25 Amazing Books Set in Italy to Love

books set in Italy

If you are looking for books set in Italy, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve been obsessed with books set in Italy since I visited over 10 years ago when I visited Rome, Florence, Pisa, and the Italian Riviera with my family – while pregnant with my firstborn!

Like stories set in France, a book based in Italy has the ability to immediately take me back to my time in the country. The descriptions in the books below transport me with vivid depictions of Italian places, foods, and people. I can practically taste the homemade pasta while pouring over the pages of these books.

Whether you like thrillers, historical fiction, or romances, you will be sure to be swept away by one of the books set in Italy we mention below.

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Table of Contents

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the Sicilian Inheritance

Mysteries Set in Italy

The Sicilian Inheritance

The Sicilian Inheritance by Jo Piazza

Jo Piazza has written the PERFECT summer novel, striking a delicious balance between being relaxing enough to enjoy on the beach but thought-provoking enough to discuss with your book club.

I was swept into the story of Sara and her quest to learn about her unexpected inheritance and the possible murder of her great-grandmother, Serafina. To solve the mystery and claim her inheritance, she must travel to the Italian countryside – giving her a break from her recently closed restaurant and her failed marriage.

The dual-timeline narrative focuses on Sara’s quest and Serafina’s life as a woman coming into her own in the 1900s. The stakes are high for both women as they balance staying true to their dreams in the face of society’s oppression of women, especially when it turns dangerous.

Why I Loved It: I could go on and on about this one. The vivid imagery that Jo paints with her writing had me picturing the town, tasting the food, and smelling the Sicilian soil. I SWEAR, at one point I touched my chin to see if the oil from the meal she was writing about was dripping down my face.

It’s a multi-genre, multigenerational masterpiece of a beach read. #gifted by Dutton Books

Find this book in Beach Read 2024 / Books Set in Italy / Family Drama / Best Historical Fiction of 2024 / Best Mystery Books 2024

Everytime I go on vacation someone dies

Every Time I Go on Vacation, Someone Dies by Catherine Mack

What a fun new mystery series! When a group of authors accompanies mystery writer, Eleanor Dash, on her book tour in Italy, people keep turning up dead around them. While she is trying to figure out a way to kill off her main character, Connor, and end her long-running series, someone is trying to kill the real-life Connor on the tour!

Now Eleanor and her writer frenemies must put their differences aside to try to solve the murders and stay alive. The hysterical scenarios they find themselves in keep the vacation murder plot delightfully lighthearted. Add in the descriptions of Italian food, gorgeous sites, and wild personal hijinks and you’ve got a lovely summer read.

Why I Liked it: It’s not often a mystery series that is both mysterious and fun, but this one delivers! It’s exactly the kind of mystery book I gravitate towards in the middle of summer. I can’t wait to see this series continue! #gifted by Macmillan Audio

Find this book Italy Novels / Best Beach Reads

Family Dramas Set in Italy

star crossed sisters

The Star-crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nielson Spielman

The Fontana family believes their second-born daughters are cursed. So when Emilia’s estranged Great-Aunt Poppy reaches out claiming she can break the curse, Emilia happily defies her family’s wishes and heads to Italy with Poppy.

As she explores the gorgeous Tuscan countryside, she learns Poppy’s history with her grandmother, more about the curse, and connects to her Italian roots. Though slow at times, I enjoyed this story about family history, sisterhood, and love. Poppy and her love story stole the show.

Juliet 1

Juliet: A Novel by Anna Fortier

I ADORE this book set in Italy and have read it numerous times. What if Shakespeare’s Juliet was real and was actually a curse? Alternating between the “real” Juliet’s story and her modern-day descendant’s story, the book proves that love transcends time.

I can’t put my finger on why this story makes my top 10 favorite books, but it’s a comfort read that I go to whenever I need a pick-me-up. I re-read it again and again! It has a little bit of everything – romance, a mystery, a contemporary and historical element. I

t’s such a unique and amazing classic retelling and was a no-brainer pick for a list of the best romance novels of all time and was obviously going to be included in our Ultimate List of Romance Books. The epic love story also makes it perfect for a list of books like Outlander.

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Contemporary Fiction Books Set in Italy

the heirloom

The Heirloom by Jessie Rosen

When Shea’s boyfriend proposes, she goes against her beloved Nonna’s rule to never accept a marriage proposal with an heirloom ring. She loves her fiance, John, but can’t shake her Nonna’s worries about heirlooms carrying the energy of their former owners.

Now, with the help of her big sister and a journalist, she will travel to New York, Italy, Portugal, and Boston to meet the previous owners and make sure the ring has forever marriage energy.

Why I Loved It: Between the gorgeous settings and the hunt for the ring’s origin, this story was easy to fly through while remaining utterly enchanting. I might not agree with all of Shea’s decisions but the journey to happily ever after was so enjoyable!

