97 books like Virgins of Venice

By Mary Laven,

Here are 97 books that Virgins of Venice fans have personally recommended if you like Virgins of Venice. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of In the Company of the Courtesan: A Novel

Kathleen Ann Gonzalez Author Of A Beautiful Woman in Venice

From my list on undaunted Italian women to inspire you.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since 1996 when my first trip to Venice rearranged my interior life, I have been visiting the city and learning everything I can about it. Most of my reading led me to men’s history, but with some digging, I uncovered the stories of Venice’s inspired, undaunted, hardworking women. Their proto-feminism motivated me to share their stories with others in an attempt to redefine beauty. I’ve also created videos showing sites connected to these women’s lives, and I’ve written four books about Venetians, including extensive research into Giacomo Casanova and two anthologies celebrating Venetian life. Reading and writing about Venice helps me connect more deeply with my favorite city.

Kathleen's book list on undaunted Italian women to inspire you

Kathleen Ann Gonzalez Why did Kathleen love this book?

In prose that is engrossing and rich in color, culture, and voice, Dunant’s historical fiction novel incorporates stories of two of the women that I included in my own book.

The courtesan Fiammetta, loosely based on the life of Veronica Franco, and her healer La Draga, inspired by Elena Crusichi, pulled me into eighteenth-century Venice and its opportunities and dangers for enterprising women. Paired with reading Franco’s actual poems and letters, edited and translated by Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret F. Rosenthal, I developed a deep admiration and compassion for Franco and Crusichi during Venice’s heyday.

Dunant has again written a page turner that I read more than once.

By Sarah Dunant,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked In the Company of the Courtesan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

My lady, Fiammetta Bianchini, was plucking her eyebrows and biting color into her lips when the unthinkable happened and the Holy Roman Emperor’s army blew a hole in the wall of God’s eternal city, letting in a flood of half-starved, half-crazed troops bent on pillage and punishment.

Thus begins In the Company of the Courtesan, Sarah Dunant’s epic novel of life in Renaissance Italy. Escaping the sack of Rome in 1527, with their stomachs churning on the jewels they have swallowed, the courtesan Fiammetta and her dwarf companion, Bucino, head for Venice, the shimmering city born out of water to…


Book cover of The Midwife of Venice

Gina Buonaguro Author Of The Virgins of Venice

From my list on women in Renaissance Venice.

Why am I passionate about this?

My goal as a writer is to revive lost women’s stories through historical fiction. After co-authoring several historical novels, our last mystery set in Renaissance Rome, we decided to set the sequel in Venice. When we decided to split amicably before finishing that novel, I had spent so much time researching Renaissance Venice that I instantly knew I wanted to set my first solo novel there and focus on girls and women whose stories are so frequently lost to history. So began a quest to learn everything I could about the females of 15th and 16th-century Venice, leading me toward both academic and fictional works of the era.

Gina's book list on women in Renaissance Venice

Gina Buonaguro Why did Gina love this book?

This evocative novel tells the story of a Jewish midwife making her way in a very Christian Renaissance Venice. Along with all Jews confined to the ghetto at night by doge’s decree, Hannah is not permitted to help Christians with her medical knowledge. However, when her husband is taken to Malta and sold as a slave, Hannah finds that certain laws can be broken, for the right price.

By Roberta Rich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Not since Anna Diamant’s The Red Tent or Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book has a novel transported readers so intimately into the complex lives of women centuries ago or so richly into a story of intrigue that transcends the boundaries of history. A “lavishly detailed” (Elle Canada) debut that masterfully captures sixteenth-century Venice against a dramatic and poetic tale of suspense.

Hannah Levi is renowned throughout Venice for her gift at coaxing reluctant babies from their mothers using her secret “birthing spoons.” When a count implores her to attend his dying wife and save their unborn son, she is…


Book cover of Marriage Wars in Late Renaissance Venice

Gina Buonaguro Author Of The Virgins of Venice

From my list on women in Renaissance Venice.

Why am I passionate about this?

My goal as a writer is to revive lost women’s stories through historical fiction. After co-authoring several historical novels, our last mystery set in Renaissance Rome, we decided to set the sequel in Venice. When we decided to split amicably before finishing that novel, I had spent so much time researching Renaissance Venice that I instantly knew I wanted to set my first solo novel there and focus on girls and women whose stories are so frequently lost to history. So began a quest to learn everything I could about the females of 15th and 16th-century Venice, leading me toward both academic and fictional works of the era.

