26 books directly related to Florence 📚

All 26 Florence books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Book cover of Cosimo De' Medici and the Florentine Renaissance: The Patron's Oeuvre

Cosimo De' Medici and the Florentine Renaissance: The Patron's Oeuvre

By Dale Kent,

Why this book?

Most art in the Renaissance was commissioned by specific patrons and this book superbly illustrates the complex interaction among patron, artist, and society by focusing on the greatest patron of art and architecture in fifteenth-century Florence. Cosimo de’ Medici was the most powerful figure in the city’s political and economic life, a fabulously wealthy banker, a devout Christian, but he had also an impeccable nose for great art. With the help of about 200 images, the book examines the religious, personal, and dynastic motivations behind Cosimo’s artistic patronage, both his direct commissions for the Medici palaces, villas, and chapels as…
From the list:

The best books to understand the art and culture of Renaissance Florence

Book cover of The Companion Guide to Florence

The Companion Guide to Florence

By Eve Borsook,

Why this book?

There are millions of great guidebooks on Florence, but none is more entertaining, informative, and lively than Eve Borsook’s. An American art historian who lived in the city for most of her life, she unravels Florence's history, art, and politics with verve, knowledge, and insight. As one would expect in a guide, she describes systematically the city, a chapter for each neighborhood, each chapter starting with detailed descriptions of its most interesting streets, squares, buildings, and works of art. But what makes this guide invaluable are Borsook’s commentaries that follow her informative descriptions. I suggest you read this book before…
From the list:

The best books to understand the art and culture of Renaissance Florence

Book cover of Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence

Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence

By Michael Rocke,

Why this book?

This book, now more than twenty years old, is still a key work in the history of sexuality. Rocke explores masculine culture in Renaissance Florence, focusing on seemingly rampant homoeroticism. He explores the topic from both proscriptive sources (sermons, laws, etc.) and through criminal trials against men accused of sodomy (as the practice was called). Contrary to what we might expect, he finds that sodomy was a relatively tolerated aspect of male culture, so long as it followed acceptable patterns. As with so much else in Renaissance Italy, here too the Florentines looked to the ancients, essentially recreating the ancient…

From the list:

The best books on Renaissance Italy

Book cover of The Marshal's Own Case

The Marshal's Own Case

By Magdalen Nabb,

Why this book?

Nabb’s Marshal Guarnaccia, unflamboyant and patient, is an unspectacular thinker but a brilliant listener with a real, if unsentimental sympathy for the people he deals with on both sides of the law. Without fancy vices or personal charisma, Guarnaccia’s fundamental decency is nowhere on better display than in The Marshal’s Own Case, set among the desperate young transgender prostitutes of the Florentine sex trade, a culture quite different from the Marshal’s own secure family life.
From the list:

The best books for unexpected detectives

Book cover of The Florentine Magnates: Lineage and Faction in a Medieval Commune

The Florentine Magnates: Lineage and Faction in a Medieval Commune

By Carol Lansing,

Why this book?

It’s impossible to understand the turbulence that frequently swept over Florence in those years without some sense of what the magnate class was all about: its pride and its violence, its lawlessness, its emphasis on knighthood, and its private military forces. Lansing shows how the magnate class evolved as a distinctive culture, becoming powerful and disruptive to the city’s peace well beyond even what its considerable economic clout would suggest. She places a lot of emphasis on the role of women among the magnates, even though women could never be full members of the lineage, since they married into other…

From the list:

The best books on medieval Florence

Book cover of History of Florence 1200-1575

History of Florence 1200-1575

By Najemy,

Why this book?

This concise history of Florence is a great starting point. It traces the evolution of the city from a medieval commune to a republic, covering intellectual, political, cultural, religious, and economic trends and developments over the centuries. Its scope is broad, and one of its strengths is its continuity, as it follows various threads through time. Najemy is a well-known historian of Florence, and this popular history is an excellent resource.

From the list:

The best books on medieval Florence

Book cover of Dino Compagni's Chronicle of Florence

Dino Compagni's Chronicle of Florence

By Daniel E. Bornstein (translator),

Why this book?

If you want to learn about medieval Florence, why not go directly to the source? Dino Compagni was a Florentine merchant, a member of the silk guild, and an active member of the city’s government, contemporary with Dante. He was right in the middle of things during that turbulent period—he saw it all and took part in a lot of it. His chronicle, which covers from about the year 1280 to the beginning of the fourteenth century, relates the harm he perceived coming from factional strife. Bornstein’s translation is clear and readable, and his extensive notes and introduction help to…

From the list:

The best books on medieval Florence

Book cover of The Monster of Florence

The Monster of Florence

By Douglas Preston, Mario Spezi,

Why this book?

When an American writer moves to Italy and befriends a former investigator, the two have no idea that they will soon be dragged into one of Italy’s most infamous murder cases. The Monster of Florence operated from the late 1960s through the 1980s, killing couples in the hills around Florence, always on a Saturday night when there was a new moon. The case went cold for more than a decade, but when Preston and Spezi begin to collaborate on a book about it, the prosecutor in charge of the case sets his sights on a new suspect: Spezi. The twists…

From the list:

The best true crime books to keep you up at night

Book cover of Florence Gordon

Florence Gordon

By Brian Morton,

Why this book?

