Welcome to my new feature, LiteraItaly!
I say it’s a feature, but really this is just a way for me to track my progress with some books on my TBR that I’m not exactly in a rush to cross off, but that I’d certainly like to cross off at some point.
If you didn’t know, in 2015 I went to Italy for the first time when my friend Elena and I visited Rome and fell head over heels in love with the country. The following year I was lucky enough to go to Florence and Bologna, and Florence is now without a doubt my favourite European city.
I love Italy’s history, its people, its food (oh my god the food) and all that stunning architecture, and yet I realised I haven’t actually read a lot of books set in Italy and/or written by Italian authors. That’s something I’d like to change.
Below are some books either set in Italy or written by an Italian author, as well as two fantasy books whose settings are inspired by Italy. All of these are books I own (aside from one fantasy book which isn’t out yet, but I have every intention of getting my hands on once it’s released) and they’re all books I’m very excited to read.
The Birth of Venus, Sacred Hearts and In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant: Given how much I love my historical fiction and how much I love Italy, Sarah Dunant is an author I should have read by now. My copy of The Birth of Venus is very special to me because I bought it from the Uffizi Gallery’s gift shop after seeing the actual Birth of Venus painting while I was in Florence. I’ve since picked up a copy of In the Company of the Courtesan from a charity shop and Sacred Hearts on my kindle, but I still haven’t read any of them. Oops!
The Black Prince of Florence: The Life of Alessandro de’ Medici by Catherine Fletcher: After visiting the palace the Medici family built for themselves in Florence, I couldn’t help wanting to know more and more about one of Italy’s most scandalous families. The Borgias are one thing, but the Medici basically had Italy in their pocket.
The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and its Citrus Fruit by Helen Attlee: I don’t know why, but I love lemon groves. I don’t think I’ve ever even been to one, but all those trees with all that yellow I just love and I really like the idea of learning the history of Italy through its citrus fruit.
The Merchant of Prato: Daily Life in a Medieval Italian City by Iris Origo: I hadn’t heard of this book until I came across it in a bookshop in Glastonbury and I couldn’t bring myself to leave without it.
The Tale of Tales by Giambattista Basile: I’ve actually started this one – and seen the incredibly bizarre film inspired by it – but haven’t finished it yet, and I’d like to. There’s some severe racism in here and I get the impression the author hated women given how horribly he writes about them, but these are essentially some of the first Italian fairy tales and, as a lover of fairy tales, I’m interested in that aspect of it.
Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino: Yet more Italian tales! This book’s quite a beast – my edition is around 800 pages – so I think I may have to make my way through it very slowly, reading a tale or two a day.
The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince is essentially a political treatise, but I’ve heard there’s still a lot we can learn from it even now and I’m intrigued! I picked up my edition of this book in Bologna, so it has sentimental value, too.
The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta: Italian inspired fantasy and an LGBT+ romance. This book could not be more on brand for me if it tried
unless it had a unicorn in it. I can’t wait for this one to be released!
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch: I’ve actually started this one just this week and its Venetian-inspired setting is clear already. I’m hoping to love this one!
Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin: I still haven’t read any Ursula Le Guin (the shame) and it’s only recently I discovered she’d written a kind of retelling of an Ancient Roman myth, so I bought a copy immediately and I’m looking forward to reading it.
A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter: I’ve been low-key obsessed with Pompeii since I was a little girl and I learned about the eruption of Vesuvius. This novel is essentially six stories following various different people caught up in Pompeii on that fateful day and one of these days I’m going to get to it.
The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie: I’ve been interesed in Salman Rushdie’s work ever since I read and loved Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and yet I still haven’t read anything else by him. This is another novel I snapped up while I was in Florence and I’m very intrigued by it.
The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric: My friend Elena read and loved this one, but she’s also warned me that the main character is essentially an Italian Ramsay Bolton. This novel sounds incredibly dark but fantastic, and I can’t wait to get to it – it might be a good novel to read close to Halloween, actually…
Florence in Ecstasy by Jessie Chaffee: As soon as I saw that cover I knew I needed a copy of this novel, but I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t read it.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco: In the realms of historical fiction, this book is a classic, and as someone who enjoys historical crime I feel as though this is a book I definitely should have read by now. I haven’t been reading as much historical fiction this year, but I’d still like to get to this one.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: Sadly the covers of these books are hideous, but I’ve heard wonderful things about Elena Ferrante and I want to see what I think of this series myself – especially as I believe there’s a TV adaptation in the works!
Are there any countries you’d like to read more about? Let me know down below!