Books to Read if You’re Going to Italy

Glorious Italy, what a country! The food, the art, architecture, scenery, and again, the food! It’s little wonder people are constantly falling for its charms. Poor Italy is probably the European country hit hardest by the Covid-19 crisis though. All the more reason to keep visits to those of a literary or imaginary nature, for now.

From its simple pleasures like delicious fresh gelato, to it’s exquisite details like the architecture in the centre of Florence, an Italian life seems very rich indeed, and often quite loud! I have visited Italy several times and always enjoyed myself there. In fact, I would be preparing for a trip to Rome next week, if the situation were different. Here are the books I suggest you read if you want to be transported (through reading) to Italy:


My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Ferrante’s four Neapolitan novels follow the lives and friendship of Lila and Elena, starting during their childhood in a ‘tough-as-nails’ neighbourhood of Naples. At turns shocking, but also touching, the story will quickly hook you and you’ll have read all four books in no time. The titles that follow this one are: The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child.

A Room with a View by E.M.Forster

To enjoy a first-timer’s experiences of Italy this makes a fine introduction, albeit a bit dated now. Our sheltered English rose swaps rigid Edwardian England for the intense colour and life of Florence, and then has to decide whether or not she is brave enough to fight for love, with all its uncertainties.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

This love story to beat all love stories, set ‘in fair Verona’ tells the sweet but seriously ill-fated tale of teenage lovers from warring households.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemmingway

Dramatic historic fiction and love story set against the backdrop of the Italian campaign of World War I. The book is said to be semi-autobiographical, inspired by Hemingway’s time as an ambulance driver in Italy.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

This beautiful novel is about four individuals ending World War II in a ruined Tuscan villa. Their stories are all separate but linked by the English Patient – a nameless and badly burned pilot convalescing among them, whose story is told through flashbacks to his time in the Sahara and a haunting love story.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

This auto-biographical story takes us on a journey from a modern-day breakdown to an adventure of self-discovery, healing and unexpected romance. The author took herself to Italy to enjoy ‘the art of pleasure’ (the language and culture, but mostly eating!) The story continues in India and Bali, Indonesia.


Under the Tuscan Sky by Frances Mayes

If you’ve ever dreamed of renovating a relic in Tuscany, you’ll love Mayes’ tale of discoveries at every turn as she makes the most of a Tuscan life.

Have you read other books about Italy? Share your recommendations in the comments below! 

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