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18 Best Books Set in Italy (Fiction & Non-Fiction)

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Buongiorno! This post contains the best books set in Italy, both fiction and non-fiction to inspire your real-life travel -- or just your travel of the mind to this scrumptious and historic country.

Before traveling to Italy on my honeymoon in 2019, I read several of these books and, in compiling this list, I have found several more to bring me back to our relaxing European days of sunshine, pasta, wine, and Summer reading.

Below are the best books set in Italy.

If you are doing the Around the World Reading Challenge, you can add these books to your PDF tracker for Italy!

Best Books Set in Italy

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

Best for fans of suspense

#1 Worldwide Bestseller

In Angels & Demons, A Harvard symbologist is summoned to his first assignment to analyze a mysterious symbol -- seared into the chest of a murdered physicist -- when he discovers the powerful underground organization known as the Illuminati, which is set to carry out a vendetta against the Catholic Church.

He heads to Rome upon learning a timed bomb has been placed in the Vatican City, and he follows a trail of ancient symbols throughout Rome in an attempt to stop the bomb from detonating. You will be on the edge of your seat with this suspenseful Italian adventure that has gained the acclaim of readers everywhere.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Best for fans of decades-long stories

#1 New York Times bestseller

In Beautiful Ruins, in 1962, on the sunny Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, spots a beautiful woman approaching him on a boat. She is dying American actress.

In the present, an elderly Italian man shows up at a movie studio's backlot, searching for the woman. What unfolds is a 50-year story of fascinating, flawed characters navigating life while clinging to their dreams.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

Best for fans of The Nightingale and for men

USA Today and #1 Amazon Charts bestseller

Beneath a Scarlet Sky was based on a true story, telling the epic story of a young Italian man's courage and resilience during World War II.

When Pino Lella's family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, he begins helping Jews escape over the Italian Alps, and he falls for a woman named Anna.

His parents then force him to falsely enlist as a German soldier, and, after he is injured, he becomes the personal driver for one of Adolf Hitler's top Generals. This allows him to spy on the Germans, but he witnesses the horrors of war as he dreams of a future with Anna in this suspenseful tale.

For more, check out my full review of Beneath a Scarlet Sky.

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

Best for fans of LGBT novels

New York Times bestseller

Call Me By Your Name is about a romance between an adolescent boy and a male summer guest at his parents’ cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera. They are unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, as they move towards total intimacy.

Call Me By Your Name has been called an instant classic and one of the great love stories of our time.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Best for fans of self-discovery and memoirs

One of the most iconic, beloved, and bestselling books of our time

Eat, Pray, Love is the heartfelt memoir of beloved author, Elizabeth Gilbert, who leaves behind tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind her marriage, home and career to spend a year studying three different cultures. In Italy, she explores the art of pleasure in this scrumptious acclaimed story.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Best for fans of classics

Golden Man Booker Prize

The English Patient is about four damaged people in an Italian villa at the end of World War II: an exhausted nurse; a maimed thief; the wary sapper; and "The English Patient" -- the nameless, burned man who lies in an upstairs room and has memories of passion, betrayal, and rescue.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Best for fans of classics

"The definitive edition of the classic novel of love during wartime..." - The New York Times

A Farewell to Arms is the classic Hemingway World War I story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his love for an English nurse. This semi-autobiographical tale fully encapsulates the realities of war and the pain of war-torn lovers.

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr

Best for fans of non-fiction and a Roman setting

Four Seasons in Rome is part of my literary travel guide to Rome. It's written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning #1 New York Times bestseller All the Light We Cannot See. It's a memoir about the year he spent writing in Rome on a stipend, which he learned he received the day that he and his wife came home from the hospital with newborn twins.

During the year, Doerr reads the works of Roman writers before him and visits the historical sites. He attends the vigil of a dying Pope John Paul II, and he takes his twins to the Pantheon to await snowfall through the oculus. And the people he meets are as memorable as the city itself in this celebration of Roman culture and a writer's craft.

I recommend this book to those who have already been to Rome and can mentally re-visit all the places he mentions.

From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily and Finding Home by Tembi Locke

Best for foodies and fans of heartfelt memoirs

New York Times bestseller 

From Scratch is was one of my all-time favorite books from Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club, and it's also one of the best books about grief. Author Tembi Locke is an American actress, but also a beautiful writer with a gift for capturing emotions, from pain to resilience.

From Scratch is a memoir in which she tells of meeting her husband, Saro, while she was studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Saro was a Sicilian chef, and his family did not approve of him marrying Locke. After they move to America and adopt a baby girl, Saro is diagnosed with cancer and dies.

From Scratch then recounts the summers Locke spends in Sicily with her daughter, Zoela, thereafter, attempting to figure out how to live life without Saro. Sicily becomes a place of comfort food, but also one of forgiveness, healing, strength and so much more.

Additionally, the descriptions of Sicilian food will make your mouth water. Several recipes are included in From Scratch, and I can tell you from making them myself that they are delicious!

For more, check out my full review with book pairings for From Scratch.

House of Gucci: A True Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sara Gay Forden

Best for fans of true crime

The House of Gucci starts with a bang, as Maurizio Gucci, heir to the fashion dynasty, is shot and killed. Two years later, his ex-wife, Patrizia Reggiani, was arrested for the murder.

