Below you will find a running list of travel books about Italy. This list does not include travel guides. Instead, the books you will find in this list are mostly literary, first-person accounts of travelers through Italy.
The article has two sections. The first is “Our Picks,” which lists our top five favorite travel books about Italy. After that, you’ll find an alphabetized list of all travel books about Italy we’ve come across.
While we are primarily interested in first-person, non-fiction travel narratives, the list has a few works of fiction and romans-à-clef that have a strong autobiographical bent (noted below). It also lists older travel books.
It is difficult to keep lists like these updated, so please email us or let us know if we’re missing anything in the comments section. Before reaching out to us, please note that we do not include guidebooks or self-published memoirs/travelogues here unless they are notable or of a high literary merit.
Don’t forget to see our other lists of travel books.
Desiring Italy: Women Writers Celebrate the Passions of a Country and Culture – Susan Cahill (1997)
For centuries Italy has been many things to many people. In this brilliant anthology and traveler’s companion, twenty-eight women writers reveal why the land that is the heart and soul of European civilization is so appealing. As they tell their stories–in fiction, memoir, and essay–of coming to understand Italy, they explore the complexity of their passions for it, mingling affection and ecstasy with intellectual curiosity. Organized geographically–from northern Italy to Rome and on to the south, Desiring Italy offers an enchanting journey for readers and travelers.
Four Seasons in Rome – Anthony Doerr (2007)
Exquisitely observed, Four Seasons in Rome describes Doerr’s varied adventures in one of the most enchanting cities in the world. He reads Pliny, Dante, and Keats — the chroniclers of Rome who came before him—and visits the piazzas, temples, and ancient cisterns they describe. He attends the vigil of a dying Pope John Paul II and takes his twins to the Pantheon in December to wait for snow to fall through the oculus. He and his family are embraced by the butchers, grocers, and bakers of the neighborhood, whose clamor of stories and idiosyncratic child-rearing advice is as compelling as the city itself. This intimate and revelatory book is a celebration of Rome, a wondrous look at new parenthood, and a fascinating story of a writer’s craft—the process by which he transforms what he sees and experiences into sentences.
Naples ’44 – Norman Lewis (1978)
As a young intelligence officer stationed in Naples following its liberation from Nazi forces, Norman Lewis recorded the lives of a proud and vibrant people forced to survive on prostitution, thievery, and a desperate belief in miracles and cures. The most popular of Lewis’s twenty-seven books, Naples ’44 is a landmark poetic study of the agony of wartime occupation and its ability to bring out the worst, and often the best, in human nature. In prose both heartrending and comic, Lewis describes an era of disillusionment, escapism, and hysteria in which the Allied occupiers mete out justice unfairly and fail to provide basic necessities to the populace while Neapolitan citizens accuse each other of being Nazi spies, women offer their bodies to the same Allied soldiers whose supplies they steal for sale on the black market, and angry young men organize militias to oppose “temporary” foreign rule. Yet over the chaotic din, Lewis sings intimately of the essential dignity of the Neapolitan people, whose traditions of civility, courage, and generosity of spirit shine through daily. This essential World War II book is as timely a read as ever.
Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere – Jan Morris (2001)
Trieste. This history-drenched city on the Adriatic has always tantalized Jan Morris with its moodiness and changeability. After visiting Trieste for more than half a century, she has come to see it as a touchstone for her interests and preoccupations: cities, seas, empires. It has even come to reflect her own life in its loves, disillusionments, and memories. Her meditation on Trieste is characteristically layered with history and glows with stories of famous visitors from James Joyce to Sigmund Freud.
Often hailed as one of the best travel books ever written, Venice is neither a guide nor a history book, but a beautifully written immersion in Venetian life and character, set against the background of the city’s past. Analysing the particular temperament of Venetians, as well as its waterways, its architecture, its bridges, its tourists, its curiosities, its smells, sounds, lights and colours, there is scarcely a corner of Venice that Jan Morris has not investigated and brought vividly to life.
