Is Italy on your Bucket List? With over 58 million visitors every year, it is obviously a very popular tourist destination! It was one of the places I had always wanted to visit and became one of the first countries I visited when I went to Europe. Now, thirty years, a husband, and two teens down the road, hopping on a plane is not nearly as easy to do. A lot of my travel these days is “armchair travel.” And, while international travel isn’t for everyone, International reading most certainly is! Over the years, I have decided that if I can’t visit a place, I try to read books that are set in that location. So, for all of us armchair travelers here’s a great list of books set in Italy to indulge our dreams!
And, if you happen to be heading to Italy and are wondering what you should read before going to Italy, you’ll want to check out these novels set in Italy! Or maybe you, like me, aren’t heading anywhere but want to experience the wonders and beauty of Italy. This list of books about Italy will surely inspire you and your Italian dreams!
You can find my article about books set in France here if you prefer the French countryside and Paris!
Most Popular books set in Italy
This book is set in the heart of Italy in Vatican City, this action-packed story takes you on a frantic hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals, and the most secretive vault on earth. Join Robert Langdon, world-renowned symbologist, and Vetra, beautiful and mysterious Italian scientist, as they follow a 400-year-old trail of ancient symbols that snakes across Rome toward the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati, the most powerful underground organization ever to walk the earth!
In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert lives every modern American woman’s dream—husband, country home, successful career. But, instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, panic and confusion consumed her.
Leaving behind all these outward marks of success, she sets out to explore three different aspects of her nature, against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.
One cruel night, Meggie’s father reads aloud from a book called INKHEART– and an evil ruler escapes the boundaries of fiction and lands in their living room. Suddenly, Meggie is smack in the middle of the kind of adventure she has only read about in books. Meggie must learn to harness the magic that has conjured this nightmare. For only she can change the course of the story that has changed her life forever.
Twenty years ago, Frances Mayes bought and restored an abandoned villa called Bramasole in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. Go on an adventure with Mayes as she explores her new world of Tuscany. What she shares with her readers is a feast for the senses as she explores the pastoral Italian landscape, history, and cuisine.
While this isn’t an easy book to read, it is beautifully written. At the end of World War 2, a nurse lives in a bombed-out villa in Italy with three men – one is the English Patient, badly burned in a plane crash from the war. The other two are also survivors from the war with their own stories and hardships.
Classics Novels set in Italy
Actually, most of Shakespeare’s books are set in Italy. Romeo & Juliet is set in Verona, Italy. The story of star-crossed lovers torn apart by their families feud. Shakespeare creates a violent world, in which two young people fall in love. It is not simply that their families disapprove; the Montagues and the Capulets are engaged in a blood feud.
As the novel opens we find Lucy, a young English middle-class girl, touring Italy with her overbearing older cousin and chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett. When seeing that their rooms have a view of the courtyard instead of the promised river, the two are upset and complain.
Their complaints are overheard by Mr. Emerson, who offers to swap rooms with them, citing the fact that he and his son George both have rooms that overlook the Arno. After a brief romantic encounter between George Emerson and Lucy while they are in Florence, the two travel on to Rome where Lucy is wooed by her friend from England Cecil Vyse.
But then Lucy learns from the vicar that the Emersons have arrived in Rome and rented a local cottage. The prospect of romance with George entices Lucy. But, the more acceptable prospect of a union with Cecil still tears at her.
A Farewell to Arms is a novel by Ernest Hemingway set during the Italian campaign of World War I. This book is a first-person account of an American, Lt. Frederic Henry, serving in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army and his passion for a beautiful English nurse. This is a story of love and pain, of loyalty and desertion.
When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American, is brought to Europe by her wealthy aunt Touchett, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to enjoy the freedom that her fortune has opened up and to determine her own fate, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors. Then she finds herself irresistibly drawn to Gilbert Osmond. Charming and cultivated, Osmond sees Isabel as a rich prize to take. Beneath his veneer of civilized behavior, Isabel discovers cruelty and a stifling darkness.
Montressor, angry over insults by his friend Fortunato, a fellow nobleman, plots to murder him during Carnival. And, he plans to seal him up alive behind walls of bricks. He baits Fortunato by telling him he has obtained, out of season, what he believes to be a pipe of Amontillado, about 130 gallons, a rare and valuable sherry wine. He wants his friend’s expert opinion on the subject. Unaware of Montresor’s true intent Fortunato leaves with him for the wine cellars of the latter’s palazzo, where they travel through the deep catacombs far, far below the home…the conclusion to this suspenseful story is memorable, to say the least.
Set in the 1860s in Sicilian Italy, The Leopard tells the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution. The dramatic sweep and richness of observation, the seamless intertwining of public and private worlds, and the grasp of human frailty imbue The Leopard with its particular melancholy beauty and power and place it among the greatest historical novels of our time.
This book is set in the fictional town of Mongibello, Italy! The cliffside resort town of Positano and various villages on the islands of Ischia and Procida, near Naples, inspired the fictional town of “Mongibello.”
Tom Ripley, a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan. A product of a broken home branded a “sissy” by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, back from gallivanting in Italy. Soon Ripley’s fascination with Dickie’s debonair lifestyle turns obsessive as he finds himself enraged by Dickie’s ambivalent affections for Marge, a charming American dilettante.
Newer books to check out
Italy, 1943—Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.
As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.
But now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva becomes one of many Jews being sheltered by the Catholic Church.
In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But, an irreversible betrayal shakes the love that sparks between them.
Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects, she finds an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. And in it is a startling revelation.
Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962…and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.
Three best friends, Italian sunshine and a handsome stranger can fix just about anything… can’t they?
