Planning a trip to Italy? Besides studying my guidebooks prior to taking a big trip, I often enjoy reading novels that feature the place where I am planning to travel. As I am planning my own trip to Italy later this summer, I am on the look-out for novels that are set in Italy or have an Italian theme. I always enjoy good reading when I have free time, especially if that free time is while I am in transit on a lengthy airplane trip. If you are planning a trip, or just want to read a good novel about Italy, here are a few renowned novels that take place in Italy.
- “A Room with a View” by E.M. Forster: Taking place in the Edwardian era, a young upper class woman finds romance and freedom from her strict British upbringing when she travels to Florence, Italy. A romantic story and a critique of British society at the turn of the 20th century.
- “A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway: Set in Italy during World War I, this story is a first person account of American Frederic Henry as he serves as a lieutenant in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army. The story focuses on Henry’s relationship with English nurse Catherine Barkley over the course of the war.
- “The Enchanted April” by Elizabeth von Arnim: Four strikingly different English women in the 1920s decide to rent a medieval castle in Portofino. Although having seemingly nothing in common, the women bond over their individual frustrations with their current lives and each embark on their own journeys of enlightenment and self-discovery while on holiday in Italy.
- “The Light in the Piazza” by Elizabeth Spencer: Author Elizabeth Spencer’s famous novella follows Margaret and Clara Johnson, a mother and daughter who travel to Florence together in the 1950s. The story focuses on Margaret Johnson’s concern and desire to give her beautiful mentally-handicapped daughter a more fulfilling life. Her prayers appear to be answered when Clara attracts the romantic attentions of a young Florentine.
- “The Leopard” by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa: Interested in historical fiction? This story focuses on the aristocratic Salina family during the Risorgimento and the effects of the Italian Unification on the lives of the nobility. Prince Fabrizio, the head of the Salina family, foresees that his opulent life and those of his fellow nobles will soon be coming to an end as Giuseppe Garibaldi and The Thousand advance on Sicily.
- “Daisy Miller” by Henry James: A novella about a rich 19th century American girl named Daisy who is having her grand tour of Europe. The story takes place in both Switzerland and Italy where Daisy’s frivolous and heedless personality leads her into deep trouble.
- “The Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone: A biographical novel of the famous sculptor Michelangelo Buonarroti, this piece of historical fiction tries to give us an idea of who Michelangelo might have been and his life during the Italian Renaissance as he becomes one of the greatest artists the world has ever known.
- “The Talented Mr. Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith: Is a psychological thriller to your taste? Try the eerie tale of con-artist Tom Ripley as he travels to Venice to retrieve the son of a wealthy New York shipping mogul. A tale of assumed identity, obsession and murder in Italy, this story should keep on the edge of your seat.
- “Evening Class” by Maeve Binchy: Beginning with an Irish backdrop, a group of Dubliners from various social backgrounds enroll in an Italian language class where they bond over their shared love of Italian language and culture as taught by their eccentric teacher. ach chapter focuses on a particular student and shows how their lives are changed by the evening class over the course of a year. Later in the book, the class manages to raise enough money to take a trip to Italy together.
Honorable Mention: “The Shoemaker’s Wife” by Adriana Trigiani: Looking for a good love story? This novel tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers, Enza and Ciro, who fall in love as teenagers in the Italian alps, but are then separated by two continents and two World Wars before they find each other again in the United States.
Do you have a favorite Italian-themed novel? Leave us a comment. Happy reading, everyone!
Written by OSIA National Office Administrative Assistant, Laura Kelly.