Gina's book list on women in Renaissance Venice

Gina Buonaguro Why did Gina love this book?

This accessible academic work brings to life the inner workings – and breakdowns – of marriages at a time when annulment was the only option. Through court and ecclesiastical proceedings and petitions written by both sexes, the lives of ordinary women – including sexual relations, domestic abuse, cheating, and financial problems are made even more real by the voices of friends, neighbors, and in-laws.

By Joanne M. Ferraro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marriage Wars in Late Renaissance Venice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on a fascinating body of previously unexamined archival material, this book brings to life the lost voices of ordinary Venetians during the age of Catholic revival. Looking at scripts that were brought to the city's ecclesiastical courts by spouses seeking to annul their marriage vows, this book opens up the emotional world of intimacy and conflict, sexuality, and living arrangments that did not fit normative models of marriage.


Book cover of Ciao, Carpaccio! An Infatuation

Gina Buonaguro Author Of The Virgins of Venice

From my list on women in Renaissance Venice.

Why am I passionate about this?

My goal as a writer is to revive lost women’s stories through historical fiction. After co-authoring several historical novels, our last mystery set in Renaissance Rome, we decided to set the sequel in Venice. When we decided to split amicably before finishing that novel, I had spent so much time researching Renaissance Venice that I instantly knew I wanted to set my first solo novel there and focus on girls and women whose stories are so frequently lost to history. So began a quest to learn everything I could about the females of 15th and 16th-century Venice, leading me toward both academic and fictional works of the era.

Gina's book list on women in Renaissance Venice

Gina Buonaguro Why did Gina love this book?

A beautiful little book that showcases the paintings of early Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio, we see many women in his works. Some of saints, some bordering on the fantastical, a few quite realistic – all the women in Carpaccio’s art would have been inspired by real women living and working in Venice in the late 1400s and early 1500s.

By Jan Morris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ciao, Carpaccio! An Infatuation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the course of writing Venice, her 1961 classic, Jan Morris became fascinated by the historical presence of a sometimes-overlooked Venetian painter. Nowadays the name of Vittore Carpaccio (1460-1520) suggests raw beef, but to Morris it conveyed far more profound meanings. Thus began a lifelong infatuation, reaching across the centuries, between a renowned Welsh writer and a great and delightfully entertaining artist of the early Renaissance. Handsomely designed with more than seventy photographs throughout, Ciao,Carpaccio! is a happy caprice of affection. In illuminating the life of the artist and his paintings, Morris throws in digressions about Venetian animals, courtesans, babies,…


Book cover of The World of Aldus Manutius: Business and Scholarship in Renaissance Venice

Ross King Author Of The Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance

From my list on books about books.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ross King is the author of numerous books about Italian and French art and architecture, including Brunelleschi’s Dome, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, and Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies. As a full-time writer, he spends much of his time in libraries, archives, and the among piles of books on his overcrowded shelves.

Ross' book list on books about books

Ross King Why did Ross love this book?

More than forty years after its first publication, this biographical study is still one the best things ever written on Manutius—arguably the most important printer in history after Gutenberg. Lowry shows how this obscure teacher of Greek moved to Venice in 1490 and became not only a printer and designer of genius but also a shrewd businessman whose publications put the wisdom of the Greeks and Romans into the hands of everyday readers. As Lowry explains, the concerns of Manutius ring an all-too-modern tone: how to disseminate information without “the debasement and dilution of learning” and “the spread only of confusion, obscenity, and heresy.”

By Martin Lowry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The World of Aldus Manutius as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hardcover, green cloth, 1st U.S. Edition, a clean bright copy in dust jacket that has minor dust soil, light wear and is now protected in a clear Brodart cover. Contents clean and unmarked, 350pp, includes bibliography, index, b/w illustrations, notes at the end of each chapter. Publisher's statements: "The relationship between Renaissance scholarship and printing is the subject of this fascinating biographical study. The book centers on the life and work of Aldus Manutius (1450-1515), printer and man of letters--his background, his business practices, and his impact on the intellectual life of the times. Martin Lowry discusses the structure of…


Book cover of The Gondola Maker

C. P. Lesley Author Of The Golden Lynx

From my list on the 16th century that don’t involve Tudors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with Russian history as a college sophomore, when I realized the place was like a movie series, all drama and extremes. I completed a doctorate at Stanford in early modern Russia and later published The Domostroi: Rules for Russian Households in the Time of Ivan the Terrible. Because so few people in the West know about the contemporaries of the Tudors and Borgias, I set out to write a set of novels, published under a pseudonym, aimed at a general audience, and set in sixteenth-century Russia. I interview authors for the New Books Network, where I favor well-written books set in unfamiliar times and places.

