The best books that transport you to the magic of Italy

Why am I passionate about this?

I may be English by birth, but my soul has always felt Italian! I have lived and worked in Italy for many years, first in Rome, then Milan, and finally Tuscany when we fell in love with an abandoned farmhouse. I wrote The Chestnut House while we were living in the mountains of the Garfagnana in northern Tuscany, inspired by the wartime stories our neighbours shared with us. For me Italy is the perfect country—great weather, food, wine, language, and culture! I love both reading about it, and writing about it. I hope you enjoy the books on my list as much as I have!

I wrote...

The Chestnut House

By Anna Valencia,

Book cover of The Chestnut House

What is my book about?

When Emma inherits Stazzana, a crumbling farmhouse in the wilderness of northern Tuscany, she embarks upon a quest that will take her from Scotland to Italy, from the present back to the Second World War in search of her ancestors and the reason they left Stazzana all those years ago. The past and the present connect in the form of Luciano, a retired farmer, who befriends Emma and her family, and eventually leads her to Giuliana. Can the truth about what happened at Stazzana set them both free?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Early One Morning

Anna Valencia Why did I love this book?

I lived in Rome for one summer, and am in love with the Eternal City. This book transported me not only to Rome but back to the wartime era, and I was gripped. I loved the poetic descriptions of the city and the surrounding countryside, and the characters were strong and believable. At the core of the novel is an agonising choice a young Jewish mother has to make, and the pain of that moment has stayed with me ever since. This novel is not only a joy to read but taught me more about what Italians went through during the Second World War. 

By Virginia Baily,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Early One Morning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two women's decision to save a child during WWII will have powerful reverberations over the years.

Chiara Ravello is about to flee occupied Rome when she locks eyes with a woman being herded on to a truck with her family. Claiming the woman's son, Daniele, as her own nephew, Chiara demands his return; only as the trucks depart does she realize what she has done. She is twenty-seven, with a sister who needs her constant care, a hazardous journey ahead, and now a child in her charge.

Several decades later, Chiara lives alone in Rome, a self-contained woman working as…

Book cover of The Postcard from Italy

Anna Valencia Why did I love this book?

I have read several of Angela Petch’s excellent novels, all set in Tuscany. I lived in Tuscany for two years, and her descriptions not only of the countryside but also the characters that inhabit this special part of the world are spot on. This novel kept my interest, was well-plotted, and a real pleasure to read. Her research into the wartime period is well done, and I love the details about how people lived back then. It really is another world. How our modern world integrates with it, and what we can learn from it, is something I feel she explores really well, by introducing the past to the present through her characters. 

By Angela Petch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Postcard from Italy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Italy, 1945. ‘Where am I?’ The young man wakes, bewildered. He sees olive trees against a bright blue sky. A soft voice soothes him. ‘We saw you fall from your plane. The parachute saved you.’ He remembers nothing of his life, or the war that has torn the world apart… but where does he belong?

England, present day. Antique-shop-owner Susannah wipes away a tear as she tidies her grandmother’s belongings. Elsie’s memories are fading, and every day Susannah feels further away from her only remaining family. But everything changes when she stumbles across a yellowed postcard of a beautiful Italian…

Book cover of The House by the Sea

Anna Valencia Why did I love this book?

Set in both Devon and Tuscany—this is my perfect book! I loved the historic story of Floriana growing up near the beautiful villa in Tuscany, and it tied in so well with the modern-day story as well. As always Santa’s books are well crafted and a total joy to read, transporting you to the locations with her evocative descriptions. This makes a fabulous holiday read, and I have recommended it to many family and friends.

By Santa Montefiore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The House by the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An irresistibly compelling from the internationally bestselling author Ten-year-old Floriana is captivated by the beauty of the magnificent Tuscan villa that overlooks the sea just outside her small village. She likes to spy from the crumbling wall into the gardens, and imagine that one day she'll escape her meagre existence and live there. One day, Dante, the son of the villa's powerful industrialist owner, invites her inside. From that moment on Floriana knows that her destiny is there, with him. But as they grow up they cross an unseen line, jeopardising the very thing they hold most dear. Decades later…

Book cover of Angels & Demons

Anna Valencia Why did I love this book?

There’s nothing like a Dan Brown book to get you racing from page to page, and for me this is one of his best. It helps that I love Rome, and was working there as a tour guide when I read it. This is the easiest way to learn about Rome, and one of the most enjoyable. Alongside the fast-paced plot and intrigue, there is a lot of information about the history and in particular art history of Rome. A wonderful read if you are about to visit Rome, or would love to be transported there in your imagination.

By Dan Brown,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Angels & Demons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

CERN Institute, Switzerland: a world-renowned scientist is found brutally murdered with a mysterious symbol seared onto his chest.

The Vatican, Rome: the College of Cardinals assembles to elect a new pope. Somewhere beneath them, an unstoppable bomb of terrifying power relentlessly counts down to oblivion.

In a breathtaking race against time, Harvard professor Robert Langdon must decipher a labyrinthine trail of ancient symbols if he is to defeat those responsible - the Illuminati, a secret brotherhood presumed extinct for nearly four hundred years, reborn to continue their deadly vendetta against their most hated enemy, the Catholic Church.

Origin, the spellbinding…

Book cover of Love and War in the Apennines

Anna Valencia Why did I love this book?

I will keep my copy of this novel forever. It’s not only a wonderful story, but based on Eric’s real-life experience during the Second World War, when he was sheltered by a family of Italian farmers. It’s a fascinating and gripping account of the occupation in the Garfagnana—the mountains where my own novel is also set. Eric writes with passion, and his love for Italy and those who helped him is evident. It is a great insight into how people in this part of the world lived then, the incredibly simple and hard lives they lead, and the enormous risks they took to help escaped prisoners like Eric.

By Eric Newby,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Love and War in the Apennines as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed as Newby's 'masterpiece', Love and War in the Apennines is the gripping real-life story of Newby's imprisonment and escape from an Italian prison camp during World War II.

After the Italian Armistice of 1943, Eric Newby escaped from the prison camp in which he'd been held for a year. He evaded the German army by hiding in the caves and forests of Fontanellato, in Italy's Po Valley. Against this picturesque backdrop, he was sheltered for three months by an informal network of Italian peasants, who fed, supported and nursed him, before his eventual recapture.

'Love and War in the…

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The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

By Bill Hiatt,

Book cover of The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

Bill Hiatt Author Of Different Lee

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Insatiable reader English teacher Life-long learner Hiker Webmaster

Bill's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Guaritori awakens from a coma to find that he's lost twenty years--and his entire world.

Fiancée, family, and friends are all missing, perhaps dead. Technology has failed, and magic has risen, leaving society in ruins. Most survivors are at the mercy of anyone who has strong enough magic. Guaritori has none. He finds a protector, but his troubles are far from over.

The new society in which he finds himself is superficially friendly but surrounded by enemies and full of secrets. Guaritori doesn't know it yet, but the biggest secret is his. If his protector knew who he truly was, she would kill him.

The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

By Bill Hiatt,

What is this book about?

Coming out of a coma after twenty years, Guaritori--Garth to his friends--discovers that the world he knew no longer exists.

Advanced technology has failed. Magic, which he didn't know even existed, has become much more powerful. Supernatural groups battle for supremacy, forcing human beings to seek shelter wherever they can find it.
Garth's only hope for survival lies with a varied group including a shape-shifter, an alchemist, a tarot card reader, a blacksmith with a flaming sword, and others. But a prophecy foretells that he will bring about the downfall of their leader, the mysterious Ms. M.

Even worse, Garth…

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Interested in Italy, Rome, and presidential biography?

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

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