read Italian there, and I don’t. We went into a couple of little bookshops but the only place I bought books was actually the Colosseum gift shop, where I found a delightful little book called A Journey to Rome that had beautiful watercolor illustrations paired with quotes from famous literary people who visited Rome. Not to worry: I definitely plan to visit Rome again and next time I will plan my bookshop visits a little better.
Okay, first of all, Venice is surreally beautiful and probably not even a real place. Second, it contains a bookshop called Alta Acqua that is also probably not real. I have photographs of it and I’m still not sure. They keep many of their books in waterproof flotation devices, whether it be a gondola, a bathtub, or a canoe. I didn’t actually buy any books here, although they did both English and Italian. Enjoy the photos, and visit this place if you can.
Right outside the Accademia Gallery (which is awesome, you should go there) is a bookshop called Libreria Gozzini. I definitely only saw like four rooms when I was there, so I was surprised to look it up online and be told there are multiple floors and 23 rooms! We really missed out. However, we did find a few shelves of English books and I found a couple of tiny old copies of Shakespeare plays, one of which I took home with me (Romeo and Juliet). Besides beautiful shelves of books, there were many old prints and drawings, which were fun to look through.
Overall, I really enjoyed my trip. But being in a strange place can be disorienting, and it’s always very comforting to hang out with books in between eating delicious food and seeing the sights. What are your favorite bookshops you’ve found while traveling?