The country is eternally deceptive, with so much known and more to be discovered. Whether you are planning to travel to Italy or spark your wanderlust and hope for a trip to this wonderful European country, there are many incredible books about Italy to get you started. These books give a deep dive into the history, culture, language, travel, food, and architecture without you having to travel to Italy. Here is a list of the top 10 best books about Italy.
1. “Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes
This is a memoir about a writer who travels to Italy and an abandoned Tuscan Villa. She falls in love with the villa in the town of Cortona and decides to buy and restore it. This memoir is so good that it inspired a movie and was a New York Times Best Seller for over two years. Frances Mayes is quite good at conveying the tradition, culture, social aspect, and simplicity of the small town of Cortona. In this book, you will discover excellent restaurants you can try while in Tuscan and unexplored historical attractions you can also visit.
2. “La Bella Figura” by Beppe Severgnini
Every non-Italian knows what the country and its people are like. However, this book gives you a perfect glimpse of Italy and its people through the eyes of a local Italian journalist Beppe Severgnini. He takes you on a humorous journey to find out how much of these idealistic notions about Italy are true. Get a glimpse of the Italians, their psyche, culture, and practical advice on how things work in Italy.
3. “Midnight in Sicily” by Peter Robb
This work of literary art has nothing to do with Sicilian nightlife. In this book, Peter Robb brings into perspective the corrupt politics on the Island, in contrast to the Island’s stunning beauty. Here, he addresses the religious institutions, the government, and their relations with the Mafia, Cosa Nostra.
4. “Italian Ways” by Tim Parks
This Italian travel book began as short notes and was later compiled into one of the best Italian travelogues. Tim’s interactions with people traveling by train between Rome and Palermo and Verona to Milan deepen his understanding of how the country works and a couple of blatant contradictions. Trains are an essential aspect of the Italian commuting culture, and Park does not shy away from making all these known through his book. If trains and commuting between Italian cities fascinate you, this book is for you.
5. “My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante
My Brilliant Friend is a modern masterpiece about a friendship between two women, Lila and Elena, in Naples in the 1950s. Through their friendship story from youth to adulthood, Elena tells the story of Naples, the region, and the country as they changed over time, also changing the relationship between the two. The book paints a clear picture of Naples’s communal life after the war.
6. “Italian Folktales” by Italo Calvino
Author Italo Calvino combines a collection of Italian tales and fables over two years, serving as a perfect introduction to Italy’s history and culture. In this collection, he explains the origin of each tale for an easy understanding of Italian culture from different regions. He travelled around the country collecting and translating tales to make them accessible to readers.
7. “A Room With A View” by E.M. Forster
Despite being English, E.M. Forster perfectly capture Florentine beauty through the story of two upper-class English women who travel through Rome and Florence in pursuit of happiness. Set in the early 20th century, “A Room With A View” captures the stunning beauty of Florence and its iconic site, including Piazza Signora, Santa Croce, Arno River, and Fiesole.
8. “The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall” by Christopher Hibbert
This book is dense and full of details about Florence during the Renaissance and the reign of the Medici as told via the timeline of the Medici Family. The Medici appeared to be omnipresent in Florence, as they participated in almost all activities, including investments in Florence, during their reign. Most of these books about Italy make better sense read before travelling to Italy, but the House of Medici is best enjoyed once you travel to Florence or when you are there.
9. “Trieste And The Meaning of Nowhere” by Jan Morris
In this book, Jan Morris pays homage to the city of Trieste, which remains unknown to many. However, the author holds a different perspective. To her, the tiny port is one of her favorite destinations. Here, she explains the role of Trieste during the Cold War and its dwindling glory in the years that follow. If you ever fancied a visit to the port of Trieste, this book will boosts your urge to visit the seaside city.
10. “The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and Its Citrus Fruits” by Helena Atlee
What better way of experiencing Italy than through a tale of citrus fruits? This story of Italy and its citrus fruits takes you on a journey about Italy’s weaving history, travel, recipes, and multi-cultural history. Atlee uses six different Italian Citrus; the places of origin and where they grow, to paint an evocative portrait of Italy and the immigrant’s role in shaping it.
The list of books about Italy is endless, with more renowned and celebrated authors adding masterpieces to the collection of best sellers about Italy from time to time. If you plan on visiting Italy, build up your anticipation by reading any of these top books on Italy.