15 Fabulous Books Set In Italy

When I am going to be traveling anywhere I like to read books set in that place before I go. It’s fun stumbling upon places you’ve read about and being able to recognize shops and restaurants and landmarks from a book, but also you can discover places you had never heard of before that may be close to where you are going or perhaps are just a train ride away. Adding these spots to your itinerary can end up being the highlight of you trip!

During this Coronavirus / COVID19 outbreak we are all facing some form of self isolating or quarantine. Books not only keep us entertained but also help us escape when the world around us gets too crazy. Sharing physical books is not necessarily safe at this time, so I recommend you read digitally instead.

*I don’t own a Kindle but I do read everything on the Kindle App (on my iPad.) Books purchased via Kindle (or using the Kindle App) are very inexpensive, averaging about $3.99 *Many authors will mark their first in series free and do box sets very inexpensively. *If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you get as many books as you want, for free. You can cancel at anytime and keep the books you have downloaded. A subscription to Kindle Unlimited is $9.99 *If you have Amazon Prime you not only have access to Prime TV, movies and music but also to free books and magazines. Amazon offers a free 30 day trial to Prime. Links: Kindle, Amazon Prime Free Trial , Kindle Unlimited Subscription

Books can help you get into the travel vibe, or when you get home can keep the magic alive for a while longer. Some of the books on this list are novels, others are autobiographies.

 The books on this list are all available on Amazon and have affiliate links.

Here are 15 books set in Italy:

1 Women In Sunlight by Frances Mayes

Women in Sunlight by Frances Mayes

Four retired women decide to pool their resources and rent a villa in Tuscany for a year. As the story unfolds you get a look not only at Tuscany but also other parts of Italy, meet some fun local characters and get to enjoy the adventures and love affairs of the four protagonists. This book is fabulous and is wonderful for all ages. Women In Sunlight.

2. An Italian Affair by Laura Fraser

An Italian Affair by Laura Fraser

After a devastating divorce California native Laura Fraser eventually decided to go to Italy to visit some friends. Unexpectedly in the midst of her heartache she met a lovely and complicated man with whom she then embarked on an affair that lasted for years. This gorgeous autobiography is perfect for anyone who has ever secretly dreamt about finding a fabulous man while on vacation and having an affair with substance that continues as the years roll by. Over the course of several years Fraser takes you all over Italy and introduces you to some places you probably have never heard of before. An Italian Affair

3. Under Italian Skies by Nicky Pellegrino

Under Italian Skies by Nicky Pellegrino

Pellegrino has many books set in Italy and all are wonderful. This one finds her protagonist at a crisis point in her life. She stumbles across a house swap website, finds a beautiful old summer villa in southern Italy and is able to do a swap with her little London flat as the villa owner needs to work in London for a few months. The story that unfolds is just gorgeous and will leave you dreaming about a house swap of your own! This is one of several books Pellegrino has written that center around the same house, the Villa Rosa. Each of her stories set at the villa will leave you dying to spend a summer there. Under Italian Skies

4.The Venice Experiment by Barry Frangipane

The Venice Experiment by Barry Frangipane

After traveling to Venice several times Barry and his wife decided to take a year out from their life in Florida and live in the most unique city on earth. This book is different from most of the expat-living-abroad stories in that they rent, not buy and only spend one year. The story is delightful and funny and inspiring, exposing the reader to a slice of Venice most tourists don’t see. It is also incredibly relatable because they are just normal folk who bring their computers and work from home. They make you realize that you don’t have to have great wealth to do something like this, which opens up endless opportunities to those of us who would love to do something similar. The Venice Experiment

RELATED POST: 10 BOOKS SET IN VENICE

5. The Rome Affair by Karen Swan

The Rome Affair by Karen Swan

2017 and Francesca Hackett is living la dolce vita in Rome, leading tourist groups around the Eternal City and forgetting the ghosts she left behind in London. When she finds a stolen designer handbag in her dustbin and returns it, she is brought into the orbit of her grand neighbour who lives across the piazza – famed socialite Viscontessa Elena dei Damiani Pignatelli della Mirandola. Though the purse is stolen, Elena greets the return of the bag with exultation for it contains an unopened letter written by her husband on his deathbed, twelve years earlier.

