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Books you would recommend, in preparation for visiting Italy.

Books you would recommend, in preparation for visiting Italy.

Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 04:07 AM
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Books you would recommend, in preparation for visiting Italy.

Hi All

I love reading the Fodor's forums, for all the wonderful advice, but also for all the inside tips which make a trip so memorable.

I am traveling to Italy for the first time in March, and would love to have your advice on books to read before I go and during my trip. We will be visiting Rome, Florence, Venice and Pompeii. I really enjoy interestingly written non-fiction and historical fiction. I know I've seen Ross King recommended as an author about Italy, but I was wondering if there were any other books that you would recommend.

I am also combining this trip with a visit to Cairo, so if you have recommendations for that too, they would be appreciated.

I look forward to the responses. And hopefully this thread will bring someone the other suggestions together into one thread for future readers.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 04:10 AM
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Oops

"And hopefully this thread will bring someone the other suggestions together into one thread for future readers."

Should read "And hopefully this thread will bring some OF the other suggestions together into one thread for future readers.

Typing too fast!!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 04:29 AM
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Start with http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34929697
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 05:31 AM
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I will add:

"The Italian Way," by Mario Costantino and Lawrence Gambella (aspects of behavior, attitudes and customs of the Italians).

"Italy at it's Best," by Robert Kane (no relation). Don't be put off by the Irish name...he's well-versed about travels in Italy.

"The Last Italian," by William Murray (long-time contributor of "Letters to Rome" for The New Yorker). It's a portrait of the Italian people.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 06:21 AM
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I just read Steven Saylor's Roma and found it to be very good. It is more of a series of novellas, tracing one family from before the founding of Rome to the ~1 AD. There are a fair number of books/series dating to the end of the Republic/the early Empire, but I haven't seen much that goes way back. He also has a mystery series set at the end of the Republic. Additional series might include Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome (starting with The First Man in Rome), Lindsey Davis' Falco (stating with The Silver Pigs), and John Roberts Maddox's SQPR (starting with SPQR I: The King's Gambit). If you're into mysteries, check out http://italian-mysteries.com/ where you can search by location or time period.

For biographies, look into Anthony Everitt's Augustus and Cicero. For biographical fiction, try I, Cladius by Robert Graves,

You might also consider some ancient writings. I thought Suetonius' Twelves Caesars and Caesar's The Civil War were good.

If you're into architecture, I enjoyed Rome from the Ground Up and Venice from the Ground Up, both combination architectural histories and guides.

I would also add a "must" read for Pompeii being Pompeii by Robert Harris.

This should give you a place to start.

Paul
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 06:56 AM
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The other thread you were given has some embedded threads so many of these suggestions may be on those. I know I have listed some of them in the past. Definitely read the Ross King books, too, for Florence and Rome

HISTORICAL FICITON
I Claudius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves (or watch the BBC version with Derek Jacobi)
Augustus by John Williams
Julian by Gore Vidal
The Passion of ARtemisia by Susan Vreeland
The Name of the Rose--umberto Ecco

NON-FICTION
The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr (about the search for a missing Caravaggio)
The Genius In the Design: Bernini, Borromini and the Rivalry that Transformed Rome by Jake Morrissey
Pasquale's Nose by Michael Rips (American writer in Sutri, near Rome)
Tim Parks' 3 non fiction works about Italy: Italian Neighbors, Italian Education and A Season with Verona (British author living in Italy)
The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinnis (following a soccer team for a year)
Mary McCarthy: The Stones of Florence and Venice Observed
City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (Venice)
Songbirds, Truffles and Wolves: An American Naturalist in Italy by Gary Paul Nabdan
On Persephone's Island: A Sicilian Journal by Mary Taylor Simeti

You didn't ask about MYSTERIES but others might be interested and these could be light reading for the trip:
Donna Leon for Venice
Magdalen Nabb for Florence
David Hewson for Rome
Michael Dibdin -- set all around Italy
Iain Pears art history-related