Watermark – Joseph Brodsky (1992)
In this brief, intense, gem-like book, equal parts extended autobiographical essay and prose poem, Brodsky turns his eye to the seductive and enigmatic city of Venice. A mosaic of 48 short chapters―each recalling a specific episode from one of his many visits there (Brodsky spent his winters in Venice for nearly 20 years)―Watermark associatively and brilliantly evokes one city’s architectural and atmospheric character. In doing so, the book also reveals a subject―and an author―readers have never before seen.
Other Travel Books About Italy
- A Pilgrimage to Eternity – Timothy Egan (2019)
- A Room with a View – E. M. Forster (fiction) (1908)
- A Season with Verona – Tim Parks (2002)
- A Small Place in Italy – Eric Newby (2011)
- A Traveller in Italy – H. V. Morton (1964)
- A Traveller in Rome – H. B. Morton (1957)
- An Italian Affair – Laura Fraser (2001)
- Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy – Frances Mayes (1999)
- Christ Stopped at Eboli – Carlo Levi (1947)
- Death in Venice – Thomas Mann (fiction) (1912)
- Desiring Italy: Women Writers Celebrate the Passions of a Country and Culture – Susan Cahill (1997)
- Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
- Eating Up Italy: Voyages on a Vespa – Matthew Fort (2006)
- Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of Italian Life – Frances Mayes (2010)
- Extra Virgin – Annie Hawes (2001)
- Four Seasons in Rome – Anthony Doerr (2007)
- In Sicily – Norman Lewis (2000)
- Incontinent on the Continent: My Mother, Her Walker, and Our Grand Tour of Italy – Jane Christmas (2009)
- Italian Days – Barbara Grizzuti Harrison (1989)
- Italian Hours – Henry James (1909)
- Italian Neighbors – Tim Parks (1992)
- Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo – Tim Parks (2013)
- La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind – Beppe Severgnini (2006)
- La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian – Dianne Hales (2009)
- Love & War in the Apennines – Eric Newby (2010) (Listen to the podcast)
- Midnight in Sicily – Peter Robb (1998)
- Music, Men, and Manners in France and Italy – Charles Burney (1770)
- My Renaissance: A Widow’s Healing Pilgrimage to Tuscany – Rose Marie Curteman (2002)
- Naples ’44 – Norman Lewis (1978)
- No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice – Judith Martin (2007)
- Pasta, Pane, Vino: Deep Travels Through Italy’s Food Culture – Matt Goulding (2018)
- Pictures from Italy – Charles Dickens (1846)
- See You in the Piazza – Frances Mayes (2019)
- Seven Seasons in Siena – Robert Rodi (2011)
- The Aspern Papers – Henry James (fiction) (1888)
- The City of Falling Angels – John Berendt (2005)
- The Honoured Society: The Sicilian Mafia Observed – Norman Lewis (1964)
- The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and its Citrus Fruit – Helena Attlee (2014)
- The Law – Roger Vailland (fiction) (1957)
- The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy – Rachel Cusk (2009)
- The Long Walk Home: An Escape in Wartime Italy – Peter Medd & Frank Simms (1951)
- The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels – Richard Paul Roe (2011)
- The Stones of Florence – Mary McCarthy (1956)
- The World of Venice (also Venice)- Jan Morris (1960)
- Travelers’ Tales Italy – edited by Anne Calcagno (2001)
- Travels Through France and Italy – Tobias Smollett (1766)
- Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere – Jan Morris (2001)
- Under the Tuscan Sun – Frances Mayes (1996)
- Venice (also The World of Venice) – Jan Morris (1960)
- Venice Observed – Mary McCarthy (1963)
- Watermark – Joseph Brodsky (1992)
- War in Val D’Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943-1944 – Iris Origo (1947)
- When in Rome: A Journal of Life in Vatican City – Robert Hutchinson (1998)
- Where Angels Fear to Tread – E. M. Forster (fiction)(1905)
Please email us or let us know in the comments section below if we’re missing any travel books about Italy.
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Last Updated on 15 September 2020 by Travel Writing World
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