C. P.'s book list on the 16th century that don’t involve Tudors

C. P. Lesley Why did C. P. love this book?

This novel, set in sixteenth-century Venice, reminds us that the Italian Renaissance was a great time to be a devotee of the pictorial arts. And it does so without getting caught up in the scandals surrounding the Borgias, who are almost as overdone as the Tudors. Luca Vianello is the heir to Venice’s premier gondola maker, until tragedy sends him off on a journey through poverty and hard work that ends when he becomes the personal boatman of the painter Trevisan. Morelli, who trained as an art historian, is intimately acquainted with the former Italian city-states, and like the other novels on my list, hers immerses you in Renaissance everyday life at a very personal level.

By Laura Morelli,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Award-winning historical fiction set in 16th-century Venice
Benjamin Franklin Digital Award
IPPY Award for Best Adult Fiction E-book
National Indie Excellence Award Finalist
Eric Hoffer Award Finalist
Shortlisted for the da Vinci Eye Prize

From the author of Made in Italy comes a tale of artisanal tradition and family bonds set in one of the world's most magnificent settings: Renaissance Venice.

Venetian gondola-maker Luca Vianello considers his whole life arranged. His father charted a course for his eldest son from the day he was born, and Luca is positioned to inherit one of the city's most esteemed boatyards. But when…


Book cover of Everyday Renaissances: The Quest for Cultural Legitimacy in Venice

Nicholas Scott Baker Author Of In Fortune's Theater: Financial Risk and the Future in Renaissance Italy

From my list on exploring what what Renaissance Italy was really like.

Why am I passionate about this?

I teach the histories of early modern Europe and European worlds at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. I developed a fascination for the period and, especially, for the Italian Renaissance as an undergraduate before going on to complete a PhD at Northwestern University in the United States. I love the contradictions and tensions of the period: a society and culture in transition from what we call medieval understandings and worldviews to what we see as more modern ones. These are some of the books that helped to fuel my passion for Renaissance Italian history and to answer some of my questions about what life was really like in Renaissance Italy.

Nicholas' book list on exploring what what Renaissance Italy was really like

Nicholas Scott Baker Why did Nicholas love this book?

When we think of the Renaissance, we often think of the names of famous artists or writers and the lives of governors of Italian cities.

In this book, Sarah Ross argues for the existence of "everyday renaissances," demonstrating that an interest in and concern of classical antiquity permeated far deeper into the social strata than we previously understood. She demonstrates how classical education and literature mattered to ordinary men and women of the artisanal and mercantile classes, perhaps even more than it did to members of the cultural elite.

She argues that even the most tangential association with culture and learning could help social mobility. I think this is a fascinating examination of how apparently elite cultural concerns can matter to ordinary people and be mobilized by them.

By Sarah Gwyneth Ross,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The world of wealth and patronage that we associate with sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Italy can make the Renaissance seem the exclusive domain of artists and aristocrats. Revealing a Renaissance beyond Michelangelo and the Medici, Sarah Gwyneth Ross recovers the experiences of everyday men and women who were inspired to pursue literature and learning.

Ross draws on a trove of original unpublished sources-wills, diaries, household inventories, account books, and other miscellany-to reconstruct the lives of over one hundred artisans, merchants, and others on the middle rung of Venetian society who embraced the ennobling virtues of a humanistic education. These men…


Book cover of Secret Venice

Kenneth R. Bartlett Author Of The Smithsonian Guide to Essential Italy: The Great Courses

From my list on Venice.

Why am I passionate about this?

My first encounter with Venice was as a PhD student consulting the state archives in the former monastery attached to the basilica of the Frari, a place redolent of the history and culture of the city, lined with the tombs of doges. This inspired me to learn more about this improbable city, a curiosity that has never waned. Since then, I have visited the city more times than I can count, taking students, cultural tours, and visiting my many friends. Consequently, I was invited to produce my Essential Italy for Smithsonian Journeys and later their first virtual reality tour of the city. I can never tire of Venice nor completely know it.

