Rome - That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana – Carlo Emilio Gadda
Set in 1927, during the days of Italy’s fascist regime, Detective Ciccio is called upon to investigate two crimes committed in a matter of just days in an apartment block in Rome. The detective soon discovers that everyone who lives in the building are in involved in one way or another with the burglary of a flat and subsequent murder of a woman. That Ciccio was an admirer of the victim, as well as a close friend of her husband only complicates matters further. This crime novel is a gripping tale that gives a glimpse of a dark time in Italy’s recent past, and Gadda’s gifted use of language only adds to the charm and suspense of this book.
Venice - A Thousand Days in Venice - Marlena de Blasi
Venice has been the setting for scores of novels throughout history, from Thomas Mann’s bleak Death in Venice, to Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley and Evelyn Waugh’s tale of decline and sin in Brideshead Revisited, there are plenty of great reads to choose from when exploring Venetian literature. One of our firm favourites is Marlena de Blasi’s A Thousand Days in Venice. A tale of romance set in one of the world’s most romantic cities, the story starts with the writer falling in love with Fernando, a local Venetian, during her travels through Italy. Soon she has said goodbye to her life in the US, and set up a new one in Venice, despite her Italian being really rather limited. A Thousand Days in Venice is a great introduction to the city and life in Italy through the eyes of an outsider and it’s a funny and charming read throughout.
Florence - The Birth of Venus – Sarah Dunant
Florence is known for its great art, beautiful buildings and fascinating history, where the wealthy and powerful Medici family stands out as one of the most important dynasties in not only Florence, but in Italy and Renaissance Europe as well. This is the setting that Sarah Dunant has chosen as the background for her novel The Birth of Venus. The main character is the 15-year-old Alessandra, whose father is a rich merchant in the blossoming Renaissance city. The novel explores the tensions within the family, the young girl’s exploration of art through the Dutch painter that her father introduces her to, as well as the dangers and temptations that abound in the city, waiting for a young girl like Alessandra be lured in. The Birth of Venus is not only a love letter to the city of Florence, it’s also a vivid page-turner to bring with you when visiting this great Tuscan metropolis.
Milan - Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco
The Italian writer Umberto Eco is probably most famous for his book The Name of the Rose, a mystery novel set in Medieval Italy (the film of which starred Sean Connery). This multi award-winning author has, however, written numerous other novels and one of the most thrilling ones is undoubtedly Foucault’s Pendulum, which was published in 1988. In the novel, the three main characters, who work within the antiques business, invent a non-existent secret society. The joke quickly gets out of hand, as other and more sinister people start to believe that this fake underground group exists. The story is told by one of the main characters through flashbacks, as he is hiding in a museum, on the run from a real secret society that doesn’t like rivals.