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Books to Read Before Travelling to Italy

Books to read before travelling to Italy

I have put together a great list of the best books to read before travelling to Italy. Best books on Italian history, books about italy nonfiction and fiction. Books about living in Italy and books about Italys food culture, history with war and more. Italy is an exciting country like no other. Italy has its own style and culture. Italy captures its visitors and makes them fall in love. If not for the food, the scenery or the culture will be certain to get you. These books on Italy are a great way to start to understand the culture. The books on this list are a great way to get excited and inspired before your trip to Italy.

Books to help you understand Italy's Food Culture

Why do people go to Italy? The art, the history, the Coliseum, the stunning coastlines.... let's be honest, it's for the FOOD! The Italians take their food seriously and they have a long history of amazing food. But why, why is pasta so dam good over there?! The oils and the desserts so tasty. Why are Italians so passionate?! These books will help you understand why Italy has such a strong food culture.

The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and Its Citrus Fruit

Whether the Battle of Oranges in Ivrea, the gardens of Tuscany, or the story of the Mafia and Sicily's citrus groves, Attlee transports readers on a journey unlike any other. The Land Where Lemons Grow is the sweeping story of Italy's cultural history told through the history of its citrus crops.

Pasta, Pane, Vino: Deep Travels Through Italy's Food Culture (Roads & Kingdoms Presents)

Immerse yourself in the breadth and beauty of Italian food, culture, and history with this captivating travelogue that is part detailed user’s guide, part moving love letter to a country where eating is an art. A blend of intimate narrative and insider knowledge reflective of the style pioneered in Rice, Noodle, Fish and Grape, Olive, Pig, the first two titles in this growing book series, Pasta, Pane, Vino is a unique culinary journey through Italy’s key regions.

Italy for the Gourmet Traveler

Fred Plotkin takes us beyond the traditional tourist experience and lures us to special places, whether in big cities or out-of-the-way villages. Under his discerning eye, we learn about the food, wines, local bakeries, olive oil distilleries, cheeses, markets, restaurants, and best kept secrets of Italy's culinary world. Lovingly drawn portraits of the people who make world-famous regional specialties, and local history make each village, town, and city come alive.

To understand Italy's Roman History

The Romans were one of the most fascinating and life-changing groups of people in the world. Understanding the Romans and their peak periods will help you understand the world around you, not to mention all of Europe.

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

In SPQR, an instant classic, Mary Beard narrates the history of Rome "with passion and without technical jargon" and demonstrates how "a slightly shabby Iron Age village" rose to become the "undisputed hegemon of the Mediterranean" (Wall Street Journal). Hailed by critics as animating "the grand sweep and the intimate details that bring the distant past vividly to life" (Economist) in a way that makes "your hair stand on end" (Christian Science Monitor) and spanning nearly a thousand years of history, this "highly informative, highly readable" (Dallas Morning News) work examines not just how we think of ancient Rome but challenges the comfortable historical perspectives that have existed for centuries. With its nuanced attention to class, democratic struggles, and the lives of entire groups of people omitted from the historical narrative for centuries, SPQR will to shape our view of Roman history for decades to come.

 

To get a feel for Italy before the tourism boom

Some parts of Italy will never be the same again. The new generation are more interested in tourism dollars than farming and learning culture and history. The world is changing and travel is cheaper. Making the colisium easier to see and locals faster to leave the country where jobs are hard to obtain. But how was Italy before tourism, what was Italy like in the 20's or 40's. What was it like before Ryan Air and Google translate. Let these books take you back

A Florence Diary

In August 1947, Diana Athill travelled to Florence by the Golden Arrow train for a two-week holiday with her good friend Pen. In this playful diary of that trip, delightfully illustrated with photographs of the period, Athill recorded her observations and adventures — eating with (and paid for by) the hopeful men they meet on their travels, admiring architectural sights, sampling delicious pastries, eking out their budget, and getting into scrapes.

Written with an arresting immediacy and infused with an exhilarating joie de vivre, A Florence Diary is a bright, colourful evocation of a time long lost and a vibrant portrait of a city that will be deliciously familiar to any contemporary traveller.

Italian Hours (Penguin Classics)

In these essays on travels in Italy written from 1872 to 1909, Henry James explores art and religion, political shifts and cultural revolutions, and the nature of travel itself. James's enthusiastic appreciation of the unparalleled aesthetic allure of Venice, the vitality of Rome, and the noisy, sensuous appeal of Naples is everywhere marked by pervasive regret for the disappearance of the past and by ambivalence concerning the transformation of nineteenth-century Europe. John Auchard's lively introduction and extensive notes illuminate the surprising differences between the historical, political, and artistic Italy of James's travels and the metaphoric Italy that became the setting of some of his best-known works of fiction. This edition includes an appendix of James's book reviews on Italian travel-writing.

