A Catholic book lover’s heaven, Via della Conciliazione is the street that leads directly up to the piazza and then St. Peter’s Basilica. The street, though relatively short (about four blocks) is filled with bookstores, souvenir shops, religious goods shops, and gelaterias (which very annoyingly close early in November).
I am confessing that I am not a numismatic fanatic. Lorraine has numismatics that she needs to catalog and the Vatican Library has very nicely cataloged numismatics collection, so she did need to hang around for those sessions. So, I decided to ditch the long session on coins and head off to get some material for a blog post on books on the Via della Conciliazione. Lorraine and I stayed at the Hotel Columbus which is on the street at number 33, and from our side balcony we could see out to a tiny sliver of the street.
St Peter's is, of course, at the end of Via della Conciliazione and the conference was held at number 5 in the Vatican School of Library Service, so we did not have much time to venture away from this very important street!
Books are everywhere. So when I decided to go out for a real book trek, I started out the hotel door
and turned left where we had already hit souvenir shops for postcards. Kiosks like these have travel books for Vatican sightseers, both inside and out.
One of the closest to St. Peter's is the Ancora Libreria which was totally being rebuilt and reorganized, but one could still enter and even in Italy see Christmas marketing before Advent!
Then I headed across the square to the LEV, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, the publishing arm of the Vatican whose web pages now have Flash, but no Inglese.
Lorraine and I spent some time browsing the collection--
this Ratzinger is a recent addition (in German) to our collection from the LEV and I wanted to see what else they might have (especially liturgical books) that I might be needing. We both brought home the LEV's hefty 350 page catalog which needs some serious attention on my part!
Continuing away from St. Peter's, the next big bookstore is Libreria Don Bosco. This is the bookstore of Elledici, the publishing arm of the Salesian order.
Practically next door is the familiar sign of the Paulines, which are everywhere in the world! This is a really huge, probably the biggest of all, bookstore with every theological book in Italian you could imagine. I don't collect much Italian at CTU, but I definitely made a list of things that we should have--very prominently displayed in most of these stores was the new translation of the Bible in Italian.
After strolling around the Pauline bookstore jotting down title after title, I next entered the Libreria A V E. I couldn't quite figure it out and still am a bit confused, but it seems to have started as a Catholic publishing house and bookstore prior to the war and has expanded to also publish literature, a wide array of translations of childrens books, and more. I was intrigued by the small English corner and was sorely disappointed when I found only a few books: Twilight series, Ken Follett and Nick Hornby. What was that about?
The Coletti Bookstore has existed for over a hundred years, ran by Colettis from the start along with a publishing arm. They have long had some photography and other non-religious, all the while focusing on Catholic books. In here, I FINALLY picked up the new Eco novel (which has not been translated into English yet). I had been seeing it everywhere I went--Il cimitero di Praga. I've read all Eco's novels but 1 1/2 (in the middle of that 1/2), though I really prefer his essays. I was interested in the new one, and discovered that it has been scathingly reviewed in L'Osservatore Romano for a perceived anti-semitism which Eco refutes. Anyway, Eco fans who only read in English will have to wait a while to judge for themselves!
Besides the Eco and the new Italian Bibles, everywhere were books about Newman, both new books in Italian and translations and several new books about Chiara Badano, the young Focolare who has recently been beatified and of course, more huge displays of Natale--Christmas books everywhere. If this had been an English speaking mall of theology books, I never would have emerged, so thank goodness it is not a language I have pots of money for! The only way to describe it is--say that on one four block street you had a Borders, Barnes and Noble, Pauline, the Sem Coop, and a couple of other huge bookstores AND that most of the stock was Catholic books, with a smattering of others, this is what you would have. Amazing.