Find this book in Summer Reads 2024 / Books set in Italy / Jewelry Novels / Best Fiction of 2024

When in Rome

When in Rome by Liam Callanan

I’ll be honest, I requested this book set in Italy because of the title, with no knowledge of the story within. I’m rather happy about it because I don’t think I would have gravitated to a story about a middle-aged woman, stuck in her life as a realtor, now contemplating joining the ranks of the Catholic Sisters in Rome whose convent she is trying to sell.

I’m not a deeply religious person, but I found peace in Claire’s story as she tried to find herself. Little did she know her best friend, her daughter, and the man she’s been secretly in love with since college have a plan of their own. This reminded me of Under the Tuscan Sun as they both reflect on the meaning of life and how to reinvent one’s self in the middle of your prime.

I just wish the pacing was a bit better, I found Claire’s constant contemplation and avoidance of all issues frustrating at times. Still, I’m happy I read this book based in Italy

under a siena sun

Under a Siena Sun by T.A. Williams

Ever since I read Juliet by Anne Fortier, which appears in my favorite books post, I have been obsessed with Siena, Italy.

I knew I had to read this one as soon as I read the description. It’s a romance set in the shadows of an ancient castle ruin and it just made me smile. Doctor Lucy was such a good foil for tennis superstar, David.

It was the escape I needed at the end of a long week. Gifted by Canelo Escape.

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

Rebecca Serle has done it again with this book set in Italy. Katy’s mother, Carol, has died and left Katy to take their trip to Positano alone. When Katy leaves she is uncertain about everything and whether she will return to her marriage.

Then, the impossible happens, and Carol appears at Katy’s hotel. She is in perfect health and thirty years old. She is not the woman Katy thought she knew. As she gets to know her mother, she realizes more about herself.

Why I Love It: This is a beautiful, well-written book with a touch of magic. I loved how Katy and Carol are able to develop a relationship in Italy after Carol died. It is unique and wonderful.

Find This Book In: Contemporary Fiction / Book Set in Italy / Book About Grief / Best Magical Realism Books / Books About Mothers/ Books Set on a Beach / Book Club Book

The Patron Saint of Second Chances

Patron Saint of Second Chances by Christine Simon

The mayor of the Italian town needs money to repair the town’s pipes, so he hatches a plot to drum up business in town by saying a famous movie star is coming to make a movie.

The next thing he knows, he’s having to make an actual movie starring the locals with no experience and the craziest script while keeping up the ruse that the celebrity is coming.

Why I Love It: I laughed so hard at scenes in this comedic book that I woke up my sleeping husband. This was a charming book and the perfect vacation read. It is a five-star contemporary fiction book.

Find This Book In: Feel-Good Book / Book set in Italy / Best Beach Reads of All Time

the good left undone

Historical Fiction Books Based in Italy

The marriage portrait

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

December 2022 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

I couldn’t put down this biographical fiction book set in Italy in the 1550s. Maggie O’Farrell just has a way of writing that is utterly captivating.

It’s the story of Lucrezia, daughter of the Grand Duke of Florence, and her unfortunate life as a child bride to the ruler of Ferrara. I always thought that British royal history had all drama, but this story proved me wrong! Those Italians are masters at the art of poison and murder.

I found the story, which also revolves around the painting of the titular marriage portrait, to be fast-moving and fascinating. It’s one of those historical fiction books that had me googling what was real and what truths were bent.  

Sally Bradys Italian Adventure

Sally Brady’s Italian Adventure by Christina Lynch

I haven’t read many books set in Italy during WWII – generally, those are set in England or France – so I was eager to read this story. In it, Sally Brady, who was raised by a Hollywood movie star and became a gossip columnist, finds herself stranded in wartime Italy.

I liked reading about the Italian countryside and how the war impacted the citizens of Italy under Mussolini’s control. Much like the famed French Resistance, Italians also worked against their ruler, which I loved reading about.

Sally’s character, however, never had me fully invested in the story. Sure she was a clever American who could get out of sticky situations with her charisma, but she was rather frivolous throughout most of the book. I did like the love story and how she eventually grew up, but she never captured my full attention.

Stars in an Italian Sky

Stars in an Italian Sky by Jill Santopolo

Where do I even start with this book? I loved it so much. In Genoa Italy, in 1946 Vincenzo and Giovanna fell in love. But, they belong to two different worlds. She is the daughter of a tailor and she is almost royalty.

In 2017, Cassandra and Luca are in love. When Luca asks Cassandra’s grandmother to be a model for his new painting, with his grandfather, the past and its secrets are revealed.

I cannot say enough about this book that is part contemporary fiction and part historical fiction. It had me absolutely bawling by the end, ugly crying, and I LOVED it. The ending was perfect, fitting, and cathartic.