To learn about Italy's greats

Italy had some greats from Giuseppe Verdi to Leonardo and Michelangelo and many more. These books are a great insight into these minds. You will be sure to learn a thing or two and even something you can impress the locals with.

Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love

Inspired by a long fascination with Galileo, and by the remarkable surviving letters of Galileo's daughter, a cloistered nun, Dava Sobel has written a biography unlike any other of the man Albert Einstein called "the father of modern physics- indeed of modern science altogether." Galileo's Daughter also presents a stunning portrait of a person hitherto lost to history, described by her father as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me."

The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo

The Agony and the Ecstasy is a biographical novel of Michelangelo Buonarroti written by American author Irving Stone. Stone lived in Italy for years visiting many of the locations in Rome and Florence worked in marble quarries and apprenticed himself to a marble sculptor. Wikipedia

Books set in Venice

Venice, the city on water.... one of the most visited cities in the world. Venice which use to thrive and be one of the most important cities in the world, and now... its a tourism mecca. Discover the history of Venice first to really appreciate where you are standing.

City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas

The New York Times bestselling author of Empires of the Sea charts Venice’s astounding five-hundred-year voyage to the pinnacle of power in an epic story that stands unrivaled for drama, intrigue, and sheer opulent majesty. City of Fortune traces the full arc of the Venetian imperial saga, from the ill-fated Fourth Crusade, which culminates in the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, to the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499–1503, which sees the Ottoman Turks supplant the Venetians as the preeminent naval power in the Mediterranean. In between are three centuries of Venetian maritime dominance, during which a tiny city of “lagoon dwellers” grow into the richest place on earth. Drawing on firsthand accounts of pitched sea battles, skillful negotiations, and diplomatic maneuvers, Crowley paints a vivid picture of this avaricious, enterprising people and the bountiful lands that came under their dominion. From the opening of the spice routes to the clash between Christianity and Islam, Venice played a leading role in the defining conflicts of its time—the reverberations of which are still being felt today.

To understand Italy's history in World War 2

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

The story of a wealthy, insular Jewish family in Fascist Italy just before the outbreak of World War II. The source of an acclaimed feature film directed by Vittorio De Sica. Translated by William Weaver.A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book

Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families Under Fascism

A profoundly moving history of Italy’s Jews under the shadow of the Holocaust, told through the lives of five Jewish Italian families: the Ovazzas of Turin, who prospered under Mussolini and whose patriarch became a prominent fascist; the Foas of Turin, whose children included both an antifascist activist and a Fascist Party member; the Di Verolis of Rome, who struggled for survival in the ghetto; the Teglios of Genoa, one of whom worked with the Catholic church to save hundreds of Jews; and the Schonheits of Ferrara, who were sent to Buchenwald and Ravensbruck. An extraordinary montage that resurrects a forgotten and tragic era.

War in Val d'Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943-1944 (New York Review Books Classics)

A classic of World War II, here in its first American edition. War in Val d'Orcia is Iris Origo's elegantly simple chronicle of daily life at La Foce, a manor in a Tuscan no-man's land bracketed by foreign invasion and civil war.

With the immediacy only a diary can have, the book tells how the Marchesa Origo, an Anglo-American married to an Italian landowner, kept La Foce and its farms functioning while war threatened to overrun it and its people. She and her husband managed to protect their peasants, succor refugee children from Genoa and Turrin, hide escaped Allied prisoners of war-and somehow stand up to the Germans, who in dread due course occupied La Foce in 1944 and forced the Marchesa to retreat under a hot June sun.

Fleeing eight impossible miles on foot, along a mined road under shell fire, with sixty children in tow, she sheltered her flock in the dubious safety of a nearby village. A few days later, official Fascism disappeared, and La Foce was ransacked by the retreating Wehrmacht. Here, as the restoration of La Foce begins, her book ends.

Romance novels set in italy

Some of the best italian novels are the sweetest romance novels you can read. There is no shame in being a hopeless romantic. There is no shame in a tear falling and the heart burn that a beautiful love story can bring. Where better to fall in love with a romance novel then Italy. The most romantic culture in the world. Lose yourself in these dream-like Italian romances.

Beautiful Ruins: A Novel

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.

Love & Gelato

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then Lina is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything Lina knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

To understand Italy's Crime and Mafia problems

You have seen the godfather, you are ready to hit Italy! I'm sorry, but it doesn't work like that - There is so much more for you to know and understand about the underground of Italy. Learn the how's why's and who's with these books.

The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall

At its height, Renaissance Florence was a center of enormous wealth, power, and influence. A republican city-state funded by trade and banking, its often bloody political scene was dominated by rich mercantile families, the most famous of which were the Medici. This enthralling book charts the family's huge influence on the political, economic and cultural history of Florence. Beginning in the early 1430s with the rise of the dynasty under the near-legendary Cosimo de Medici, it moves through their golden era as patrons of some of the most remarkable artists and architects of the Renaissance, to the era of the Medici Popes and Grand Dukes, Florence's slide into decay and bankruptcy, and the end, in 1737, of the Medici line.

