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Ciao! Discover the best books set in Italy here. This curated list includes the best Italian-based fiction and non-fiction I’ve read, followed by the popular ones I’m itching to read next. You’ll instantly transport your mind to this scrumptious and historic country with these immersive stories. Let’s get literary!

open book in venice italy.

List of the Best Books Set in Italy

  1. Beneath a Scarlet Sky: ★★★★☆
  2. Four Seasons in Rome: ★★★☆☆
  3. From Scratch: ★★★★★
  4. Love and Gelato: ★★★☆☆
  5. My Brilliant Friend: ★★★★★
  6. One Italian Summer: ★★★★★
  7. Romeo and Juliet: ★★★★★
  8. A Room with a View: ★★★☆☆
  9. The Sicilian Inheritance: ★★★★☆
  10. The Villa: ★★★★☆

Read these books as part of an Around the World Reading Challenge.

Reviews of the Best Books Taking Place in Italy

event for the sicilian inheritance by jo piazza.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan (Historical Fiction)

  • USA Today and #1 Amazon Charts bestseller

My Review: ★★★★☆

Best book for men and for those seeking WW2 historical fiction novels

Beneath a Scarlet Sky is consistently one of the bestselling books with readers of The Literary Lifestyle. Based on a true story, Pino Lella meets Anna as World War II reaches his hometown of Milan, Italy. 

Lella then plays two major roles in World War II. First, in the Italian Alps, he joins the underground railroad, led by a group of Catholic priests, and helps Jews escape by traversing the Alps. 

Second, Lella’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier to avoid being drafted to the front lines for Italy and to operate as an Italian spy. He then becomes the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left-hand man in Italy.

Lella endures shocking horrors during World War II as he dreams of a peaceful future with Anna. It’s a suspenseful and emotional story of family and love in the face of War.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky works especially well for readers who enjoy history, suspense, and cars. It’s a page-turner with an Italian bent, in memory of those Italians who didn’t survive. Most readers appreciate it.


Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr (Non Fiction Memoir)

My Review: ★★★☆☆

Best for fans of travel memoirs

Four Seasons in Rome was written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning #1 New York Times bestselling author of All the Light We Cannot See. It’s a memoir about the year he spent writing in Rome on a stipend 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 (one of my favorite Italy book scenes ever).

The people he meets are as memorable as the city itself. Overall, this travel memoir reads like a celebration of Roman culture and a writer’s craft.

Having been to Rome myself, I especially recommend this book to those who have already been there because his vibrant descriptions allow you to mentally re-visit all the places he mentions.


From Scratch by Tembi Locke (Non Fiction Memoir)

My Review: ★★★★★

Best for fans of emotional memoirs

The emotional memoir From Scratch is about a Black American actress who meets an Italian chef while studying abroad in Florence. After he dies at a young age (not a spoiler), she returns to Italy to mend strained relationships with his disapproving family.

It’s one of the most beautifully written, memorable, and unputdownable memoirs I’ve read. You’re bound to shed tears as you walk through this unique family’s grief journey alongside them in various parts of Italy, including Florence and Sicily.

Because food is such a big part of the couple’s story, it also really transports you to Italy. I even made one of the author’s pasta recipes to pair with the book! Lastly, the Netflix adaptation is also fantastic!


Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch (Young Adult Romance)

  • New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★☆☆

Best for fans of light Young Adult romances

Love and Gelato is a book set in Florence that follows a teenage girl on a summer adventure. Pursuing her mother’s dying wish, she tries to find her father, and upon discovering her mother’s journal, she learns a life-changing secret.

It’s filled with romance, mystery, and a cute Italian suitor. This young adult novel is also a charming read for adults. However, the Netflix adaptation did not do this fun book justice, so read it and skip watching it!


My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (Literary Historical Fiction)

  • New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★★

Best for fans of character-driven novels and literary fiction

My Brilliant Friend, the first of four books in the Neopolitan Novels book series, is my favorite book of all time.

In post-WWII Naples, Italy, Elena and Lila first bond as impoverished young children over a shared copy of Little Women. Throughout decades, life pushes them together and pulls them apart as they age, one becoming educated and the other, not.

Their deeply complex and competitive natures make it impossible not to become utterly immersed in their lives and feel real feelings about the characters. Naples, their families, and their neighbors round out their immensely compelling stories. Major themes in this book include education, class, and violence in Italy at this time. 

Fans of character-driven literary fiction absolutely cannot miss this masterpiece. I once read an opinion that, while reading My Brilliant Friend, you will feel like you only want to read books by Elena Ferrante for the rest of your life. I wholeheartedly agree. 


