All Things Italy discussion

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Favorite books on or about Italy?

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message 1: by David (new)


message 2: by Jessica (last edited Dec 06, 2012 12:38PM) (new)

Jessica Kluthe (jessica_kluthe) | 14 comments Uh... easily my own book! Ha, I'm just kidding.

I'm currently reading Lynne Bowen's Whoever Gives Us Bread: The Story of Italians in British Columbia. Bowen's book, while it focuses on the story of Italians making their way to British Columbia, Canada, it also tells of the varied history of those Italians who left (and supplies the context of various places in Italy at the time of migrations). Expertly researched work that zooms in on various immigrants' stories and makes them come alive.

Since I love Rome, I'll have to check out your suggestion, David!


message 3: by dely (new)

dely | 26 comments Jessica wrote: "Uh... easily my own book! Ha, I'm just kidding."

I have entered your giveaway; I hope I will win a copy :D


message 4: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Kluthe (jessica_kluthe) | 14 comments dely wrote: "Jessica wrote: "Uh... easily my own book! Ha, I'm just kidding."

I have entered your giveaway; I hope I will win a copy :D"


Awesome! I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!


message 5: by David (new)

David Lafferty (DanteExplorer) | 52 comments Mod
Umberto Eco Is a brilliant Italian author. Any other other Eco fans out there?


message 6: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Kluthe (jessica_kluthe) | 14 comments David wrote: "Umberto Eco Is a brilliant Italian author. Any other other Eco fans out there?"

I'll take your word for it and check his work out. Thanks!


message 7: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 2 comments David wrote: "Umberto Eco Is a brilliant Italian author. Any other other Eco fans out there?"

I'm a fan. His writing is brilliant. I also love interviews with him.


message 8: by Philippa (new)

Philippa (Philippa-poet) | 3 comments Daniela Murphy's 'The Restorer' set in Florence and wider Tuscany both 'now' and Medieval 'then' is a brilliant palimsest of the work of a fresco restorer peeling off layers to expose the continuity of Italy, and of herself. Compelling characters. Brilliant book


message 9: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Murphy (BMZMurphy) | 1 comments I'm another fan of Eco, though I prefer his essays, especially his magazine articles, which tend to be short and to the point, to his novels, which tend to be long.


message 10: by David (new)

David Lafferty (DanteExplorer) | 52 comments Mod
Bryan wrote: "I'm another fan of Eco, though I prefer his essays, especially his magazine articles, which tend to be short and to the point, to his novels, which tend to be long."

Hi Bryan, I'd be interested in reading some if you can point me to any you would recommend.
Have you checked out this?:
The Infinity of Lists


message 11: by Heather (new)

Heather | 22 comments My best friend sent me The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco but in Italian. She has her Masters in Italian and teaches at her local high school and it took her 3 years to finish that book. I am really intimidated by it. Eco is difficult in English!


message 12: by Roberta (new)

Roberta (driope) Heather wrote: "My best friend sent me The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco but in Italian. She has her Masters in Italian and teaches at her local high school and it took her 3 years to finish that book. I am rea..."

The Name of the Rose is beautiful, but it's not an easy reading, not even for us Italians.

Does any of you read Andrea Camilleri? The Montalbano saga? I wonder how the transaltor worked all the sicialian expressions.


message 13: by Claire (last edited Dec 21, 2012 04:57AM) (new)

Claire (ClaireN) Roberta wrote: "Heather wrote: "My best friend sent me The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco but in Italian. She has her Masters in Italian and teaches at her local high school and it took her 3 years to finish tha..."

I read an article a while ago written by the English translator of Camilleri about translating Montalbano and he said he translated everything into plain English - to render the difference between Italian and Sicilian he would've had to use some sort of dialect and he didn't want to do that.
For instance, the typical Montalbano phrase "Che grannissima camurria" in English is "What a tremendous pain in the arse".


message 14: by Katie (new)

Katie (SkateandDonate) | 1 comments My favorite fiction books set in Italy is The River of Time series


message 15: by Ben (new)

Ben Lariccia | 2 comments I just finished Eco's "The Prague Cemetery" in English. You'll never experience a narrator as unique as the one in this work of historical fiction. Some background reading is necessary before you tackle this opus: 19th century nationalist movements, the masons, and European antisemitism.


message 16: by Lit Bug (new)

Lit Bug | 15 comments I read If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino and couldn't understand anything.


message 17: by Dave (new)

Dave | 7 comments I read Eco's Foucault's Pendulum about 20 years ago and thought it was terrific. I subsequently tried The Name of the Rose, Baudolino and, recently, Prague Cemetery and found them impossible. If it were only F's P, I would categorize Umberto Eco among the greatest writers ever, but... Maybe I'll give Prague Cemetery another shot in a year or two. Meanwhile, are there any other suggestions? Thanks.


message 18: by Ben (new)

Ben (bennyknock) The Name of the Rose starts out difficult, but become more of a traditional mystery. Since it is dealing with priests, it begins with penance and asceticism – aka boring. It gets better.


message 19: by David (new)

David Lafferty (DanteExplorer) | 52 comments Mod
Dave wrote: "I read Eco's Foucault's Pendulum about 20 years ago and thought it was terrific. I subsequently tried The Name of the Rose, Baudolino and, recently, Prague Cemetery and found them impossible. If it..."