Mutually intrigued by each other, the two women agree to collaborate on a project, with Cesca interviewing Elena for her memoirs. As summer unfurls, Elena tells her sensational stories, leaving Cesca in her thrall. But when a priceless diamond ring found in an ancient tunnel below the city streets is ascribed to Elena, Cesca begins to suspect a shocking secret at the heart of Elena’s life. The Rome Affair

6. Somewhere South of Tuscany by Diana Armstrong

Somewhere South of Tuscany by Karen Swan

Food and Travel writer Diana Armstrong buys and renovates a 400 year old home in a tiny town not far from Orvieto. Once again the cast of local characters is fascinating and fun, the local history is intriguing and you will be left wanting to buy your own home in Italy. I particularly loved when her friends would come visit from the US, and all the food shopping and preparation Armstrong does. Somewhere South of Tuscany

7. My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

Paul Stuart, a renowned food writer, finds himself at loose ends after his longtime girlfriend leaves him for her personal trainer. To cheer him up, Paul’s editor, Gloria, encourages him to finish his latest cookbook on-site in Tuscany, hoping that a change of scenery (plus the occasional truffled pasta and glass of red wine) will offer a cure for both heartache and writer’s block. But upon Paul’s arrival, things don’t quite go as planned. A mishap with his rental-car reservation leaves him stranded, until a newfound friend leads him to an intriguing alternative: a bulldozer.

With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts the offer, and as he journeys (well, slowly trundles) into the idyllic hillside town of Montalcino, he discovers that the bulldozer may be the least of the surprises that await him. What follows is a delightful romp through the lush sights and flavors of the Tuscan countryside, as Paul encounters a rich cast of characters, including a young American woman who awakens in him something unexpected.

A feast for the senses and a poignant meditation on the complexity of human relationships, My Italian Bulldozer is a charming and intensely satisfying love story for anyone who has ever dreamed of a fresh start. My Italian Bulldozer

Glam Italia! How To travel Italy

Don’t forget my books! Both are best sellers and both are available on Amazon worldwide. Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy (Secrets To Glamorous Travel On A Not So Glamorous Budget) and Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome

Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome

8. Inferno by Dan Brown

Dan Brown Inferno

In the 4th story about symbologist Robert Langdon (Angels and Demons, Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol) he inexplicably wakes up in a hospital in Florence with a head injury, memory loss and an assassin hunting him down. With a mystery bound up in Dante’s Inferno, the story takes you through Florence then on to Venice as Langdon tried to figure out the clues left by a dead billionaire who had planned the release of a virus to cull the world population.

Not only an exciting and fast paced read, this book will inspire you to make your own Inferno walking tour of Florence. (Or join one of the guided Inferno walking tours!) Inferno

RELATED POST: HOW TO TRAVEL ITALY ON A REALLY TIGHT BUDGET

9. The Night Villa by Carol Goodman

The Night Villa by Carol Goodman

After a tragic shooting at the University of Texas, classics professor Sophie Chase along with her star pupil and some colleagues takes on an academic project in Naples. A villa has been discovered after being buried for nearly 2000 years in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, along with a trove of documents. The discovery leads them on a chase involving an ancient mystery, 1st century nobles and a slave girl at the heart of an ancient controversy.

Their billionaire benefactor puts everyone up at a villa he owns in Capri, from where this fast paced murder mystery moves back and forth across the bay of Naples with plenty of twists and turns. Whatever shocking events transpired in the face of Vesuvius’s fury have led to deeper, darker machinations that inexorably draw Sophie into their vortex, rich in stunning revelations and laden with unseen menace.

