I find the best way to prepare for a trip is to read about the place I'm going. Or, after I'm home, I can relive my travel experiences as the words come alive on the page.And there's no better place to return then Italy! I've got 16 of the best books that are set in Italy to wet your appetite for the country.
You'll find a mix of both fiction and non-fiction, whether you want to feel dreamy, paint a picture of the warm, terra cotta rooftops, or you want to learn some history.
The best books set in Italy
1.”Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter
In 1962, on a rocky outcropping on the sunny Italian coast, a young innkeeper watches the brilliant waters of the Ligurian Sea from below and sees an apparition: a tall, thin woman in white who is coming toward him on a boat. She's an actress from America, he learns, and she is dying.
The story switches between 1962 and the present. Now, we're in the United States, where an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot looking for the enigmatic woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier. It's a story about love, dreams, and leading with your heart.
I salivated over this book! It's so good and a beautiful read. The kind you can read again and again.
2. “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert
Venice, Rome, & Florence
This bestseller chronicles Gilbert's yearlong journey around the world after her divorce and what she discovers about herself. From Italy, where she eats and learns to love again; to India, where she finds spirituality; to Bali, where she learns to balance pleasure and devotion — this is a woman on a mission to heal herself.
You can't help but fall in love with Italy through Gilbert's writing. She brings the sights, smells, and tastes of each city vividly to life. And who doesn't want to read about someone traveling the world and finding themselves?!
Theme: Self-discovery, Romance
3. “Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes
In “Under the Tuscan Sun,” Frances Mayes tells the story of her purchase, renovation, and life in a ruined villa in Tuscany. The memoir is full of recipes, anecdotes, and observations about Italian culture. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years.
If you want to feel swept away in Tuscany this is the perfect escape.
4. “Angels & Demons” by Dan Brown
When a Harvard symbologist is sent to evaluate a strange symbol burned into the chest of a murdered physicist, he uncovers the Machiavellian deep organization known as the Illuminati, which is preparing to wreak havoc on the Catholic Church.
After learning about a bomb placed in the Vatican, he hurries to Rome and follows a trail of ancient signs around the city in an attempt to prevent the explosion.
Theme: Action, Adventure, Thriller
5. “A Farewell to Arms” By Ernest Hemingway
Milan, Italian Alps
A Farewell to Arms is a novel by Ernest Hemingway set during World War I. The story follows Lieutenant Frederic Henry, an American officer serving as an ambulance driver in the Italian army, and his love affair with Catherine Barkley, an English nurse. When Henry is wounded and sent to a hospital in Milan, Barkley visits him regularly, and their love affair deepens.
This novel is a great read for World War I history buffs, as well as those who enjoy a good love story.
Theme: Historical Fiction, Romance, War
6. “The Godfather” By Mario Puzo
Sicily (& New York City)
The Godfather is a crime novel by Mario Puzo, originally published in 1969. The story follows the lives of the members of an Italian-American crime family based in New York City during the years 1945–1955.
The Godfather is a must-read for fans of mafia tales. It's a classic for a reason! Many think of the movie, but the book is equally as good.
Theme: Crime, Drama
7. “The Angel of Rome” by Jess Walter
A young American college student moves to Rome to study and becomes enthralled with the glamorous film industry when he meets a beautiful Italian actress near the end of her career, as well as an irrepressible American TV star looking to relive his glory days.
I absolutely LOVED this book. It's very short, just 2 hours and it's free on Audible.*
Theme: Short Story, Romance, Comedy
8. “One Italian Summer” By Rebecca Serle
In “One Italian Summer,” a young woman named Emma travels to the beautiful Amalfi Coast to stay with her aunt after the death of her mother. Emma is grieving and doesn't want to be around anyone, but she slowly starts to open up and enjoy her time in Italy. She meets a handsome local man named Luca and they start to fall for each other.
This is a beautiful, heartwarming read that will make you long for the Amalfi Coast. T
9. “The Talented Mr. Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith
In “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” Tom Ripley is a con artist (and sociopath) who is hired by a wealthy businessman to bring his son, Dickie Greenleaf, home from Italy. Ripley starts to become obsessed with Greenleaf's life.
It's a dark and twisted novel, set in the backdrop of Venice it will keep you on the edge of your seat.
10. “The House at the Edge of Night” by Catherine Banner
Fictional Italian Island
The tiny island of Castellamare is a peaceful paradise too remote to be forgotten, yet not isolated enough to avoid the world's concerns. In the middle of the island's activity is a café known as the House at the Edge of Night, where residents come together to gossip and converse.
Amedeo Esposito, an orphan from Florence, comes to the island as a doctor and meets his wife, Pina. The characters in the story entrance and intrigue: the priest who has a penchant for scandal, the evil count and his intriguing wife, and many more who display an array of life in miniature, on the island.
This is an easy, beautiful read. I've also featured this book in my “what to read in 2022″ books.
11. “Room with a View” by E.M. Forster
In “Room with a View,” a young, English woman named Lucy is on vacation in Italy with her parents and sister. She meets a young man, George, and falls in love with him. However, her family is not supportive of the relationship and wants her to marry the acceptable suitor.
I love books that look at class systems and this one is a classic.
Theme: Classic, Romance
12. “Romeo & Juliet” by William Shakespeare
This Shakespeare play is worth the read. The story tells the story of two young lovers, Romeo and Juliet, who are from two different families that are feuding with each other. When their families find out about the relationship, they are forced to part ways. Juliet fakes her death, Romeo finds her. Thinking her dead, he decides to take his own life. Once Juliet finds him, she does the same.
Theme: Classics, Romance
13. “Love and Gelato” by Jenna Evan Welch
A young American girl travels across Italy on a road trip filled with love, intrigue, and adventure in Love and Gelato. Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany as it was her mother's dying wish that she learn more about her father. She learns the enchantment of Italy while reading her mother's diary, which contains a life-changing secret.
This is the perfect summer read.
Theme: Romance, Chick Lit, Young Adult
14. “The English Patient” by Michael Ondaatje
The English Patient is a beautiful, tragic love story set in World War II. The story follows a burned man who is being cared for by a nurse in an abandoned Italian villa. The man, known only as the English patient, begins to tell his story of love and loss during the war.
This is a timeless novel that will stay with you long after you've finished reading.
Theme: War, Romance, Tragedy
15. “Call Me By Your Name” by Andre Aciman
“Call Me By Your Name” tells the story of a summer romance between a 17-year-old boy and a 24-year-old man. The novel is set in the beautiful town of Crema, in Northern Italy, and follows the two men as they explore their relationship.
Theme: Coming-of-Age, Romance
16. “Midnight in Sicily” by Peter Robb
In “Midnight in Sicily,” Peter Robb takes us on a journey through the Sicilian landscape and culture. He explores the Mafia, religion, food, and politics of Sicily while also telling the story of his own family's history.
This is a fascinating read that will give you a new perspective on Italy.
Theme: Memoir, History
No matter what type of book you're looking for, there's sure to be a great read set in Italy. From romance to war, these books will transport you to the beautiful country and leave you wanting more. Have you read any of these books? What did you think?