The fact that the literature festival directed by Gabriele Ametrano has been rescheduled for this summer gives cause for cerebral excitement. Readers can rejoice that the third edition of La Città dei Lettori will take place at Villa Bardini from August 27 to 30, almost two months later than originally planned. From the terrace with its spectacular views, words will weave throughout the idyllic gardens, bringing culture to the museum space. The Florentine spoke to Gabriele Ametrano to learn more about this literary extravaganza.
Jane Farrell: This is the third edition of La Città dei Lettori, what’s the same and what’s different between this and previous editions?
Gabriele Ametrano: It’s obviously a very different edition to the one originally planned. Even on a financial level, there was a 50 per cent reduction in the budget, so we had to do the extraordinary to make this event work, but we’re going ahead all the same. What has changed, above all, is the structure. The original festival was planned to be three event-filled days. The revised edition will take place from Thursday, August 27 to Sunday, August 30, with the events largely being held from 5pm onwards.
JF: What is the most exciting element of this edition?
GA: We have an exclusive collaboration with the Premio Strega literary awards, and the Fondazione Bellonci. We’ll feature guests and also the winners of the 2020 Premio Strega and we’re also going to welcome the authors of books published during the pandemic and those with upcoming releases. We have reserved a space to reading and there’ll also a children’s area with entertainment and readings ahead of the celebration of Dante in 2021.
JF: What about the role of literature in your life? As a poet and passionate reader, what brought you to create this festival?
GA: Reading has always been important in my life, ever since I was a child. It’s a way of escaping and getting outside of the four walls in which you live, allowing you to experience the lives of others. That aspect always fascinated me, being able to discover other realities thanks to an author’s vision. Reading changes your perspective and not being passionate for reading limits your experience. My passion became my work and I have a persistent desire to share this love for literature with my friends, acquaintances and others—that’s how La Citta dei Lettori came about.
JF: Have you noticed any particular patterns emerging in contemporary Italian literature? How have recent events affected future literary output?
GA: Everything that will emerge from today and going forwards will be alienating. I think it would be very strange to read about a normal life after a period in which we have all been closed inside. It will certainly be a new kind of literature, a new way to give strength and courage.
JF: Why is it so important that the festival goes ahead? As a cultural event organizer during a global pandemic, how do you view your role?
Gabriele Ametrano: Fundamentally, it is important to give a message of hope to people, that they can have faith in the future and trust in the return to normality following this health emergency. The social role of a cultural event organizer has to be emphasised. We have a huge responsibility to confront what is happening right now. It’s up to us to inspire faith in a path to normality and towards culture. If this role isn’t understood, events will continue to be cancelled. To cancel an event now is being defeated, in some sense. We have to demonstrate strength and courage to move forward and to show that things can still be accomplished and that things will ultimately resolve and we will come out of this emergency.
Check out the full events line-up online from mid to late June. In the meantime, immerse yourself in the many short works (in Italian) available for your reading pleasure on the La città dei lettori website.