This is especially good for anyone who enjoys mysteries, Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, and will be traveling to Naples or Capri. The Night Villa

10. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Facing a post-divorce early mid-life crisis, writer Elizabeth Gilbert decides to spend a year traveling alone through 3 countries, Italy, India and Bali, in order to feed her soul, become more spiritually aware and shift her perspective on romance. The first third of this year takes place in Rome and focuses on the food she eats, the things she sees and the lifelong friendships she makes.

Eat, Pray, Love is a gorgeous book that spent 4 years on the New York Times Bestseller List before being made into a movie. Eat, Pray, Love

11. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

In 1962 while Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were making headlines in Rome, an ingénue arrives by boat to a little town just beyond the Cinqueterre. This beautiful story of an actress, a novelist and an innkeeper with a dream combines a little intrigue with 1960’s Hollywood and life on the coast of Liguria. Spanning 50 years, this is a gorgeous story will keep you engrossed until the last sentence. Beautiful Ruins

12. Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon

Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon

This is first in a murder mystery series set in Venice. Local police detective Commissario Guido Brunetti investigates the murder of a much disliked but brilliant German conductor during the intermission at the La Fenice opera house. He works his way through the mystery with the backdrop of Venice, its culture and somewhat dirty politics. This entire series is tremendous, especially if you are going to or already love Venice. Death at La Fenice

13. Extra Virgin (Amongst The Olive Groves Of Liguria)by Annie Hawes

Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes

This autobiography is first in series about two sisters who decide to escape the dreary British winter and run away to a hilltop town in Liguria to work the season in a rose grafting business. (Not knowing anything about roses). Of course nothing goes as planned, but they fall in love with this crazy little town and end up buying a rundown cottage which is really not much more than a shed and costs them less than a used car.

With a non-existent budget they slowly renovate the cottage not only making it livable but also building themselves a new life.

This series is hilarious and inspiring and once again will have you planning to buy a little old place somewhere beautiful in Italy. Extra Virgin (Amongst The Olive Groves of Liguria)

RELATED POST: 8 CRUCIAL THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE

14. Head Over Heel (Seduced By Southern Italy)by Chris Harrison

Head Over Heel, Seduced By Southern Italy by Chris Harrison

Another first in series autobiography, this one will make you fall in love with southern Italian life.

When Australian Chris Harrison went to Dublin he never dreamed his life was about to change forever. He met the love of his life, Daniela and before he knew it moved to her southern Puglia town of Andrano.

This autobiography not only takes you through this gorgeous part of Italy with its whitewashed towns, olive groves, incredible beaches and cobblestoned streets, but also takes you along on his journey dealing with every day life. He has to deal with the infuriating bureaucracy and with Daniela’s mamma who is determined to convert him to Catholicism and build an extension to her house for them to live in.

Funny and engaging, this book will have you planning a trip to beautiful southern Puglia! Head Over Hell (Seduced By Southern Italy)

15. Under The Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Under The Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

The true story of Frances and her husband Ed buying and renovating an old home in Tuscany. Endlessly enjoyable more than 20 years after first being published, it will make you dream about buying your own villa in Tuscany. If you have watched the movie you can still enjoy the book as other than the house being called Bramasole, the town being Cortona and there really being a team of Polish workers, the two stories are vastly different. Under The Tuscan Sun

Are you planning on traveling to Italy any time soon (or ever)? My Private Members Newsletter comes out twice each month with helpful information for travelers to Italy. From foods you need to try to festivals happening to secret places most tourists don’t know about, it’s all in the newsletter. Join the newsletter HERE

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Fascinating In Florence, The Madonna of the UFO

Could UFO’s have been flying over Renaissance Italy?

There is a little extraterrestrial intrigue at the Palazzo Vecchio in the historic heart of beautiful Florence. Up on the top floor of the palace in the Hall of Hercules there is a large tondo (circular frame with the painting inside) measuring about one meter across, featuring the Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist.

