I've been dabbling on Facebook the last couple of months. I was reluctant, being the techno curmudgeon that I am, but I admit that it is kind of fun to zap one-liners and zingers on friends' pages, and post little notes that wouldn't constitute a blog post. When I wrote about a novel that I was reading that made some Italian errors, several people responded that they would like an Italy-related reading list.
I have read a great number of them, some better than others (and some really dismal!) I gave it a lot of thought and shuffled through my memory bank to compile a list of the memoirs, guides, cookbooks and novels that focus on the theme of Italy that I enjoyed (along with a mention of those that I didn't like, too.)
First up - Memoirs.
Memoirs and Narratives Set in Italy
Dances with Luigi: A Grandson's Search for His Italian Roots by Paul Paolicelli
Interesting, insightful and touching memoir of an Italian-American in search of his family heritage. I could relate just a tad.
Seasons in Basilicata: A Year in a Southern Italian Hill Village by David Yeadon
Finally a book focusing on my Motherland! Based primarily on the premise of seeing the region through Carlo Levi's book, Yeadon fades out the copious quotes of that writer and turns to his own voice to show the unique landscape and complex characters who live in the ancient town of Aliano.
Love & War in the Apennines (Travel Literature) by Eric Newby
Get past the first two somewhat dry "background" chapters and you’ll enjoy this wonderful memoir about Newby’s experiences as an escaped prisoner in Italy during WWII, and the wonderful people who risked their lives to help him avoid capture, including his future wife.
A Small Place in Italy (Travel Literature) by Eric Newby
A couple decades after WWII, Eric Newby and his wife return to buy a ramshackle little house in a village. This should be the first book you read if you’re contemplating the pretty vision of buying property in Italy.
The Hills of Tuscany by Ferenc Mate
Nicely written narrative of a rather nomadic couple who settle down in Tuscany. They are very likeable, and draw us in to their new way of life.
Extra Virgin: A Young Woman Discovers the Italian Riviera by Annie Hawes
A pair of British sisters find themselves in a traditional village where they buy a rustico in the hills of Liguria and learn about olive growing. Engaging and witty, with a nice progression as the author comes to understand, adapt to, and then embrace the culture. (Her follow-up, Ripe For The Picking, is enjoyable, as well, though a little less focused.)
A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena di Blasi
Could have been cliché and hokey, but di Blasi’s sumptuous writing and honesty made me really enjoy this book.
The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian by Phil Doran
Funny memoir about a Hollywood writer who moves to Tuscany unwillingly when his wife buys a run-down property there. I enjoyed it even though it read too much like a Hollywood script and I questioned the truth of some of the occurrences.
A Vineyard in Tuscany: A Wine Lover's Dream by Ferenc Mate
If you’ve ever been tempted to start a vineyard, this is the book for you. Mate’s fun tone comes through as he details the making of a new vineyard from the ground up.
Italian Neighbors by Tim Parks
A witty and honest look at the quirks and incongruities of everyday life in Verona. Not your average “bought a house in Tuscany” memoir.
Too Much Tuscan Sun by Dario Castagno
Funny account of a Tuscan tour guide about some of the quirky and strange people he encountered through the years. Irreverent with a somewhat disjointed layout, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and even laughed out loud a couple of times.
Memoirs I Found Annoying: Under The Tuscan Sun, Pasquale’s Nose, Journey to the South, Botticelli Blue Skies, and Four Seasons in Rome.
Next time around...Nonfiction. Happy Reading!
Italian Reading List, Part II - Guides and Nonfiction
Italian Reading List, Part III - Fiction