20 Books Set In Italy To Read Before Travelling

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20 Books Set In Italy To Read Before Travelling

Books set in Italy beckon readers in more than one way. They’re riddled with history, exquisite beachfronts, picturesque homes and of course, intriguing plotlines to keep you engrossed in turning to the next page.

While I was exploring about travelling to Italy (out of sheer curiosity as there’s so many places to  visit!), I wondered what novels could give me that glimpse of seeing Italy without having to buy a plane ticket.

And I came across these 20 great reads. Give them a go and let me know what you think!

More Travel Book Lists:

20 Books Set In Italy

1. My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

books set in italy

Written by the famous author behind The No.1 Ladie’s Detective Agency series, My Italian Bulldozer is set in Montalcino, a picture-perfect location to escape the daily city hubbub. 

Scottish food and wine writer Paul Stewart sets off to this Italian town for inspiration to finish his overdue book. But he ends up stranded in the airport. His hired car’s missing, with no reservation record or other cars to get him to his destination.

Sparks fly when he gets onto a bulldozer thanks to a beautiful stranger who offers him a ride. This cozy holiday read gives you bursts of laughter, quirky characters and a longing for fantastic wines and Italian food.  

La bella figura… it’s at the heart of Italian life… it’s about doing things beautifully.”

If you’re looking for books set in Italy that make your heart feel fuzzy and happy at the same time, this one’s for you!

Read This If You Like:

  • Books that revolve around themes of food
  • Books written in male POV
  • Travelogue styled novel

2. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

books set in italy

While most people know Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer movie, a bunch know the beauty that lies in the novel behind it.

Featuring a riveting exploration of emotions and ripples of young love, the plot for Call Me By Your Name unfolds in the Southern part of Italy.

Its premise? The coming of age of Elio, who falls for Oliver, an American intern working with Elio’s father, an academic. The yearn for total surrender to love, but will they love for each other continue after Oliver’s six-week summer break?

This romance book challenges the boundaries we break when it comes to love, and makes its reader reminisce on days when hearts were young and naive, but hope was overflowing.

Read This If You Like:

  • Books with LGBT representation
  • Books with YA romance
  • Coming of age novels

3. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

books set in italy

Written a little over a century ago, this classic book illuminates readers in main character Lucy’s battle between responsibility and love. 

Do not be afraid to go against the norms. Love overpowers things.”

The story unfolds Lucy’s journey from being a rigid woman to one who finds her balance tipped when she enters Florence to spend time with her cousin.

The story takes place with some amazing sights in Italy as backdrops, including Piazza Della Signoria where the well-known Michelangelo statue of David is found.

Forster is a maestro at showcasing passion with a mix of cool and calm in his writing, and he captivates readers with poetic strokes of magic. Be sure to checkout this classic book set in Italy.

Read This If You Like:

  • Books with depictions of morals and thoughts from the past
  • Books set in Edwardian era

4. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

books set in italy

This is one of the books set in Italy that can give you a blast from the past.

Set in 1327, Brother William of Baskerville comes to a wealthy Italian abbey to investigate suspicions of heresy among the Benedictines. 

Expect sophistication, wisdom and philosophy weaved within the pages of this bestseller from Eco, a renowned Italian writer known for applying symbols and puzzles within his content.

The book was famous in the 80s, way before Brown’s Da Vinci Code was written.

Read This If You Like:

  • Classic books set in Italy
  • Books with Sherlock Holmes styled mysteries

5. My Brilliant Friend Series by Elena Ferrante

books set in italy

This four-part series is a masterpiece from one of the best authors out of Italy, Elena Ferrante.

Set in the backdrop of Naples, this book speaks about the journey of two young Italian girls from kids to adolescence, and in the later adulthood phases.

It is advised to read this book in chronological order.

While friendship forms the core of this series, you’ll find your heartstrings tugged in different directions throughout their journey – following them in their hardship and successes amidst backdrops of poverty, violence, corruption and politics, and even motherhood and marriage hardships.

“The waste of intelligence. A community that finds it natural to suffocate with the care of home and children so many women’s intellectual energies is its own enemy and doesn’t realize it.”

A literary masterpiece that gives people hope in having unbreakable bonds, come what may.

Read This If You Like:

  • Series instead of standalones set in Italy
  • Books with friendship as its main theme

6. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

books set in italy

This was one of the books set in Italy that became an international phenomenon. It was so riveting to read that it had a movie adaptation starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem. 

The memoir of the author Gilbert explores how she circumvented her mid-life crisis as an all-American woman who had her life turned upside down by taking a one-year break, travelling the world, on her own.

So yes, this book is not only set in Italy but other countries too.

