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Literature is a wonderful way to know another culture. Don’t you think?? In the past few years, having read several books based in Italy and/or by Italian authors, I have managed to make a list of 15 best books so far. But the thirst to learn more doesn’t satiate. Here is another list of books that easily fall under the essential Italy reading category:

Il Bel Centro by Michelle Damiani:

Translated as “the beautiful centre”, Michelle Damiani’s book is about her journey living as an expat in Spello, Umbria. Il Bel Centro is not only a travel memoir but is a journey of self discovery. Michelle’s writing is beautiful and takes the reader to the ancient town making them part of her struggles, frustrations and victories. One not only gets to know about life in a small Italian town (with no frills) but also understand the traditions that become a part of Michelle’s life in that year. Il Bel Centro is a must read for travel enthusiasts in general and also for anyone looking to move to Italy.

Region: Umbria


Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon:

It is difficult to mention books based in Venice and not think of Donna Leon. An American living in Venice for over two decades, Donna Leon is a lover of Venice and her vivid descriptions of the city show that. The main character of her books, Commissario Brunetti, keeps the readers on toes with his tumultuous Venetian life and thinking. While I have read only a few out of the 25 or so odd novels, Death at La Fenice stands to be my favorite. Donna Leon takes her readers to the back alleys of Venice in the home and life of Brunetti. The fabled city’s charm with hints of Venetian food and old canals gets far more interesting than you can imagine. A must read for crime fiction lovers! The books have been made into a German TV series.

Region: Veneto


The Stones of Florence and Venice Observed by Mary McCarthy:

Well written and poignant, this book is an underrated gem and a great commemoration to the cities of Florence and Venice. It is an honest recollection of McCarthy’s intense travels and includes large explanations about the people and art of both the cities. She makes the reader feel the intensity and crowd of a piazza and then effortlessly takes them to the quietness of a small alley. The research behind this small book is worth mentioning and noteworthy. Of course it is an the icing on the cake if you have visited either or both the cities. Must read for all Italophilies!

Region: Tuscany and Veneto


Italianissimo by Louise Fili and Lise Apatoff:

Anyone looking to know more about the Italian culture should get their hands on this handy 6 inch of a book. From art, architecture, food, fashion and family to smaller details such as vespas, fiat 500s, aperitivo, gardens, markets, bars and festivals, Italianissimo is a peek into the Italian life that you might not know. A great effort by the two authors, the book shows a lot more than you already think you know. There are one page chapters on an aspect of Italian life that also makes it an easy read to flip on your ride back from work. Louise Fili is a popular name in the graphic media world and this book is a testament to that. You should definitely check her caligraphy and designs that will astound you.

Region: Italy


Have you read any of these?? Do share this post among fellow Italy/book/travel lovers!