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What should I read before going to Italy?

What should I read before going to Italy?

May 23rd, 2001, 12:40 PM
  #1  
Maria
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What should I read before going to Italy?

I know about Bruneleschi's Dome (which I have on order) and I'm reading a Room with a View. I'll be in Venice, Florence and Rome. I really like fiction (literature not mass market stuff) and historical fiction but non-fiction is good too if it's not too dry.

Thanks.
 
May 23rd, 2001, 01:21 PM
  #2  
Kathy
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Hi Maria,
Okay, here goes...

Death in Venice by Mann, Wings of the Dove by James, Portrait of A Lady by James, The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (this is really a set of short stories, all told by 10 characters in a villa outside of Florence as they escape the plague that ravages the city proper--each night they pick a theme & each must tell a tale relating to that theme).

Naturally, anything by Dante (surname is Alighieri), or Petrarch is good, but a little dry & academic unless you're kind of poetically inclined.

I'd also recommend the general works of Natalia Ginzburg (put under a special type of "house arrest" during the Nazi occupation of Italy, along with other writers), Primo Levi, Italo Calvino (he authored an excellent book of Italian folk tales, which may be out of print, but you may be able to obtain it through Harvest Book Search)and Luigi Pirandello. Oh, let's not forget our friend, Prof. Umberto Eco, author of the highly enjoyable historical fiction, The Name of the Rose.

Sorry, I majored in Italian lit & authored a thesis on the Divine Comedy. I also work for a book retailer!

Please have a lot of great reads & wonderful travels,
Kathy
 
May 23rd, 2001, 03:50 PM
  #3  
Topping
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To the top!
 
May 23rd, 2001, 04:04 PM
  #4  
Jill
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Maria,
I have some more "contemprary" suggestions.

Hills of Tuscany by Ferenc Mate

Bella Tuscany
Under the Tuscan Sun both by Frances Mayes & now sold as a set.

Summer Lease by John Mortimer is kind of funny, but also gives a slice-of-life view of daily life.

Desiring Italy, edited by Susan Nunzig (sp?) Cahill is an anthology of writings on Italy by female authors

Enjoy!
Jill
 
May 23rd, 2001, 04:30 PM
  #5  
Paule
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There are some wonderful books of fiction set in Italy which I devoured before my trip! Here are some of the ones I loved (the first two are excellent, and the book by Barry Unsworth is definitely one of my top ten books:

-The Stone Virgin by Barry Unsworth

-Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga
(he wrote another one, too, which is good, though not quite as good as the one listed, but I don't remember the
title!)

-mystery series by Michael Didbin (excellent series about a rather dour police inspector)

-mystery series set in Venice by Donna Leon (lighter than previous author)

-mystery series set (mostly) in Rome:
by Ian Pears

The Dante Game, mystery by Jane Langton, set in Italy

Enjoy! Let us know what books you liked, too!
 
May 24th, 2001, 04:22 AM
  #6  
sylvia
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If you like whodunnits, try anything by Donna Leon. Her novels are set in Venice and it's fun trying to spot the places she mentions.
Slightly more demanding but also set in Venice is Miss Garnet's Angel by Salley Vickers.
 
May 24th, 2001, 11:01 AM
  #7  
frank
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I can't believe no one has recommended "The Agony and the Ecstasy" by Irving Stone, the biography of Michelangelo. For an art history idiot like myself, having read it before visiting Florence and Rome made a tremendous difference in my appreciation of the "sights".
 
May 24th, 2001, 11:22 AM
  #8  
Diane
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Check out Tim Park's An Italian Education, and Italian Neighbors -- best books I've found that capture the Italian spirit. Park is an English writer who moved to Italy.
 
May 24th, 2001, 11:23 AM
  #9  
Diane
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Correction, it's Tim Parks'. Sorry
 
May 24th, 2001, 11:44 AM
  #10  
Lesli
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Lots of great suggestions here! An all-time favorite of mine is "Italian Days" by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison. It's a memoir of her travels through Italy. "Italian Hours" by Henry Janes is a good companion piece to "Room With a View."
 
May 24th, 2001, 11:46 AM
  #11  
RJD
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There a woderful book by Luigi Barzini, "The Italians," which beautifully describes the history of Italy and the character of the people of modern Italy. It's a bit old but I believe it's still in print. Absolutely the best intoduction to the place.
 
May 24th, 2001, 11:49 AM
  #12  
kam
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The back pages of the Agony and the Ectacy will tell you where to find Michelangelo's art--in Florence, Rome or Bologna. It's very historically correct and a great read.
 
May 24th, 2001, 01:07 PM
  #13  
Tony
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Seasons of Rome by Paul Hoffman, a monthly journal of what happens in Rome during a year by a long time resident journalist.
I also second the Sixteen Pleasures, it's a lot of fun and interesting on several levels.
 
May 26th, 2001, 02:43 PM
  #14  
Jenny
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"Under the Tuscan Sun" - Just in case you take a side trip to Tuscany.

Enjoy!
 
May 27th, 2001, 04:06 PM
  #15  
Joanna
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Can highly recommend Goethe's "Italian Journey". He travels the length and breadth of the country and you will be amazed at how little has changed in some places since his time (late C18th). I didn't find Goethe at all dry, but he does assume the reader has had a classical education (which many did have back in those days), so you could accompany it with a classical mythology.
 
May 27th, 2001, 06:21 PM
  #16  
Barbara
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All of the above are fine suggestions. If you care at all about what you will eat in Italy, don't go without reading Fred Plotkin's comprehensive and highly entertaining Italy for the Gourmet Traveler. It's a region by region account of the cuisine, trattorie and ristoranti, food shops, outdoor markets, etc. and there's just nothing like it. Backed by about 25 years of traveling and eating in Italy, Fred's recommendations are based on authenticity of place, not on the well-known touristy eateries. This book has at least doubled our pleasure in Italy -we tote all 700 pages of it with us each time. Buon Viaggio!
 
May 27th, 2001, 07:52 PM
  #17  
Mary
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I enjoyed I, Claudius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves (I think!). Reading (well, listening - I do audio books for my 2-3 hour commute) them made ancient Rome come to life for me.

Mary
 
May 27th, 2001, 08:17 PM
  #18  
Lexma90
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For an entirely different read, try "The Stars Compel" and "The Stars Dispose," by Michaela Roessner. These are historical fiction about a cook serving near & under Caterina de Medici (the last legitimate de Medici heir). The first book takes place primarily in Florence; the last in Florence & Rome. I know a bit about Renaissance history and a bit about cooking (including the history of cooking), and from what I could tell (her level of detail goes far beyond my knowledge), they are accurate, entertaining and intriguing.
 
May 27th, 2001, 08:38 PM
  #19  
maggie
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This is not of the fiction genre but I have been enjoying Mary McCarthy's books of Venice ( "Venice Observed ") and Florence ( "The Stones of Florence " ) . They are hard to find new ; perhaps in the library . She is a marvelous writer from the 50's tourist view of Italy .
 
May 30th, 2001, 09:36 AM
  #20  
gillian
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"Romola" by George Eliot is absolutely wonderful, but a challenging read. It provides a terrific background on Florence during the Renaissance.
 

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