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12 Books to Read if You’re Longing for Italy

By Sara Button

Oct 30, 2018

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A selection of new titles to tide you over until your next Italian trip

Covers courtesy of the publishers; design by Emily Blevins

A selection of new titles to tide you over until your next Italian trip

Not that you need extra inspiration to go to Italy, but in case you do, here are 12 of the newest titles to give you the extra push toward la bella vita.

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Italy and its wonders have been the stuff of legend since before the poet Virgil wrote the Aeneid more than 2,000 years ago. Although we don’t suspect you need much more inspiration to get you dreaming of everyone’s favorite boot-shaped country, here are 12 new books, just in case.

1. Hidden Histories: An Alternative Guide to Florence & Tuscany

By D. Medina Lasansky (DidaPress, January 2018)

Buy Now: didapress.it

This eclectic guide book is for travelers who maybe already know where they want to go in Florence and elsewhere in Tuscany, but want to learn some of the more obscure histories of local sites once they’re there. In these pages, Lasansky, a professor of architectural theory at Cornell, tackles unexpected topics such as sharecropping, the fate of Italian Jews during World War II, and the itineraries of historical figures like Nathaniel Hawthorne.

2. Tuscany: Simple Meals & Fabulous Feasts From Italy

By Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi (Hardie Grant, March 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

Married couple Giancarlo (an Italian restaurateur) and Katie Caldesi (a British artist) bring Tuscan cooking to life in their latest book. Master the fundamentals, like how to make a great soffritto or tomato sauce, or get more complex by attempting your own filled ravioli. The colorful pages and tasty recipes, culled from the pair’s years of expertise honed in their own restaurants and cooking schools, are as enticing as a panna cotta on a summer day in Florence.

3. The Eight Mountains

By Paolo Cognetti (Atria Books, March 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

The winning 2017 novel of Italy’s esteemed Strega Prize for fiction gets an English translation. The first-person story revolves around Pietro, a boy from Milan, and the friendship he develops with Bruno, a boy whom he meets while trekking in the Dolomites with his family. But it’s also a coming-of-age narrative that grapples with Pietro’s relationship with his father and the mountains they both love.

4. Renaissance Woman: The Life of Vittoria Colonna

By Ramie Targoff (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, April 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

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In this biography of Italian poet and noblewoman Vittoria Colonna, Dr. Ramie Targoff, professor of English at Brandeis University, peers into the life of one of the most remarkable women from the Renaissance. Targoff draws readers into the world of 16th-century Italy, exploring how Colonna became a sonneteer and befriended popes and artists alike (her most notable friendship was with Michelangelo himself).

5. Eating My Way Through Italy: Heading Off the Main Roads to Discover the Hidden Treasures of the Italian Table

By Elizabeth Minchilli (St. Martin’s Griffin, May 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

A resident of Italy for 30 years, Elizabeth Minchilli has become an expert on the country’s cuisine. In Eating My Way Through Italy, she provides the tools for readers to get off the beaten path, as the book’s subtitle suggests. Divided geographically, written conversationally, and even including tips for where to stay, Minchilli’s book reminds readers how distinct—and delicious—Italy’s regional cuisines are.

6. Bella Figura: How to Live, Love, and Eat the Italian Way

By Kamin Mohammadi (Knopf, May 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

Ten years ago, Kamin Mohammadi was laid off her job as an editor in London. A friend offered her use of an apartment in Florence, and so she went to Tuscany. Bella Figura takes readers along for that first year of Italian living, a year during which Mohammadi learns the value in living life at a slower pace. The story is intimate, with stories about falling in love with the place but also dating and heartbreak. Chapters are divided by month and begin with a nice little inventory: In January, the scent of the city is woodsmoke; her new Italian word of the month she has learned is “salve.” At the end of each chapter, too, are recipes.

7. Dream of Venice in Black and White

By JoAnn Locktov (Editor) with an introduction by Tiziano Scarpa (Bella Figura Publications, September 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

More than 50 photographers from around the world, including 23 Italians, contributed to this collection, the third in a series of books dedicated to the portrayal of contemporary Venice. Its black-and-white images capture daily Venetian life—moments that travelers might miss: a woman buying fish at the market, canal waters that reflect the city’s historic architecture, locals protesting the arrival of large cruise ships.

8. Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking

By Russell Norman (Rizzoli, September 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

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Thirty years after noted British restaurateur Russell Norman fell in love with Venice, he finally returned. In Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking, he highlights the year he spent living in the Venetian neighborhood of Giardini and studying the local cuisine. Norman’s love for the city shines in the stories and recipes, with dishes like gnocchi with baby squid and cinnamon; fresh spaghetti with raw peas, young pecorino, and mint; and plenty of the seafood-inspired bites typical of the region. The book is organized by season to follow the market’s harvests.

9. Venice Stories

Edited by Jonathan Keates (Everyman’s Library, October 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

Short stories and excerpts from longer works about Venice make up this addition to the Everyman’s Library Pocket Classic Series. From the 18th-century writings of the one-and-only Casanova to a vignette set in Venice during the Napoleonic era, written by Lambda award-winner Jeanette Winterson, the collection crafts a masterful portrait of the floating city.  

10. Tasting Italy: A Culinary Journey

By Eugenia Bone and Julia dellaCroce, with Jack Bishop, America’s Test Kitchen (National Geographic, October 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

This comprehensive cookbook shares 100 recipes and introduces readers to cuisine from all 20 regions of Italy. With clear instructions and rich photography, the book is an excellent starter for any home cook who wants to learn the ins and outs of the Italian kitchen.

11. Sicilian Splendors: Discovering the Secret Places That Speak to the Heart

By John Keahey (Dunne/St. Martin’s, November 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

Consummate traveler John Keahey, who has roamed Italy for decades and penned books about Tuscany and Venice, turns his inquisitive eye to Sicily. In a travelogue that’s both personal and historical, even a quest for procuring new shoelaces in a small town teaches about local legend and hospitality. Keahey encounters enthusiastic and welcoming characters everywhere along the way, and readers get a glimpse of Tyrrhenian coasts they may have never seen before. He also contextualizes the island’s rich and complex history and sees beyond Sicily’s mafia-laden stereotypes to reveal its warm heart.

12. Abandoned Italy

By Robin Brinaert (Jonglez Publishing, December 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

For eight years, Robin Brinaert has traveled Italy seeking abandoned places, the skeletons of buildings much more modern than the Colosseum. This photo book showcases the results of this quest, revealing places throughout Italy—a duchess’s hunting lodge, an old Pinocchio film set, a former asylum—and uncovering backstories that allow readers to see Italian ruins through a different lens.

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>>Plan your trip with AFAR’s Guide to Italy

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