Kenneth's book list on Venice

Kenneth R. Bartlett Why did Kenneth love this book?

If you truly want to know a city, you must go beyond even the best guidebooks into those specialized collections of stories, myths, gossip, and suppressed facts. Much cultural history is in fact officially recorded gossip, so there is no opprobrium in enjoying the salacious, highly local, and fascinating stories that are known only to oral history. This is such a book: a fascinating collection of legends, myths, gossip, and generally little-known stories about Venice.

By Thomas Jonglez, Paola Zoffoli,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Discover the secrets of St. Mark's Basilica with not a tourist in sight, finally crack the mystery of the pillars around the Doge's Palace, take a trip on the only underground canal in Venice in search of the alchemical sculpture of the winged horse, lunch at a restaurant tucked away in a lagoon fisherman's house, track down Teriaca, that miracle potion brewed in Venice from time immemorial, decode the paintings of the Scuola di San Rocco applying the principles of the Jewish Kabbalah and see how Kabbalistic music influenced the construction of San Francesco della Vigna, visit an unknown underground…


Book cover of The Companion Guide to Venice (Companion Guides)

Kenneth R. Bartlett Author Of The Smithsonian Guide to Essential Italy: The Great Courses

From my list on Venice.

Why am I passionate about this?

My first encounter with Venice was as a PhD student consulting the state archives in the former monastery attached to the basilica of the Frari, a place redolent of the history and culture of the city, lined with the tombs of doges. This inspired me to learn more about this improbable city, a curiosity that has never waned. Since then, I have visited the city more times than I can count, taking students, cultural tours, and visiting my many friends. Consequently, I was invited to produce my Essential Italy for Smithsonian Journeys and later their first virtual reality tour of the city. I can never tire of Venice nor completely know it.

Kenneth's book list on Venice

Kenneth R. Bartlett Why did Kenneth love this book?

Every visitor, regardless of how often he or she has been somewhere, needs an engaging, accurate, and timely guidebook. Hugh Honour’s Companion Guide to Venice is my choice because it was written by an art historian who lived in Italy (he died sadly in 2016) and because it falls into that rarified category of guides that not only describe what you are seeing and how to get there but also places the artwork, building or site in a broader context. Thus, the book functions as a history of Venice and Venetian culture and an insight into its unique society. It is also beautifully written in carefully crafted and modulated sections that evoke the grandeur of the city and its lagoon.

By Hugh Honour,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Companion Guide to Venice (Companion Guides) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Offers all that the visitor with a concern for beauty and for leisurely sight-seeing will require. FINANCIAL TIMES

The best guide book I have ever encountered... and a book I found it impossible not to read from beginning to end. OBSERVER

There are few pleasanter ways of passing a summer's evening than sitting over a cup of coffee, and perhaps a glass of Aurum, in the Piazza San Marco. It is especially agreeable on those nights when the Venetian city band thunders away at some throbbingly romantic piece... And all the while the younger inhabitants parade around the square, chattering,…


Book cover of The World of Venice

Kenneth R. Bartlett Author Of The Smithsonian Guide to Essential Italy: The Great Courses

From my list on Venice.

Why am I passionate about this?

My first encounter with Venice was as a PhD student consulting the state archives in the former monastery attached to the basilica of the Frari, a place redolent of the history and culture of the city, lined with the tombs of doges. This inspired me to learn more about this improbable city, a curiosity that has never waned. Since then, I have visited the city more times than I can count, taking students, cultural tours, and visiting my many friends. Consequently, I was invited to produce my Essential Italy for Smithsonian Journeys and later their first virtual reality tour of the city. I can never tire of Venice nor completely know it.

Kenneth's book list on Venice

Kenneth R. Bartlett Why did Kenneth love this book?

The greatest travel writer of her generation (she died in November of 2020) produced a popular introduction to the city, mixing fact and story in her uniquely engaging style. It is a book that rivals Honour’s guide but focuses more on the patterns and rituals of life in Venice, linked by a profound appreciation for that unusual place, a city where the “streets are full of water”. If you like Morris, you might also be interested in her old but still engaging Venice, written when she was still James Morris.

By Jan Morris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A fascinating exploration of the history, sights, seasons, arts, food, and people of an incomparable city. “A highly intelligent portrait of an eccentric city, written in powerful prose and enlivened by many curious mosaics of information...a beautiful book to read and to possess” (The Observer). New Foreword by the Author. Index.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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