One of our favorite things to do while planning a trip is to find books based where we are going. Reading a novel set in your travel destination can teach you about local customs, illuminate hidden neighborhoods and give you a chance to explore off the well trod tourist path. For the kick-off of our summer reading series we thought we'd explore the literature of the ultimate summer getaway: Italy. From long-lost romance novels, to a series based in the gritty realism of Naples, Italian literature has a wide ranging depth of choices for every type of traveller.
Elena Ferrante: My Brilliant Friend and the Neapolitan Novels
Based in Naples My Brilliant Friend explores the early lives of two young women. Lila and Lenu grow up in the same poverty stricken neighborhood but through a series of opportunities for Lenu their lives begin to diverge. Starting in post-WWII Italy and exploring the subsequent politically turbulent decades Lila and Lenu's friendship becomes a mirror for the country as they grapple with changing morals, expectations and loyalties.
Rachel Kushner: The Flamethrowers
While not set exclusively in Italy Kushner's The Flamethrowers illuminates Italy's history of political radicalism and machismo. Reno moves to New York to pursue her career as an artist, there she meets a motley cast of artists, dreamers, scenesters and Italian radicals. The latter part of the book explores her somewhat disastrous trip to Italy to meet her lover's wealthy family.
Jess Walters: Beautiful Ruins
Part Hollywood historical novel, part romance and part family mystery Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins has something for everyone. This is definitely the beachiest of beach reads on our list; the bulk of the narration takes place in a small town on the Italian coast. This book is good for reading by the pool of an Italian villa or sitting at home wishing you were poolside.
Honorable Mentions: Some other favorites that are either by Italian authors or based in Italy.
iuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa: The Leopard
E.M Forester: A Room with a View
Patricia Highsmith: The Taltented Mr. Ripley
Italo Calvino: Mr. Palomar or Italian Folktales
What are your favorite Italian books or Italian authors? Share with us in the comments!