Novels to read in Italy


Finding yourself preparing for a trip to Italy is an enviable position to be in. It is a country filled with magnificent art and architecture, passionate people and the best ice cream in the world. But to truly get the most out of your visit, you will want to get behind the scenes of the country and delve beneath the surface — and one of the best ways to do this is to read some books set in Italy. Here are a selection of novels that are guaranteed to make you want to jump on that plane straight away.

‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’ by Irving Stone

If you are traveling in Italy it is going to be hard to avoid some exposure to the Renaissance painter, sculptor and architect Michelangelo. And by reading this novel you will have a much great understanding of the man behind the art. It allows us to re-live Michelangelo’s creative process, as we work with him on his marble sculptures and walk with him through the piazzas of Florence and Rome. If you want to make the most of the first time you see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, then read this novel before you do it.

‘When we were Romans’ by Mathew Kneale

A completely different look at Rome now, through the eyes of a nine-year old child. Lawrence’s mother decides to take her children from England to the Eternal City in a bid to get away from her estranged husband. As the family wear out their welcome with friends, Lawrence learns to deal with his mother’s mental illness – and while this is a sad and emotionally testing novel, we do witness something of a child’s joy of discovering new places and the family’s adventures in the city.

‘The Rossetti Letter’ by Christi Phillips

Venice is one of those places where you really feel as if 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 an historian who is searching for the truth about a 17th century Venetian courtesan who managed to foil a group of Spaniards attempting to take over the city. The novel moves between the perspectives of the two women, telling us much about the city and its history. And as Claire is in Venice — there is, of course, a little bit of romance on the cards.

‘A Bell for Adano’ by John Hersey

Major Joppolo is an American officer put in charge of the Sicilian city of Adano after the island’s US invasion in 1943. There are plenty of great characters to fill this portrait of small town Italy during the war and it is an unashamed “feel good” novel. And while it may have been a bestseller way back in 1944, it is still a great read for us today. There are several novels written on WWII occupation, and it is refreshing to find one in which compassion and humanity play a part. Hersey won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945.

‘Ratking’ by Michael Dibdin

This crime novel take us to the Umbrian city of Perugia, and introduces us to Police Commissioner Aurelio Zen. When a rich industrialist is kidnapped, it’s decided a detective should be sent from Rome. Despite being ‘out of favour’ Zen is dispatched to solve the crime. The novel gives us plenty of detail 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 around the country.
So if you still have a few weeks or months to go before you set off on your trip, why not begin your journey straight away with these books set in Italy? And if you are leaving soon, then throw a couple into your carry-on bag so you have something to read on the plane. Buon Viaggio!

Article publié pour la première fois le 28/01/2016

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