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24 February 2022

A Trip to Italy: Florence, Testo. An interview with Maddalena Fossombroni

Laura Pugno

A Trip to Italy (through awards and festivals tells the story of our country through interviews with the organizers and protagonists of the major literary festivals and the most important events on the publishing calendar. On and on

In this first episode, we chat with Maddalena Fossombroni, who with Todo Modo (La Libreria), founded in 2013 together with Pietro Torrigiani Malaspina, conceived the first edition of TESTO [Come si diventa un libro] (TEXT [How to become a book]), the new project dedicated to the world of contemporary publishing and its protagonists, from 25 to 27 February 2022 at the Stazione Leopolda in Florence. A programme of events and workshops with free admission to tell the story of how a book is born and how it finds its way into the hands of the reader, organized by Stazione Leopolda and Pitti Immagine, with the patronage and collaboration of the City of Florence and the support of the Region of Tuscany.

The Testo poster is in the hands of six curators/leaders: Luca Briasco, foreign fiction editor, translator and publisher at minimum fax; Andrea Gessner, publisher at Nottetempo; Beatrice Masini, translator, writer and division manager at Bompiani; Giovanna Silva and Chiara Carpenter, photographer and editor respectively, founders of Humboldt Books; Leonardo G. Luccone, director of the literary agency and publishing studio Oblique; Maddalena Fossombroni and Pietro Torrigiani, founders of the bookshop Todo Modo; Riccardo Ventrella, head of international relations of the Fondazione Teatro della Toscana.

How does a festival like Testo come about and develop?

Testo was born in Florence following a meeting between Todo Modo and Pitti at which we presented a project dedicated to publishing years ago. Agostino Poletto, Pitti’s general manager, took a liking to the idea and from there we began to collaborate. There are seven areas of interest around which to organize the programme and inspire the editors’ exhibition: Manuscript, Coverlet (publisher and the publishing house), Translation, the Sign (graphics, the book as a physical object), the Tale (how books are talked about through awards, festivals, magazines, instagram, etc.), the Bookshop and the Reader. There is a curator for each section: Luca Briasco, Andrea Gessner, Beatrice Masini, Giovanna Silva and Chiara Carpenter, myself and Pietro Torrigiani, and Riccardo Ventrella. This group worked together with Stazione Leopolda and Pitti as a horizontal team and a great synergy was created. The aim is to help the audience understand how the book is constructed by focusing on the path the text takes from the moment it is written to when it is read.

Testo is also designed to offer professionals moments of discussion.

The most innovative thing about Testo is certainly the method and the ambition to create a different audience and a different way of listening.

What relationship does your event have with the city and the territory?

Our daily work in the bookshop has made us realize how important large collective experiences are for getting people interested in reading. Testo is a mechanism for promoting positive experiences rooted in the territory, but above all it is part of the national calendar of events that inspire enthusiasm and passion for books, such as the Turin Book Fair, Bookpride, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair or Lucca Comics, the Mantua Literature Festival… Florence and Tuscany are the place where Testo was born and yet it moves away from there to attract international interest, as Pitti has always done in all its events.  Due to a similarity of intentions, a collaboration with the Santa Maddalena Foundation, a residence for writers that awards prizes to the best international authors translated into Italian (with the Von Rezzori Prize), was established right from the start.

What advice would you give to a cultural traveller coming to Florence for Testo?

There are many paths to follow during Testo, there are interviews with authors specifically oriented towards publishing processes, or authors who have been asked to talk about a great author: Bartezzaghi on Celati, Pierpaolo Vettorio and Mario Fortunato on Daniele Del Giudice. It will be possible to take part in translation workshops run by Beatrice Masini or workshops dedicated to graphics run by Giovanna Silva and Chiara Carpenter with the collaboration of Studio Bruno of Venice, who will create a Giornale di Testo (Testo Newspaper) for each day of the workshop alongside workshop participants. Don’t miss a discussion on reading by Chiara Guidi, founder of the Societas della Raffaello Sanzio (7 pm, Sunday 27 February) who will examine Dante’s text, or listen to Stefano Mancuso talking about Soluzioni vegetali per un’editoria sana (Plant-based solutions for healthy publishing – 12 noon, Sunday 27 February). On the first day at 7 pm on Friday 25 February, I suggest attending the talk between Chiara Valerio, Marino Sinibaldi and Andrea Gessner and Jurgen Boos, the director of Messe Frankfurt, on the ecology of the publishing system.

The experience is enriched by Ipertesto which is the other new feature of Testo. When you enter the Leopolda, you can decide to be accompanied by a bookseller on a reading tour: we thought this was the best way to help you understand our work as booksellers. In addition to this, readers will be able to talk about the publishers, and in turn will be invited to choose 7 books from 7 publishers on a reading trail in a personal interaction with the space.