A Reading Revolution

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 5. Politics, Florence, Places by Isabel1 Comment

For this blogpost I had originally intended to write about news in Florence. Perhaps about the amount of (slow) foot traffic because of tourist season which has still yet to wane, or maybe a piece on gender politics. But when I looked up “Italian News”, the first thing I saw was shocking and worth reporting to any and everyone who reads my posts; Naples, the capital of a region in Italy called Campania, finally has their first thriving bookstore in fifty years. I was, and still am, in complete shock. The idea of a city with no bookstore baffles me; like a bird without wings. But I guess I can’t be that surprised. Growing up in a suburban town outside of Boston, all of our bookstores started to die down one at a time until the only one left standing was a Barnes and Nobles fifteen minutes away, technically in a different town. But the reasoning for this bookstore is not amazing merely because we live in a time where many people don’t feel like picking up a book; it’s a rebellion against the maffia. I never knew books could be so badass.

Unbeknownst to me prior to reading this article, Naples of one of the most illiterate places in Southern Italy. People had to drive for hours to buy a book, which in my opinion is ridiculous. The city was pretty much ridden by the mafia, the Camorra to be specific. It has been known to be a scary place where drug activity and gang violence trumps any art forms that may exist in the world. That is why this bookstore is such a big deal. It challenges the Napoleon pastime, taking kids off the streets and in the books. Not only is reading essential for the imagination, but it is saving lives by giving people a new pastime. And the fact that it is a big “up yours” to the mafia, a resistance to violence, is just perfect.

This bookstore, however, does not seek to wipe out the mafia and the drug trade, as it is apart of their culture. The co-founder of Scampia Tour Trip, a group set out to show off the area in a positive light, Daniele Sansone, says this about the culture, “he Camorra exists, the drugs exist, we would be mad to deny it. But there is so much more, small organisations which become garrisons of legality,” from football clubs to Italy’s first Italian-Roma restaurant.” It’s not so much a suppression as it is an enlightenment; showing the world that there is positivity as well as creativity coming out of Naples.

The Italian side of my family hails from Naples, so this is exciting news. As a child, I used to love to read until the schooling system made me hate it as school can do. Psychology proves that if someone has to do something, they will probably start to resent it; unfortunately I was an unknowing participant of this trend. However, this year I got a fresh start; I love to write and one can never be a great writer if they’re not an avid reader. How else do you learn techniques and expand your mind? Now that I’m reading, I cannot get enough. I feel transformed every time a finish a book. The feeling of accomplishment I get is undeniable, and it makes me so happy that part of my culture gets to feel that same feeling now.



  1. Hi Isabel,
    Wow! That is really crazy that Naples is just getting a bookstore now, meanwhile they are so quickly and sadly closing across the world. I think the reason Naples’ bookstore is able to thrive while others fail to do so is because Naples’ bookstore plays a vital role in the wellbeing and progression of the city. I had no idea that Naples had such a high population of illiteracy, nor did I know that it was considered a scary or unsafe place. I also find it really fascinating that the city is not looking to eliminate the violence and drug use as they see it as part of their culture. I think putting smaller initiatives in place like the bookstore is an excellent idea and definitely a move in the right direction. This way the people who have grown up in that culture are not being restricted or violated in any way, and the younger generation is offered an opportunity to live a safe life and move away from it, if that is what they ultimately would like to do. It is so great how you are able to connect to your roots in Naples through books! Working to eliminate illiteracy can greatly change lives.

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