Let’s be honest, we could all use a long drive up the winding hills of Tuscany on a sunny day, a plate of spaghetti al pomodoro in a crowded piazza, or a glass of Pinot Grigio while staring out at the soft waves of the Mediterranean sea. Since traveling isn’t really an option right now, we’ve rounded up some of the most iconic books about Italy and novels set in the Bel Paese to help take our hearts and minds on a journey instead.
B: Kanin Mohammadi
Ready to leave your corporate 9 to 5 to live in an apartment in Florence, befriend a local bartender, eat pasta every day, look great while doing it, and find love? That’s exactly what Kanin Mohammadi, author of Bella Figura: How to Live, Love, and Eat, the Italian Way will inspire you to do. The chapters are filled with recipes, and begin with highlighting seasonal produce, an Italian word of the month, the current scent of the city, and her favorite Italian moment. Bella Figura teaches us to appreciate the beauty of living simply, and how to incorporate a little bit of Italy into our everyday lives.
Call Me By Your Name
By André Aciman
The cult favorite novel-turned-movie by André Aciman illustrates a powerful summer romance between an adolescent boy and his parent’s summer guest in their Italian Riviera home on the Ligurian Sea. The billowing shirts in the seaside breeze, the long family meals under the starry night skies, and the enchanting day trips that Elio and Oliver take around the small villages in Northern Italy paint the perfect backdrop to a passionate, yet sometimes painful, romance. Call Me By Your Name reminds us of how we will always carry a piece of those unexpected loves within us.
My Brilliant Friend
By Elena Ferrante
My Brilliant Friend, written by Elena Ferrante, is the story of friendship between two young girls, Lila and Elena, set in post-war Naples. The bestselling novel is narrated by Elena Greco, who reminisces on her friendship with Lila, 60 years later. It explores the dichotomies of female friendship: fierce loyalty, underlying competition, insecurities and self-growth. Most importantly, it represents the journey of two young women in search for a better life, not only for themselves, but for each other. My Brilliant Friend is the first of a four-part series, The Neapolitan Novels, which is available as a boxed set here.
See You in the Piazza
By Frances Mayes
See You in the Piazza might just be the closest journey any of us will take throughout Italy for a while. Follow Frances Mayes as she whisks you away on an Italian road trip, starting with the first sip of a Bicerin coffee in northern Torino, and finishing with a beautiful glass of Etna Rosso in Sicily. Be prepared to taste the food and drink of each region through the pages, learn how to speak Italian, and dine al fresco in pretty piazzas and shop for artisanal products without spending an euros (or even leaving your living room sofa).
A Farewell to Arms
By Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway’s classic, A Farewell to Arms, recounts the tragically beautiful love story between Frederic Henry, an American ambulance driver in the Italian Army, and Catherine Barkely, an English nurse. The novel is set against the backdrop of the Julian Alps near Milan and the small northern town of Stresa during World War I. Like any great romance novel written during a time of war, Frederic and Catherine’s story is intense and full of emotional challenges. Heightened by the dramatic landscape, Frederic and Catherine live everyday together as if it might be their last.
From Scratch – A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home
By Tembi Locke
A Reese’s Book Club pick, Tembi Locke’s From Scratch – A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home begins as a love story between her and her husband during their first meet Florence. Locke and her husband eventually relocate to Los Angeles, but tragedy strikes when Locke’s husband Saro passes away from a battle with terminal cancer. With her husband’s ashes in tow, she sets off for his hometown of Aliminusa in Sicily to find comfort and peace in the healing powers of family, food, and community.
Sex and Vanity
By Kevin Kwan
Sex and Vanity takes us to the island of Capri for the week-long, extravagant wedding of an heiress and a count. If you’ve read Crazy Rich Asians, you know that Kwan is a master storyteller and is easily able to transport you to the opulent setting in which his stories take place. Personally, I love imaging myself lounging in The Gardens of Augustus or sailing on a yacht that’s escorting me to a private villa for a plate of spaghetti under lemon trees. Sex and Vanity is a perfect read for escapists and even pays tribute to E.M. Forester’s A Room With A View.
The Enchanted April
By Elizabeth von Armin
Written in 1922, The Enchanted April tells the story of four women who leave their lives and their husbands in England to vacation in a castle in Portofino. I’ve always found that there’s a common theme in novels that take place in Italy, and that theme is how the landscape transforms you. There’s something magical about the Bay of Portofino, Castello Brown and its panoramic gardens that lead the women to come together despite their differences, and rediscover their passion for life in the meantime.
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