In Italy, she visits Rome, learns to speak the language and finds herself inching closer to contentment and happiness. The book is funny, poignant and shows you that sometimes, you need a break from everything to find yourself again. 

I’m choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I’m making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.”

Read This If You Like:

  • Books with themes of finding yourself again
  • Books set in multiple countries
  • Chick-lits

7. Master and God by Lindsey Davis

books set in italy

Set in historical Rome, this epic novel shares about the unlikely friendship between Praetorian Guard Gaius Vinius and Flavia Lucilla, attendant to the privileged women in Rome’s court.

Sparks fly between them amidst the backdrop of Emperor Domitian’s reign, with her flair interspersing between romance and politics flawlessly. 

An ideal book if you’re looking for a taste of ancient Italy that’s well-researched and not too heavy of a read.

Read This If You Like:

  • Classic books set in Italy
  • Books where politics and romance intertwine.

8. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

books set in italy

Nothing beats a great suspense read, and this first Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown, symbologist Langdon heads over to a research facility in Switzerland to decipher a cryptic symbol in the unlikeliest of places – a murder physicist’s chest! 

His search for the truth leads him to Rome, where he combines forces with Vittoria Vetra, a mysterious scientist.

The two embark on a chase covering catacombs, cathedrals, and crypts and ultimately land up at the Vatican City.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, skip-your-dinner book that keeps your mind racing, this has got to be your Italian book pick!

Read This If You Like:

  • Plot driven books
  • Mystery books with historical elements
  • Thrilling reads with lots of twists

9. The Blind Contessa’s New Machine by Carey Wallace

books set in italy

A book about Italy that speaks in bits about magical realism, The Blind Contessa’s New Machine is a love story with a fairy tale feel to it.

The main character of the book, Carolina, is the town beauty, and is intelligent and independent to boot. 

But just as her wedding her finest match, Pietro approaches, she finds herself losing her eyesight. We see her struggle with the initial panic of becoming blind, to accepting and attempting to live her life to the fullest, despite her newest shortcoming.

Read This If You Like:

  • Historical fiction books
  • Books with several main characters and love stories
  • Books based on a true story (invention of the type writer in 19th century, Italy)

10. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

books set in italy

Ever tried to picture what life by the countryside of Tuscany, Italy is like?

This memoir shares every aspect imaginable of life the vicinity, from the vibrant marketplaces, the beckoning hillsides, and of course, the wonderful locals.

Mayes writes poetically and with the lenses of a seasoned traveler. She shows to her readers that she’s aware of being an outsider yet charmed by the discoveries she finds along the way. 

She goes beyond Renaissance churches and tourist spots to paint what everyday life is like under the Tuscan sun, from food and drink to socialising and even gardening. 

Read This If You Like:

  • Memoirs with themes of self-discovery
  • Reading about the history of a place
  • Reading about a women who reinvents her life

11. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

books set in italy

Beautiful Ruins encapsulates the story of romance, set amid the Italian coast back in 1962, yet resurfaces 50 years later in Hollywood.

Expect to be taken on a rollercoaster ride of romance and fun, which shares about how flawed yet fascinating life can be.

Walter delivers his writing effortlessly, starting off with Italy and ending up in America with memorable characters. The digs he takes at certain parts of the book is on point.

“This is what happens when you live in dreams, he thought: you dream this and you dream that and you sleep right through your life.”

If quotes like this excite you, get a copy and start reading Beautiful Ruins today. Definitely one of the many romance books set in Italy you shouldn’t miss!

Read This If You Like:

  • Romance set in Hollywood
  • Love story with travel elements
  • Chick-lit/beach reads.

12. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

books set in italy

If you’re looking for books with hidden facades, this is one you should go for.

Tom Ripley comes from a broken home and is someone who’s fallen head over heels with the world of money thanks to Dickie Greenleaf.

Fondness rears into an ugly head of obsession when Ripley goes back to Italy to get his buddy back. But Greenleaf is in love with Marge, a charming American beauty. 

“He liked the fact that Venice had no cars. It made the city human. The streets were like veins, he thought, and the people were the blood, circulating everywhere.”

Read This If You Like:

  • Psychological thrillers
  • Books with crime and deception

13. Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

books set in italy

Love & Gelato is a YA books set in Italy.

It takes place in the sweltering heat of Tuscany’s summer, with Lina spending her time there.

She’s not enthralled by the town’s picturesque landscape – she’s only there to fulfil her mother’s deathbed wish of connecting with her father.

When she gets hold of her mother’s journal from when she stayed in Italy, Lina learns more about the country through a different pair of eyes, unraveling art, bakeries and illicit romances. 

