Books to Inspire an Italian Adventure!

Updated: Nov 5, 2019


Ever since my late teens in the 1980's, I have been lover of all things Italian. At that age I had never traveled outside of the United States, so my "Italy" exposure was food, movies and books to quench my lust for this captivating country. Like so many, after watching “Under the Tuscan Sun”, all I could dream about was being there, living there, sipping wine on a piazza, breathing there day in and day out!

After my first trip to Italy in 2013 – yes, I was a late bloomer - I was even more smitten and enamored. Rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside, vineyards for days, intriguing medieval villages, food AND wine – Brunello!! I found myself scouring the internet for anything I could get my hands on to read about the history – the sordid the better (lol) – the people, the mesmerizing coastlines, the enchanting small villages tucked into the most wonderful regions – I could go on and on and on!

Whether you have Italy on your bucket list, have been there multiple times and can't get enough or just LOVE to read about Italy these books are for you! Here is a maybe not-so-little list of my favorite books that have inspired my travels all around Italia. From fiction, to memoirs, to fun informative travel guides. This list is constantly growing!


Women in Sunlight by Frances Mayes

I am leading off with this one because I am a self-professed, Frances Mayes fanatic! This particular read I loved SO much! 4 American women in Tuscany – uh, hello?! People magazine says “Mayes’ writing about Italy is the next best thing to a plane ticket.” I say, “Wheels up, ladies!!!”

That Month in Tuscany by Inglath Cooper

A housewife. A rockstar. Italy! I am not sure I need to write more! This is the perfect take-yourself-away from it, fun and entertaining read that you will not want to put down! I read it and then went to spend a month in Italy - literally! No rockstar for me though - but maybe next time!

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

Calling this book a timeless classic does not do it justice. Florence, Rome, Lucy - George! I AM Lucy. Or, I wanted to be every single time I read it!

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

This book had me at 15th Century Florence! It is a captivating and sensual historic story full of love, mystery and betrayal. When the Medici family and Roman Catholics were battling for the control over Florence. Wait! It also had me a Medici!!! So good - you men will love it too!


Before I begin this list, I have to give up a secret - I want to live in Italy! There I got that off my chest! Now, due to this obsession of mine, I can't stop reading memoirs. I want to know how everyone else has experienced Italy, lived a life there, or at least visited, fell in love and/or was dragged kicking and screaming back to the airport to go home - like me!

Frances Mayes - Yes, I am leading off with 4 more fabulous reads by my author crush again!

Under the Tuscan Sun

The bible! Okay, not literally, but for me the book, and the movie, that more or less changed my life! It sparked my instant desire to stop dreaming of all things Italy and just GO to Italy! We all have seen the movie - if you haven't seen it then you may need to plant your happy little self on the couch with some vino and watch it - NOW! I love this book beyond words! Her "real" story, it's not the movie version. Inspiring, beautifully written and truly comforting. I have read it several times! The movie, well that I have watched 50+ times, but that is a whole other post!

Bella Tuscany: The Life in Italy

If Under the Tuscan Sun left you wanting more - here you go! Frances' love affair with Italy continues! You will continue to fall more in love with Tuscany, the people, Bramasole and more delizioso recipes from her Tuscan kitchen!

Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life

If you are addicted to her tales of life in Cortona, Bramasole, her travels around Italy, the beautiful places and people she welcomes into her world, then you must let the goodness continue! Much has changed in the life of Frances Mayes since Bella Tuscany! Time to wrap yourself up in more of glorious Tuscany!

See You in the Piazza: New Places to Discover in Italy (Coming March 2019!)

This is a new one that I can't wait to start this Spring! Get ready to be introduced to the Italy only the locals know. Frances and her husband eat and drink their way through 18 regions from Northern Italy to the South! We will see you in the piazza, Frances!

Not in a Tuscan Villa by John Petralia

Even though this book almost scared me out of my wits in wanting to become an expat in Italy, I quickly rebounded. Many people tell me how challenging it is to move to another country - this is indeed the truth. This New Jersey couple did it and lived to tell about it - so there you go! #igotthis (lol) Their trials, tribulations and fantastic journey is the real deal! Want to do the same thing? Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. They weren't!

Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy by Chandi Wyant

One of my upcoming adventures is hiking the Via Francigena from Lucca to Rome. When taking on something challenging in life I always seek inspiration. I could not put this book down! My passion for taking on this grand adventure grew exponentially after reading Chandi's journey! If you loved Cheryl Strayed's Wild, you will undoubtedly LOVE this book! Prepare to be moved!

Turning Tuscan: A Step-by-Step Guide to Going Native by Sam Hilt

Do you want to know what it is like to move your wife and kids to a tiny little Tuscan village? Much like Not in a Tuscan Villa, this fabulous personal account lays is all bare! When you want to go from San Fran to Tuscany and start a brand new life - it is not always smooth rolling, but it sure can be fabulous! Great Read!

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I love the movie - I LOVE the book even more! For me, it is one of those situations where I have seen the movie countless times since it is by far one of my favs. I mean, Julia Roberts' laugh should win an Oscar all on it's own, right?! It wasn't until after my first trip to Rome that I decided to read the book. It is so incredibly written and honest. I felt it!!! It will be one to remain on my shelf or in my carry-on to read over and over again for years! Now...time for me to go to India and Indonesia!


100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go by Susan Van Allen

Time to create that dream Italian vacation ladies! As I was planning my second trip to Italy, Tuscany in fact, I came across Susan's book. Holy-Moly what a fabulous and entertaining guide! 16 amazing sections full of fun facts, the ideal sites, restaurant suggestions, places for children, shopping, travel tips and more all geared for the time of your life - look at it as the girlfriend's guide to Italy! I have SO many pages flagged and Section XII - Advice from Writers is fantastic - especially since one is by Frances Mayes - yes!

Letters from Italy: Confessions, Adventures & Advice by Susan Van Allen

Here is a little one (102 pages) from Susan Van Allen. What a short, sweet and very delightful read! Inspired from her grandmother's letters from Italy long ago and her own years of travel, she brings this fantastic book to us filled with stories that will spark your "Italy" joy. Additionally, it will delight you with the most fantastic advice, along her favorite places to eat, drink and sleep at the end of each "letter"! Many more "flagged" pages for me in this one too!

100 Locals in Rome by Maven Hill

Every time I travel to a destination, I want to live like a local. Heck, even if it is in the USA! However, especially when I am in Italy. It is my desire to not play the "tourist" on each and every visit. You really should experience Rome like a local.  In this guide, 100 Romans reveal the eternal city's best coffee bars, restaurants and secret spots. This book took me to so many fantastic places I never would have known existed! I love this description, "A love letter to a city from citizens eternally enamored with where they live and eager to entangle you in this passionate romance."

Eating My Way Through Italy by Elizabeth Minchilli

- "Heading Off the Main Roads to Discover the Hidden Treasures of the Italian Table"

One thing I learned on my first visit to Italy, which was in the Piedmonte region, was that each region has it's own food specialties. I said out loud in a cooking class in Asti, "wait, we aren't putting garlic in this dish?" I mean I thought garlic went into everything Italian. I swear, the chef looked at me like I had 3 American heads instead of one! Elizabeth's book is a dream! She takes you all through out Italy, dividing it geographically, and shows you the many diverse tastes of Italian food culture. It is a must!

Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy by Joe Bastianich & David Lynch

This book has been in my arsenal for years! It is a superior and indepth guide to the wine-producing regions Italy, wine styles, vintages, out-of-this-world recipes and so very much more! If you are an Italian wine newbie, connoisseur or even dream of becoming a sommelier like this lady right here, you must add this book to your collection! And, with Joe Bastianich at the helm, you seriously can't go wrong. A funny little tidbit - my son says Joe Bastianich is my ex-boyfriend's doppleganger - might be an added bonus as to why I like this book so much - the ex-BF and I are still friends FYI (lol)!

Italian Phrase Book & Dictionary by Rick Steves

Last but not least, I had to add this splendid pocket-size Italian phase book! I have been learning Italian over the past few years, but in between visits I get a little rusty. Rick Steves to the rescue! Even if you want to curse someone out in Italian - it's in there!

That is my list for the moment! I read A LOT so be prepared for additions in the future! If you have read any marvelous books that have sparked your travel adventures to Italy please comment below! I would love to add more to my arsenal!

Buona lettura!

Robin Lee

"Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Please keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you. Thanks!"

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© 2018 by Lady With Wanderlust/Robin Lee Simmons

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