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Looking for a good book to read while you're traveling in Italy? Check out my list of books about Italy and by Italian authors.

The Adventures of Pinocchio

Carlo Collodi
CATEGORIES: Classic/Culturally Significant

The enduring children’s classic is also the most translated non-religious book ever printed and one of the greatest works of Italian literature. Geppetto and his creation first appeared in serial form back in 1881 and became so popular that they were reprinted as a complete book two years later. Since its entry into the public domain back in 1940, numerous releases have flooded the market, with the main difference being the illustrations.

A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities

Alberto Angela
CATEGORIES: Sense of Culture

A familiar face to any Italian with a television, Alberto Angela has hosted numerous documentaries, most notably those about dinosaurs and the cosmos. His gift for storytelling doesn’t go to waste in this historical narrative that allows readers to time travel to 115 CE, the height of Imperial Rome, and spend 24 fascinating hours wandering the empire’s streets, shops, and boudoirs. Few in-person tours are as insightful or as entertaining.

The Little World of Don Camillo

Giovannino Guareschi
CATEGORIES: Classic/Culturally Significant

Guareschi cantankerous yet beloved priest Don Camillo has been captivating audiences well beyond Italy’s borders since the late 1940s. Together with his foil, the Communist mayor Peppone, Camillo takes rivers to the “Little World,” a land of small-town post-World War II Italy. The numerous Don Camillo books have been remade multiple times for radio, TV, and film.

The Name of the Rose

Umberto Eco
CATEGORIES: Person/Place/Event

“Books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.” So says Eco in his phenomenally successful (despite its 500-plus pages) historical murder mystery, which is one of the world’s all-time bestsellers. In 1327, a Franciscan friar and his apprentice arrive at a monastery, where the murder of an illustrator causes upheaval during the Pope’s visit.

Neapolitan Novels

Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein
CATEGORIES: Classic/Culturally Significant

Elena Ferrante’s beloved international bestsellers follow a lifelong friendship between two girls from the poor outskirts of Naples. In 2019, The Guardian ranked My Brilliant Friend the 11th best book since the start of the millennium, while Vulture listed the overall series as one of the 12 “New Classics” in that same time. Numerous plays and productions have been made of the books, possibly the most prominent being the HBO series that follows the first two books

  1. My Brilliant Friend
  2. The Story of a New Name
  3. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
  4. The Story of the Lost Child

Ferrante herself has been the subject of much writing and conjecture: Her true identity remains a mystery, although numerous theories abound, and Time magazine named Ferrante one of the 100 most influential people in 2016.

See You in the Piazza: New Places to Discover in Italy

Frances Mayes
CATEGORIES: Person/Place/Event

Although better known for Under the Tuscan Sun, which was made into a movie starring Diane Lane, Mayes is as good a virtual tour guide as she is a rom-com novelist. In See You in the Piazza, she and her husband have the arduous job of traveling to 13 regions of Italy and introducing them to you lucky readers. The New York Times called reading it “a vacation in itself.”

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