Do you have an upcoming trip? One of the best ways to get into the spirit of a location one intends to travel to is by reading books set there. Italy is one of the most popular holiday destinations on earth, and it’s no wonder. From the hub of Florence or along the Amalfi Coast; Italy is, arguably, one of the most beautiful places to discover and explore. The country’s unique qualities have been captured in several books by various authors, both past and present. Here is a selection of books that are set in Italy.
A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi
A love story of two people from very different worlds who meet “later in life” and make a life together in Venice. Story reads more like a travelogue than a romantic tale. If you are interested in learning more about life, traditions, food, wines and customs of Venice, then you will be busy taking notes. Her descriptions of the food made my mouth water (I actually copied several of the recipes, just from her descriptions). Thoroughly enjoyable.
Twice Born by Margaret Mazzantini
I found this to be a fascinating read. An insight to the war and devastation brought on the people of that land and insight into their feelings and daily living thru the struggle to survive. Hard for me to imagine going through the devastating times. I enjoyed the story of the characters and the surprise toward the end of the novel. I understand it is being made into a movie, but you never can get the feelings that are described in a book.
Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes
Having visited Italy helps to visualize some of the descriptions portrayed by Frances Mayes. The countryside and the Italian way of life brings you back to the place of your youth, and that simpler way of life. The genuine spirit of the people grabs hold and encourages your participation. I can honestly say I am envious of this life style, and perhaps in my next life time I will be fortunate to spend my years in such a surrounding. Included in the author’s story, were some of many recipes she prepared while there. I tweeted Mayes to change the title to “Food in Tuscany, where to eat it and how to prepare it yourself.”
Seeking Sicily: A Cultural Journey Through Myth and Reality in the Heart of the Mediterranean by John Keahey
Seeking Sicily explores what lies behind the soul of the island’s inhabitants. It touches on history, archaeology, food, the Mafia, and politics and looks to nineteenth- and twentieth-century Sicilian authors to plumb the islanders’ so-called Sicilitudine. This “culture apart” is best exemplified by the writings of one of Sicily’s greatest writers, Leonardo Sciascia. Seeking Sicily also looks to contemporary Sicilians who have never shaken off the influences of their forbearers, who believed in the ancient gods and goddesses.
The Other Side of the Tiber: Reflections on Time in Italy by Wallis Wilde-Menozzi
The Other Side of the Tiber brings Italy to life in an entirely new way, treating the peninsula as a series of distinct places, subjects, histories, and geographies bound together by a shared sense of life. A multifaceted image of Italy emerges—in beautiful black-and-white photographs, many taken by Wilde-Menozzi herself—as does a portrait of the author. Wilde-Menozzi, who has written about Italy for nearly forty years, offers unexpected conclusions about one of the most complex and best-loved countries in the world.
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
It is a fictionalized story about a real-life experience. The story of Pino Lella, his friends and family and their survival and eventual participation during WWII in Italy. I have read MANY books about WWII; I’m a self-proclaimed history junkie and one of the things that fascinates me are the events in the second world war. I want to say this was the most human, the most heartfelt book about the subject I have read. The Wilde-Menozzi made me feel the participant’s pain and heartbreak. Their fears and worriment. It was very well written. I did not want to put it down.
Finding Myself in Puglia: A Journey of Self-Discovery Under the Warm Southern Italian Sun by Laine B Brown
Not a travel book per se, and not the usual self-help book either. Nonetheless an enjoyable blend of both with personal and cultural insights from a mature English woman finding her own sense of self in Italy. A must-read for anyone who has experienced trauma and wonders, “Where do I go from here?” No, you don’t have to uproot your physical life as the author did, because on these pages she will share her discoveries, and pose questions, giving the reader ample time and space to learn about themselves as she did.
Naked (in Italy): A Memoir About the Pitfalls of La Dolce Vita by M.E. Evans
Evan’s book is a full-on, emotions-laid-bare account of her experience trying to find herself by leaving behind her troubled roots in the US and ‘starting again’ in Italy. It’s a roller coaster of powerful, funny, raw, uplifting and disquieting content. But above all, it’s compelling from start to finish. Read it and you’ll not only find out about M.E. Evans, you might well learn a lot about yourself and your relationships with family and friends. To be honest, this is on my top three.
Head Over Heel: Seduced by Southern Italy by Chris Harrison
I bought this book simply because I was going to Puglia for the first time and the title came up under ‘guides to Puglia’, which it isn’t. What I found instead is a mesmerizing story of local life in Italy’s far south, the challenges for an expatriate in coming to terms with a local and hugely different culture, self-discovery, and above all love. This is the true story of Chris an Australian journalist from Sydney and the enchanting Italian school-teacher Daniela. Harrison writes beautifully. His descriptions of what it takes to become resident in Italy, in particular the many absurd encounters with local government in all its forms, are brilliant: hilarious and despair-inducing at the same time.
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
The unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his passion for a beautiful English nurse. Set against the looming horrors of the battlefield – the weary, demoralized men marching in the rain during the German attack on Caporetto; the profound struggle between loyalty and desertion—this gripping, semi-autobiographical work captures the harsh realities of war and the pain of lovers caught in its inexorable sweep. Ernest Hemingway famously said that he rewrote his ending to A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times to get the words right.
Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Here you go! The top 10 incredibile books set in Italy to hopefully inspire your next trip! Which one will you read first? What are the books that you love that’s not on the list? I’d like to know by commenting below!