'Name of the Rose' definitely lends itself to multiple readings. The beginning is tough, but the plot kicks into gear once the background is established. The book has so many layers, you can't possibly absorb them in one reading. There is also another book available 'The key to name of the Rose' which is a background reference, but not necessary to understand what's going on in NOTR. I would have to say NOTR is in my top 5 all time favorite books.

Incidentally, if you like Eco, you may want to check out Jose Borges, he was a brilliant short story writer and a big influence on Eco.
Dave


message 20: by Dave (new)

Dave | 7 comments Thanks for suggesting Borges, David. I read a couple of his stories when I was young. At the time,I couldn't handle magic realism. Now I think I'll revisit him in my super-maturity. I was surprised to see that he spent his early formative years in Palermo, but then I realized that there is a Buenos Aires barrio of that name.


message 21: by Heather (new)

Heather | 22 comments I attempted to read Foucault's Pendulum a few years ago, and as I said before I find Eco extremely difficult in English let alone Italian. I had a dictionary handy!


message 22: by Joe (new)

Joe Pfeiler | 16 comments I'm a sucker for the first two Frances Mayes books: "Under the Tuscan Sun" and "Bella Tuscany". I actually used these to partially plan a trip a few years back.

I'd love a good ficton recommend.


message 23: by David (new)

David Lafferty (DanteExplorer) | 52 comments Mod
Just finished Dan Brown's Inferno. Just ok.


message 24: by Dave (new)

Dave | 7 comments David, I don't mean to rush you, but you know that, considering that you're the authority on Dante and all the hype accompanying DB's book, you're going to have to give us more info.


message 25: by David (last edited May 22, 2013 02:17PM) (new)

David Lafferty (DanteExplorer) | 52 comments Mod
Here's my take on Dan Brown's Inferno: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


message 26: by Mary (new)

Mary  Mendoza (MadcapMaryMendoza) | 2 comments All of these are outstanding and many are quite famous:

Italy out of Hand, a Capricious Tour by Barbara Hodgson
Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr
Italy, A Love Story: Women Write About the Italian Experience by C. Cusumano
The Italians by Luigi Barzini
City of the Soul: A Walk in Rome by William Murray
The Surprise of Cremona by Edith Templeton and Anita Brookner
A Summer in Italy by Sean O'Faolain
Room with a View by E.M. Forester
Donna Leon mysteries, set in Venice
Michael Dibdin’s Aurelio Zen novels
Andrea Camilleri novels set in Sicily
A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
Tim Parks’ books
Miss Garnet's Angel by Salley Vickers
Summer in Tuscany by Elizabeth Adler


message 27: by Daisy (new)

Daisy The Fortunate Pilgrim by Mario Puzo
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant


message 28: by Eddie (new)

Eddie | 2 comments I would recommend Peter Robb's Midnight in Sicily. It's a mixture of travel, Italian literature, art and Italian politics.


message 29: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Petralia (nrpetralia) | 8 comments I read several good books about Italy while living there. Salman Rusdie's The Enchantress of Florence with Machiavelli and the Medici as characters was delightful.

Italian classic, The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampadusa is a great way to understand the changes that the Risorgimento brought about. I love the count's quote. "If you want things to remain the same, everything has to change."

I got interested in Duke Frederico Montefeltro and read a fascinating book called The Montefeltro Conspiracy by Marcello Simonetta. He's an historian and discovered a new source that sheds a different light on the Medici murder.

Because we lived in Parma, we read Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. He readily admits he wrote it just so he could live in Italy for a time and he lived in Parma. It's about the American-style football team there. We never got to their games, but the fellow who installed our internet service turned out to be their quarterback. A fun read if not a great novel.


message 30: by Alex (new)

Alex | 2 comments I just read Gomorra (Roberto Saviano). Saviano is a journalist who wrote several books about the italian mafia.


message 31: by Dave (new)

Dave | 7 comments After Macchiavelli's The Prince, Umberto Eco' Foucault's Pendulum. I've begun some of Eco's other works, but was never able to get into them. Similarly, I began and abandoned Macchiavelli's History of Florence.


message 32: by Lynn (new)

Lynn | 3 comments Thanks Alex and Dave! I also tried Umberto Eco and also could not get into them. I have The Prince on my Kindle...maybe one day!