Maisie Knight had it all. A gorgeous husband. A successful business. A beautiful home. Until one day, after walking into the storeroom of their shop, she loses it all at once. She catches her husband cheating on her with the girl from Checkout 3. So, when she wins a holiday to Italy, a week under the Tuscan sun couldn’t come soon enough.
Treating best friends Cheryl and Emma to a girls’ trip, the terracotta-roofed Villa Marisa on a rustic farm awaits them. The fields of golden sunflowers could be the perfect cure for Maisie’s broken heart – and local farmer, suspiciously perfect Gianni, with his thick black hair and twinkling brown eyes, is a welcome distraction from her broken heart.
2017: Millie wants more from her relationship and more from her life. So when her boss Max abruptly ends their affair, she takes the opportunity to write a feature in Italy.
Staying in a gorgeous villa, Millie unexpectedly falls in love with the owner, Lorenzo. Together they begin to unravel an incredible story, threaded through generations of silk weavers.
And Millie finds herself compelled to discover the identity of a mysterious woman in a portrait…
1704: Anastasia is desperate to escape her controlling and volatile father and plans to marry in secret. But, instead of the life she has dreamed of, she finds herself trapped in Venice, the unwilling wife of a silk weaver.
Despite her circumstances, Anastasia is determined to change her fate…
This book is set in Tuscany. Phillips writes a fun love story of two unlikely characters that find their way to each other. Ren is an American actor dealing with his demons. But, he is pretending to be an Italian who doesn’t speak Engish and just wants to get away from it all. Isabel is an American therapist (pretending to be French) who is dealing with her own disaster of a life. But, when fate throws them together a second time…
Lamour Harrington’s husband died two years ago. Since then, she has immersed herself in her landscape architecture, but even creating beautiful outdoor “rooms” can’t bring back her sense of peace. When faced with a devastating truth about the husband she adored, Lamour needs a place to recharge.
She returns to the house on the Amalfi coast where she’d lived with her father during the happiest years of her childhood. But the house of her memories has secrets all its own. And now, forcing her to face new truths about another man she once loved. Was her father’s death truly accidental? Or was he hiding something that caused his early demise? Torn between two mysterious and compelling men, Lamour discovers that the past has a way of returning when you least expect it. And someone wants to ensure that Lamour doesn’t uncover the secrets of this idyllic, dreamy coastal getaway. As the past and the present collide in a shattering and suspenseful climax, Lamour must face the things she fears the most, in order to find the courage to live life to the fullest.
This is probably my favorite book set in Italy!! It actually is set in both Napa Valley and Italy – in the vineyards!
The top PR executive for the family winery, Sophia Giambelli finds her life turned upside down by the merger with the MacMillan family’s winery. And, her powerful attraction to professional rival Tyler MacMillan and acts of sabotage that threaten the family business and members of the family itself aren’t helping to make her life any easier!
In Olives & Oranges, Jenkins shares the simple, striking dishes she learned at the source. Many, like Peppery Braised Short Ribs and Classic Tuscan Eggplant Parmesan, are favorites from childhood. Others, like Short Pasta with Mushrooms and Mint and Spicy Lemon–Chocolate Ganache Tart, have a contemporary sensibility. Jenkins shows how understanding the Mediterranean “language of flavor” can help you follow your instincts and make your own great meals based on what you have, too. You’ll see how salt and lemon juice bring out the natural sugar in Carrot Salad with Lemon, Sea Salt, Parsley, and Olive Oil, and how to use the same technique with lime, salt, and a Moroccan condiment called harissa for a completely different effect in Tunisian Raw Turnip Salad.
The opening chapter introduces “small plates”— easy, versatile dishes that can preface a dinner or be grouped together for a small feast, from Roasted Red Peppers with Garlic and Celery Leaves to Chicken Liver Crostini. Soups are spontaneous and flexible, whether they are cooling purées like White Almond Gazpacho or sturdy full bowls like Rich Chicken Soup with Greens. The incomparable pastas encompass fast every-night selections (Spaghettini with Burst Cherry Tomatoes) to complex celebration affairs like Braised Rabbit Ragu and Homemade Lasagna.
Fish, poultry, and meat chapters feature rustic preparations: roasted scallops capped with a pale green butter seasoned with parsley and garlic; an impressively big-flavored chicken smeared with a mixture of bacon and herbs and baked in a salt crust; and a spectacular staple of Roman trattorias, veal cutlets wrapped in prosciutto and sage and crisp-fried. Desserts range from fresh Strawberries with Prosecco to a sumptuous Coffee Cardamom Caramel to the rich but light Lemon Olive Oil Cake.
Each of the recipes in the book is identified as “Quick-Cook” or “Slow-Cook” so you can choose which fit best into your schedule. “Flavor Tips” throughout the book suggest ways to modify the dishes so you can use what’s freshest and most available.
It was love at first sight when Tembi met professional chef, Saro, on a street in Florence. There was just one problem: Saro’s traditional Sicilian family did not approve of him marrying a black American woman, an actress no less. However, the couple, heartbroken but undeterred, forges on. They build a happy life in Los Angeles, with fulfilling careers, deep friendships and the love of their lives: a baby girl they adopt at birth. Eventually, they reconcile with Saro’s family just as he faces a formidable cancer that will consume all their dreams.
Books in and around Italy
There are so many wonderful books set in Italy! This is a small sampling to get you started. I tried to pick books from different regions of the country as well as books set in different timeframes.
And so, I hope you enjoy getting away to the Italian countryside, or maybe a bustling city, even if it’s just in your books! Whether your story of choice is set in a warzone, on a beautiful lazy beach, or hundreds of years ago, you should be able to find at least one you love!
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Becki is the author and founder of A Book Lover’s Adventures. She has a degree in elementary education, has worked and volunteered in libraries for years, and spent several years in the travel industry. All of this has led to a love of books and travel. Becki loves to share her love by finding literary escapes to share!