Destinations: Legacy of Letters tour of the Veneto & Emilia-Romagna

Lead Legacy of Letters

[Paul Shaw] For a lettering enthusiast like me, there’s no better way to spend a summer vacation than to become immersed in letters at their source — especially while enjoying magnificent food and wine at the same time. The 2011 Legacy of Letters tour of the Emilia-Romagna and Veneto regions of Italy is the perfect expression of this formula.

But then, I’m biased. That’s because, along with artist and translator Alta Price, I run the Legacy of Letters tour, dedicated to exploring lettering in all its varied splendor and weirdness. From 1997–2000, the tour focused on Rome and Tuscany. Last year, Price joined me in reviving Legacy of Letters and shifting its focus to Emilia-Romagna and the Veneto. This year, our tour will explore inscriptions from ancient Rome to the Fascist era, Renaissance manuscripts and incunabula, the typefaces and books of Giambattista Bodoni, 19th-century Italian wood type, neon signs, graffiti and more.

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The tour will begin in Parma with the Museo Bodoniano and end in Aquileia with one of the best collections of ancient Roman inscriptions in all of Italy. In between, we stop at museums, libraries, churches and monuments in Modena, Mantua, Verona, Rovereto, Padua and Venice. Some of the highlights will be the work of Renaissance calligraphers Bartolomeo Sanvito, Felice Feliciano and Ludovico Arrighi; the typography of Nicolas Jenson, Aldus Manutius, Giambattista Bodoni and Giovanni Mardersteig; the graphic design of Studio Boggeri and futurist Fortunato Depero; and the wood type collection of the Tipoteca Italiana Fondazione.

The 2011 Legacy of Letters tour will also include lettering by artists and architects from Donatello, Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini to Carlo Scarpa. And there will be plenty of attention paid to commercial signage and vernacular lettering in the streets of the cities we visit. There will be meals and conversations with leading designers, printers, typographers and calligraphers.

Paul Shaw demonstrating the evolution of the Roman alphabet at the Tipoteca Italiana Fondazione in Cornuda

A three-day calligraphy and letterpress printing workshop at the Tipoteca Italiana Fondazione will punctuate the trip. The workshop will include the basics of calligraphy with the broad-edged pen and the evolution of the Roman alphabet (both by me), expressive calligraphy by Luca Barcellona, and an introduction to letterpress printing directed by Lucio Passerini of Il Buon Tempo in Milano. All participants will compose and print a broadside keepsake using metal and wood type.

Alta Price setting type at the Tipoteca

Won’t you join Alta and me for 11 days of serious fun?

Paul Shaw is widely known and respected as a guide to urban lettering. He co-founded and led the original Legacy of Letters tours of Rome, Florence and Tuscany from 1997–2000. On his own he has led regular walking tours of lettering in New York City since 2005 for the Type Directors Club and other organizations. He has also led similar tours of Boston, Buffalo, Atlanta and Los Angeles for SoTA (the Society of Typographic Aficionados). The Legacy of Letters tour takes place June 29–July 7 with the workshop following July 8–10. For further details about the tour and the workshop, visit or e-mail [email protected].

Opening Photo: Detail of Palermo typeface by Giambattista Bodoni from 1788 type specimen

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