The Roberto Saviano books peaked my interest.

Sorry I took so long to thank you!


message 33: by Lynn (new)

Lynn | 3 comments Thanks Alex and Dave! I also tried Umberto Eco and also could not get into them. I have The Prince on my Kindle...maybe one day!

The Roberto Saviano books peaked my interest.

Sorry I took so long to thank you!


message 34: by Cari (last edited Oct 26, 2016 04:23AM) (new)

Cari (mambaitaliana) | 1 comments Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr (made me miss Roma and the region of Umbria)
The Italians by John Hooper
The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomeasi di Lampedusa (Classic)
Room With a View by E.M. Forster (Classic)
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (a little indulgence)
Dirty Italian: Everyday Slang from "What's Up?" to "F*%# Off!"
by Gabrielle Ann Euvino, Lindsay Mack (for fun)
Speak Italian: The Fine Art of the Gesture by Bruno Munari (for fun)
Italian Villas and Their Gardens by Edith Wharton
The Women of Molise: An Italian Village, 1950 by Frank Monaco
Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best by Louise Fili
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Casa Rossa by Francesca Marciano
Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, and Fair by Carlo Petrini
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (not all about Italia, but the months she spent there captured the spirit)
Letters from Italy: Confessions, Adventures, and Advice by Susan Van Allen
La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind by Beppe Severgnini


message 35: by Gayle (new)

Gayle Ridinger | 14 comments And why not add to that list THE SECRET PRICE OF HISTORY (set primarily in Italy in the 1800s and present-day, though with some chapters in the US too). Paolo Pochettino's and my novel won a Finalist Prize for historical mystery last year. Let us know if you'd like a Kindle copy! It would be great to get reactions from both expats and simply Italy lovers.


message 36: by P.S. (last edited Mar 10, 2017 01:41PM) (new)

P.S. Beckmann | 2 comments For a time Mary Shelley was an expat living in Italy. While she was there she wrote Valperga: Or, the Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca. In my experience it's rare to find such an ambitious novel from the 14th century. If you've read Valperga or know of other comparable books, I'd love to hear about them.


message 37: by Gayle (new)

Gayle Ridinger | 14 comments I suggest you check out The City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan (1365-1430).


message 38: by Craig (new)

Craig Monson | 16 comments This is a great thread, especially for its eclecticism. A few more "easier" possibilities:
In addition to Grisham's Parma book, the one set largely in Bologna nicely captures that city: _The Broker_.
In addition to Dunant's _Birth of Venus_, her _In the Company of the Courtesan_ works well for Venice; _Secret Hearts_ is right on the mark on convents, but by its very nature cannot offer much of the lovely city of Ferrara, outside the convent walls. Her new, second Borgia historical novel _In the Family_ offers more in that regard.
Has anybody mentioned Ngaio Marsh's _When in Rome_ ? great to read either before or after visiting the mind-bending and wonderfully evocative church of San Clemente, not far from the Colosseum.
And, clearly, Dan Brown has never been near the Vatican Secret Archive; and its representation in the film version of _Angels and Demons_ made me laugh out loud.
Something I found fascinating is Ferdinando Gregorovius's 19th-century travelogue about Italy and what travel was like back then, _Passeggiate per l'Italia_: it was translated into English around 1900 and is accessible online (free!) through www.gutenberg.org and maybe Google Books.


message 39: by Gayle (new)

Gayle Ridinger | 14 comments Craig wrote: "This is a great thread, especially for its eclecticism. A few more "easier" possibilities:
In addition to Grisham's Parma book, the one set largely in Bologna nicely captures that city: _The Broker..."


Congratulations on that award for Habitual Offenders, Craig. I just saw that. I also like your continuing list of (historical) fiction to read "for the landscape" be it geographical or cultural. The list is, however, a bit bottom heavy i.e. not much on the northwest. And yet of course there is a lot up here too that is fascinating. The immense courage shown by Cristina del Belgioioso before and during the Risorgimento, the power of the casane in Asti over the trade routes, the precious work to better the lives of poor Italian immigrants to America by an incredible, forgotten Francesco Secchi de Casale from Piacenza. And that is just going back a couple of hundred years. Some novels do show us glimpses of such characters and their times, but there is still so much waiting to be inserted in a good book. There are public archives just waiting for someone to come in and turn the still white pages of the population records from the 1700s (you can do that in Alessandria), which record the closings of the convents (but you know that--all those nuns returning home) and churches under Napoleon. What great material and what fun to research. I speak from experience, from the research done for Paolo's and my novel The Secret Price of History--yes, also in part an attempt to draw readers into the north-besides-Venice, into Piedmont and Lombardy with their secrets and intrigues, at the same time also trying to render, with irony, the new-found vibrancy of modern Milan. Insomma, you are right, Craig, to underscore the additional pleasure of 'place exploring' that a good book can give us.


