What to Read while You’re Sipping on Vino in Italy

Cara Nesi
July 21 2018
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Whether you’re planning a trip to Italy in the near future, or heading there from the couch, below are the best books to put you into the Italian mindset. When I visited Italy, it was such a relaxed, effortless kind of place. You get a great sense of that culture from these books set there, and it really takes me back to those days of eating gelato while strolling through the ancient cities!  

This post was originally published on GetLiterary.com.

My Brilliant Friend
by Elena Ferrante

You can’t talk about Italian fiction today without mentioning the Neapolitan queen Elena Ferrante. My Brilliant Friend, the first in the massively popular series, tells the story of the friendship between Elena and Lila, while also interweaving the story of their neighborhood, community, and country. As the relationship between the protagonists transforms, so does the world around them, which makes this the perfect book to read as you travel through Italy, even vicariously 

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My Brilliant Friend
Elena Ferrante

Stuart’s Fictional Dinner Party Guests: Elena and Lila

I’d like to host a dinner with an eye on close friendships. Friendships are fascinating because they are the one relationship in life that you aren’t required to be in because of birth or bound to by law. Those in attendance would ideally have a multiple-decade friendship like Elena and Lila of MY BRILLIANT FRIEND. And even though he’s not fictional, I’d love for my best friend to be sitting at the table, too.

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The Eight Mountains
by Paolo Cognetti

If female friendship isn’t your thing, you could always try the opposite. Winner of the Strega Prize, The Eight Mountains by Paolo Cognetti tells the story of two boys from different backgrounds who meet in the mountains of the Italian alps and spend their summers exploring together and creating a deep and lasting friendship. If you’re going up north, to Turin, Milan, or to the Aosta Valley where The Eight Mountains is set, this is definitely the book to take with you.  

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The Eight Mountains
Paolo Cognetti

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Four Seasons in Rome
by Anthony Doerr

If you’d prefer a Roman adventure, the memoir Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr (author of All the Light We Cannot See) is for you. Doerr spends a year in Rome after winning the Rome Prize, a prestigious award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters that comes with a stipend and a writing studio. He explores the city with his wife and his newborn twins, who were born the day he received the prize.  

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Four Seasons in Rome
Anthony Doerr

Exquisitely observed, in this book Doerr describes his varied adventures in one of the most enchanting cities in the world. He reads Pliny, Dante, and Keats and visits the piazzas, temples, and ancient cisterns they describe. He attends the vigil of a dying Pope John Paul II and takes his twins to the Pantheon in December to wait for snow to fall through the oculus. He and his family are embraced by the butchers, grocers, and bakers of the neighborhood, whose clamor of stories and idiosyncratic child-rearing advice is as compelling as the city itself.

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Angels & Demons
by Dan Brown

Last but not least, if you’re looking for more of a thrilling adventure, I would take Angels and Demons by Dan Brown on your trip. I devoured this book in a single night, so it should definitely last you the flight. A fun romp through the Vatican halls and ancient (and totally real!) mysteries of the Catholic faith and various cities across Italy, Angels and Demons is a great companion to a trip there. And bonus points if you find any of the clues hidden throughout the country on your trip!  

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Angels & Demons
Dan Brown

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