books about historyof italy

Jun 7th, 2000, 09:19 AM
julie hojnacki
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books about historyof italy

Hi all!

My husband and I will be going to Italy in Sept. and as a Father's day gift, he has requested books about the history of Italy so he can learn all about it before our trip. Does anyone have any suggestions??? Specifically we will be in Rome, Venice, and Florence...Thanks a bunch!!!!
Jun 7th, 2000, 09:55 AM
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Hi Julie. I just finished Harry Hearder's "A Short History of Italy", and found it, well, just OK. I did see in my local bookstore the "Oxford Illustrated History of Italy", which had (as its name implies) tons of pictures, etc. This might be a better choice, esp. as you've never been there before. I also found this book on the web at Border's (, if you can't find it locally (Amazon is out of stock).
Jun 7th, 2000, 09:59 AM
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Books by Hibbard, Masson and Mertz are all excellent for Rome. Details at

Jun 7th, 2000, 10:07 AM
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Although it is probably part fiction, the Agony and the Ectasy, about the life of Michaelangelo, really brought that area of Italy and its art alive for me while I was there.
Jun 7th, 2000, 10:32 AM
martha python
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Patronage in Renaissance Italy : From 1400 to the Early Sixteenth Century, by Mary Hollingsworth
Jun 7th, 2000, 01:19 PM
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I'm currently reading, and highly recommend, "A History of Venice" by John Julius Norwich. Very enjoyable, as well as informative, although it's making me painfully aware of how little I know about European history!
Jun 7th, 2000, 01:33 PM
Santa Chiara
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Here are some recommendations that cover the spectrum: The 12 Caesars by Seutonius; World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance Portrait of an Age by William Manchester; Caesar and Christ by Will Durant; War in Italy 1943-1945: A Brutal Story by Richard Lamb; and The House of Medici: its Rise and Fall by Christopher Hibbert.

I especially recommend the Manchester book for not only Italy but all of Europe during that cusp in time between the Dark Ages and the Renaissance; the Richard Lamb book for World War II history, especially the Resistance; and the 12 Caesars to put everything else into perspective.

Some would recommend Colleen McCullough's series on Rome, but I have found them to be a mixed bag; some are better than others.

And bravo to your husband for having the interest and initiative to be interested in the history and not the restaurants, wine tours and shops.
Jun 7th, 2000, 01:54 PM
wes fowler
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Consider author/historian John Hale and any one of a number of his books, particularly "The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance", "Florence and the Medici" and "A Concise Encyclopaedia of the Italian Renaissance. Look, too, for Jan Morris' superb "Venice", not a tour guide but rather an insightful evocation of the delights of Venice and Venitians.
Jun 7th, 2000, 02:47 PM
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One of the best history books that I read while in college was "The Medici" by Ferdinand Schevill (I majored in Engineering, but history has always been a fascination of mine). This book reads like a fiction novel as it chronicles the lifes of Florence's House of Medici from rise to disappearance. Since this family had so much to do with Renaissance Italy, this book not only contains fascinating history and political intrigue, but is also a study of Florence's cultural greatness that so many visitors can still admire today.
Jun 7th, 2000, 05:00 PM
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"The Normans in Sicily" is another JJ Norwich that is just as good as his Venice book. I also enjoyed Matt Frei's "Italy" for a slant on modern politics and the mafia. The Oxford Illustrated, as mentioned above, is an excellent overview and I think would make a first class gift.
Jun 7th, 2000, 06:52 PM
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A good concise overview of Italian history can be found in A Traveller's History of Italy (4th Ed.) by Valerio Lintner. It also includes a "Historical Gazetteer" in the back that links virtually every town in Italy to the historical events that occurred there. The only shortcoming is its very conciseness -- Italy has too much history to pack into a short volume! But I did find it useful for the overview.

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