Madonna of the UFO, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence
Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist

It’s quite lovely, right? But there may just be a little more to this painting than meets the eye. We don’t know exactly who painted it. It has alternately been attributed to Tondo Miller, Bastiano Mainardi and Arcangelo di Jacopo del Sellaio but no one seems to know for certain who’s work it is. It happens, and this is not the only painting in Florence with an artist we can’t name.

RELATED POST: 14 FOODS TO TRY IN TUSCANY

At first glance it looks like any other Renaissance Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist. It is nice enough but you wouldn’t necessarily stop and swoon over it. In a city with more art within one square kilometer than any other city in the world, this painting is lovely but expected. You can imagine it on the walls of any Florentine palazzo. She is pretty, wears a red dress with a dark cape and a young John the Baptist is there with with baby Jesus. Ho hum.

RELATED POST: HOW TO USE THE TRAINS IN ITALY

But look over Mary’s shoulder and things get interesting. In the countryside behind her we see a shepherd with his small flock and his dog. Look more closely at both the shepherd and the dog. He has his hand raised to his forehead in awe and both he and the dog are looking up to the sky. Follow the line of their gaze and you will see what appears to be a B movie style flying saucer.

Madonna and child with John the Baptist and UFO, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

I’m not kidding! A grey, oval object is moving across the sky, with spiky golden rays emanating from it. Could it be a UFO?

Leonardo da Vinci ornithopter sketches
Leonardo da Vinci’s ornithopter sketches

The painting is dated to 1510-1520, a time during which there were no flying machines. Leonardo started work on his ornithopter around 1485 but the skies over Italy in those days were occupied only by birds. So what exactly is going on here?

Madonna of the Flying Saucer.
Madonna and Child with John The Baptist and UFO, Florence Italy
the light of God on the left, and mystery object on the right.

UFOlogists are adamant that this is proof that UFOs were being sighted during the Renaissance. Some art historians say the odd looking grey object is an angel appearing as a cloud (I don’t see it – they were realllly good at painting angels back then. Renaissance painters specialized in angels, and none of them were painted as grey blobs with golden spikes coming out of them.) The historians also say the shepherd is shielding his eyes from the light of God and that the nativity star with the three smaller stars in the left hand corner represent Mary’s continued virginity, before, during and after childbirth.

RELATED POST: 10 DAY TRIPS FROM FLORENCE BY TRAIN

What do you think? UFO or grey blob of angel? Or could it be something else altogether?

Are you planning a trip to Florence? Would you like to know my favorite secret spots in Florence? My favorite places for lunch and dinner, where to have a drink with a view, the best markets and even a secret jewelry shop behind a hidden door! Get my Secret Florence PDF for free. Download your copy HERE

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How To Buy A House In Italy

Have you ever dreamed about owning a home in Italy?

I dream about it every day. Literally. In fact I figure that if I sell about a million more books I can actually buy a place in Italy!

Realistically you can buy a home in Italy and in many cases you really don’t need a fortune to be able to do it. You just need some really good guidance.

Bramasole Frances Mayes house in Cortona, Tuscany
Bramasole, Frances Mayes’ home in Cortona, Italy

For me the dream of owning a home in Italy started in 1998 when my mother gave me a copy of Frances Maye’s iconic book Under The Tuscan Sun. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, a city where anything is possible, so I let myself fall under Frances Mayes’ spell and imagined having my own house in a little Tuscan town. From then on I read every book I could get my hands on about buying and renovating homes in Italy, or more to the point, books where other people had done it.

Spello Umbria flowers cobblestoned street
Beautiful Spello in Umbria

Then in my endless travels to and from Italy I wound up meeting plenty of expats who had done it themselves. Bought old homes, renovated them and now are living there either part time or full time. One of my very dear friends bought a 1000 year old abandoned house in Basilicata, did an unbelievable renovation on it, making it into apartments, one of which she lives in and the others she made into Airbnbs.

