Books That Take Place in Italy

Morning view in Venice, Italy. Editorial Credit: @canmandawe on Unsplash
Morning view in Venice, Italy. Editorial Credit: @canmandawe on Unsplash
  • Florence, Sicily, and Tuscany are common settings for books that take place in Italy.
  • "Call Me By Your Name" is a book that takes place in Italy and was recently made into a film.
  • Famous writer Ernest Hemmingway wrote a book taking place in Italy titled "A Farewell To Arms".

Italy is considered one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, and features varied culture, traditions, and a mix of modern and ancient architecture. The country can be explored in many ways including a drive across the country or through several documentaries. Additionally, various books can transport the reader to any part of the country. From history and religious books, to fiction or romance novels, there are many excellent books about Italy that cover all aspects of the country. A sample of books that take place in Italy are described below.

10. Midnight in Sicily

Sicily is a city located off the southern coast of Italy and is known for its glorious coastline and stark landscape. However, at the heart of the beautiful city is a network of violence and corruption. Peter Robb, an author who spent 14 years in Sicily, explores the history and culture of the mafia’s reign and its role in Italian politics. Midnight in Italy explores the impunity and dysfunction that is intertwined in the mafia world from the post-World War II era to the 1990s. At the center of this tale is a seven-time prime minister and a once-powerful Italian politician, Giulio Andreotti.

9. My Brilliant Friend

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is a generous and intense story about two friends, Lila and Elena. The story begins in the outskirts of Naples, where the two girls were brought up. As they grow up, their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, but they remain best friends. Elena and Lila are the embodiment of a country undergoing momentous changes. Through their lives, Elena Ferrante tells the story of the transformation of a neighborhood, city, and country in such a way that the relationship between the two main characters is also transformed.

8. The Enchanted April

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim was one of the most popular books set in Italy for nearly 100 years. The charming novel is about four different women who rent a castle in Italy for a month. Mrs. Arbuthnot and Mrs. Wilkins are joined by a Caroline, a young lady whose beauty has become a burden to her, and Mrs. Fisher, who considers herself an old lady with a stick. The four women become friends and in the process share details about their lives. The themes in the story vary from marital struggles to grief.

7. Call Me By Your Name

Call Me by Your Name is a novel authored by Andre Aciman. The bulk of the story is set in Liguria and focuses on a romantic relationship between a 17-year old boy named Elio Perlman and a 24-year old man named Oliver. Elio is an American-Italian Jew and Oliver is an American-Jew. The novel narrates the summer romance between the two and the 20 years that follow. Elio, who is the narrator of the story, recalls the events of the summer of 1983 and how his parents would take in doctoral students as house guests for six weeks. He is attracted to Oliver who happens to be a guest in his house, and the two soon become romantically involved. After a brief encounter, the two fall out of touch but reunite after several years.

6. A Room With a View

A Room with a View is a novel written by E. M. Forster and set in both England and Florence. The scene in Florence stands out as it is about confronting cultural challenges in the pursuit of happiness. At the center of the story is a young English woman who has been restrained by the culture of the Edwardian era. Lucy Honeychurch visits Italy with her cousin, Miss Charlotte Bartlett. However, the two ladies complain about the room they had been allocated. In the process, Mr. Emerson offers to swap rooms, an offer that Charlotte rejects. Mr. Emerson’s room has a clear view of the Arno river, but he is rejected because of his unconventional behavior. The tale that follows is about romance and humorous critique of English society. The story ends with Emerson and Lucy eloping without the consent of her mother.

5. Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun was written in 1996 by Frances Mayes about restoring an abandoned Tuscan villa and the spirit of Tuscany, including its villages, markets, and vineyards. The story highlights the trials and tribulations that Frances and her husband Ed experienced while renovating the villa. The two are both university professors who were off from work during the summer and spend their holiday renovating. They encountered many problems, including lazy contractors, and their poor knowledge of the Italian language made the situation even worse. In the book, Frances also tries to imagine the previous owner of the villa, and the story ends with the couple spending their winter in the villa.

4. Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter is set across several decades and does not take place exclusively in Italy. Jess begins his story in 1962 along a rocky Italian coastline, where a young innkeeper is daydreaming as he looks out over the waters of the Ligurian Sea. He is approached by a tall, thin lady who he later learns is an American actress. The story picks up again with an elderly Italian man who shows up in a movie studio searching for a woman he last saw in his hotel decades ago. What follows is a dazzling and intriguing story of people navigating through their rocky lives.

3. Twice Born

Twice Born is a sophisticated and haunting novel by Margaret Mazzantini. The book centers on Gemma, an Italian woman, and her 16-year old son. The two leave Rome for Sarajevo, a war-scarred city, with Gamma hoping to teach her son about the city of his birth and his father, Diego. Once in Sarajevo, Gamma cannot stop thinking of her affair with Diego and the desire to have a family, but also must contend with what is looming in the city. Twice Born brings to light both the generosity and acts of brutality that war can inspire.

2. A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms is a novel by Ernest Hemingway about an Italian ambulance driver and his love for an English nurse. The story is set against the horrors of the battlefield, as a group of demoralized army officers march in the rain during the German attack on Caporetto. Hemingway brings out the struggle between desertion and loyalty, and captures the pain that lovers caught up in the war must go through.

1. Sacred Hearts

Sacred Hearts tell the story of 16-year-old Serafina, who is forced to abandon her illicit love affair and unwillingly gets admitted to the convent of Santa Caterina in Ferrara, Italy. Serafina spends her first night at the convent in such a violent rage that Suora Zuana, a dispensary mistress, is sent to sedate her. However, a complex relationship of trust and betrayal begins between Serafina and the nun. Serafina soon becomes the nun's daughter she will never have. Sarah Dunant’s Sacred Hearts is a multifaceted love story that encompasses the enduring power of friendship.


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