The best books to read so you can take a trip to enchanting Italy without having to book a flight

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent my first seven years in Spain and Italy, devouring books and Italian food and still speak (or try!) my childhood languages. The Italian language and culture are precious to me—an integral part of my life. Our visits back to Italy, speaking Italian with friends, cooking Italian meals, writing for the Italian Language Foundation's website, and enjoying our community's Italian movie nights maintain my Italian experience. Sadly, I can't be in Italy all the time, but have found some fabulous books that take me right back! Il cuore e italiano—my heart is Italian.

I wrote...

Secrets in Translation

By Margo Sorenson,

Book cover of Secrets in Translation

What is my book about?

In this celebration of Italian life and culture, seventeen-year-old Alessandra returns for the summer to Italy, where she grew up. Pressured by her parents into babysitting a rebellious twelve-year-old—ruining holiday plans with newfound American friends—Alessandra resigns herself to a tedious summer in Positano. Her babysitting gig, however, turns out to be anything but boring! Not only does Alessandra fall for the handsome son of the Bertolucci family, renowned limoncello producers, but when a body mysteriously turns up on the beach, the influence of organized crime in Positano becomes frighteningly real.

As Alessandra is drawn further into a conspiracy, she risks everything to protect herself, her family, and those that she loves—and in the process, she finds herself—and her Italian heart.

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

The books I picked & why

Book cover of La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World

Margo Sorenson Why did I love this book?

If you love Italy—and if you don't love it now, you definitely will—after reading this engaging, vibrant tribute to Italy! Knighted by the President of Italy for her writing about Italy, author Dianne Hales describes the native, inherent passion of Italians—la passione italiana— as the source and nurturer of our civilization's love for art, music, architecture, cars, ceramics, sculpture, design, literature, film, food, and wine. Bursting with talent and passion, the legacy of Italian passion for life in our culture is ubiquitous and all-encompassing. Italy and its passion itself have taken hold of our imaginations, and your imagination will take you directly to la bella Italia, as it did for me, while reading this engaging book.

By Dianne Hales,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked La Passione as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A jubilant celebration of Italy’s outsize impact on culture, from literature to art, music to movies, that “masterfully examines the multitude of reasons why so many people fall in love with Italy and the Italian lifestyle” (Forbes)

Can you imagine painting without Leonardo, opera without Verdi, fashion without Armani, food without the signature tastes of pasta, gelato, and pizza? The first universities, first banks, first public libraries? All Italian.

New York Times bestselling author Dianne Hales attributes these landmark achievements to la passione italiana, a primal force that stems from an insatiable hunger to discover and create; to love and…

Book cover of Death at La Fenice

Margo Sorenson Why did I love this book?

This is the first of Leon's epic mysteries set in Venice, centered around the urbane, clever and engaging, vice-commissario of police, Guido Brunetti. Maestro Helmut Wellauer, a world-renowned conductor dies painfully from cyanide poisoning during an intermission at La Fenice, the world-renowned opera house. Brunetti uses his acumen and wit to discover the perpetrator, all the while introducing the reader to the enthralling culture of Venice, its people, history, and cuisine. I felt as if I were there, at Brunetti's elbow, enjoying a wonderful visit to Venice! And the meals—che meravigliso!

By Donna Leon,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Death at La Fenice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A splendid series . . . with a backdrop of the city so vivid you can almost smell it.' The Sunday Telegraph

Winner of the Suntory Mystery Fiction Grand Prize

The twisted maze of Venice's canals has always been shrouded in mystery. Even the celebrated opera house, La Fenice, has seen its share of death ... but none so horrific and violent as that of world-famous conductor, Maestro Helmut Wellauer, who was poisoned during a performance of La Traviata. Even Commissario of Police, Guido Brunetti, used to the labyrinthine corruptions of the city, is shocked at the number of…

Book cover of My Brilliant Friend

Margo Sorenson Why did I love this book?

Elena Ferrante shot to the top of the bestseller lists with this incredible book and remained there for months, deservedly so. Reading it plunged me right into my childhood spent in Napoli—sounds, sights, smells, the messy, lovely life I led. Ferrante's plot is wicked smart, and her descriptions of Italy and its culture are a perfect way to visit Italy from your chair. This is the first of her series of four Neapolitan novels, so more pleasure and intrigue await!

By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (translator),

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked My Brilliant Friend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?









Now in B-format Paperback

From one of Italy's most acclaimed authors, comes this ravishing and generous-hearted novel about a friendship that lasts a lifetime. The story of Elena and Lila begins in the 1950s in a poor but…

Book cover of Under the Tuscan Sun

Margo Sorenson Why did I love this book?

Another blockbuster book about Italy, this memoir introduces the reader to the ins and outs of daily living in Italy from the viewpoint of an American. The insights into the Italian people and their wonderful culture are truly enjoyable and written with wit and understanding. Her observations are spot-on and welcome the reader into her adventure. Reading this memoir about the villa she bought in Tuscan will make you want to book a trip to Italy and buy your own villa to renovate!

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…

Book cover of Death of an Englishman

Margo Sorenson Why did I love this book?

This delightful mystery set in Florence not only intrigues the reader with its clever, twist-filled plot but also with its insights into daily life and culture in Italy. The characters are enjoyable and show many humorous and unique facts of Italian life. Nabb knows her Florence and her Italians, and her ability to describe both make a reader wish to accompany her on her next trip!

By Magdalen Nabb,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Death of an Englishman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Introducing Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia of the Florentine carabinieri, a Sicilian stationed far from home. He wants to go south for Christmas to spend the holiday with his family, but he is laid up with the 'flu. At this awkward moment, the death of a retired Englishman is reported. A most inconvenient time for a murder case. Who has shot Mr Langley-Smythe in the back? And why has Scotland Yard felt it appropriate to send two detectives, one of whom speaks no Italian, to 'help' the marshal and his colleagues with their investigation? Most importantly for the marshal, ever the Italian,…

You might also like...

The Emerald Necklace

By Linda Rosen,

Book cover of The Emerald Necklace

Linda Rosen Author Of The Emerald Necklace

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist Swimmer Public Speaker Reader Lover of gardens

Linda's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

It’s 1969. Women are fighting for equality. Rosalee, an insecure sculptor, and Fran, a best-selling novelist, have their issues. Will their bitter envy of each other and long-held secrets destroy their tenuous friendship? Or will Jill, Rosalee’s granddaughter, and the story behind her emerald necklace bind them together?

A multi-generational novel of friendship and frenemies, envy, and long-held secrets that explores current issues through a historical lens. The Emerald Necklace sheds light on that inevitable time when lovers, family, friends, and circumstances change and force you to reinvent yourself whether you want to or not.

The Emerald Necklace

By Linda Rosen,

What is this book about?

"Engaging and mysterious, The Emerald Necklace sheds light on that inevitable time when lovers, family, friends and circumstances change and force you to reinvent yourself whether you want to or not." –Rebecca Rosenberg, award-winning Champagne Widows series

Three months after her husband's death in 1969, Rosalee Linoff is determined to jump back into life.

For her, that means returning to her art. She desperately wants to be accepted as a talented sculptor, but that requires she dig up the courage to submit her work again - and be judged. Her paralyzing insecurity mounts when she meets her new neighbor, best-selling…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Italy, Tuscany, and murder?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Italy, Tuscany, and murder.

Italy Explore 370 books about Italy
Tuscany Explore 22 books about Tuscany
Murder Explore 903 books about murder