Books to read before going to rome

Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History

From Robert Hughes, one of the greatest art and cultural critics of our time, comes a sprawling, comprehensive, and deeply personal history of Rome—as city, as empire, and, crucially, as an origin of Western art and civilization, two subjects about which Hughes has spent his life writing and thinking.

books set in Tuscany

Under the Tuscan Sun and Eat, Pray, Love are classic novels and also quite a good movie to watch before travelling to Italy. But Tuscany has other amazing books that you don't want to miss out on. Here are a few great reads on tuscany.

A Tuscan Childhood

When Kinta Beevor was five, her father, the painter Aubrey Waterfield, bought the sixteenth-century Fortezza della Brunella in the Tuscan village of Aulla. There her parents were part of a vibrant artistic community that included Aldous Huxley, Bernard Berenson, and D. H. Lawrence. Meanwhile, Kinta and her brother explored the glorious countryside, participated in the region's many seasonal rites and rituals, and came to know and love the charming, resilient Italian people. With the coming of World War II the family had to leave Aulla; years later, though, Kinta would return to witness the courage and skill of the Tuscan people as they rebuilt their lives. Lyrical and witty, A Tuscan Childhood is alive with the timeless splendour of Italy.

The Golden Hour

In this stunning debut set in the summer of 1944 in Tuscany, Giovanna Bellini, the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat and vineyard owner, has just turned seventeen and is on the cusp of adulthood. War bears down on her peaceful little village after the Italians sign a separate peace with the Allies-transforming the Germans into an occupying army.

But when her brother joins the Resistance, he asks Giovanna to hide a badly wounded fighter who is Jewish. As she nurses him back to health, she falls helplessly in love with the brave and humble Mario, who comes from as ancient and noble an Italian family as she does. They pledge their love, and then must fight a real battle against the Nazis who become more desperate and cruel as the Allies close in on them.

Books about naples italy

See Naples and Die

When a job comes up in Naples - crime capital of Italy, home of pizza and the Camorra, and crouched precariously at the foot of a volcano - Penny launches herself into the unknown.
With her innate curosity and eye for detail, Penny prises Naples open to show us the real city, in all its splendour...and all its depravity. She uncovers a chaotic metropolis where crime and poverty blur with abundant natural beauty and where the shadow of Mount Vesuvius is a daily reminder that life must be lived for the moment.
She leads us through the alleyways of the labyrinthine old town, along the sweeping Gulf of Naples and into suburbia. join her to feast on sweet sfogliatelle, get to know the generous locals, fiercely loyal to their city, and cruise along the coast on the back of a vespa.
And when Penny meets a Bass player in a local band, she thinks she might have found that other reason to stick around.

In the Shadow of Vesuvius: A Cultural History of Naples

From its origins in Homer's Odyssey and its founding nearly 3,000 years ago, Naples has long attracted travellers, artists and foreign rulers--from the visitors of the Grand Tour to Goethe, Nelson, Dickens and Neruda. The stunning beauty of its natural setting coupled with the charms of its colorful past and lively present--from the ruins of Pompeii to the glittering performances of the San Carlo opera house--continue to seduce all those who explore Naples today. In the Shadow of Vesuvius is a sparkling portrait of the city--the definitive companion for anyone seeking to delve beneath its surface.

Books set in sicily

Conversations in Sicily

It stands as a modern classic not only for its powerful thematic resonance as one of the great novels of Italian anti-fascism but also as a trailblazer for its style, which blends literary modernism with the pre-modern fable in a prose of lyric beauty. Comparing Vittorini's work to Picasso's, Italo Calvino described Conversations as "the book-Guernica."

Midnight in Sicily: On Art, Food, History, Travel and la Cosa Nostra by Peter Robb (2007-11-27)

 

Off the southern coast of Italy lies Sicily, home to an ancient culture that with its stark landscapes, glorious coastlines, and extraordinary treasure troves of art and archeology has seduced travellers for centuries. But at the heart of the island's rare beauty is a network of violence and corruption that reaches into every corner of Sicilian life: La Cosa Nostra, the Mafia.In an intoxicating mix of crime, travel, and food writing, Peter Robb, a writer who lived in Southern Italy for fourteen years, sets out to understand both the historic roots of the Mafia and its central place in contemporary Italian politics. And whether he's touting the gustatory strength of Neapolitan espresso, unveiling the Arabic origins of pasta, or unravelling the criminal history of a bandit, Robb seductively brings Sicilian culture to life.

Looking to travel to Italy? Get tips and tricks, ways to avoid scams and more. Join the female travel community to read out to women who travel. Meet locals and fellow travellers. You can ask any questions you may have in our forum for Italy when you're a member.

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