Take a beach break in Cesena Italy. An ordinary town with an extraordinary library called Biblioteca Malatestiana.
If you have ever read Umberto Eco’s ‘The Name of the Rose ’ or seen the movie starring Sean Connery, you’ll have a vision of Medieval monastric libraries, where monks toiled away all daylight hours with calligraphy in an effort to copy holy books and manuscripts. Those days before the invention of the printing press, sharing words meant hard work, long hours and weak watery eyes.
First public library in Europe?
The atmosphere can be breathed at the Biblioteca Malatestiana in Cesena, less 30 minutes drive from holiday hot spots like Ravenna and Rimini. Unremarkable exterior greyish brown walls hide what is thought to be one of the first public libraries in Europe, dating back to the middle of the 15th century. And it is virtually intact.
Beneath 44 Venetian windows you can still see 58 dark, wooden lecterns combining table, chair and bookshelves with chains holding on to the library’s collection of rare handwritten leather-bound books. And though the Biblioteca Malatestiana is 150 years older, more austere and churchlike than eg. Oxford’s Bodlean Library, is still holds a lot of fascination for bibliophiles.
The library offers a cool retreat on hot summer days, when most of the town’s population has left for the seaside.
Painted with sunshine
Afterwards there’s plenty of time to stroll around the maze-like inner city streets, listen to the buskers, sip ice tea or drinks among regular barflies in the deep shade of Bar Gelateria Capitano around the corner and feast your eyes on the bright salmon, yellow, orange and tan candy coloured houses. Cesena may be an ordinary North Italian town, but it looks as if it has been painted with sunshine.