Recommended Reading

There are many books out there about Italy and how we experience it.  Here are some we can recommend:

1.   Somewhere South of Tuscany - Diana Armstrong

ISBN 1439266212

Diana enjoys several vacations in Italy and one day on an impromptu visit to a real estate agents office ends up being shown a property that she buys. Suddenly a new twist in the Italian adventure begins and Diana finds herself dealing with Italian life in a small town and gets to experience the joys and challenges of this life.  Once the restoration work begins, there are surprises, including the discovery of an ancient well within the house and friendships are formed. A joy to read this book and a great insight into the reality of life in a small Italian village.

Review by Alan


2.   La Bella Figura - Beppe Severgnini

ISBN 978-0-340-93603-0

This book is written by an Italian about how the Italian psyche works - it is both fascinating and humorous.  For those of us who have good friends living in Italy, sometimes we forget where they are coming from and this book is a wonderful insight into how they see the world and why things are they way they are.  For example, do Italians always stop at a red light - well, it depends if it is a "rosso pieno" (full red)!  This is but one example of a fascinating insight into the collective psyche.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Review by Alan

3. Italian Neighbours - Tim Parks

ISBN 0-099-28695-5

This is a great read that we thoroughly enjoyed. Tim moves to Verona (from England) with his Italian wife and relates the experiences of every day Italian life with a young family.  There are some great insightful and humorous moments that are vividly described.  This book is very well written.

Reviewed by Alan


4. An Italian Education - Tim Parks


  • ISBN-10: 0802142850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802142856

This book is a follow on to the earlier "Italian Neighbours" and focuses more on the life of bringing up Tim's Italian borne children in Verona.  Again, it is a delightfully vivid and amusing account of his life experiences and the stark contrast in some cases to his own English childhood.  This is another read that draws you in and is a pleasure to read.

Reviewed by Alan

5. Bella Tuscany - Frances Mayes

ISBN 1-86359-127-3

This is a classic and if you haven't read it, you need to!  The great escape we all dream of - well, Frances did it and launched into a new life restoring an old villa in Tuscany.  Her experiences of adjusting to Italian culture and ways of doing business draws you in.

Reviewed by Alan


6. Under the Tuscan Sun - Frances Mayes

ISBN 0-7679-0038-3

This book picks up where "Bella Tuscany" finishes and is a great follow on read.  The restoration process of a derelect Italian villa and all the vagaries of living in Cortona, a small Tuscan town make for rich experiences that form the basis of another great book.  The richness of the life lived and the characters that feature in this book make it very entertaining.

Reviewed by Alan


7.  When in Rome - Penelope Green

ISBN 978 0 7336 2074 4

A great narrative of how Penelope left Sydney on a whim to experience "la dolce vita" in Italy, after becoming dis-illusioned with corporate life in Australia.  It is a tale of courage and determination to start a new life in a new country and make new friends while learning the language.  A great insight into what some of us dream of doing and what the reality is after the romantic notions wear thin.  Despite all this, Penelope falls even deeper in love with Italian life.

Reviewed by Alan

8.  See Naples and Die - Penelope Green

ISBN 978 0 7336 2289 2

A lovely tale of how the Australian author moved from working in Rome to Naples and how she grew to love this place, with all it's petty crime and bureaucracy.  A great story of the reality of life in this southern city.  Penelope moves from being a fearful visitor to a savvy local and explores the issues the locals face, not least of which is living with the Camorra, the local flavour of the Mafia.

Reviewed by Alan

9. Rick Steve's Italy

ISBN (13) 978-1598801163

This is the best Italian travel writer we have come across.  This book is really well written with a lot of personal experience of the areas, recommended routes to walk, great advice on eating and things to see in a handy rating system if you don't have much time.  It is regularly republished and updated, but we find it the book we want to refer to and the one with the most reliable information for travel in Italy.

Reviewed by Alan

10. Gomorrah, Italy's other Mafia - Roberto Saviano


Every dream has a nightmare potential and this book describes in graphic detail what happens when the dream goes bad!  Don't read this book if you want to retain a romantic, idealist view of life in Southern Italy!  Roberto Saviano is a talented investigative journalist who covers the topic of the operations of the Camorra across multiple facets of life and business in unedited detail.  I found it very sad and at times disturbing.  It is being made into a film and is an international best seller.

Reviewed by Alan

11. When in Rome - Robert Hutchinson

ISBN 0-00-274037-0
Journalist Robert Hutchinson decided to relocate to Rome for a year so he could explore first hand the secrets of the Vatican.  The book traces his interviews with many of the facets and operations of the Vatican and is a good read.  Settling in to the delights and frustrations of Roman life, Hutchinson forges his way through the silent bureaucracy at the hub of the Catholic church, into the hallowed and lesser known portals of the Vatican State.

Reviewed by Alan

12. I'm Not Scared- Niccolo Ammaniti

I loved this short story, told through the eyes of a small boy, growing up in an adult world.  The innocence and reality of the story is gripping and thoroughly enjoyable.  If you are fluent in Italian, you will enjoy the Italian version even more for it's beautiful use of language. This is the best Italian fiction work I have read and has a delightful style of writing I have not struck before.  10/10 for Niccolo Ammaniti!!

Reviewed by Alan

13. The Lady in the Palazzo - Marlena de Blasi

ISBN 978 1 74114 994.4
After two years in their barely comfortable stable in San Casciano, Marlena and Fernando know it's time to move on.  They are looking for a home in which to set a sumptuous table and in Orvieto, they find it.

Review by Lois O'Warn

14. A Thousand Days in Venice - Marelena de Blasi

ISBN-10: 034547641
ISBN-13 978-0345457646
When Fernando spots her in a Venice cafe and knows immediately that she is "The One", Marlena is caught off guard.  A Thousand Days in Venice is filled with the flavours, sights and life of Venice.  Every trip to the food markets becomes an adventure and every mouth watering recipe  a celebration of food and love.

Review by Lois O'Warn

15. Head over Heel - seduced by a Southern Italian - Chris Harrison

ISBN-10 1741964075
ISBN-13 978-1741964073

Chris is the son of Neville, a former teaching colleague of my wife Gill in Sydney Australia. Chris left Australia to work in Europe and met up with Italian Daniela - falling in love and living in her village of Puglia - a great read of southern Italian custom, food and eccentric characters.

Review by Paul Smith
Can you recommend a book on life in Italy you have enjoyed??


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