Italy has the most UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world and it is also the 5th most visited country by international tourists. Italy charms visitors with irresistible food, stunning architecture, diverse scenery, and unparalleled art, and it is also an incredible setting for literature. If you’ve never visited or you’re simply longing to go back, these books set in Italy are sure to transport you there and inspire a future Italian adventure!
The Land Where Lemons Grow by Helena Atlee (2015)
The Land Where Lemons Grow is the sweeping story of Italy’s cultural history told through the history of its citrus crops. From the early migration of citrus from the foothills of the Himalayas to Italy’s shores to the persistent role of unique crops such as bergamot (and its place in the perfume and cosmetics industries) and the vital role played by Calabria’s unique Diamante citrons in the Jewish celebration of Sukkoth, author Helena Attlee brings the fascinating history and its gustatory delights to life.
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955)
Since his debut in 1955, Tom Ripley has evolved into the ultimate bad boy sociopath. Here, in the first Ripley novel, we are introduced to suave 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.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (2011)
Beginning in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Elena Ferrante’s four-volume story spans almost sixty years, as its main characters, the fiery and unforgettable Lila and the bookish narrator, Elena, become women, wives, mothers, and leaders, all the while maintaining a complex and at times conflicted friendship. This first novel in the series follows Lila and Elena from their fateful meeting as ten-year-olds through their school years and adolescence.
A Room With A View by E. M. Forster (1908)
E.M. Forster’s beloved novel of forbidden love, culture clash, and the confines of Edwardian society. Visiting Florence with her prim and proper cousin Charlotte as a chaperone, Lucy Honeychurch meets the unconventional, lower-class Mr. Emerson and his son, George. Upon her return to England, Lucy becomes engaged to the supercilious Cecil Vyse, but she finds herself increasingly torn between the expectations of the world in which she moves and the passionate yearnings of her heart. More than a love story, A Room with a View(1908) is a penetrating social comedy and a brilliant study of contrasts – in values, social class, and cultural perspectives – and the ingenuity of fate.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want–husband, country home, successful career–but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and set 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.
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (1922)
Four women rent a chateau on a remote Italian island to try to come to grips with their lives and relationships. They explore the differences in their personalities, reassess their goals, and reexamine their relationships in a sisterly fashion. Newly designed and typeset for easy reading by Boomer Books.
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Maye (1996)
Widely published poet, gourmet chef, and travel writer, Frances Mayes opens the door to a voluptuous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the Tuscan countryside. What she shares with her readers is a feast for the senses as she explores the pastoral Italian landscape, history and cuisine.
La Bella Figura by Beppe Severgnini (2006)
You won’t need luggage for this hypothetical and hilarious trip into the hearts and minds of Beppe Severgnini’s fellow Italians. In fact, Beppe would prefer if you left behind the baggage his crafty and elegant countrymen have smuggled into your subconscious. To get to his Italia, you’ll need to forget about your idealized notions of Italy. Although La Bella Figura will take you to legendary cities and scenic regions, your real destinations are the places where Italians are at their best, worst, and most authentic.
Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman (2007)
Andre Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera. Each is unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, when, during the restless summer weeks, unrelenting currents of obsession, fascination, and desire intensify their passion and test the charged ground between them. Recklessly, the two verge toward the one thing both fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy. It is an instant classic and one of the great love stories of our time.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (2012)
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.
Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch (2016)
A summer in Italy turns into a road trip across Tuscany in this sweeping debut novel filled with romance, mystery, and adventure.
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.
Midnight in Sicily by Peter Robb (1996)
South of mainland Italy lies the island of Sicily, home to an ancient culture that–with its stark landscapes, glorious coastlines, and extraordinary treasure troves of art and archeology–has seduced travelers 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: Cosa Nostra, the Mafia. Peter Robb lived in southern Italy for over fourteen years and recounts its sensuous pleasures, its literature, politics, art, and crimes.
Summer at the Lake by Erica James (2014)
A fateful car crash sets in motion a series of events for Floriana and Esme. Floriana gathers the courage to attend the wedding of her one true love, and Esme journeys with her to Lake Como to find the man who stole her heart many years ago. It’s time for Esme and Floriana to face the past – and the future – on the shore of the most romantic and enchanting of lakes.
Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino (1956)
Filled with kings and peasants, saints and ogres–as well as some quite extraordinary plants and animals–these two hundred tales bring to life Italy’s folklore, sometimes with earthy humor, sometimes with noble mystery, and sometimes with the playfulness of sheer nonsense.
What do you think of these books set in Italy?
Have you been to Italy before or is it on your bucket list? Have you read any of these books set in Italy? Do you know any books set in Italy that I may have missed? Let me know your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions about Italy and books set there in the comments below!