Read This If You Like:

  • Books with themes of family relationships
  • Funny, witty YA romance

14. House of Gucci: A True Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sara Gay Forden

books set in italy

You’ve probably seen epic clips from Lady Gaga’s performance in the movie adaptation starring her and Adam Driver.

Uncover more dirty secrets and skeletons in this true crime book. The highlight is of course the murder of Gucci heir Maurizio Gucci in Milan.

His ex-wife was sentenced to 29 years behind bars for commanding his murder. The woman? Patrizia Reggiani Martinelli – also called “The Black Widow.”

What makes this book stand out is that it’s well-researched, and you’re also pulled into the web of intrigue and glamour.

Read This If You Like:

  • Books with high fashion, money and luxury elements
  • Books with glamorous crime

15. Midnight in Sicily: On Art, Food, History, Travel and la Cosa Nostra by Peter Robb

books set in italy

Sicily captivates travelers with breathtaking coastlines, its richness in archaeology and art and exquisite landscapes.

But it is also the underbelly for the Mafia – a calculated and systemic scheme for corruption and violence.

Dobb paints an in-depth picture of South Italy as someone who’s resided there for 14 years, and breathes life to Sicilian culture in this non-fiction literature masterpiece on history, crime, travel and politics there.

Read This If You Like:

  • Non-fiction books
  • Books with multiple themes – travel, crime and politics.

16. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

books set in italy

Are four women a crowd? This fictional romance novel, which set in Portofino, Italy, brings four Englishwomen together when they come across an ad to stay in a wistful yet medieval castle in Italy.

As with everyone else who goes on holiday, the women want a break that’s pleasant, but are surprised on unraveling their true selves and ultimately, joy.

“Now she had taken off her goodness and left it behind her like a heap of rain-sodden clothes, and she only felt joy.”

A book on self-discovery and appreciation which became a bestseller in England and the United States, and even inspiring a Broadway play!

Read This If You Like:

  • Books with female friendship
  • Books that showcase the transformative power of travel

17. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

books set in italy

A literary classic of many classic books set in Italy, Hemingway’s novel is set in the Italian front, but has a twist in the beginning itself.

Frederic Henry, a young American who is rejected by the American military, finds himself working as an ambulance driver on the Italian army end instead.

Hemingway doesn’t paint brutal pictures of the war, but highlights other aspects of World War I – the seemingly never-ending red tape, the snide ways people use to weasel their way out of working, and other mundane aspects.

“The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

Readers who have completed the book find that the wordsmith has brought poignant dialogue between the characters, and would recommend it as a leisurely read.

Read This If You Like:

  • Classic books set in Italy
  • Books with major historical events – WWI

18. The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri

books set in italy

This is the first of Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano’s series, which are mystery thrillers set in Italy.

The Shape of Water covers prostitution and drug dealing in Sicily, and in this particular story, Inspector Montalbano refuses to cower to the pressure of the vicinity of Vigata’s judge, police, and why, even the Bishop!

He wants to get at the bottom of the murder of Silvio Luparello, found dead in the Pasture, where every known criminal lurks.

Read This If You Like:

  • Short books set in Italy (less than 250 pages)
  • Mystery thriller books

19. Playing for Pizza by John Grisham

books set in italy

This is not your usual Grisham suspense novel.

The fiction story brings protagonist Rick Dockery to Parma, Italy after suffering a horrible performance in the NFL, becoming the clown of the season. 

While Rick is used to American football, he rediscovers football as a quarterback for the Panther, who are seeking someone new to helm their team, and not just anyone, a former NFL player at that.

In a mismatch made in heaven, you’d learn more about finding yourself again, and also rediscover all things Italian – thanks to the written depictions of full course meals in the novel. 

Read This If You Like:

  • Books about finding yourself again
  • Books with sporty themes

20. Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan

books set in Italy

Kevin Kwan shot to fame years ago with the Crazy Rich Asian series, and he’s back with Sex Vanity which is set in Capri, Italy.

Lucie Churchill finds herself face-to-face with George Zao on her very first morning at Capri Island, and decides there and then the she can’t stand the sight of him.

A mix of a true-blue New Yorker and an American-Chinese mother, Lucie finds herself drawn to George again when he abruptly appears in the Hamptons while she’s vacationing with her now-fiance. 

A story peppered with fashion, romance, and privilege, this best fiction book that takes place in Italy showcases two different cultures, and with some funny skits to keep you entertained too!

Read This If You Like:

  • Books with stories of the rich and luxury
  • Funny, witty, adult romance
  • Rom-com books

Final Thoughts

There you have it, 20 books set in Italy from multiple genres. No matter what type of reader you are, you will find something suited your reading taste from this list!

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