It’s understandable if visiting bookshops isn’t among your list of must-dos when visiting Tuscany. But don’t discount it as a way to get your cultural bearings in the region. The many wonderful stores dotted throughout the cities and towns here sell all sorts of new and secondhand books in Italian and English—and many of them specialize in art, architecture, and historical titles. These make great cultural resources when you’re traveling, and great gifts for friends, too.
Even better, many of Tuscany’s best bookshops are small and independently owned—a nice change from the large chain marts that are the only options left in other parts of the world. They may take a little exploring to find—some are just cozy little nooks known mainly to locals—but that’s part of the fun. And who knows? You might just unearth a rare copy of Petrarch’s sonnets to take home.
This cheerful little bookshop off the Sieve River in Pontassieve—a small town outside of Florence—features a mix of contemporary literature, most of it in Italian. There’s also a wide selection of children’s books and a kids’ reading area—perfect if you want to introduce your little one to the language.
Tons of English-language titles—both new and used, fiction and nonfiction—are offered at this book exchange in Florence. It’s an especially great place to pick up cookbooks, with traditional recipes you can follow at home in your own language. The shop also buys back used books for a fraction of the original price or store credit—which can be a boon if you’re staying in town for a few weeks and tend to go through reading material quickly.
B&M is Florence’s answer to a full-service English language indie bookstore. The shelves here are piled with gorgeous books on art and design, architecture, cuisine, and Italian history; if you’re looking for a coffee-table tome on Forentine frescoes, you’ll probably find it here. Check online before you visit to see if the shop’s hosting one of its regular readings or book signings.
La Feltrinelli International
This modern Italian bookstore chain is probably the closest you’ll find to the expansive, brightly lit Borders (R.I.P.) experience in Tuscany. There are locations in both Florence and Pisa; while the latter stocks mostly Italian titles, the Florence outpost has a sizable selection of books in English (and other foreign languages).
This gorgeous bookshop is nestled in a gorgeous location: right in Siena’s Piazza del Campo. The historic two-story space offers an English books section and wall-to-wall titles. It has been my favorite bookshop for 25 years—not just for the books, but also for the friendly and knowledgeable advice dispensed by staffers.