23 Amazing Books Set in Italy to Love
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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Contemporary Fiction Books Set in Italy
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
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.
This beautiful contemporary fiction book set in Italy is well-written and a must-read book about grief. However, the touch of magic in this book puts in on our best magical realism books as well. This is one of our favorite books about mothers and it is a perfect book club book. Can you tell we love this book?
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.
I laughed so hard at scenes in this comedic feel-good book that I woke up my sleeping husband. This was a charming book set in Italy and the perfect vacation read. It is a five star contemporary fiction book.
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 pf books like Outlander.
Historical Fiction Books Based in Italy
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.
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 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.
The story’s tragic end has inspired countless classic book retellings and adaptations on the big and small screen.
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 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.
Books set in Italy During the Renaissance
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 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 story. I was certainly living in fear that something would befall Barbara as her pool of suspects grew larger.
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 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.
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 by Jess Walter
I adored this second-chance love story that wasn’t too girly. There was intrigue and insight into Hollywood today verse 60 years ago. It’s actually about a secret love affair revolving around the movie Cleopatra and the small, seaside hotel at the center of the story.
I guessed the big reveal pretty early on, but it was still a wonderful book set in Italy about how love had, lost, and then found again can impact our lives. It’s one of my favorite books set at hotels!
Hotel Portofino by J. P. O’Connell
The newest Downton Abbey movie has the Crawleys headed to the south of France for a vacation! It makes me thrilled to have read this charming story of a Hotel in Portofino, Italy during the years just after WW1.
We get to see 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. It’s the perfect hotel novel!
In short, it’s a family drama book set in Italy and is perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, plus, it’s being turned into a show on PBS as well!
Thriller Books Set in Italy
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 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.
Angels & Demons 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 in the Robert Langdon series 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 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 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 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 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!
Nicky Pellegrino and Rosanna Chiofalo are also two authors who write WONDERFUL books set in Italy.