message 40: by Craig (new)

Craig Monson | 16 comments You're right, Gayle about the north. My impression is that it does better in film (but settings in the not do distant past?). Bologna looms largest of all in my own work (much of _Nuns Behaving Badly_ and _Habitual Offenders_), but there's also a chapter set in Pavia in _NBB_. And I've got stuff for another NBB-like book that could be called something like _Wayward Sisters_, with a couple chapters set in Brescia, one or two in Bologna, and another outside Bergamo.

A revealing story: I've played "lecturer in residence" on three alumni tours (one in the Po Valley, one in Tuscany, and one around Naples-Sorrento). I was down to do another, which I thought would be wonderful, based in Ferrara, with trips to Mantua, Verona, Padua, Bologna, Venice (of course), but the tour company decided not to run it for fear of few takers. Maybe some day things will start to change.


message 41: by Craig (new)

Craig Monson | 16 comments Gayle wrote: "Craig wrote: "This is a great thread, especially for its eclecticism. A few more "easier" possibilities:
In addition to Grisham's Parma book, the one set largely in Bologna nicely captures that cit..."


Gayle, you're right: plenty on Venice, Florence, and Rome, which overshadow the north. A few northern possibilities:
Manzoni, The Betrothed : I confess to never having read it
Helpern, , A Soldier of the Great War
Russell, A Thread of Grace
Parks, Italian Neighbors
Fortier, Juliet : allegedly about the "historical" Juliet

There's also an excellent book about riding the modern trains all around Italy: both author and name escape me at the moment


message 42: by Gayle (new)

Gayle Ridinger | 14 comments Tim Parks is a friend of mine and has written numerous fine novels and non-fiction on Italy (especially the North), as well as articles for the New York Times. As for a sharp sense of northern (but not only) Italy, historical and contemporary, why not have a look at my The Secret Price of History, Craig? Would love to have your take!


message 43: by Craig (new)

Craig Monson | 16 comments Hi Gayle. Your wish is my command....
My review:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 44: by M.B. (new)

M.B. Dallocchio (MBDallocchio) | 2 comments Il torto del soldato
Erri de Luca


message 45: by Dan (new)

Dan Altman | 1 comments I'd love to share our experiences living in Rome.

https://www.amazon.com/Two-One-Way-Ti...

I'm very interested to hear what you might think of this book.


message 46: by Craig (new)

Craig Monson | 16 comments Gayle wrote: "Tim Parks is a friend of mine and has written numerous fine novels and non-fiction on Italy (especially the North), as well as articles for the New York Times. As for a sharp sense of northern (but..."
Gayle, a Tim Parks book that one of us should have mentioned is
Italian Ways On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo by Tim ParksItalian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo
Whether you've stood all the way from Rome to Venice in the 1960s, recently whizzed along at top speed on a freccia, or something in between, the book offers lots to nod and smile about. It's not, however, a determinedly dewy-eyed, romantic view, but one grounded in personal experience (scioperi, and other surprises), so be forewarned.


message 47: by Aloke (new)

Aloke | 1 comments Since lots of people here enjoy Tim Parks' writings on Italy I thought I should mention this excellent round up of his recommendations for the best Italian fiction:

Tim Parks on Italian fiction

I discovered Elsa Morante and Cesar Pavese from this list and I am eternally indebted to Parks for that!


message 48: by Craig (new)

Craig Monson | 16 comments Aloke wrote: "Since lots of people here enjoy Tim Parks' writings on Italy I thought I should mention this excellent round up of his recommendations for the best Italian fiction:

Tim Parks on Italian fiction

I..."

Thanks for this, Aloke, both Parks's list and his engaging, smart words. The translation discussion is especially interesting.


message 49: by Laurie (new)

Laurie  (LauGal) | 4 comments Daisy wrote: "The Fortunate Pilgrim by Mario Puzo
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant"

I loved FORTUNATE PILGRIM.Will never forget that one!


message 50: by Laurie (new)

Laurie  (LauGal) | 4 comments Any book by Marlena DeBlasi.Her books transport you to Italy. My absolute favorite is THAT SUMMER IN SICILY. One of my top 5 favorite books! I am a genealogist and have Sicilian ancestry.I read that book and learned so much abt my history. This is a romantic read also. Also loved ANTOINETTE'S DAUGHTERS. Great read. I do suggest having some wine and a chunk of good cheese while reading her books.!!!! She makes your mouth drool with her food and cooking descriptions!


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