Preparing for a trip to Italy is an enviable position. It is a country full of magnificent art and architecture, passionate people, and the best ice cream in the world. But to really get the most out of your visit, you’ll want to get behind the scenes of the country and go deep below the surface, and one of the best ways to do that is to read some books set in Italy. Here’s a selection of novels that are guaranteed to make you want to jump on that plane right away.

‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’ by Irving Stone

If you are traveling in Italy, it will be difficult to avoid exposure to the Renaissance painter, sculptor and architect Michelangelo. And by reading this novel, you will understand much more about the man behind the art. It allows us to relive Michelangelo’s creative process, as we work with him on his marble sculptures and walk with him through the squares of Florence and Rome. If you want to make the most of the first time you see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, read this novel before doing so.

‘When We Were Romans’ by Mathew Kneale

A completely different look at Rome now, through the eyes of a nine-year-old. Lawrence’s mother decides to take her children from England to the Eternal City in an attempt to get away from her ex-husband. As the family exhausts its welcome with friends, Lawrence learns to cope with his mother’s mental illness, and although this is a sad and emotion-testing novel, we witness something of a child’s joy at discovering new ones. places and family adventures in the city. .

‘The Rossetti Letter’ by Christi Phillips

Venice is one of those places where you really feel that little has changed since the Renaissance, and this novel does a wonderful job of taking us to both the modern city and the Venice of the past. Claire is a historian searching for the truth about a 17th century Venetian courtesan who managed to thwart a group of Spaniards who were trying to take over the city. The novel moves between the perspectives of the two women, telling us a lot about the city and its history. And since Claire is in Venice, there is, of course, a bit of romance in the cards.

‘A Bell for Adano’ by John Hersey

Commander Joppolo is an American officer in charge of the Sicilian city of Adano after the American invasion of the island in 1943. There are many great characters to fill this portrait of the small town of Italy during the war and it is a cheeky novel to “feel well”. . And while it may have been a best-seller in 1944, it’s still a great read for us today. There are several novels written about the WWII occupation, and it’s refreshing to find one in which compassion and humanity play a role. Hersey won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945.

‘Ratking’ by Michael Dibdin

This detective novel takes us to the Umbrian city of Perugia and introduces us to Police Commissioner Aurelio Zen. When a wealthy industrialist is kidnapped, it is decided that a detective must be dispatched from Rome. Despite being “out of favor”, Zen is sent to solve the crime. The novel provides us with many details about the city, as well as the character of Italian society and the police system. And if you continue reading the series of zen novels you will have the opportunity to travel to several other cities in the country.

So if you still have a few weeks or months to go before you set out on your journey, why not start your journey right away with these books set in Italy. And if you’re leaving soon, put a couple in your tote bag so you have something to read on the plane. Buon Viaggio!

Books set in Italy: five novels to read before traveling

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