I am often asked what the best guides are for traveling. My answer really depends on the destination. I’ve used Lonely Planet guides, relied on Anthony Bourdain shows, read blogs, asked Facebook friends, and used Instagram and WhatsApp geolocation (ok no I have not actually done that – please show me how, millennial ones!). If you’re going to my favorite place on earth, though, I have some thoughts on the best books about Italy.
Best Books About Italy
If you’re just starting your planning for your first trip to Italy, I would start with a good overview, like Rick Steves Best of Italy. This will give you a great understanding of what you can do in the amount of time you have, and will help you focus on exactly where you want to go.
Once you know the big picture of where you want to go, get into the details with an up-to-date guidebook, like Rick Steves Italy 2019. I have used all kinds of guides all around the world, and in Europe I swear by Rick Steves. He loves Europe, and Italy in particular, and it shows on every page. This newly-updated guidebook not only gives you tips about the major tourist destinations in Italy, but also suggests many lesser-known places to discover.
Best Books About Italian Culture
You know Italian culture is different from just about anywhere else in the world. You know this. But to really understand the ins and outs of Italy and its people, give Beppe Severgnini’s La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind a try.
Best Books Set in Italy
Once you have a good plan in place, now you want to get more of a flavor for where you’re going. I recommend reading books set in the places you’re going so they will be familiar to you when you get there.
If you’re going to Florence, E.M. Forster’s A Room With A View follows English expats enjoying the open society in Florence at the start of the 20th century.
If you’re going to Venice, try Donna Leon’s Death at La Fenice for a mystery set in the opera hall at La Fenice.
If you’re going to Naples, you must read Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels. Surprisingly engaging almost diary-style writings of a teenage girl.
Then you’re going to want to watch some movies about Italy… and listen to some Italian music… and drink some Italian wine… and taste some Italian cheeses… sigh… let me just go check on the airfares to Italy now….
I’m always adding to this list, so let me know in the comments what your favorites are.
I’ve got Amazon links here, which send me a penny or two when you click through and make a purchase. If you do, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are the best.