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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 08:36 AM
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Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia by John Dickie is quite excellent, it is a fascinating account of the roots of the mafia and how and why it grew over the years. If you like historical non-fiction, do check this one out.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 08:40 AM
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You might like Angels and Demons (ficition.)I think it is by Dan Brown.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 09:22 AM
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"The World of Venice" by Jan Morris. Personal, evocative, a classic.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 09:52 AM
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Angels and Demons is by Dan Brown, about a papal election. There is another similar recent thriller based on events after the death of John Paul II: God's Spy by Spanish author Juan Gomez-Jurado. Neither is great literature by any stretch of the imagination. My teen age son had read Angels and Demons before our trip to Rome last year and did pick up some bits of information about major Roman tourist sites from it
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 10:42 AM
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I am currently reading "Lucia - A Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon" by Andrea Di Robilant. I love historical fiction, and so far I have found this book to be very interesting. The author has recreated his great, great, great, great grandmother's life based on letters she wrote that have been passed down through the centuries. You might also like "The Birth of Venus" by Sarah Dunant, which takes place in 15th century Florence.

I loved the Dan Brown novels - especially "Angels and Demons." I had read "Angels and Demons" prior to visiting Rome and the Vatican, and it was so interesting to have some background regarding how a new Pope is chosen. I actually re-bought the book from a bookstore in Rome to re-read while on vacation there.

Happy reading!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 10:45 AM
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Two of my favorite books ever, and I believe a MUST for any traveler to Italy are Saylor's Roma and Irving Stone's Agony and Ecstasy. Both of them are reader's heaven.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 11:27 AM
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Two books that I especially enjoyed were The Stone Virgin, by Barry Unsworth and Sixteen Pleasures, by Robert Hellenga.

The Stone Virgin interweaves the story of a conservator working on a stone madonna in contemporary Venice with several historical stories about the statue.

Sixteen Pleasures is about a young woman who comes to Florence after a major flood (1966) to restore books, and ends up finding a great deal more in the way of life experiences.

It's been 10 years since I've read them, but I do remember enjoying them both thoroughly before I went to Italy.
Paule
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 11:45 AM
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The Ross King book I think you mean is "Brunelleschi's Dome" about the building of the dome on the Duomo in Florence.

Also, for non-fiction I like "Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling" The only drawback is that there aren't any really good color illustrations in the book, only small ones, so also get a big picture book from the library to look at the frescoes.

"Galileo's Daughter" is based on letters the daughter, a nun in florence, wrote to her father and is a very good biography of him -- and her.

"The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi" is a novel about a Jewish woman living in the Renaissance.

The two TV series, "I, claudius" and "Rome" are pretty good at depicting the history of the rulers of ancient Rome, although it's not entirely accurate. But the general lifestyle and look of the place is good. Be aware that "Rome" is NOT for children. I don't know if it really is x-rated, but I think it is.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 12:12 PM
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Without a doubt Agony and Ecstasy.. a must read.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 12:32 PM
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Some of my favorite fictional novels are Pompeii and Imperium - A Novel of Ancient Rome by Robert Harris, In the Company of the Courtesan and Birth of Venus by Sarah Durran and City of Falling Angels by John Berendt.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2008, 12:36 PM
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Sorry that is Sarah Dunant not Durran.
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 08:35 AM
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It's fiction, but I'm enjoying Jenny McPhee's "A Man of no Moon."

It's far from "upbeat," but it's set in Rome, Venice and the countryside, right after WW II.

Funny, I started planning this trip last August (we leave Sunday!) and had all the accommodations settled shortly thereafter. I bought this book at Christmas. The protagonist has an apartment on the Via Giulia, which is where we are staying in Rome - AND he stays at La Calcina while visiting Venice, which is where we are staying.

I found that a little creepy. ;-)
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 08:42 AM
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If you are going to visit also Penisola Sorrentina, I suggest you "Gambine & Zuccheri".
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 10:25 AM
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Wow - Thanks everyone.

Apparently Italy is very liked for settings for books.

I wish I had more time to read everything! I will definitely look up a few of these and get reading.

This also seems a popular topic, I'm sorry I didn't search it before posting. But thank you to everyone for reposting their best bets, at least it's created a newer thread for future readers.

Bianca
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