This is a perfect pick for books set in Italy and a must for our ultimate beach reads 2023 post. If you love second chance romance books, this is one of the best there is.

The Italian Ballerina by Kristy Cambron

The Italian Ballerina by Kristy Cambron

This amazing WW11 historical fiction novel takes place in three timelines. While I was a little bit confused initially, I could not put the book down by the end.

This book is based on the true accounts of Syndrome K, the deadly and highly contagious disease that was fabricated by doctors in Rome to save Jewish people from Nazi extermination.

In the past, Courtney Coleman has had a troubled past and decides to enlist when Pearl Harbor is bombed. While he is there, he meets Julia Bradbury, an Italian ballerina, and together with another allied medic and the hospital staff, they work together to try and save the Jewish people from the Nazis.

In the Present day, Delaney Coleman has recently lost her grandfather, a WW11 veteran. Soon after, Delaney’s family is contacted by an Italian woman who claims they have a family heirloom. Delaney travels to Italy to discover her grandfather’s past. This is one of the newest books set in Italy on our list and is also a perfect pick for our ultimate beach reads 2023!

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet is usually covered during the high school years, but if you haven’t learned about this classic book, you need to read it!

Shakespeare’s beloved story is a tragic romance set in Verona, Italy. It’s about the children of two warring families, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet who start meeting in secret away from their parent’s machinations.

Find this book in Books Like Disney Movies / Classic Romance Novels

The Good Left Undone

The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani

The sweeping story of an Italian family matriarch Domenica and her love story was charming. Her coming-of-age story told the tale of her life trials and was the anchor of this novel.

While her story covered the 1920s, WWII, and beyond, this book set in Italy also switched over to her daughter Matelda and Matelda’s granddaughter. Sadly, I found that portion of the story to be lackluster.

After seeing all Domenica went through over her life, the challenges facing her great-granddaughter fell flat. I would happily have cut out all the chapters without Domenica so I could spend more time in her fascinating story.

Scribe of Siena

Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer

A perfect summer read about a neurosurgeon who is transported back to Siena in the time of the plague.  The narrative makes me feel like I am in Italy.  

Depicted as Outlander meets Girl with a Pearl Earring, at its heart, it is a love story. I could not put it down and finished it as a perfect start to the summer reading season. I love this time travel book set in Italy and it is the perfect time travel romance book for a list of books like Outlander.

Category Headers

Books set in Italy During the Renaissance

the botticelli secret

The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato

This gritty story is about a prostitute during the Italian Renaissance who needs to flee for her life after learning a secret while sitting for famed artist Botticelli. She turns to a novice, Brother Guido, for help after her friends start dying.

It’s sort of like a Da Vinci code set in the 15th century and it all revolves around Botticelli’s Primavera painting. It’s a fun, quick read and one of the first books set in Italy that I ever read. It was a must for novels about art.

the second duchess

The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas

The Duke of Ferrara has taken a second wife after possibility having killed his first duchess. While first ignoring the rumors, soon Barbara decides she needs to investigate what happened to Lucrezia de Medici.

I liked the mystery aspects of this biographical fiction story. I was certainly living in fear that something would befall Barbara as her pool of suspects grew larger.

the daughter of siean

The Daughter of Siena by Marina Fiorato

I first read about the horse race, known as The Palio, set in Siena when I was reading Juliet by Anne Fortier. I knew I wanted to read more about this amazing city, so I immediately picked up this book.

The deadly rivalry of those participating in the Palio makes for an interesting backdrop as Pia Tolomei falls for a rival from another area of town. Much like Juliet, I was enraptured by this story.

The Confessions of Cather De Medici and more of the best historical fiction books

The Confessions of Catherine De Medici by C.W. Gortner

Catherine De Medici came from one of the greatest dynasties of the Renaissance era. Originally from Italy, she became the Queen of France around the same time that Henry VIII was in power.

She was also rumored to be a master at the art of poison. This historical fiction biography explores her life and her influence over France and Europe.

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The Scarlet Contessa by Jeanne Kalogridis

After finishing my binge-watching of Netflix’s The Medici: Masters of Florence, I was on the hunt to read a good historical fiction set in Renaissance Italy. I can not believe how few books were written about this time period. How is that possible? Luckily, I did stumble upon this tale of badass warrior duchess Caterina Sforza.

The Medici family makes an appearance in the book which was a pleasant surprise, but really Caterina’s life story is compelling on its own. She was a fierce woman who skillfully navigated the tumultuous political climate of the time. She went up against Pope Borgia and other leaders and defied them all.

Her story is told through the eyes of her lady’s maid, and half-sister, who made an interesting storyteller. I wish that it had been told from Caterina’s point of view though. It is one of my favorite books set in Italy.

