Whenever I am planning a new trip, I always look for literature from the area I’m visiting. Authors that came from the regions or books that are set within certain cities. This way, I get to know a little of the (literary) history of the city. I have found some great books and new favourite authors this way, and I like to share them with you, so you can also emerge yourself into the literary world of… Italy!
When you are reading this, I am on a plane towards Rome right now! Perfect timing for a traveling bookworm in Italy, if you ask me!
There are so many books written about Italy that it was gonna be a really long list if I were to name all of them. So instead I focused on the classics and the books I like best.
- The first book that needs to be on this list is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I always thought this book was way too hyped, a chicklit that was just not for me. But when I was googling books about traveling and I actually read what the book was about, I had to read it immediately, so I ordered it and started reading when it came in, and only stopped when I finished it. The book is an autobiography about Liz, who divorced her husband and started a year of travel, just because she felt like it. The first part of the book is set in Rome, so it’s a perfect read for when you’re visiting Italy!
- If you want to dive into the literature of a certain country, what better way than to look up its nobel prize winners for literature? A lot of the laureates from Italy aren’t translated into a language I can actually read, but luckily, Luigi Pirandello is! I read One, No One and One Hundred Thousand during my literary studies and I absolutely loved it! It’s maybe more philosophical than literature, a story about a man who falls into an identity crisis because his wife tells him his nose tilts to the right. Something he has never seen before. He then realizes that everyone sees everyone differently and that there is not one version of the self, but many.
- When in Rome, you’ll find a lot (and I mean a lot) of references to the myths. If you want to know the stories behind the fountains and imagery, I’d recommend reading The Aeneid by Virgil, which is a beautiful piece of classical literature. I absolutely loved these myths and it was a great read!
- A lot of Shakespeare’s plays are set in Italy. Of course, Rome & Juliet is set in Verona, Julius Caesar is set in Rome, as are Titus Andronicus and Coriolanus. And both Othello and Merchant of Venice are set in Venice. Time to read up on your Shakespeare!
- I can’t leave out Dante in this list, one of Italy’s most famous poets. He wrote the Divine Comedy where he, as a persona, enters heaven, hell and purgatory. I must be honest and say that this is not one of my favourite books, but it is an important book if you’re interested in the literary history of Italy and it’s language.
- I recently finished reading Medici – Ascendancy by Matteo Strukul about the history of Florence, and the Medicy family in particular. It has a lot of intrigue but it’s a great book if you want to learn a little more about Florence.
Other great books that should be named: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, The Decameron by Bocaccio and A farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.
Young Adult and Children’s books
- When you’re thinking about Italy, you’re thinking about Pinnocchio. Did you know that there was a book written by Carlo Collodi before it was made into a Disney film? It’s a great read if you want to dive into Italy’s literary culture!
- Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch is a fun, feelgood YA novel set in Florence. Reading it felt like I was already there, seeing Florence for the first time through Lina’s eyes, as she moves to go live there with her father after her mother dies. But it’s not a heavy book, rather a fun read for a sunny day in Tuscany.
- Lastly, a book I recently read: The bears’ famous invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati. Officially, this is a children’s book but I think adults will get more out of it then children would. It’s a classic story about invasion of property and treachery, but it’s also a story about what it means to be human, what it means to be decent, and why you could better be a bear. The story is very deep and there’s so much more to it than you’ll think of it at first. Furthermore, the drawings are adorable.