The best non-travel, European travel books with descriptive writing that takes you on a journey

Jean Cerfontaine Author Of Where Do You Go To
By Jean Cerfontaine

Who am I?

I have been to Europe a handful of times, exploring Paris, Italy, Malta, Spain, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Amsterdam. Europe lends itself perfectly to be immortalised in literature. The continent is steeped in thousands of years of charming history, oozing out of the cobblestoned streets and painted in layers on the buildings. Scratch the surface and a new, richer layer comes to the fore, exciting and amazing anew. Europe inevitably turns into one of the important characters in any book set there and many a writer have managed to capture its essence in their work. Alongside Peter Sarstedt, Europe inspired my work, taking the reader along on a wondrous journey.

I wrote...

Where Do You Go To

By Jean Cerfontaine,

Book cover of Where Do You Go To

What is my book about?

Join in her beautiful journey as the adopted daughter of a French diplomat explores life and discovers talents for dance and art. Her travels are described in beautiful prose, sharing her trials and tribulations through the glorious vista that is mid-century Europe. As she rubs shoulders with the rich and famous in Rome, St. Moritz, Moscow, and France, the burning question of her unknown roots remains unsolved—Who is she?

Will the mystery of her origins remain unsolved, or will the truth behind her morning tears finally be revealed? Inspired by the famous Peter Sarstedt song, this is a classic tale, 50 years in the making.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

The books I picked & why

Under the Tuscan Sun

By Frances Mayes,

Book cover of Under the Tuscan Sun

Why did I love this book?

Frances Mayes narrates life in Tuscany with a clear, refreshing voice, adding in some cooking recipes, scenic Tuscan landscapes, and adventures around Italy, along with the recipe to find happiness in the simple things in life, in a wonderful foreign setting. Italy like you’ve never experienced it before, through the eyes of an almost-local.

By Frances Mayes,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Under the Tuscan Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover the New York Times bestseller that inspired the film. The perfect read for anyone seeking an escape to the Italian countryside.

When Frances Mayes - poet, gourmet cook and travel writer - buys an abandoned villa in Tuscany, she has no idea of the scale of the project she is embarking on.

In this enchanting memoir she takes the reader on a journey to restore a crumbling villa and build a new life in the Italian countryside, navigating hilarious cultural misunderstandings, legal frustrations and the challenges of renovating a house that seems determined to remain a ruin.

Filled with…

The Talented Mr. Ripley

By Patricia Highsmith,

Book cover of The Talented Mr. Ripley

Why did I love this book?

Tom Ripley is a con artiste. He is smooth, intelligent, and deadly. Tom goes on a journey to Italy to find the wayward son of a shipping magnate, Dickie Greenleaf. Along the way, Tom finds a way to become Dickie Greenleaf himself. The adventure plays out in some of the most scenic parts of Italy, following Tom on his misadventures in Positano, Rome, and Venice. Patricia Highsmith writes in a formal style that ages well and keeps the reader hooked with the wonderfully narrated prose.

By Patricia Highsmith,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Talented Mr. Ripley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's here, in the first volume of Patricia Highsmith's five-book Ripley series, that we are introduced to the suave Tom Ripley, a young striver seeking to leave behind his past as an orphan bullied for being a "sissy." Newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan, Ripley meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, back from gallivanting in Italy. Soon Ripley's fascination with Dickie's debonair lifestyle turns obsessive as he finds himself enraged by Dickie's ambivalent affections for Marge, a charming American dilettante, and Ripley begins a deadly game. "Sinister and strangely alluring"…

A Year at the Chateau

By Dick Strawbridge, Angel Strawbridge,

Book cover of A Year at the Chateau

Why did I love this book?

Dick and Angel set off on a life-changing adventure. They purchase a Chateau in France and start the involved process of restoring it to its former glory. The chateau becomes a central character in their story, alongside the glorious Loire Valley. You may have seen the TV show based on their exploits, but the book is so much better!

By Dick Strawbridge, Angel Strawbridge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Year at the Chateau as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Like many couples, Dick and Angel had long dreamed of living in France, but where others might settle for a modest bolthole in the French countryside, the Strawbridges fell in love with a 19th-century fairytale chateau, complete with 45 rooms, seven outbuildings, 12 acres of land and its own moat.

Throwing caution to the wind, Dick and Angel swapped their two-bedroom flat in East London for an abandoned and derelict castle in the heart of the Loire valley and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime with their two young children Arthur and…

Book cover of For the Love of Europe: My Favorite Places, People, and Stories

Why did I love this book?

To be honest, this one is close to being a travel book. Rick Steves is a well-known traveler, with a large number of guide books and television shows sharing his exploits with the world. But, this book describes Europe in a way that no travel guide can. Rick is a master of sharing anecdotes of his travels through Europe, never failing to describe the flavours, sights, and sounds of the continent and the wonderful cities we all yearn to see. This was a wonderful escape during the 2020 lockdowns, a true lifesaver! 

By Rick Steves,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked For the Love of Europe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After 40+ years of writing about Europe, Rick Steves has gathered 100 of his favorite articles and essays together into one inspiring collection: For the Love of Europe: My Favorite Places, People, and Stories.

Join Rick as he's swept away by a fado singer in Lisbon, learns the dangers of falling in love with a gondolier in Venice, and savors a cheese course in the Loire Valley. Contemplate the mysteries of centuries-old stone circles in England, dangle from a cliff in the Swiss Alps, and hear a French farmer's defense of foie gras.

With a brand-new, original introduction from Rick…

Book cover of A Year in Paris: Season by Season in the City of Light

Why did I love this book?

John Baxter is a master at his craft. He describes his life in Paris in a vivid, easy-to-read style, never failing to delve into the history of the streets he is roaming. He has published a number of books on Paris and its historic neighbourhoods, all immersing the reader in the sights, sounds, and culture of Paris. This is probably the next best thing to living in Paris yourself. 

By John Baxter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Year in Paris as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


From the incomparable John Baxter, award-winning author of the bestselling The Most Beautiful Walk in the World, a sumptuous and definitive portrait of Paris through the seasons, highlighting the unique tastes, sights, and changing personality of the city in spring, summer, fall, and winter.

When the common people of France revolted in 1789, one of the first ways they chose to correct the excesses of the monarchy and the church was to rename the months of the year. Selected by poet and playwright Philippe-Francois-Nazaire Fabre, these new names reflected what took place at…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in France, Tuscany, and Europe?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about France, Tuscany, and Europe.

France Explore 779 books about France
Tuscany Explore 20 books about Tuscany
Europe Explore 765 books about Europe

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like A Year in Provence, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, and Footsteps if you like this list.