Books Set in Italy: Perugia, Tuscany, Rome & Venice

Our latest reviews of books set in Italy.

Books Set in Italy -

The Virgin and the Griffin by Sandra Cordon 

This book is a time machine back to 1500′s Perugia, Italy. Father Michele Giallett has been sent from by the Vatican to Perguia to teach young men – at least that what he claims. What are his real reasons for being in the city?  He conveniently arrives when the noble families of the city are feuding with the Pope. Father Michele also develops a friendship with a young woman that transforms her life. I loved the way the author weaved fascinating points of art and history in to the story. Descriptions are so vivid I wanted to jump on a train to Perugia to see sites such as the Fontana Maggiore and the artwork of Raphael and Perugino. It is obvisous that Cordon did an incredible amount of research to portray day to day life during this time period. The book is a great mix of entertainment and education.

Featured location: Perugia

Books Set in Italy - The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian  

The Rosatis are a family of nobility in Monte Volta, Italy but their world it turned upside down during World War II. Fifteen years later, someone is cutting out the hearts of Rosati family member as retaliation for the family’s relationship with the Nazis. Did the family willing choose to aid the Nazis or were they merely doing whatever possible to survive? This book had all the elements for a great read but I was bit underwhelmed. I found it interesting to read about what life was like in Italy during the war. But I never connected with the characters so I wasn’t fully invested in the outcome. It’s an OK read but one what is easily forgettable.

Featured locations: Tuscan countryside, Arezzo, Florence, Rome and Gela (Sicily)

Books Set in Italy - The Confessor by Daniel Silva 

Holocaust historian and Mossad agent Benjamin Stern is murdered in Munich. Fellow agent Gabriel Allon investigates his friend’s death and uncovers Vatican secrets from World War II that could shake the Catholic Church to its core. The book is filled with spies, assassins and double agents running around Western Europe trying to stay one step ahead of each other. It’s a fine enough thriller but at times Silva reaches too far. Members of the Vatican and Mossad must work together to ensure the information does not fall in to the wrong hands but the instant trust isn’t believable, even in a work of fiction. Maybe I’m too cynical.

Locations: Rome, Venice, Lake Garda plus various cities in western Europe

Books Set in Italy - A Thousand Nights in Venice by Marlena De Blasi 

The author tells her tale of meeting her husband and moving to Venice. It’s a fairytale that romances the process of adapting to a new country. Marlena meets Fernando hours before her flight is scheduled to depart and he follows her back to the US. The only point really shared about his visit to St. Louis is that she gets the flu while he’s there. She decides to sell her newly refurbished home and marry him in Italy. The reader is not given any details on the connection between the two. Frankly, Fernando came off as a bit of a dolt.

While there are a few annoyances Marlena encounters, for the most part she adapts wonderfully to Italy. Everything is rainbows and lollipops. The writing is dripping in exaggerated prose such as “the market seemed a tiny kingdom in the sky.”

“I’m Venetian as much as if I were born here. I’m Venetian, Fernando. I’m more Venetian than you,” she tells her husband at the end of her thousand nights in Venice. What a crock of crap! I’ve lived in Italy for 11 years and the thought of telling any Italian I know the culture better than a native is unthinkable.

There is nothing realistic about this book. It perpetuates the myth that Italy is a magical land. It is one of the reason why some people are disappointed once reality is experienced. Italy has countless wonderful things, but there many problems as well. A balanced perspective would have been welcomed.

Featured location: Venice

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One comment on “Books Set in Italy: Perugia, Tuscany, Rome & Venice
  1. Karen Smith says:

    A friend in Rome just introduced me to your blog — I love it, and I love your approach to hospitality — what fun. I hope to stay with you on my next trip. Your book reviews are terrific, too. I’m pin them on my Pinterest board.

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