One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle (Contemporary Fiction)

  • New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★★

Best for fans of Gilmore Girls

Set on the Amalfi coast, One Italian Summer is one of the best books to read in summer. It follows Katy’s solo “vacation” after the death of her beloved mother, who had spent the summer there just before she met Katy’s father.

Magical realism comes into play when Kary meets a woman who doesn’t just look like her mother but appears to be her mother at age 30. This changes the course of Katy’s grief and her life. Plus, there’s a twist you won’t see coming.

Serle is known for blending grief with magical realism, and she’s at her best here. It’s immersive, emotional, and memorable.

Pro tip: This is one of the best audiobooks of all-time, perfectly narrated by Gilmore Girls’ own charming mother, Lauren Graham. I highly recommend this version.


Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare (Classic)

My Review: ★★★★★

Best for fans of Shakespeare

If you have never read the classic Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet, what are you waiting for?!

It’s a tragic tale of all-encompassing young love set amidst family strife in Verona, Italy. This easy-to-read classic is one of the greatest love stories of all time. So, please don’t fear Shakespeare! You can pair it with a movie adaptation or a study guide to read it more easily. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Related Post: Best Romeo and Juliet Quotes


A Room with a View by E.M. Forster (Classic)

My Review: ★★★☆☆

Best for fans of the classics

A Room with a View is a classic romance novel on the Rory Gilmore book list and The Office’s Finer Things Club book list.

A naive young woman travels to Florence and, after exploring its culture and fainting in the arms of a young man there, returns to England. There, she must decide between a life of convention and a life of passion.

It’s one of those books that anyone interested in Florence needs to read. It makes a statement about the time period in which it’s set, and it’s also an easy and short classic book to read.

If you prefer a more modern re-telling, though, check out Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan, which is also partially set in Italy.


The Sicilian Inheritance by Jo Piazza (Historical Fiction Mystery)

  • National bestseller

My Review: ★★★★☆

Best for book clubs

The Sicilian Inheritance is based on a true crime story in the author’s own family history, and, for those who like to indulge in a full multimedia experience, she released a corresponding podcast about it.

The death of Sara’s beloved Aunt Rosie brings her to Sicily, where she comes to investigate the possible murder of her feisty great-grandmother there, all the while her husband worked in America.

There’s something for everyone here: historical fiction (with dual timelines), suspense, crime, mystery, romance, strong women, drama, family, and, of course, an Italian setting. I recommend it for book clubs and fans of Chanel Cleeton. It’s also a perfect beach read.


The Villa by Rachel Hawkins (Thriller)

  • Instant New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★☆

Best for fans of gothic suspense

In The Villa, Emily and Chess are thirtysomethings with a strained friendship. They reunite for a trip to Italy.

Back in 1974, their villa was rented by a famous rockstar who invited a musician to stay there with his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s stepsister. One ended up writing one of the greatest horror novels of all time, one composed a platinum album, and one was brutally murdered.

As Emily dives into the villa’s storied past, she also finds herself at odds with Emily. When secrets and betrayals are revealed, the past threatens to repeat itself.

Interestingly, this book is inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and the famous summer Percy and Mary Shelley spent with Lord Byron at the Lake Geneva castle where Frankenstein was born.

I read this unputdownable book in one day! It’s quick, yet fully developed and extremely twisty, both in the past and present storylines.


More Italy Books On My Reading List

Italy is probably my favorite book setting, so I have many more books set in Italy on my personal TBR list. Check them out below:

MORE ITALY BOOKS

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the greatest literature of Italy ever written?

Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy is widely regarded as the greatest work of Italian literature. This epic poem, written in the 14th century, depicts a journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise.

What are some good books set in Italy?

Good books set in Italy include Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, A Room With a View by E.M. Forster, and The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant. These novels capture Italy’s charm and history.

Are the Neopolitan Novels based on a true story?

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante are not based on a true story. While they capture the true spirit of life and people in Naples, the series is a work of fiction.

Are the Neopolitan Novels connected?

Yes. Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels are a four-book series that follows the lifelong friendship of two women, Elena and Lila, from their childhood in Naples, Italy, through their adult lives.

Where is My Brilliant Friend Set in Italy?

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is primarily set in Naples, Italy. The novel realistically depicts the city’s working-class neighborhoods post-World War II through the friendship of two young girls.

Conclusion

The best books set in Italy perfectly capture its charm and history (and food!). To recap and help you decide what to read first or next, my top two picks are:

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