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Essential Reading List - Great Books About or Set in Italy

Essential Reading List - Great Books About or Set in Italy

Old Jan 21st, 2004, 10:41 PM
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Baudolino by Umberto Eco. Set in Italy when Barbarossa was named Emperor of Italy.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2004, 10:51 AM
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Hi,
I have had time, between my addictive sessions on this forum, to recently read "1,000 days in Venice."
Loved it! It's kind of a chick book but so what. Gives you a great feel for Venice and some nice insights into making a relationship work. Also, great for foodies.
Thanks to those who posted it here.
j
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Old Jan 22nd, 2004, 11:18 AM
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Just finished reading Angels and Other Demons as recommended on this thread. It was fabulous! Am now reading Vanilla Beans and Brodo, while waiting for La Cucina and 1000 Days in Venice to come in.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2004, 11:38 AM
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Just to add info to the book list, "Pasquale's Nose" was written by Michael Rips.

Another book by Lily Prior is "Nectar." It was a rollicking farce, made me blush more than once, but hilarious nonetheless. Set in the past, exact era unknown, it's the adventures of an albino servant who emits a scent that intoxicates every man around, driving some to the point of suicide when they can't be among her multitude of lovers. Again, it's a naughty comedy, but the character names (and there are 99 of them) are absolutely hilarios. And of course I can't think of a one at this moment!

As for A Thousand Days in Venice, it has a special place in my heart, I'm living it out right now.

Cheers,
~K
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Old Jan 23rd, 2004, 11:29 AM
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Despite the klutzy title, this one is worth a browse: "Songbirds, Truffles and Wolves: An American Naturalist in Italy." The ethnobotanist author (? Nabhan) visits Genoa and then walks from Florence to Assisi. Readable observations on Italy past and present: flora and fauna, food, people, history, St. Francis. I didn't read it intently from cover to cover (the stuff about his personal life are distracting) but I learned some interesting things, especially about polenta!
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Old Jan 23rd, 2004, 12:35 PM
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In casse this wasn't previously listed, I'd suggest any of Dona Leon's fine mysteries set in Venice.
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Old Jan 24th, 2004, 01:40 PM
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I hope I'm not repeating a recommendation. I tried to read all responces first before making my book suggestions.

I bought A Tuscan Childhood by Kinta Beevor while in Florence one year. It is a great true story of the children of Lina Waterfield, the founder of the British Institute in Florence. I had seen signs directing one to the Villa that is featured in the book and never went. Now I am sorry. It is outside Aulla Italy.

Another book that is more recent is When In Rome by Robert J. Hutchinson. It is very informative and funny at times. It is a journal of life at the Vatican.
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Old Jan 25th, 2004, 03:47 PM
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Just released is A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth. Set in an (intentionally) anonymous hill town in italy it is about a man who keeps secrets about who he his while meeting and talking about the village priest, local prostitutes and other characters. Nice mystery thriller and well written.
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Old Feb 11th, 2004, 11:40 AM
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ttt
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Old Feb 11th, 2004, 12:07 PM
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I don't think I see this on the list anywhere, but I'm about two thirds of the way through the excellent novel, The Floating Book, by M R Lovric. Set in late 15th century Venice, it's an excellent novel about the early days of printing presses and the controvery it caused. Full of wonderful little bits about legends in Venice and other things (like the legend behind the "M" on tabby cats) and also a secondary story line about the poems of Catullus. Is this book available in the U.S. yet? Marlena de Blasi, author of A Thousand Days in Venice, called The Floating Book "breathtaking."
ISBN: 1-844408-003-X
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Old Feb 11th, 2004, 12:24 PM
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So far, I have seen my very favorites here--Artesmia, Mrs. Garnet's Angel, Michaelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, all wonderful!!

