“This is one of the first literary cafés in Porto,” boasts Antero Braga, a veteran of the book industry for 38 years and manager of Lello since 1994. Despite being over 100 years old, Lello is still breaking new ground. There is a steady stream of tourists strolling through the store; taking pictures, talking in hushed tones, marvelling at the decorative Brazilian wood-carved interior and stained glass.
Built in 1906 by engineer Xavier Esteves, Lello’s neo-Gothic design has won it a place on the Porto tourist trail – not that the books come second place. “We stock titles on all categories in German, English, Spanish, French and Portuguese,” says Braga proudly.
The books are shelved on bookcases and intricately carved wooden tables, making Lello feel more like a library than a shop. There are pillars featuring busts of stern-looking writers – reminding browsers of Portugal’s literary golden years – a swirling staircase and a stucco ceiling.
No wonder the tourists are so snap happy. Braga received a much needed face-lift in 1994 courtesy of Vasco Morais Soares. A chill-out area is now in place on the top floor where customers can take a breather with a coffee or a civilised glass of local port. And there is more to come – Braga has ambitions to open more bookshops in Portugal under the Lello brand.
144 Rua das Carmelitas, Porto, Portugal + 35 122 200 20 37
Lello’s top five best-sellers
- The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
- Equador by Miguel Sousa Tavares
- The Story Of The Seagull And The Cat Who Taught Her to Fly by Luis Sepúlveda
Milan’s image as a hip and sophisticated metropolis hits a snag if the city’s newsstands are taken as the benchmark. “It’s meant to be the international capital of design but most of what’s offered is tabloid news,” says Fabrizio Prestinari, a newsagent who runs a kiosk in the city’s upscale Brera district.
In a business dominated by local weeklies detailing the love lives of showgirls and footballers, Prestinari is a contrarian. His stand is stocked with two foreign titles for every Italian publication, a strategy that’s paid off handsomely. “After I bought the kiosk in 1990 and changed the mix, sales quintupled in three years.”
Creative types have Prestinari’s number on speed dial when they need the latest German interiors magazine or Japanese fashion glossy. Regulars include film producers, photo agency Grazia Neri and architects such as Antonio Citterio and Matteo Thun. Fashion houses Armani and Gianfranco Ferré receive morning deliveries and Prada puts in a special order during the collections. Part of Prestinari’s appeal is that he keeps a close watch on the industry.
“I always slip in new publications when I send orders out to clients and not once have I received a complaint. They trust my instincts.” Afternoons see him riding a 15-year old Peugeot scooter to make special consignments. “There’s room on the footrest to pile four or five bundles of papers; today’s models don’t have this."
Like many Italian businesses, his operation is a family affair. Together with his wife Antonella, who previously worked in the fashion industry and keeps tabs on trends, they operate seven days a week, a rarity in laid-back Italy. At lunchtime his 70-year-old mother serves up home-cooked food and even fills in occasionally at the stand.
Fabrizio Prestinari, Largo Treves, 20121 Milan; + 39 02 65 95 290
Fabrizio’s top 10 recommendations
- Vogue Entertaining + Travel
- Monitor Unlimited — contemporary design bimonthly
- WWD Scoop — US fashion quarterly
- L’Officiel Voyage — French bimonthly dedicated to travel
- Intramuros — French-English bimonthly design mag
- Icon — UK architecture monthly
- Mix Future Interiors — quarterly design/interiors mag
- Tank — arts/lifestyle quarterly
- Vogue Nippon
- Bloom — bloom-magazine.com, horticultural trends big among fashion folk, published twice a year in English