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Libreria Brac, Florence – A hidden love story between art and food

Born from the love of a librarian and a chef, Libreria Brac merges a plant-based kitchen with a library hidden in Florence’s narrow street

Libreria Brac’s love story

In the city center of Florence, wandering through its narrow streets, it is possible to run into Libreria Brac. A store that is both an independent art library and a plant-based restaurant.

This is a love story between two individuals and their passion. Sacha Sandri Olmo and Melisa Di Nardo’s relationship began fifteen years ago. She holds a degree in Librarianship and Cultural Heritage Conservation, while Mr. Sandri Olmo is an Illustrator and a Chef. The two decided to combine their passions into a business located in the city center of Florence. 

These foundations led to the creation of Libreria Brac in the narrow street Via dei Vagellai. It is an art library, coffee shop, and restaurant blended together. Creating the atmosphere of a secret place for curious people to discover.

Ms. Di Nardo is in charge of the library, which involved the design of Libreria Brac and the selection of books. Instead, her partner, the chef Sandri Olmo, focuses his role on sourcing ingredients and developing new recipes. Together, they have created the events that were initially hosted inside the bookshop, and that are today housed in different Florentine palaces. Throughout the years, they have also surrounded themself with a team of selected collaborators dedicated to each section.

The library consists of a selection of contemporary art, particularly art criticism and history books. Additionally, they provide sorting of rare poetry books, food and wine catalogs, as well as artists’ books published by small independent publishers.

A single room that unites arts and food

At the beginning, the structure used to house both the bookshop and the restaurant in one single room. As of today, Libreria Brac’s business model ensures that the library is continuously filled with diners, allowing the founders enough finances to create events and finance small publishing houses’ projects. Florence’s citizens welcomed their initiatives and innovations, filling up the store every evening. This made the space too small and tight for the needs of Ms. Di Nardo and Mr. Sandri Olmo since the events took place instead of the dinner shifts. In 2020, they decided to expand the restaurant and start designing the new library.

In November of 2021, Libreria Brac inaugurated its renovation and ended the restructuring process after a few months. Currently, the library can enjoy a dedicated space along with the event area. The kitchen remains in the original room.

Inside their store clients have the possibility to browse the volumes while tasting coffee or waiting for their dinner. This blend sets the creation of a new and secret experience inside the city of Florence.

For Libreria Brac, Ms. Di Nardo attempted an innovative book arrangement. As the books were initially displayed on a traditional bookshelf, only the rear was visible to the public. She realized that this solution did not sufficiently value art books. In the end, she replaced the former bookshelf with another that shows the front of the book, just as a painting would.

This new structure led to the possibility of creating new themes every month. Thus, Ms. Di Nardo makes sure to introduce her readers to recent publications, as well as connecting genres along the way. 

Designing the contemporary art scene in the cradle of renaissance art

Florence’s Libreria Brac is located in the center of the city. As the cradle of Renaissance art, the city is renowned for its cultural heritage. Due to a lack of associations dedicated to contemporary art, Ms. Di Nardo and Mr. Sandri Olmo eventually decided to form their own. Scripta Festival and SPRead are a couple of the bookshop’s most prominent events. 

Scripta Festival premiered in 2011, realized by Mr. Sandri Olmo and Mr. Gaglianò, with the aim to promote contemporary art through book presentations, debates, exhibitions, and educational activities. They also decided to encourage young critic voices, establishing an award and scholarship within the festival. After Scripta became a renowned initiative, Libreria Brac began looking for new venues to host the festival. Florence’s Academy of Fine Arts, Marino Marini museum, and Villa Romana were among these.

The latter is a cultural appointment with Ms. Lo Russo. She is a Translator and Writer who held a role at the Libreria Brac as the cultural appointment SPRead. The event name is an acronym of Sound, Poetry, and Reading, in which Ms. Lo Russo will explain the art of translating poetry books with the help of Italian poets’ guests of the review.

Mixing art with local plant-based food at Libreria Brac

Mr. Sandri Olmo of Libreria Brac offers a cuisine with vegan and vegetarian dishes that will, in his vision, represent hospitality’s future. Every ingredient he uses is sourced from local producers, which means that seasonal harvest changes will result in adjusting the menu. 

According to Mr. Sandri Olmo, vegan and vegetarian diets are expected to become prevalent in the future, and the collaboration with local businesses will keep food fresher and reduce carbon footprints.

Overall, every dish served at Libreria Brac is a complete meal, in this way customers will not have a dinner served in courses, instead it will be designed to have all the nutrients in one dish. This kind of presentation is modeled on the African tribe tradition. In Mr. Sandri Olmo’s opinion, this type of meal allows, on one hand to enable people to share foods with others, trying different recipes, while on the other is more convenient.

Envisioning the art editorial future

Libreria Brac continues to grow as a business, and after consolidating its customer base, it can envision its near future. It’s clear that the digital world is reshaping the editorial world, but Mr. Sandri Olmo isn’t concerned. Despite embracing digital books, he is far from saying goodbye to printed books. In addition to being essential for humanity, physical books facilitate the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation. 

Libreria Brac works to consolidate its network of independent publishers and promote young voices in the art critic field. Mr. Sandri Olmo and Ms. Di Nardo are developing new formats for cultural and artistic events to launch in the future. It will be necessary to add new collaborators to their team in order to make these projects more relevant to Florence. 

Libreria Brac

Libreria Brac is an art bookshop, coffee shop, and restaurant based in Via de’ Vagellai, Florence. It was founded in 2009 by Ms. Di Nardo and Mr. Sandri Olmo, the former with a degree in Librarianship and Cultural Heritage Conservation, while the latter is an Illustrator and a Chef. They decided to expand the scene of the contemporary art scene in Florence, establishing cycles of events that are now both hosted around Florence or inside the bookstore.

Fabiana Boglione

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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