Crystal King's Favorite Fiction Books Set In Italy

By Crystal King

By Crystal King

When I can't be in Italy, I want to write about Italy, and read about Italy. I want to live vicariously through the words of others; walk the streets that Michelangelo walked; sit in the same cafe that Goethe, Keats and Byron frequented; and admire the walls that Raphael painted. I want to hear the stories that families like the Borgias, Barberini, Colonna and Orsini inspired. I want to read about the artists that the Medici and Farnese bankrolled. I want to read the fairy tales of the land that I love with all my heart. 
 

And if I can introduce these books to others? Even better. The following list contains some of my favorite books set in Italy. It will change and grow over time. It is arbitrary, it is subjective, and it is a list of my own making. Note that I'm not taking requests for additions to it. 
 

The Chef's Secret

Crystal King

$16.99 $15.63

I'm rather partial to this book, for obvious reasons. :-) It's a love story, a mystery and a tale of decadent popes, princes and the chef that fed them all.

Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome

Crystal King

$17.00 $15.64

This book was my first labor of love. Apicius was the world's first famous gourmand. He lived a luxurious life and had a wild, tragic death. I tell the story of how he got there.

Raphael, Painter in Rome

Stephanie Storey

$24.99 $22.49

A delightful first-person story from one of Rome's most famous painters.

Leading Men

Christopher Castellani

$27.00 $24.30

A gorgeous story of Tennesee Williams through the eyes of his lover and friends.

The Confessions of Young Nero

Margaret George

$18.00 $16.56

Was Nero really as horrible as we think him to be? Or just misunderstood? Margaret George paints a fascinating new look at the emperor who watched Rome burn.

The Borgia Confessions

Alyssa Palombo

$16.99 $15.63

The latest from Alyssa Palombo, in which she turns our notion of bad-boy Cesare Borgia on its end.

The Hunger Saint

Olivia Kate Cerrone

$12.00

Sicily's past is a tough one, particularly for the boys working in the sulfur mines. A short book, but one that will remain long in your memory.

The Gondola Maker

Laura Morelli

$16.49 $15.17

The first book I read by Laura Morelli, about a young gondola maker. It's a love story with an eye-opening dash of Venetian history on the side.

Palatine: The Four Emperors Series: Book I

L J Trafford

$19.95

L.J. Trafford's first book in a series about the crazy year of 69. Tragedy, comedy and history combine and will keep you reading through all four books in this series.

How Fires End

Marco Rafala

$24.95 $22.46

My blurb for this novel: “This multilayered, astonishing novel takes you into the heart of a dark family legacy and twists you up with emotion on every page. How Fires End is beautifully written and startling in its revelations. I can’t stop thinking about this heartbreaking book.”

The Chef's Apprentice (Reissue)

Elle Newmark

$24.99

Sadly, the world is without Elle Newmark now. She was a brilliant food writer and one of the people who dipped deep into Italy's past and left a lasting mark on me.

Metamorphoses

Ovid

$12.00 $11.04

The Roman myths that inspired countless other tales. This translation is absolutely beautiful and brings out Ovid's mastery of story.

The Lion and the Rose

Kate Quinn

$16.00 $14.72

Kate Quinn has a number of books out, but I'm partial to this series, which features a different take on Bartolomeo Scappi, the famous chef I wrote about in my novel, THE CHEF'S SECRET. Intrigue, mystery, scandal and love affairs galore.

A Day of Fire: a novel of Pompeii

Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, et al.

$14.99

An anthology of stories from some of my favorite writers, about one of the most amazing historical events in Italy.

Florence in Ecstasy

Jessie Chaffee

$16.00 $14.72

A young woman's quest to find herself emotionally--and physically--in a city where food is means more than just sustenance.

The Scribe of Siena

Melodie Winawer

$16.99 $15.63

A time-traveling love story that takes place in the midst of the Black Plague that nearly wipes out Siena.

From Unseen Fire

Cass Morris

$7.99

An alternate history of Rome, with magic thrown in!

One Summer Day in Rome

Mark Lamprell

$15.99 $14.71

A love story, narrated by Rome itself.

The Aeneid

Vergil

$21.60

One of the most classic pieces of literature, one that every lover of Italy should read. It is the foundation of so much of its culture through the ages.

I, Claudius: From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius, Born 10 B.C., Murdered and Deified A.D. 54

Robert Graves

$17.95 $16.51

A masterpiece of fiction that has inspired movies, television and plays. Once you pick it up, you won't be able to put it down.

The Satyricon

Petronius

$12.95 $11.91

The world's first "novel," this is a raucous, wild, sex-filled novel about the bizarre exploits of retired gladiator, Encolpius, and his slave and boyfriend Giton, a handsome sixteen-year-old boy.

I Am Livia

Phyllis T Smith

$14.95

A look at the world of Ancient Rome through the eyes of Livia, one of the most infamous women in history.

Roma: A Novel of Ancient Rome

Steven Saylor

$21.99 $19.79

Roma is a sweeping novel that spans centuries of la bella citta.

Pompeii

Robert Harris

$17.00 $15.64

Robert Harris takes the reader through the days leading up to, and through the eruption that buried the city.

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

Italo Calvino

$15.99 $14.71

A heady, romantic, avant-garde novel that takes a bit to wrap your head around. Each word Calvino writes is a joy.

The Birth of Venus

Sarah Dunant

$17.00 $15.64

One of the first historical books set in Italy that I read. Dunant's works are an inspiration for me and my writing.

The Course of Honour

Lindsey Davis

$22.99 $20.69

If you love historical mystery, Davis is one of the true masters. This is the book that began them all, the love story of the Emperor Vespasian and Antonia Caenis.

A Room with a View, Where Angels Fear to Tread

E. M. Forster

$27.95

Lovers of Florence that haven't read these should, right away. Murder, love, class wars and truly beautiful prose to boot.

The Marble Faun

Nathaniel Hawthorne

$9.94 $9.14

Hawthorne was another writer smitten with Italia, and he lovingly describes the city in this novel of art, beauty, humanity and the nature of good and evil.

The Name of the Rose

Umberto Eco

$16.99 $15.63

A strange, medieval mystery set in a monastic library--it's Eco's first, and my favorite.

A Farewell to Arms

Ernest Hemingway

$17.00 $15.64

I only read this for the first time a year or two ago and was surprised how much I loved this story of an ambulance driver in WWI and his love for a nurse.

Italian Folktales

Italo Calvino

$26.00 $23.40

Calvino is one of my favorite authors, and when I saw he had collected all these folktales from all over Italy I was even more a fan. Fantastical, strange, wondrous, moral stories that are infinitely readable and marvelous.

The Tigress of Forli: Renaissance Italy's Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza De' Medici

Elizabeth Lev

$15.99 $14.71

Caterina Sforza was an incredible woman in many ways and this novel brings her heroism to light.

Orphan of Florence

Jeanne Kalogridis

$19.19

Giulia refuses to marry, or go to a nunnery, so she escapes that life and becomes a thief, which works until she's caught by a "magician" who needs an apprentice. A book that was impossible for me to put down.

The Serpent of Venice

Christopher Moore

$15.99 $14.71

Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Othello, Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ plus some sea serpents thrown in for good measure. Fun and funny.

Visit my site at crystalking.com for more on me, my books, Italy, and food history.