As part of a national initiative to promote reading among the Italian public, the Ligurian port city of Genoa has been named Italian Book Capital 2023 by the Ministry of Culture.
The competition: a real page-turner
Recognizing the power books and words hold, the naming of the “Italian Book Capital” — which lasts for one year — was inscribed into law on February 13, 2020 (mere weeks before Italy went into lockdown and many lapsed readers picked up the habit again). The inaugural recipient of the coveted appointment was Chiari (Lombardy), followed by Vibo Valentia (Calabria) in 2021 and, last year, Ivrea (Piedmont).
This year, an initial field of 14 nominees was narrowed to six finalists — Genoa, Florence (Tuscany), Lugo (Emilia-Romagna), San Quirico d’Orcia (Tuscany), Nola (Campania) and San Salvo (Abruzzo). Genoa was chosen unanimously by a special commission, made up of university professor Francesco Perfetti, the jury chairman, along with Gerardo Casale, Pietro De Leo, Giuseppe Luigi Parlato and Michela Zin.
The criteria: clear local commitments
In selecting Genoa, the committee took into account local programs and the strength of the municipal library system, commending the city, too, for its rich historical, artistic and literary heritage. Genoa’s initiatives range from activities such as virtual tours of library facilities, temporary exhibitions, and training programs for faculty to help them effectively encourage and support the involvement of young and old in reading and literacy programs.
The port city pulled inspiration from its maritime identity in its campaign for the title, likening the “unfurling of sails” to the “unfurling of pages,” using books as momentum to push the city forward.
The prize: reading pays off
The Italian Book Capital 2023 receives €500,000 from the General Directorate for Libraries and Copyright. Funds will be distributed through the Center for Books and Reading to carry out Genoa’s proposed projects.
Mayor of Genoa Marco Bucci said he is proud of the city’s accomplishments and vowed to invest heavily in libraries, noting that he plans to keep facilities open 24 hours a day for reading, studying and after-dinner discussions.
“Despite everything that has happened in recent years, we have managed to create a network, an absolutely unique cultural system,” Bucci said.
Some critics, including prominent cultural commentator (and Culture Undersecretary) Vittorio Sgarbi, have suggested that Genoa had an unfair advantage. Competitions for such titles, Sgarbi argues, should be divided into three categories: large metropolises, mid-sized cities, and small municipalities with under 10,00 residents. Sgarbi told Italian press, “I said it a thousand times to [former Culture Minister Dario] Franceschini and still the new minister [Gennaro] Sangiuliano has not understood it […] How do you pit Palermo and Comacchio against each other? Clearly Palermo wins. Or pit Florence or Venice against a small town of 5,000 residents? It becomes humiliating.”
Sangiuliano, for his part, said at the March 9 conference announcing the winner, “Due to the breadth and the organic nature of its proposal, Genoa was unanimously named the Italian Book Capital 2023, despite the presence of other high-quality projects deserving attention […] As far as I am concerned, reading is like breathing, fundamental to the growth of each person. The promotion of reading is among the fundamental duties of this Ministry.”
Article courtesy of Italy magazine, March 10,2023 , www.italymagazine.com
Photo: A woman browses at a book fair held in the Mazzini Gallery in Genoa / Photo: Kristina Kostova via Shutterstock