Pisa is known all over the world for its Square of Miracles, UNESCO World Heritage Centre, where the Leaning Tower of Pizza is located. Every year since 2003 the Pisa Book Festival is held in that Tuscan city at the national book show which gathers publishers, writers, translators, illustrators, Italian and foreign artists. It is an ideal setting for sharing ideas, innovative proposals, quality books and magazines, but also writing workshops, seminars, readings and shows.
Città Nuova was there again this year with the support of the local Focolare community. “This is fifth year that we have taken part in Pisabook, a truly special edition because of the variety of presentations and the people involved,” explain Rita and Francesco.
“For the first time we got to run the workshop in the Junior section where we worked and played with ‘BIG’ and ‘feelings’.”
BIG is an Italian monthly children magazine published by Città Nuova. Among the new offerings was a kit that would help teachers discuss the topic of feelings, such as fear, disgust, anger, sadness and happines with children up to ten years old. “During the festival we visited a school on the outskirts of the city where it would be possible to accompany the children in Pisabook’s main office. They were all invited to help promote BIG and now the teachers want to subscribe to the magazine.”
Among Città Nuova’s offerings in the Hall was an autobiography of Salvatore Striano, a story of redemption and transformation – from a drug dealer in a suburban criminal district of southern Italy to a writer and actor. In between, ten years of jail time in Madrid and Rome. It is story of salvation through books and the theatre, but mostly through meeting the right people at the right time.
In his autobiographic novel, Giù le maschere, (Città Nuova, 2017), a group of disadvantaged and rebellious teenagers from a halfway home discovers a love for theatre and finds on the stage, a road to salvation and redemption. It is a deep story that teaches to look at life, every life, especially the lives of vulnerable youth, with eyes of hope.
“During the three presentations of the book and the breaks,” Rita and Francesco explain, “a feeling was created among everyone: Striano opened up and talked about his troubled life. He was particularly impressed by the young people who were there, whom he invited as personal guests to his show in Naples. At the end he remarked: If my friends in prison could see your eyes, your smiles … they would change their lives.”
The author had a deep discussion with the teens from the school who had prepared for the event by reading his book. The discussion seemed to have “removed the distances, making everyone feel like they were at home in their living-room.” Now the students are involved in a school project inside several prisons. “Seeing so many people moving to the booth and not going away made Salvatore say that he had never had a similar experience before and that he wants to write more books with Città Nuova.
“Lucia Della Porta, creator and director of Pisabook, couldn’t stop thanking us for our contribution to the success of the event! But we thanked her for putting so much trust in us. Many people passed by our booth, we made many contacts and tried to give our testimony. It was also a financial success.”
The local Focolare community concluded: Città Nuova is even more ours.