The Spadolini Library: A cultural centre and meeting place, by Cosimo Ceccuti

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Last October, in this newspaper, I described the museum-house of Giovanni Spadolini at Pian dei Giullari in the hills of Arcetri, which offers a unique and unfor- gettable view of Florence. This time I will describe the library, a meeting place and a place for study, open to the public free of charge from Monday to Thursday, from 9.30 to 17.00. The sizeable building is Pian dei Giullari n. 36/a (tel. 003955 2336071), at the end of the no.38/b bus route which links with Porta Romana: at the heart of the sixteenth century hamlet, next to Galileo Galilei’s house and the villa where Francesco Guicciardini wrote The History of Italy in the mid-sixteenth century. The library, fostered with such love during the last years of Giovanni Spadolini’s life, was brought into being thanks to an extended loan by the Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze. It occupies the plots of former outbuild- ings (in particular, the lemon house) of the villa belonging to Mario Nunes Vais, a Florentine photographer specialising in portraiture who lived at the turn of the nineteenth century. The library, open to the public since 1 July 1997, houses over 40,000 volumes, founded upon Giovanni Spadolini’s Contemporary History collection and added to more recently by the collections of Vita Finzi, Gasparotto, Serra, Mastellone, Prezzolini (brought over from the USA), Uzzielli, Molfese, Campodonico, Granchi, Boris, Ungari, Pierleoni and Bernocchi (a specialist in the history of coins). These collections have come to the library thanks to donations by the collectors’ families, who saw the Spadolini Foundation’s library as the ideal location to house the libraries passed down to them and put them to good use. The library maintains an open access policy whereby users can consult volumes directly, albeit under the constant supervision of trained staff. The space is organised thematically; on the ground floor are the periodicals, including a complete collection of Illustrazione italiana, newspapers from the nineteenth century, collections of major post-war and contemporary historical magazines and the photographic archive. On the first floor, the first room plays host to illustrated Italian, English and French magazines from the end of the 1800s and the first decade of the 1900s, donated by the long-standing Florentine organisation “Leonardo”. In the expansive central space, amongst rows of bookshelves and places to read, is the History of the Unification of Italy (the largest section) with specialist subdivisions brimming with pamphlets and rare works by Mazzini, Cattaneo and Garibaldi. The last room on the first floor, the Giovanni Spadolini Room or conference room, is dedicated to encyclopedias and general works. Worth mentioning are the complete collections of the Corriere della sera (1876-1925) and the Popolo d’Italia (1914-1922), formerly the property of Luigi Albertini, great director of the Milanese title. Editions of Antologia and Nuova Antologia – the political-cultural magazines that accompanied the process of national unification – are also available to users, as well as the complete works of Giovanni Spadolini.

The most spacious rooms are found on the other side of the building, facing the Arcetri Observatory, and are used for occasional historical exhibitions: the next, beginning in spring 2014, will celebrate the cultural and political protagonists of Florence as the capital of Italy (1865- 1871) as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations. A library, but not just a place to read. As well as exhibitions, lectures, book presentations, conferences and debates are all held in this vibrant cultural centre. Most importantly, workshops are held for school groups on fundamental areas of research ranging from the unity of Italy to the Constitution. 

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