An extraordinary journey into the world of publishing

A unique itinerary in the realm of books between ancient and contemporary

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The history of books, the art of writing: a journey that in Emilia becomes enthralling and full of curiosities. In the territory bathed by the river Po and guarded by the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, you can follow a step-by-step itinerary in the world of publishing between ancient and contemporary, admiring historical libraries, museums that reveal the dawn of printing, collections of enlightened publishers, typographic arts, medieval codices but also innovative modern publishing productions. In Emilia, the passion for culture is eclectic and full of surprises.


  • The journey into publishing can begin at the Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta, where the Museum Bodoniano boasts of being the oldest printing museum in Italy. It is named after the typographer Giambattista Bodoni and houses a book factory with original typographic workshop tools, unique and rare editions also in silk and parchment, a correspondence of 12,000 letters, and 80,000 pieces from Bodoni printing works. An interactive table also enveils several volumes including the Typographic Manual consisting of 100 round latin, 50 cursive and 28 Greek characters that Bodoni worked on throughout his life. Also at the Pilotta is another extraordinary place: the Palatine Library. Here, wonder runs through walls of historical volumes, including manuscripts, illuminated manuscripts from the 11th and 12th centuries aranged in frescoed rooms, such as the Dante Room painted by Scaramuzza with scenes from Dante's Divine Comedy and the Petitot Gallery, which still retains period shelving. Thanks to a document found in the Library, it was discovered when the first copy of the Gazzetta di Parma, Italy's oldest newspaper, was published. The first issue dates back to 20 June 1728. Scholar Roberto Lasagni has in fact found the deed according to which Duke Antonio Farnese granted the printer Giuseppe Rosati permission to print and sell the Parma newspaper.
  • It was also in the rooms of the Palatine Library that Franco Maria Ricci (1937-2020), a famous publisher and art collector, met Giambattista Bodoni and fell in love with his art, to whom he paid homage with the reprint of the Typographic Manual, the sublime abbecedario that inaugurated the catalogue of the dreamed publishing house. Today his works are housed in a unique monument: the Labirinto della Masone, the largest labyrinth in the world. It is located in Fontanellato (PR) and getting lost among its approximately 300,000 bamboo plants is a dreamlike experience, which is completed with a visit to Franco Maria Ricci's large art collection: 5 centuries of art history from the 16th to the 20th century.
  • Back in Parma, one must visit the splendid Benedictine Monumental Library of the Abbey of San Giovanni. The main room offers the viewer 16th century frescoes on the vaults, depicting a complex panorama of human wisdom and justice. The wall paintings reproduce maps including one of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza celebrating the Farnese Seigniory.
  • Moving on to Noceto (PR), one discovers another treasure: the Fernando Libassi Typography Museum, where one can admire ancient equipment, exclusively Italian printing presses (a peculiarity for the period) that were handcrafted.


  • The itinerary in the world of publishing can continue at the Press Museum of the daily newspaper Libertà, one of the oldest newspapers in Piacenza in Italy, with typographic tools used until the 1980s and then fallen into disuse, including historical typesetting machines, such as Linotypes, Nebitype, Ludlow and many other gems.
  • A real publishing jewel can be found in the historic Biblioteca Passerini Landi in Piacenza: the Landiano Codex 190, considered the oldest manuscript of certain date of Dante's Divine Comedy. It dates back to 1336 and is on display in an evocative room in which th events and characteristics that make it such a valuable piece are illustrated, as part of the virtual exhibition "Dante's Treasures in Piacenza: Landiano 190, fragments, incunabula and cinquecentine".
  • Another rare pearl is Codex 65 or the Master's Book, to be discovered in the beautiful Kronos Museum in Piacenza Cathedral, following the path leading to the dome frescoed by Guercino. It is a 12th-century parchment manuscript, one of the most important in Europe and internationally renowned for liturgy. The viewing of the volume, which contains notions of astronomy and strology, customs of the population linked to the lunar cycles and work in the fields, and miniatures showing the first medieval liturgical plays, is introduced by an experience room that takes visitors on a journey into the Middle Ages and allows them to leaf through the book virtually in very high resolution.
  • In the village of Bobbio (PC), one of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy, the Abbey of San Colombano exhibits ancient codices and a new Scriptorium, reconstructed on the imprint of the original ones, and the digitisation of 15 codices transcribed by Bobbio monks and placed in the Ambrosiana library in Milan, which can be "leafed through" in excellent resolution. Amongst those from Piacenza who have distinguished themselves in the publishing field, Giana Anguissola is certainly one of the best-loved contemporary writers. The national literary competition of the same name in Travo, in the Trebbia Valley, which focuses on children's literature, is dedicated to her, as is the municipal library for children in Piacenza.


  • In Reggio Emilia, where the contemporary is in continuous dialogue with history, the Municipal Library dedicated to Antonio Panizzi, an exile from Reggio Emilia who around the middle of the last century organised the prestigious library of the British Museum in London, reveals itself not only as a place much loved by the city's inhabitants, but also as a location for events, exhibitions and meetings. A work of art by the American artist Sol Lewitt decorated the vault of the reading room with primary and complementary bright colours, in a tangle of swirls that seem to be in motion, blending in with the 18th-century architecture of Palazzo San Giorgio, today one of the landmarks of Reggio culture, thanks also to its rich heritage of manuscripts, incunabula, 16-th century books, ancient maps and very rare editions. Many books and newspapers are available here. The library also has several archives such as the archives of Silvio D'arzo, Gianni Celati, Cesare Zavattini and Luigi Ghirri.
  • In Luzzara (RE) on the banks of the Po River, there is the Zavattini Cultural Centre, which since 2015 has taken over from the municipal library, created thanks to an important donation, now the Zavattini Fund. Dedicated to the famous writer, painter and cultural motivator Cesare Zavattini, considered the greatest representative of Italian Neo-realism, the Cultural Centre promotes a wide range of cultural reviews and events, educational tours and workshops, exhibition projects, publications, as well as library services. The dissemination of Cesare Zavattini's work is one of the main objectives of the Un Paese Foundation, which, aware of the importance of historical preservation, reflects on contemporaneity.
  • If Reggio Emilia has a vocation for contemporary arts, it is natural to think that here there are schools and training courses dedicated to the most futuristic activities, such as the International School of Comics, which also addresses the general public with laboratories, workshops, meetings with authors, and open days. A place to stimulate one's creativity, immersing oneself in the world of comics, illustration, animation and design. 


Last update 26/03/2024