A spy thriller set in 1980s America and the Scottish Highlands
Ten Great Books set in FLORENCE
30th July 2021
Florence is the latest location for us to visit in our Great Books series. Ten Great Books set in Florence. It is its own creation – a beautiful Renaissance town that is still known for fashion, art, and craftsmanship and it is simply beautiful.
“Everything about Florence seems to be colored with a mild violet, like diluted wine” (Henry James, writer, in a letter dated 1869)
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
Alessandra is not quite fifteen when her prosperous merchant father brings a young painter back with him from Holland to adorn the walls of the new family chapel. She is fascinated by his talents and envious of his abilities and opportunities to paint to the glory of God. Soon her love of art and her lively independence are luring her into closer involvement with all sorts of taboo areas of life. On excursions into the streets of night-time Florence she observes a terrible evil stalking the city and witnesses the rise of the fiery young priest, Savanarola, who has set out to rid the city of vice, richness, even art itself.
Alessandra must make crucial decisions about the shape of her adult life, as Florence itself must choose between the old ways of the luxury-loving Medicis and the asceticism of Savanorola. And through it all, there is the painter, whose love will change everything.
The Flood by David Hewson
This is a dazzling Italian mystery, rich in intrigue and dark secrets, from an internationally bestselling crime writer at the height of his powers. Florence, 1986. A seemingly inexplicable attack on a church fresco of Adam and Eve brings together an unlikely couple: Julia Wellbeloved, an English art student, and Pino Fratelli, a semi-retired detective who longs to be back in the field. Their investigation leads them to the secret society that underpins the city: an elite underworld of excess, violence and desire. Seeped in the culture of Tuscany’s most mysterious city, The Flood takes the reader on a dazzling journey into the darkness in Florence’s past: the night of the great flood in 1966…
A Florentine Death by Michele Giutarri
Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara knows that the beautiful surface of his adopted city, Florence, hides dark undercurrents. When called in to investigate a series of brutal and apparently random murders, his intuition is confirmed.
Distrusted by his superiors and pilloried by the media, Ferrara finds time running out as the questions pile up. Is there a connection between the murders and the threatening letters he has received? Are his old enemies, the Calabrian Mafia, involved? And what part is played by a beautiful young woman facing a heart-rending decision, a priest troubled by a secret from his past, and an American journalist fascinated by the darker side of life?
Ferrara confronts the murky underbelly of Florence in an investigation that will put not only his career but also his life on the line.
The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
Irving Stone’s powerful and passionate biographical novel of Michelangelo.
His time: the turbulent Renaissance, the years of poisoning princes, warring popes, the all-powerful Medici family, the fanatic monk Savonarola.
His loves: the frail and lovely daughter of Lorenzo de Medici; the ardent mistress of Marco Aldovrandi; and his last love – his greatest love – the beautiful, unhappy Vittoria Colonna.
His genius: a God-driven fury from which he wrested the greatest art the world has ever known.
Michelangelo Buonarotti, creator of David, painter of the Sistine ceiling, architect of the dome of St Peter’s, lives once more in the tempestuous, powerful pages of Irving Stone’s marvellous book.
A Room With A View by E M Forster
An Edwardian social comedy, set in Florence and Surrey, UK. Lucy Honeychurch, a charming young Englishwoman, faints into the arms of fellow British traveller as she witnesses a murder in a Florentine Piazza. Her attraction to this man leads her to a battle against snobbery and questioning what is acceptable to a woman of her class. Is it to be convention or passion? Populated by colourful characters and beautifully crafted, it is an absolute must read.
Still Life by Sarah Winman
1944, in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening.
Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the wreckage and relive memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view.
Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses’ mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades.
Moving from the Tuscan Hills and piazzas of Florence, to the smog of London’s East End, Still Life is a sweeping, joyful novel about beauty, love, family and fate.
Romola by George Eliot
“Romola is a historical novel by George Eliot set in the fifteenth century, and is “”a deep study of life in the city of Florence from an intellectual, artistic, religious, and social point of view””. Florence, 1492: Christopher Columbus has sailed towards the New World, and Florence has just mourned the death of its legendary leader, Lorenzo de’ Medici. In this setting, a Florentine trader meets a shipwrecked stranger, who introduces himself as Tito Melema, a young Italianate-Greek scholar. Tito becomes acquainted with several other Florentines, including Nello the barber and a young girl named Tessa. He is also introduced to a blind scholar named Bardo de’ Bardi, and his daughter Romola. As Tito becomes settled in Florence, assisting Bardo with classical studies, he falls in love with Romola. However, Tessa falls in love with Tito, and the two are “”married”” in a mock ceremony. Tito learns from Fra Luca, a Dominican monk, that his adoptive father has been forced into slavery and is asking for assistance. Tito introspects, comparing filial duty to his new ambitions in Florence, and decides that it would be futile to attempt to rescue his adoptive father. This paves the way for Romola and Tito to marry. Fra Luca shortly thereafter falls ill and before his death he speaks to his estranged sister, Romola. Ignorant of Romola’s plans, Fra Luca warns her of a vision foretelling a marriage between her and a mysterious stranger who will bring pain to her and her father. After Fra Luca’s death, Tito dismisses the warning and advises Romola to trust him. Tito and Romola become betrothed at the end of Carnival, to be married at Easter after Tito returns from a visit to Rome.”
The Dead Season by Christobel Kent
Every August, Florence shimmers in the summer heat. But this year the heatwave is fiercer than usual, and the city’s inhabitants have fled to the cool of the hills and beaches of the surrounding countryside. So it is no surprise that amidst the shrubbery of a normally busy roundabout, a corpse lies unnoticed, bloating in the humid air.
Sandro Cellini will not be joining the crowds of holidaymakers this year. The former policeman turned private detective has a case: a man who seems to have vanished into thin air – leaving his pregnant young wife alone
in the city. Meanwhile, bankteller Roxana Delfino is also stuck in the city for the season, with nothing to do but worry for her aging mother and puzzle over the disappearance of one her regular clients.
As all Florence sweats it out, Cellini attempts as best he can to grapple with his case and the complications it throws up. And when the weather finally breaks, it brings with it a shocking revelation…
The Lost Girl by Lucretia Grindle
Seventeen year-old Kristen Carson is an American student studying in Florence. Her Father arrives and finds her missing, however the police are not overly concerned. Allessandro Pallioti and Enzo Saenz are the detective duo who investigate sightings that she was seen getting into the car of Antonio Tomaselli, a member of the Red Brigades who had been imprisoned for his part in the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro in 1978….
Inferno by Dan Brown
‘Seek and ye shall find.’
With these words echoing in his head, eminent Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon awakes in a hospital bed with no recollection of where he is or how he got there. Nor can he explain the origin of the macabre object that is found hidden in his belongings.
A threat to his life will propel him and a young doctor, Sienna Brooks, into a breakneck chase across the city of Florence. Only Langdon’s knowledge of hidden passageways and ancient secrets that lie behind its historic facade can save them from the clutches of their unknown pursuers.
With only a few lines from Dante’s dark and epic masterpiece, The Inferno, to guide them, they must decipher a sequence of codes buried deep within some of the most celebrated artefacts of the Renaissance – sculptures, paintings, buildings – to find the answers to a puzzle which may, or may not, help them save the world from a terrifying threat.
Set against an extraordinary landscape inspired by one of history’s most ominous literary classics, Inferno is Dan Brown’s most compelling and thought-provoking novel yet, a breathless race-against-time thriller that will grab you from page one and not let you go until you close the book.
If there aren’t enough titles here to satisfy your #literarywanderlust to Florence, then take a look at all books set in the beautiful city here
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