Historical Fiction Books Set on the Italian Riviera

Beautiful Ruins soon to be a major motion picture starring Sam Mendes.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

I adored this second-chance love story that wasn’t too girly. There was intrigue and insight into Hollywood today versus 60 years ago. It’s about a secret love affair revolving around the movie Cleopatra and the small, seaside hotel at the center of the story.

It features family secrets, Richard Burton, modern and old Hollywood, and so many other plot lines in a novel that isn’t very long for all it contains within it’s pages.

Why I Like it: I guessed the big reveal pretty early on, but it was still a wonderful book set in Italy about how love found, lost, and then found again can impact our lives.

Find this book in Books Set in Italy / Seaside Books / Hotel Novels

Hotel Portofina

Hotel Portofino by J. P. O’Connell

I was thrilled to have read this charming story of a Hotel in Portofino, Italy during the years just after WW1.

In it, the new British owners of the Hotel Portofino settle into running a hotel with their adult children. The guests are eccentric, there is a mystery around a piece of stolen art, and some romantic relationships come together and fall apart.

Why I Like it: It reminded me of the second Downton Abbey movie in which the Crawleys headed to the south of France for a vacation! It’s got all the family drama I look for in books like these.

Find this book in Books set in Italy / Hotel Novels / Seaside Books / Books Like Downton Abbey

Thriller Books Set in Italy

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins and more January 2023 book releases

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

I always love a great gothic suspense novel and what could be better than one set in an Italian villa?

Emily’s husband filed for divorce and she cannot seem to get her life and career back on track so when her childhood best friend and hugely successful writer, Chess. suggests they spend a summer together in an Italian villa where they can write and reconnect what could go wrong?

Oh, did I mention the mansion has a history that includes murder? This pick is one of the best books for summer 2023, no contest!

The lIght in the Ruinsand more books about WWII

The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

Taking place in the Italian countryside, in both 1943 and 1955, this mystery covers the Nazi/Italy Axis Alliance. A murderer from the war is coming back to kill the remaining members of an Italian family one by one.

My heart was racing as I read this story. It totally kept me on the edge of my seat. This is one of the best historical mystery books I have read.

Angels & Demons and more mystery books

Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon Series #1) by Dan Brown

Dan Brown found a way to incorporate symbolism and brilliant riddles into this modern-day mystery. The plot does not slow for a minute from the first page to the last. This is one of our favorite mystery books.

It is the first of the Robert Langdon books and my favorite as well. This story revolves around an Illuminati plot against the Catholic Church. The Tom Hanks-led Netflix book adaptation is worth a watch!

YA Books Set in Italy

Love and Gelato


Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

When it comes to books set in Italy that are escapist reads, this one is tops! In addition to offering a perfect description of all things food-related (yum), there was a sweet romance included.  

It was like a double scoop of happiness. There are two more ya romance books in the series and I think I would like to indulge in both! The Netflix book adaption is a charming one.

Non-Fiction Books Set in Italy

from scratch

From Scratch by Tembi Locke

May 2019 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

I knew what this book was about before reading it and I was still not prepared for the heartbreak and beauty within the pages. This memoir is truly a love letter to Tembi’s husband who died from cancer. This is an incredibly sad book that had me in tears.

The descriptions of the food, the people, and the love she had for her husband are unlike anything that I have read before. This is a five-star book about grief if you can read through heartache. It’s one of the Netflix book adaptations I’m planning on watching.

under the tuscan sun

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

The memoir that inspired the movie starring Diane Lane, was as captivating in print as it was on screen. I loved reading about Frances Mayes’s gutsy decision to pick up her life and start all over in a new country.

I enjoyed hearing about her discovery of her new surrounding and finding love again in the Italian countryside.

Eat Pray Love

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

By now, we’ve all probably heard about Elizabeth Gilbert’s story. It was turning into a movie starring Julia Roberts after all. But have you read the original memoir?

If not, then this should be one of the must-read books set in Italy! It talks about her time Italy, India, and Bali where she learned about herself and her passions.

More Books Based in Italy

There are so many other incredible books set in Italy including From Scratch, Call Me by Your Name, House of Gucci, and My Brilliant Friend. You’ll find those books and more below!

Did you find any books set in Italy that you want to read?

This post fulfills a prompt for the 2023 reading challenge! It’s not too late to join!

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3 Comments

  1. Nicky Pellegrino and Rosanna Chiofalo are also two authors who write WONDERFUL books set in Italy.

  2. FYI: you left out two absolutely amazing books that take place in italy: tim parks’ “The Hero’s Way” 9780393866841 – and – dominic smith’s “Return to Valetto” 9780374607685. if you haven’t read them, I can’t say enough to encourage you to run to your bookstore right now to buy them! I am a sideline buyer and bookseller at literati bookstore in ann arbor MI.