Seventy-five-year-old Florence is clever, outspoken and belligerent, sharp-witted, and sharp-tongued. Reliving memories of the American Feminist Movement at its height, she’s a great character forced to confront her own aging and the difficult dynamics of her family life. Crackling dialogue makes this book a slick and entertaining read.

From the list:

The best books with brilliant old women as heroines

Book cover of Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

By Ross King,

Why this book?

Buildings are a product of the artistic imagination and building technology, but they also depend on political will and cultural capital. Ross King, a skillful storyteller, describes how all these played a role in the construction of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in fifteenth-century Florence. Its maker, the great Filippo Brunelleschi, was the first architect in the modern sense, and in many ways the story of Western architecture begins here.

From the list:

The best books on architecture for non-architects

Book cover of The Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance

The Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance

By Ross King,

Why this book?

After you read about the chase of lost ancient manuscripts, you’ll want to know the story of this Florentine man of humble origins but great intellect who played a crucial role in disseminating these newly discovered texts in Europe and beyond. Along the way you’ll learn how books were made before the invention of the printing press, including a myriad of fascinating details about the production of parchment and paper, the manufacturing of inks and bindings, the creation of figures and illuminations, and the use of movable types.

You’ll step into the life of a famous Florentine bookshop, where humanists,…

From the list:

The best books to understand the art and culture of Renaissance Florence

Book cover of A Room with a View

A Room with a View

By E.M. Forster,

Why this book?

Young Englishwoman Lucy Honeychurch visits Italy only to find herself among others of her class, all of whom have brought along their prejudices. When a father and son of a lower social class offer her a room with a better view, Lucy’s chaperone is suspicious of possible lurid expectations attached to the offer. The Edwardian moral code, outrageous to a present-day American, presents obstacles Lucy struggles to overcome so she can comfortably befriend the men. Although Forster’s style sometimes left me confused as to who was speaking during dialogues, and the Grecian myth references aren’t in my lexicon, the story…

From the list:

The best books about leaving home, travel, and self-discovery

Book cover of Death of an Englishman

Death of an Englishman

By Magdalen Nabb,

Why 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!

From the list:

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

Book cover of Florence and Its Church in the Age of Dante

Florence and Its Church in the Age of Dante

By George W. Dameron,

Why this book?

To know medieval Florence, you have to have a sense of the enormous role the Church played in people’s lives. Here, Dameron concentrates on the 50-year period 1265-1321 (Dante’s lifetime), during which Florence went from something of a backwater to one of the wealthiest and most influential cities in all of Europe. Separation of church and state was simply not a thing back then; the concept would have bewildered medieval Florentines. All aspects of the city, from the legal system to charity efforts, were affected by religious institutions. This knowledgeable account will give you a rich, full picture of that…

From the list:

The best books on medieval Florence

Book cover of The Indomitable Florence Finch: The Untold Story of a War Widow Turned Resistance Fighter and Savior of American POWs

The Indomitable Florence Finch: The Untold Story of a War Widow Turned Resistance Fighter and Savior of American POWs

By Robert J. Mrazek,

Why this book?

Florence Finch’s story is astonishing—in part for what this woman did to help save American prisoners of war in the Philippines during World War II. Finch received the Medal of Freedom, our highest civilian award, and has had a Coast Guard headquarters building named for her. Still, had it not been for Mrazek who discovered her story and wrote this book, relying in part on her actual correspondence, her family’s memories, and the historical accounts of the Massacre of Manila, we would not know Finch.

From the list:

The best books of untold stories from World War II

Book cover of Appetite

Appetite

By Philip Kazan,

Why this book?

Nino Latino is the nephew of Fra Filippo Lippi, one of the greatest Florentine painters. For Nino, every taste brings a heightened connection to the people and places around him. He rises to culinary acclaim but it’s the forbidden hand of a woman that threatens to undo him. Appetite is a book to relish and devour.

From the list:

The best novels about food

Book cover of Leonardo Da Vinci: Extraordinary Machines

Leonardo Da Vinci: Extraordinary Machines

By David Hawcock,

Why this book?

Here’s the one to get to introduce your children to Leonardo da Vinci – a pop-up book with gloriously beautiful drawings and 3D models of Leonardo’s inventions, which included airplanes, a submarine, a parachute, helicopter, armoured vehicle, and a crossbow-machine gun. Aside from the renovation of the sewers and plumbing of a Florentine church, none of Leonardo’s technological designs are ever known to have been built and tested, which leaves us with the question of whether he was more of a dreamer than a doer. I think this would work for 6-12-year-olds.

From the list:

The best books about Leonardo da Vinci

Book cover of Amerigo: The Man Who Gave His Name to America

Amerigo: The Man Who Gave His Name to America

By Felipe Fernández-Armesto,

Why this book?

