The Roman Empire once ruled over most of Europe. The legacy of that time is still evident. Though Italy no longer has that kind of influence, it is still a source of inspiration in the world of art, music and cuisine. The following books cover history, culture and fiction set in Italy.
1. A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics 1943-1988 by Paul Ginsborg Italy has undergone a transformation from the end of World War II. This authoritative book documents Italy’s economic success and warns of the need for political change.
2. Italian for the Gourmet Traveller by Fred Plotkin This book is for lovers of Italian cuisine. It gives details of the specialities of each region.
3. La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind by Beppe Severgnini The author is an Italian journalist. Tourists to Italy often come with pre-conceived ideas, but this book reveals the best and the worst of Italy.
4. Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Re-invented Architecture by Ross King The magnificent Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral is famous for its dome. In 1418, a competition for the dome’s design was held. It was won by a goldsmith and clockmaker named Brunelleschi.
5. The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall by Christopher Hibbert This is a history of the powerful Medici family. In the 16th century, the Medicis were both wealthy and influential.
6. In the Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and its Citrus Fruit by Helen Attlee The author uses six types of citrus fruit grown in Italy to present an in-depth picture of Italian culture and heritage.
7. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster This story shows how cultural differences can lead to complications. Italian and English values clash with tragic results.
8. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim This story is set in the scenic Italian Riviera. Four women, all strangers, are taking a vacation in a medieval castle. They help each other in the process of self-realisation.
9. City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas by Roger Crowley This is a history of Venice. The author chronicles its rise to power, and its role in historically significant events like the Crusades and the spread of Islam.
10. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown This thriller is about a bomb hidden in Rome. In the course of the story, readers get a glimpse of the ancient mysteries that are concealed in Rome.
11. Gomorrah- A personal Journey into the Violent Internal Empire of Naples’ Organised Crime System by Roberto Saviano This is the true story of the dealings of Camorra, a criminal Mafia- like group. The author worked undercover in various roles to write this investigative account. He received death threats and was granted a police escort.
12. The City of Fallen Angels by John Berendt The title of this book was taken from a notice near a cathedral in Venice. It read ‘Caution! Falling Angels’ and was meant to warn passersby about the dilapidated statues overhead.
13. The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston The Monster of Florence was a serial killer. The author was horrified to find that the olive grove in front of his house was the site of a double murder committed by this killer.
14. Daisy Miller by Henry James This story of an American girl, who does not heed social niceties, provides readers with a look at the sights in Rome.
15. Italian Neighbours by Tim Parks The author married an Italian and lived in Italy for thirty years. In this book, he takes a look at Italian lifestyles.
16. An Italian Education by Tim Parks By the same author, this book provides insights into how Italians bring up their children.
17. Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo by Tim Parks This is another book by the same author. Here, he travels by rail through Italy, meeting all sorts of people along the way.
18. The Italians by Luigi Barzini This book was published about fifty years ago, but it still provides insights into the mentality of the average Italian.
19. Midnight in Sicily by Peter Robb The beauty of Sicily conceals its sinister history. The author enlightens readers about both aspects.
20. The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laura Corona This historical novel depicts the life and times of Vivaldi, the famous composer.