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Ten Great Books set in ITALY

14th January 2022

Italy is the latest destination in our ‘Ten Great Books set in…’ series. Ten great books set in Italy. Italy, a European country with a long Mediterranean coastline, has left a powerful mark on Western culture and cuisine. Its capital, Rome, is home to the Vatican as well as landmark art and ancient ruins. Other major cities include Florence, with Renaissance masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s David and Brunelleschi’s Duomo; Venice, the city of canals; and Milan, Italy’s fashion capital.

‘Fine words don’t feed cats’ – Italian proverb

Ten Great Books set in ITALYA Day in the Life of Ancient Rome by Alberto Angela

The year is 115 AD and Imperial Rome is at the height of its power. The reader wakes in a rich patrician home and discovers frescoes, opulent furnishings and richly appointed boudoirs. Strolling through the splendours of the Roman Forum, one overhears both learned opinions from intellectual orators and local dialogue and humour floating out from the public latrines. One meets the intense gazes of Roman matriarchs strolling the streets, looks on as a banquet is prepared, and is afforded a peek into the sexual habits and fetishes of Roman patricians and plebs.

A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio

“I was the Arminuta, the girl returned. I spoke another language, I no longer knew who I belonged to. The word ‘mama’ stuck in my throat like a toad. And, nowadays, I really have no idea what kind of place mother is. It is not mine in the way one might have good health, a safe place, certainty.”

Told with an immediacy and a rare expressive intensity that has earned it countless adoring readers and one of Italy’s most prestigious literary prizes, A Girl Returned is a powerful novel rendered with sensitivity and verve by Ann Goldstein, translator of the works of Elena Ferrante. Set against the stark, beautiful landscape of Abruzzo in central Italy, this is a compelling story about mothers and daughters, about responsibility, siblings, and caregiving.

Without warning or explanation, an unnamed 13-year-old girl is sent away from the family she has always thought of as hers to live with her birth family: a large, chaotic assortment of individuals whom she has never met and who seem anything but welcoming. Thus begins a new life, one of struggle, tension, and conflict, especially between the young girl and her mother. But in her relationship with Adriana and Vincenzo, two of her newly acquired siblings, she will find the strength to start again and to build a new and enduring sense of self.

An Italian Affair by Caroline Montague

Italy, 1937. Alessandra Durante is grieving the loss of her husband when she discovers she has inherited her ancestral family seat, Villa Durante, deep in the Tuscan Hills. Longing for a new start, she moves from her home in London to Italy with her daughter Diana and sets about rebuilding her life.

Under the threat of war, Alessandra’s house becomes first a home and then a shelter to all those who need it. Then Davide, a young man who is hiding the truth about who he is, arrives, and Diana starts to find her heart going where her head knows it must not.

Back home in Britain as war breaks out, Alessandra’s son Robert, signs up to be a pilot, determined to play his part in freeing Italy from the grip of Fascism. His bravery marks him out as an asset to the Allies, and soon he is being sent deep undercover and further into danger than ever before.

As war rages, the Durante family will love and lose, but will they survive the war…?

Ashes to Ashes, Diamonds to Dust by Pamela Allegretto

Venice sets the stage for a diamond caper gone wrong, where everyone is someone else, and no one can be trusted.

During her Venetian trip to participate in an international art exhibition, Carla Romano brings along her deceased friend’s ashes. But is that all she has in her tote bag? The FBI, Venetian police, and a gaggle of misfits believe otherwise. Five-million-dollars in stolen diamonds are expected to be unloaded in Venice, and Carla is the suspected bag lady.

Slipping into designer shoes and donning her sleuth-in-training cap, Carla sets out in a city of secrets that everyone knows, to solve a diamond caper with more twists and turns than the Venetian labyrinth of narrow streets and canals.

Children of the Mists by Lexa Dudley

This is a story of enduring love. Set in the 1800s, life on Sardinia had barely changed since the time of the Caesars. Two families, the Sannas and the Canus, are united by friendship and honour; love and laughter; joy and promises; omens and superstitions; youth and experience transcend generations.
However, for Raffaella and Antonio their love becomes entangled with revenge. Death changes devotion. Promises are forgotten. Vendettas can’t be ignored. Ambition clouds judgements. Antonio and Raffaella were promised to each other, nothing would keep them apart, not even family. Committed to each other, they fight for their love against all odds.

Lexa won the Romance category with the Book Excellence Awards 2016 with Children of the Mists in the Sardinia section.

Ten Great Books set in ITALYConclave by Robert Harris

The Pope is dead.

Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election.

They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals.

Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.

Dream of Venice by JoAnn Locktov (Editor) and Frances Mayes

The mysterious allure of the ancient floating city of Venice is captured in this book of evocative photography and beguiling words of a diverse group of contemporary Venetophiles. The luminous photographs, in both color and black and white, compliment the intimate thoughts, memories, poems, and stories of notable contributors from the worlds of art, literature, design, cuisine, music, and filmmaking. Readers will want to listen to the silence of the canals and get lost in the ethereal mist of Piazza San Marco. Included are anecdotes and Venetian recollections from Woody Allen, Julie Christie, Diane Hales, Marcella Hazan, Erica Jong, Judith Martin, Linus Roache, Roger Crowley, and Nicolas Roeg.

Vengeance in Venice by Philip Gwynne Jones

An invitation to an exclusive event during the Venetian Biennale gives Honorary Consul Nathan Sutherland the perfect chance to drink prosecco in the sunshine and meet some of the greats of the art world.

And then a world-famous critic is decapitated by one of the installations in the British Pavilion. A terrible accident, it seems, until a postcard is discovered in the victim’s pocket: an image of Judith beheading Holofernes.

But this is not just a one-off. Before long, three more postcards have been sent out with deadly results. As the bodies pile up, Nathan finds himself getting closer and closer to the truth, but when he himself receives an image of Death bearing a scythe, it becomes a race against time to save his own life.

Ten Great Books set in ITALYThe Savage Shore by David Hewson

Roman police detective Nic Costa has been sent undercover to Italy’s beautiful, remote Calabrian coast to bring in the head of the feared mob, the ‘Ndrangheta, who has offered to turn state witness for reasons of his own.

Hoping to reel in the biggest prize the state police have seen in years, the infamous Butcher of Palermo, Costa and his team are aware the stakes are high. But the constant deception is taking its toll. Out of their depth in a lawless part of Italy where they are the outcasts, not the men in the hills, with their shotguns and rough justice, the detectives find themselves pitched as much against one another as the mob. As the tension rises, it’s clear the operation is not going to plan. Is Nic Costa getting too close to the enemy for comfort – and is there a traitor among them …?

The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri

While Vigàta is wracked by storms, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is called to attend the discovery of a dismembered body in a field of clay. Bearing all the marks of an execution style killing, it seems clear that this is, once again, the work of the notorious local mafia. But who is the victim? Why was the body divided into 30 pieces? And what is the significance of the Potter’s Field? Working to decipher these clues, Montalbano must also confront the strange and difficult behaviour exhibited by his old colleague Mimi, and avoid the distraction of the enchanting Dolores Alfano – who seeks the inspector’s help in locating her missing husband. But like the Potter’s Field itself, Montalbano is on treacherous ground and only one thing is certain – nothing is quite as it seems.

it was hard to chose just ten books from the over 870 in our Italian database! If we have missed any of your favourites, then please add them in the Comments below

Tony for the TripFiction team

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