In 1507, the cartographer Martin Waldseemuller published a world map with a new continent on it which he called ‘America', after the explorer and navigator Amerigo Vespucci. The map was a huge success and when Mercator's 1538 world map extended the name to the northern hemisphere of the continent, the new name was secure, though Waldseemuller himself soon realised he had picked the wrong man. This is the story of how one side of the world came to be named not after its discoverer Christopher Columbus, but after his friend and rival. A fabulous historical detective story.

From the list:

The best books on the European re-discovery of America

Book cover of Piety and Charity in Late Medieval Florence

Piety and Charity in Late Medieval Florence

By John Henderson,

Why this book?

In The Florentine Magnates we looked at Florence’s magnates, the powerful ruling class. Now we get a look at the people they lorded it over—the “popolo minuto” or the little people. We see them struggling, never able to get far enough ahead to get through a bad harvest, a year of terrible weather, or an epidemic with any security. Both church and commune recognized the need to come to the assistance of the masses of poor; this book tells us how they went about it and how successful they were (or weren’t). It deftly traces the role of…

From the list:

The best books on medieval Florence

Book cover of Three Things about Elsie

Three Things about Elsie

By Joanna Cannon,

Why this book?

Cannon’s Three Things About Elsie is so funny, warm, and a downright pleasure to read. The novel follows an elderly woman in a retirement home, somewhat struggling with memory. When an unexpected and potentially-dangerous visitor arrives who she’s sure is from her past (despite everyone else telling her she’s crazy), she must untangle the timeline of her own life with her life-long best friend at her side. Cannon’s novel emphasizes the durability and care of female friendship while exploring the relationship between femininity and age in a balance of humor, sincerity, and mystery.
From the list:

The best novels with uncommon female voices (and a mysterious, mystical, or sci-fi twist)

Book cover of Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse

Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse

By Catherine Reef,

Why this book?

I loved the way this book intertwined Florence Nightingale’s story with images of her life. It may have been written for young adults, but readers of any age will be immersed in this well-written and graphically beautiful book. Catherine Reed’s engaging story of Nightingale combating the gruesome hygienic conditions at the Crimean battlefront, going against Victorian society expectations, creating sanitary methods still used today, and earning the moniker of The Lady with the Lamp is a testament to the difference one life can make.

From the list:

The best biographies of bold women

Book cover of The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

By Florence Williams,

Why this book?

In this engaging read, science journalist Florence Williams travels the world to cover the research on the health benefits of exploring the outdoors. What I love about Florence’s writing is her ability to play the guinea pig so that readers can put themselves in her shoes—in this case, hiking boots.

From the list:

The best books about connecting to nature—no matter where you live

Book cover of Letters from Egypt: A Journey on the Nile, 1849-1850

Letters from Egypt: A Journey on the Nile, 1849-1850

By Florence Nightingale,

Why this book?

If you, like me, have imagined Florence Nightingale as selfless, holy, good, unworldly, prim, and therefore probably very dull, this collection of her letters from Egypt will completely dash that perception. Nightingale was ferocious. Purely by coincidence, she set off on a three-month cruise down the Nile during the same week as Gustave Flaubert. Though the two apparently never met in their travels, they had many of the same experiences and visited the same places within two or three days of each other. Of the two, Nightingale was in fact the more daring and the more acute in her observations…

From the list:

The best books on floating down the Nile

Book cover of Donald Thompson in Russia

Donald Thompson in Russia

By Donald C. Thompson,

Why this book?

Thompson was a photographer from Kansas who went to Europe to cover the First World War and found himself in Russia as 1917 dawned. His book is drawn from letters he wrote home to his wife Dot, and his eyewitness reporting is better than his analysis. His account of the day police opened fire on protesters in Petrograd with machine guns is chilling. Thompson believed that the Germans were behind the revolution, which wasn’t the case, but his photos of soldiers and barricades and protesters amount to a great visual document of the moment. Read this in conjunction with Runaway…

From the list:

The best books by witnesses to Russia’s February Revolution

Book cover of A Quiet Life in the Country (A Lady Hardcastle Mystery, 1)

A Quiet Life in the Country (A Lady Hardcastle Mystery, 1)

By T.E. Kinsey,

Why this book?

This series is a little lighter, a lot funnier, than the ones recommended above. As usual, it’s the characters who latched hold of me. Lady Hardcastle is a widow in 1920s England with an amazing maid who has all sorts of talents. The two of them decide to find a house in the country where they can live in peace and quiet. But you guessed it—murders start coming their way to solve. The Lady Hardcastle series is not too grim, not too silly. Just plain fun!

From the list:

The best cozy mysteries by contemporary authors

Book cover of The Light in the Ruins

The Light in the Ruins

By Chris Bohjalian,

Why this book?

I loved learning about what happened in Italy when the Germans occupied it. In this story, a wealthy Italian family becomes too close to the Germans by inviting them to search the secret ruins behind their villa for antiquities. This relationship has deadly consequences years later as members of the family are killed. The book goes back and forth between 1943 and 1955 until we learn why someone is seeking revenge.  

From the list:

The best WWII books with stories we haven’t heard before