Spello in Umbria, Italy
Spello, Umbria

I think that more than anywhere else in Europe Italy affords us unbelievable opportunities to buy a home in an incredible old town with sensational views, a history that goes back to the beginning of time and a chance to really take part in the dream.

La Rabatana, Basilicata
The little town of La Rabatana in southern Basilicata

There are so many little towns and villages all over Italy that are slowly becoming abandoned or where the population is drastically diminishing. The young folk move to the big cities for work, or leave the country altogether and there is no one left to take over the properties. The property values drop as the population dwindles and more and more homes becomes available to buy.

 Some of these towns try to entice buyers with offers of homes for 1 euro or other incredibly low rates paired with a commitment from you to invest a set sum of money into renovating the property or into settling there for 5 years and opening a business – there are lots of variables.

Villa in Tuscany
Living the dream in Tuscany

I have a friend who bought a rundown house for 8000 euros and then spent around 50,000 euros on the rebuild, not only getting an incredible home to live in at a totally manageable price, but also being able to generate income from it with a seasonal bed and breakfast business.

I have other friends who are wealthy enough to buy whatever they want, so a massive villa in Tuscany is an easy purchase.

Villa on the Amalfi Coast of Italy
Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast

Obviously if you are planning on buying a house in Venice or Florence or Rome or any highly populated place the costs will be sky high. On the other hand if you buy in Puglia or Abruzzo or Molise for example it can be incredibly cost effective.

The Downside Of Buying Property In Italy

In reality buying a property in a foreign country can be fraught with pitfalls, money traps and nightmare scenarios. Even if you speak the language well chances are you don’t speak real estate Italian or legalese Italian or renovation Italian. The system for buying property there is different, the taxes are different, the rules are different.

For example you can buy a home that had an unapproved addition put on generations ago. The addition doesn’t come to the attention of the authorities until the property sells, and now you are legally responsible for removing it and returning the property to its “legal” state at a crippling expense.

Burano, Italy

A New Service Available To Foreign Buyers

A friend of mine from Australia who lives in Italy has recently been getting written up in magazines and publications all around the world for a new service that she provides to foreign property buyers in Italy.

Nikki Taylor has created a program called How To Confidently Buy Property In Italy.

Using her extensive knowledge both in Italian Real Estate and in investment banking she has created a service that helps guide foreign buyers to both understand and streamline the property buying process.

What The Program Covers

*The property buying procedure in Italy

*Where in Italy should you be looking, based on your lifestyle requirements

*How to avoid very common and very costly mistakes when buying property in Italy

*The additional costs and taxes that come with buying property in Italy

*How to mitigate currency exchange risk

*How to arrange an effective buying trip from your home country.

On top of this her program has a team of bilingual professionals to help you navigate the big stuff. She offers an Italy based property lawyer, an accountant, Visa and Immigration expert and a Currency expert. Each of whom can guide you through the complexities and hidden loopholes that come with buying property not only in a foreign country but in a foreign language.

Rather than being specific to one area or town Nikki’s program is designed to help you wherever you are looking to buy in Italy.

Her service runs as a 5 week course you can take with weekly live question and answer sessions. She also has a book available on Amazon called How To Confidently Buy Property In Italy that goes into much more depth about the service she provides. The book is available on Kindle or if you don’t have a kindle (like me!) you can get the book on the Kindle App.

It’s easy to see why major publications around the world are writing about her brilliant program and service. The main stumbling blocks that were deterring me from seriously contemplating buying property in Italy have all been addressed by Nikki, so now I know that when the time is right for me I can step into her program and confidently buy a home in Italy.

Get your copy of How To Confidently Buy Property In Italy on Amazon HERE

Nikki in Bolzano, Northern Italy. She now lives in sunny Puglia in the south of Italy

Want more information about Nikki, buying houses in Italy and her world renowned program? You can contact her via her website here

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