Antonio & Vitaliana Grossi: A Perfect Team


by Heather Hafer Cole

A customer breezes through the open door of her Cagli, Italy, book shop bringing with her a more-than-welcome gentle wind that carries the dry scentAntonio and Vitaliana Grossi of heat-soaked cobblestone streets. Vitaliana Grossi steps out from behind a curved, wooden countertop and gracefully walks into the early evening sunlight streaming through the store’s front windows. There is softness in her walk, in the way she glides across the granite floor to greet her customer.  The customer wants to purchase a girl’s backpack. With Vitaliana’s guidance, the customer settles on a pastel pink Pucca backpack, and the two women chat their way to the checkout counter, share a laugh and bid each other good evening.

Vitaliana and her husband, Antonio Grossi, own Cartolibreria Bottego dello Scholaro, a business that has been in the Grossi family for three generations. Opened in 1906 by Antonio’s paternal grandmother Adriana, it was the first store of its kind to open in Cagli.  There is no sign marking the main entrance to the store and little reason for such declaration since the bookstore is highly regarded by the Cagliese, who fondly refer to the store as Checco. Checco was the nickname given to Antonio’s father, Francesco, who ran the store along with his wife Ida for 52 years, from 1946 to 1998.

We've always had a good relationship“I remember being a client in this store when I was a little girl,” Vitaliana says. “I would talk to Antiono’s mother and father. I do not remember seeing Antonio in the store, but I do remember seeing him in the piazza.”

An energetic crowd of sun-soaked youth stumbles through the entrance, still damp from swimming in the Bosso River. Vitaliana greets them with a smile while straightening books on a nearby shelf. “Students buy their school supplies here,” Vitaliana says. “I enjoy talking to them and watching them grow up. From year to year, I do not even recognize them!”

Antonio sits in the back room of the store at a large desk strewn with papers and books. He is preparing a book order for a school. His fingers peck at the keys on a typewriter he inherited with the store. Although he worked on a computer for 28 years in Rome, he settles for the typewriter because it is what he has, and it gets the job done. His father’s fingers once danced across the same keys.

Antonio’s childhood memories surround him in this place. Memories are embedded in the plaster walls and speckled granite floor, between pages of novels and in the crisp scent of freshly opened packs of paper. Memories are of family, work, laughter, and dreams of places outside of Cagli. 

Antonio longed for more than the quiet life he knew in this city where he was born and raised. So in 1970, Antonio left Cagli and became a publicist for Renault in Rome where he proudly lived and worked for 28 years.

“I am very happy to have been able to work outside of Cagli for 28 years,” Antonio says. “I wanted to know the world, and I did a job that I loved.” Antonio may have found a job he loved in Rome, but the love of his life was right here in Cagli. In 1985, he married Vitaliana. A year later, they welcomed their daughter, Giulia, into the world.

When Antonio’s father became ill in 1998, Vitaliana and Antonio were living in Rome. Knowing that Francesco needed help running the store, Vitaliana moved back to Cagli to assist him. Antonio continued to work for Renault and drove home each weekend to be with family. When his father died later that year, Antonio knew it was time to return home to Cagli.We do not argue

It takes teamwork to run a business. Vitaliana is quick to assist anyone who needs books or supplies for the upcoming school year. Antonio does errands such as go to the post office and the bank. He helps customers, chats with them, and occasionally kisses a longtime patron on the cheek. Vitaliana and Antonio make a good team, he says. “We have always had a good relationship.”

“We do not argue,” Vitaliana adds.

As closing time draws near, the couple straightens the storefront, turns down the lights, locks the door, and meanders down the cobblestone streets to their Cagli home. They will be back the next day to order more books, stock supplies, and greet new and returning customers.



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