I read another book, although right now I can't recall the name, a reporter took a leave of absense to live for a year in Venice, Paris and London. Excellent book as well.
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Old Aug 18th, 2004, 10:13 AM
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I really enjoyed Birth of Venus, by Sarah Dunant. It's set in Florence when Savaronola was doing his thing.
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Old Aug 19th, 2004, 04:49 AM
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Update...
For those who enjoyed Annie Hawes' Extra Virgin, set in Liguria, there's a sequel called Ripe for the Picking.
For those who enjoyed Isabella Dusi's Vanilla Beans and Brodo, set in Montalcino, there's a sequel called Bel Vino. A must read for those interested in Brunello di Montalcino.
Both of these are available through amazon's UK site, as apparently no US site is carrying them.
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Old Aug 19th, 2004, 05:08 AM
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Dog Mother, Robert Hellenga's *The Fall of a Sparrow* is fairly thick and kept me awake late for several nights. It is the story of the return to life of a father whose daughter was killed in the 1980 Bologna train station bombing. I also second the recommendations for Mann and Lawrence. Happy reading!
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Old Aug 19th, 2004, 05:47 AM
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I just remembered another good one. *Summer's Lease* by John Mortimer, who wrote the Rumpole of the Bailey series. Busybody British woman with husband, kids, and outrageous father rents a Tuscan villa for the summer, replete with mystery and humor.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2004, 01:27 PM
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Here are a few books to add to this thread:

A new, absolutely delightful novel, set in Rome: "The Food of Love" by Anthony Capella. My husband and I both laughed all the way through this. It sort of reminds me of the light-hearted Peter Mayles Provence novels, although as different from Mayles as Rome is from the Luberon.

"The Stone Virgin," by Barry Unsworth. Set in Venice; read it and visit the Madonna dell'Orto Church, with a sculpture that inspired the story.

"The Marble Faun," by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It's not easy to wade through the 19th-century prose, but much of this book really is a travelogue of Rome disguised as a romance novel and it's fun from that standpoint. Apparently about a century ago, editions of this book were sold with blank pages for tourists to paste in pictures of themselves at all the points where action occurs in the story.

The guidebook "City Secrets: Rome" has a nice couple of pages recommending a "Marble Faun" route. This is a wonderful book, by the way, which hasn't been mentioned in this thread: the subtitle describes it as "The world's foremost artists, writers, architects, archaeologists, and historians reveal their favorite discoveries in this ultimate insider's guide."

I recently finished (on audiotape) an old (circa 1970) mystery by Ngaio Marsh, "When in Rome." It was fun for light diversion. Much of the action takes place in a church which must really be San Clemente, although it's called San Tomasso in the book, and two of the main characters supposedly look exactly like the Etruscan couple on the Villa Giula sarcophagus.

Someone asked about Capri: Right now I'm reading "The Apprentice Lover" by Jay Parini, set on the island during the Vietnam War era. It's wonderfully well written; I'd highly recommend it.

I also have out of the library, although I haven't yet started it, Shirley Hazzard's "Bay of Noon," set in Naples.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2004, 01:50 PM
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Another delightful novel by Shirley Hazzard set in Italy: "The Evening of the Holiday," recently reissued in paperback.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2004, 10:02 AM
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Wonderful old thread! I can't believe nobody mentioned Lindsey Davis's series of historical mysteries set in ancient Rome and featuring Marcus Didius Falco (the first was Silver Pigs)--like Saylor's books, they bring Rome to life. And, for nonfiction, Christopher Hibbert has written three books, one on Rome, one on Venice, and one on Florence, each subtitled "A Biography of a City"--he writes really well, and the historical background you need to understand Italy goes down easily.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2004, 10:51 AM
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I loved the "Birth of Venus" by Sarah Dunant. I'm such a sucker for stories about women going against the rules of their time and it's such a beautiful, heartbreaking love story. As a treat, it's set against Florence at the time of Lorenzo de Medici, Savonarola, and a quick 'cameo' by Michelangelo. It's just such an enjoyable read!
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Old Sep 3rd, 2004, 11:11 AM
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I saw a couple of references above to H.V. Morton's "A Traveller in Italy." He also wrote "A Traveller in Rome," which I found in paperback in one of the big-box bookstores recently and read in preparation for a trip to Rome in October. Very well-researched and fun to read, especially because we have already been there twice and so much seemed familiar. It was interesting to see his mid-1950's characterizations of the city and its people, which probably have not changed much at all over the last half-century.
Also second Tim Parks' books as well as Ross King's "Brunelleschi's Dome" and "The Pope's Ceiling." Great stuff.
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