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Classic Literature

The Best Classic Books Set In Italy

Journey through enchanting landscapes and rich history with these captivating classic books set in Italy that will inspire readers!

Last Updated on May 31, 2024 by BiblioLifestyle

Classic Books set in Italy

Italy, with its enchanting landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture, has long been a muse for some of the world’s greatest literary minds. The allure of its sun-drenched countryside, bustling cities, and timeless art is captured beautifully within the pages of many classic books. Whether you’re wandering through the romantic streets of Venice or the ancient ruins of Rome, these literary works transport you directly into the heart of Italy’s captivating charm. So, let’s embark on a journey through some of the finest classic books set in this magnificent country and discover the magic that has inspired readers and writers alike for generations.

The Significance of Italy in Classic Literature

Italy’s significance in classic literature cannot be overstated. Imagine strolling through the picturesque Tuscan hills or navigating the narrow, winding streets of Florence. These vivid backdrops have provided the perfect settings for countless tales of love, adventure, and personal transformation. For example. Italian cities like Rome, Venice, and Naples have been immortalized in literature, not just for their breathtaking beauty but also for their historical richness and cultural depth. These stories have a way of transporting readers, making them feel the warmth of the Italian sun and the pulse of its vibrant life. They delve into universal themes such as passion, identity, and the human condition, all while showcasing the unique allure of the Italian landscape. Through these timeless works, Italy becomes more than just a setting—it transforms into a character in its own right, enhancing narratives with its multifaceted charm and inspiring generations of readers to explore its magic.

7 Must-Read Classic Books Set in Italy

To fully appreciate Italy’s literary charm, here’s a carefully curated list of classic books set in Italy. These novels are divided by historical period and literary genre, each accompanied by a summary and an explanation of why they remain timeless classics.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith 

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.

You can get a copy of The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith on Amazon or Bookshop.

I discuss The Talented Mr. Ripley in my 3 Iconic Novels to Heat Up Your Summer Reading List podcast episode.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet is undoubtedly one of William Shakespeare’s most celebrated works and it’s a well known classic book set in Italy. Set in the heart of fair Verona, the play tells the tragic love story of two young lovers from feuding families. Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet meet at a masked ball and fall deeply in love, despite their families’ longstanding enmity. Their romance is passionate and pure, but it faces insurmountable obstacles. The couple secretly marries, hoping to unite their families, but a series of misfortunes leads to a tragic ending.

You can get a copy of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare on Amazon or Bookshop.

Also, check out my mini-deep dive of Romeo and Juliet in my Love and Tragedy: Exploring Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet article.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms is an evocative novel set against the backdrop of World War I, focusing on the life of Lieutenant Frederic Henry, an American ambulance driver in the Italian army, and his romantic relationship with a British nurse named Catherine Barkley. Hemingway’s narrative offers a raw and poignant exploration of love, war, and the human condition. The novel skillfully intertwines moments of intense action with scenes of heartbreaking intimacy, reflecting the complexities of life during wartime. Set in various locations across Italy, the vivid descriptions of the Italian landscape and the chaos of the war add depth to the story, immersing the reader in a tumultuous period of history. Its compelling characters, realistic dialogue, and emotional depth have solidified A Farewell to Arms as a great classic. It remains a powerful read for its unflinching portrayal of the impacts of war and the enduring strength of human connections in the face of adversity.

You can get a copy of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway on Amazon or Bookshop.

If you’re interested in reading more Hemingway books, check out my 9 Must-Read Ernest Hemingway Books: Where To Start Reading article.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t My Brilliant Friend and the Neopolitan novels contemporary books? Technically yes but they read like classics to me. Beginning in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Elena Ferrante’s four-volume story that starts with My Brilliant Friend 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.

You can get a copy of My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante on Amazon or Bookshop.

Check out my mini deep dive into the Neapolitan Novels in my A Deep Dive into the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante article.

A Room with A View by E.M. Forster

A Room With A View by E. M. Forster 

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. Still, 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 is a classic book set in Italy that is a penetrating social comedy and a brilliant study of contrasts – in values, social class, and cultural perspectives – and the ingenuity of fate.

You can get a copy of A Room With A View by E. M. Forster on Amazon or Bookshop.

I discuss A Room With A View in my Three Classic Novels Better Read in Spring podcast episode.

Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

The Enchanted April is a charming novel that tells the story of four very different English women who escape their dreary lives by renting a castle in Italy for a month. The women, including the reserved Lotty Wilkins and the discontented Rose Arbuthnot, find themselves transformed by the serene beauty of their surroundings. As they soak in the warmth and beauty of the Italian spring, they rediscover themselves, heal old wounds, and form unlikely friendships. This is a beautifully done classic book set in Italy whose vivid descriptions transport readers to a picturesque world filled with blooming flowers and soothing landscapes. The novel expertly weaves together themes of self-discovery, renewal, and the importance of human connection, making it a heartwarming and uplifting read. The book’s rich character development and enchanting setting make it a captivating story that continues to resonate with readers today.

You can get a copy of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim on Amazon or Bookshop.

I discuss The Enchanted April in my Springtime Classics: Three Timeless Tales Perfect for Spring Reading podcast episode.

Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino

Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino

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. That’s what you can expect in Italian Folktales!

You can get a copy of Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino on Amazon or Bookshop.

How To Read Classic Books set in Italy

Tips for Reading Classic Literature

Diving into classic literature, especially from a culturally rich country like Italy, can be immensely rewarding. So here are some tips to enhance your reading experience:

  1. Be patient: Classic literature can be dense and require time to fully appreciate its nuances. Don’t rush through it. Take your time to savor the language and themes.
  2. Do some research: Familiarize yourself with the historical context of the novel you’re reading. This will give you a better understanding of its significance and relevance.
  3. Discuss with others: Join book clubs or online forums to discuss the novel with fellow readers. This can offer valuable insights and perspectives that you may have missed.

For more tips and practical advice, check out my How to Read Classic Books: The Ultimate Guide article.

What do you think about these classic books set in Italy?

Have you read any of these books?  Are any of them on your TBR?  What classic books set in Italy would you add to this list?  Let’s talk all about books in Italy in the comments below.

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