How these people got to this point is best explained by the history of the famed Italian fashion brand itself, as it's a complex true story where business and personal lives combine to form one tragic ending.

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Best for fans of young adult novels

New York Times bestseller

In Love and Gelato, a teenager's road trip across Italy is filled with romance, mystery, and adventure with a cute Italian boy. Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, as it was her mother's dying wish that she get to know her father. Upon reading her mother's journal, she discovers the magic of Italy and unearths a life-changing secret that has been kept from her.

I found this book is a bit To All the Boys I've Loved Before and a bit My Girl 2. It's a perfect light YA read filled with Italian inspiration and one of the best Summer books.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Best for fans of character-driven novels and literary fiction

New York Times bestseller

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is simply unforgettable, and I recently even decided it's my favorite book of all time, one of the best character-driven books and one of the best books set in school, not just one of the best books set in Italy.

It's about post-WWII life in Naples, Italy, and two deeply complex, competitive friends, who affected me throughout My Brilliant Friend and the three books that follow it in this series.  Elena Ferrante, which is a pen name for the anonymous author, portrays Elena and Lila, from lives of poverty in the 1950s, throughout decades of their lives, as their friendship both pushes and pulls away as they come of age.

I dare you not to become utterly immersed in the epic lives of Elena and Lila, as well as Naples and their family and neighbors, who all play major roles. Major themes in this book include education, class, and violence. 

Once, I read someone say that, while reading My Brilliant Friend, you will realize that you never want to read anything not written by Elena Ferrante, and I wholeheartedly agree. 

For more, read my full review of My Brilliant Friend and/or my Best Book + Travel Guide to Sorrento, Italy.

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

Best for fans of Gilmore Girls

New York Times bestseller

Set on the Amalfi coast, One Italian Summer is a book about mothers and daughters. When Katy's mother, her best friend in the world, dies, she struggles to cope and decides to take the Italian vacation they had planned to take together, alone.

After all, Positano is the stunning seaside town where Katy's mother spent the Summer right before she met Katy’s father. Once she's there, she meets a woman who doesn't just look like her mother, but appears to actually be her mother, albeit at age 30.

As she makes friends and deals with her the loss of her mother, she is surprised by a dose of magical realism that changes everything. It's a twist only Serle, known for her bestselling books with themes of grief, can pull off.

It's one of my favorite books of 2022. And did I mention that the audiobook is read by Gilmore Girls own famed mother, Lauren Graham?!

Our Italian Summer by Jennifer Probst

Best for fans of light family stories

Our Italian Summer is about a healing Summer in the lives of three generations of American women. The eldest, Sophia, is mourning the death of her husband and wishing she spent more meaningful time with him. Her daughter, Francesca, is a very anxious workaholic, obsessed with her career. And Francesa's daughter, Allegra, is an angry teenager, resentful that she does not have a father figure in her life, and rebellious in her actions.

These three women take a breather and venture on a blissful Summer in Italy, filled with tourism, food, and even some romance. This escape book is what I like to a great "palate cleanser."

Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare

Best for fans of classics

If you have never read the classic Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet, or if you haven't read it since high school, what are you waiting for?! A list of the best books in Italy simply wouldn't be complete without it, and it's also on the Rory Gilmore book list. This story of an all-encompassing young love is set in Verona, Italy, and is a must-read!

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

Best for fans of classics

In A Room with a View, which is also on the Rory Gilmore book list, a young Englishwoman faints into the arms of a fellow Englishman upon witnessing a murder in Florence. She is attracted to this unsuitable man of a different social class, and so, back in England, she is courted by a more "acceptable" suitor. Amongst a cast of colorful characters, she must choose between convention and passion.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Best for fans of dark thrillers

The Talented Mr. Ripley is the dark tale of sociopath American Tom Ripley, who is hired by a wealthy businessman to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, home from Italy. But, upon befriending Greenleaf in Italy, Ripley develops a twisted obsession over his life. A grim sequence of events thus unfolds throughout Italy. This story of fraud is one of my favorite books set in Venice -- it's a complex thriller and a real nail-biter!

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Brown

Best for fans of historical fiction

In The Tuscan Child, popular historical fiction author Rhys Bowen tells the story of a British bomber pilot who parachuted from his plane into the fields of German-occupied Tuscany in 1944. He finds refuge and care for his wounds in a ruined monastery and with an Italian woman. But their love is shaken by betrayal.

Thirty years later, the pilot's estranged English daughter makes a startling revelation after his death, which leads her to Tuscany to uncover his secrets. I really enjoyed this historical read.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Best for fans of strong female leads

New York Times bestseller

Under the Tuscan Sun is the heartwarming, popular memoir of a poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer who moves to Tuscany to restore an abandoned villa. As she takes chances on a new life, she explores the tastes and slower, more indulgent culture of a foreign country, which forever change her. I regularly watch the movie of the same name and highly recommend it!

Those are the best books set in Italy. I hope this post inspired your real-life travel and/or travel of the mind.

Shop this entire list in one spot in my Amazon shop.

If you enjoyed the best books set in Italy, you may also enjoy my travel guides (with a literary twist) for these Italian cities:

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