Italy is one of the countries I dream of visiting. How amazing would it be to be able to spend a month travelling around such a stunning place that exhales history in every corner? While I save money to one day go on that adventure, I content myself with reading books set there, either in their entirety or just partially. There are five books set in Italy that I read in recent years and that I wholeheartedly recommend, despite not considering them perfect nor necessarily favourite books of mine.
The casual humorous tone and the subtle irony of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim make a simple plot shine. A group of women decides to rent a small medieval castle in Italy during the month of April. Their reasons for that are different, but those charming holidays will make all of them see their lives in a new light. The evocative descriptions of their surroundings are wonderful.
The first book in The Neapolitan Novels is merely the initial taste of the story of a convoluted friendship that will last for years. Elena and Lila have lived in the same neighbourhood in Naples for a significant part of their lives. As readers learn more about the two friends, they also get a thought-provoking picture of Italian society, since their story is complemented by reflections on class, equality, social mobility and the role of education.
The narrator of The Flight of the Falcon, Armino, is a tour guide in Italy. When a homeless woman whom he gave a huge sum of money to is found dead, he decides to return to his hometown, a place he left as an eleven-year-old. Past and present start to mingle as soon as he sets foot there again. Daphne du Maurier employed a variety of writing tones throughout the book, which is both funny, introspective, mysterious and tense.
Only one of the short stories in this collection by Daphne du Maurier is set in Italy, but it is so impressive that I had to mention it. The eponymous tale, ‘Don’t Look Now’, revolves around John and Laura, a couple holidaying in Italy to try to deal with the death of their daughter. It mixes supernatural elements with very real feelings, creating moments of tension sprinkled with humour.
Journey by Moonlight is another book that is not solely set in Italy, taking place in various places in Europe, while the main character, Mihály, recalls moments from his childhood. This is the story of a newlywed couple, Mihály and Erszi, who go on a trip around Italy for their honeymoon. Both of them are finding it difficult to come to terms with their goals in life, particularly Mihály, who is plagued by nostalgia for his youth. Throughout the novel, there are not only various moments of humour, but also a patent sense of terror.
What books set in Italy do you recommend? Tell me in the comments!