There’s always a lot to read on Italy, books on Italy travel, art, food and culture. Last year I read 17 books based in Italy, 3 of which totally stood out for me. These top three books set in Italy are Cucina Tipica by Andrew Cotto, The Other Side of the Tiber by Wallis Menozzi and Fleeting Rome by Carlo Levi.
Top Three Books Set in Italy
1. Cucina Tipica by Andrew Cotto
Cucina Tipica is a fast paced story set in Italy and centers on the tumultuous life of protagonist Jacoby. Finding his roots among a plethora of olives and vastness of cypresses, Jacoby’s stay in a Tuscan barn pushes him to seek more. Cucina Tipica is Jacoby’s story of self discovery and the unexpected friends he makes along the way. The book is predictable in parts but lovable with the looming beauty of Italy. The author makes two female characters stand out despite having very tiny roles in the book. Thanks to the book, I’m now getting back to listening to Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam and want to also explore more of Tuscany, especially towns like Panzano, Volpaia and Cortona.
The book includes a fair share of the Italian language that will transport you to the real Italy. There were many passages where I got excited and felt, “oh that happens to me too!”
I should add that there is a sufficient amount of sexuality and swearing in the book. The author constantly ponders over life’s questionable relationships along with ridiculous work systems and arrogant bosses.
2. The Other Side of the Tiber: Reflections on Time in Italy by Wallis Wilde-Menozzi
The Other Side of the Tiber, written by Wallis Wilde Menozzi, is a beautiful memoir set in Rome. The book focuses on Wallis’s chaotic time introspecting life in the city after a failed marriage. The author’s incredible story telling and unique observations of the Eternal City are absolutely on point. Even though there are times when the passages are wordy and complicated, her complex attention to Italy’s many layers will make you think. The author has done a great job in capturing memories of Rome from a time long gone.
Although Wallis’s words give itchy feet, they also show Italy with its flaws. The memoir covers a range of subjects namely- politics, religion, art (specifically lengthy prose on Caravaggio and Bernini), fascism and lack of feminism coupled with reflections near the river Tiber. So you can imagine, this book is seeing Rome through rose tinted glasses yet quite the opposite! Highly recommend it to anyone wanting to read a more honest account of Italy’s past.
I found this book in Parma’s Feltrinelli bookstore and later found out that the author lives in the city 🙂
3. Fleeting Rome by Carlo Levi
When it comes to Carlo Levi, his book “Christ Stopped at Eboli” bags most of the credit. Fleeting Rome is an underrated memoir by the author. It is raw and magnificent and almost feels as if you’re walking in Rome with the author! Written immediately after the Second World War, the book captures rare and vivid observations of the city, from it’s piazze and fontane to its small vicoli and big markets. Don’t be put off by the subtitle “In Search of La Dolce Vita” because Levi’s evocative prose will do the right justice to the Eternal City! That being said, Fleeting Rome will resonate more with those who have either lived in Rome or traveled at some point.
Over to you.. Have you read any of these??
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“On the other side of the lot, beyond the corroding replica of “David” that fronted the piazza named after his creator, lay the city of Florence, a spooned circle of terra cotta and stone and pastel, split horizontally by the nearby River Arno and surrounded by verdant hills like a lush hood framing the face of a movie star”.andrew cotto in cucina tipica