Visiting Italy: Real and Imagined

gondolaitalySeven years ago, three years into our marriage, my husband and I started talking about taking a trip to Italy. We decided we would visit this amazing country in the year we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary, and promised each other to start saving money towards that end. We started a “travel” savings account and shifted money there whenever we had a few dollars to do so. We saved, and dreamed, and envisioned sun-drenched vineyards, crumbling Roman ruins, aqua seas, and moonlit gondola rides. This year we celebrate ten years of marriage on May 4th…and we have raided our savings and booked a trip to Italy in October.

I am so excited I cannot seem to think of much else.

The last few days I have been rummaging through my unread stacks of books and pulling out tomes with Italy at their center. Here are the treasures I have found in my piles:


Glassblower PassionofArtemisia TwoFriends critiqueofcriminalreason

The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato

The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland

Two Friends by Alberto Moravia

Critique of Criminal Reason by Michael Gregorio

Non Fiction

i-loved-i-lost PassionOnTheVine YearintheWorld ThousandDays MediterraneanSummer TravelersTalesItaly

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci

Passion on the Vine by Sergio Esposito

A Year in the World by Frances Mayes

A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena De Blasi

Mediterranean Summer: A Season on France’s Cote d’Azur and Italy’s Costa Bella by David Shalleck with Erol Munuz

Travelers’ Tales Italy Edited by Anne Calcagno

I doubt I will read ALL these books before our trip, but I am planning to read at least some of them. And I would LOVE if you have any FICTION recommendations that are set in Italy. I am most interested in reading about the places and history where we will be visiting.


We will be spending time in Rome, Pompeii, Sorrento (and the Amalfi coast), Isle of Capri, Orvieto, Assisi, Perugia, Sienna, Florence, Bologna, Venice (including Murano and Burano), Ravenna, Chianciano Terme, and Montepulciano (one of Tuscany’s highest hill towns)…and all the points in between.

Have you been to Italy? What did you love the most? Are there any books that I should read before I go? Any sights I just should not miss? Inquiring minds want to know!

Please follow and like the blue thistle


Skip to comment form

  1. How exciting! I’m sure you’ll have the time of your lives!

  2. October is the BEST time to go. I am so so so so happy about this, Wendy!

  3. Passion of Artemisia is excellent, as is Leonardo’s Swans by Karen Essex. I also enjoyed Mediterranean Summer, though I warn you, it will make you very hungry! How fun for you to get to do this with your hubby!

    • Susan on February 18, 2013 at 13:55

    My husband & I are also going to Italy this year (for our first times), we are going in late September – so I’m glad you pulled out these books. I’m quite interested in the Thousand Days in Tuscany book you mention. It is quite as exciting for us as well. Enjoy getting ready!

    • Bev Kibby on February 18, 2013 at 16:24

    Congratulations on your 10th Anniv., Wendy and Kip. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years. You will absolutly love Italy. I went from the Swiss. border to Naples where I sailed home from. I especially loved Rome and Florence. So much art and history. The people are friendly and food is good. Watching the glass blowers in Venice is facinating. I didn’t get to the Amalfi Coast and would love to go back someday. I hope you are giving yourself enough time-you can’t rush Italy.
    I can’t suggest any books but it looks like you have quite a selection… You certainly made a great choice and I’ll be waiting to hear all about it

    • Laura on February 18, 2013 at 16:38

    Ooh! Ooh! Italy! You will have such a great time.

    Since you’re planning to visit Florence I highly recommend A Room with a View — but I recommend the film over the book! It’s wonderfully evocative.

    1. We went to Italy two years ago, and I don’t know that I can recommend any books, but I *will* say don’t even think about being on a diet while there, because it was the totally best food we ever had anywhere!!!! (and besides you will walk it off!) :–)

    • Athira on February 18, 2013 at 17:41

    It’s so wonderful that you are visiting Italy in Fall! I hope you have a wonderful time there! 🙂

    • Molly on February 18, 2013 at 17:51

    Oh… good for you, Wendy! It has been a 30 year dream of mine and due to circumstances over the past two weeks, I am afraid that it may never come true. But I look forward to reading your posts of this fabulous trip of al lifetime!!

    • Ali on February 18, 2013 at 18:01

    How exciting! I enjoyed Frances Mayes’ memoir, Under the Tuscan Sun. ( Apparently she has other books set in Tuscany, too, but I only read the first one. I don’t think I ever saw the movie, but the book was good.

  4. Happy Anniversary! What an exciting way to celebrate!

  5. Have a wonderful trip! My husband and I went for Christmas and New Year’s our first year of dating. I also traveled there in 2004 and both trips were amazing. I highly recommend Alice Steinbach’s Without Reservations: Travels of an Independent Woman. Even though you’re not traveling alone, it’s one of the best pieces of travel writing I’ve ever read, and you’ll particularly enjoy her thoughts on Italy.

    • Minttu on February 20, 2013 at 07:08

    Lucky you! Italy is amazing! If you get a chance to simply wander around in the nature at any point in between the cities you visit, it’s amazingly beautiful. I did a half day trek somewhere close to Bologna and it was one of the highlights of my holiday.

    I have visited Bologna, Assisi & Florence and they were all wonderful. Florence has the art and so much history. As an art student it was a heaven to me 🙂 And I should mention the gelato! I have never eaten so much ice cream as I did during my two weeks in Italy and we still didn’t taste even half of the flavours in our local cafe. Every evening me and my friend bought gelato from the cafe and sat on a slope outside. She painted the view and I read my books.

    Sarah Dunant’s Birth of Venus is set in Florence. Haven’t read it myself yet, but a friend recommended it to me a while ago.

  6. Wendy, do you get the magazine Bookmarks? The new issue has a list of books both nonfiction and fiction that are about (or set in) the Italian Renaissance. Let me know if you don’t get the mag and I’ll type you up the list! :–)

  7. I am so excited for you, Wendy! And, I have to admit, just a little bit jealous. Italy is my dream vacation and I know I’ll get there someday. I just wish my husband enjoyed traveling enough to go with me. I should be grateful that he’s willing to go to Napa this fall to celebrate our 25th. 😉

    Please take lots of pictures and notes, so I can plan my trip after your return. I hope to go to Cinque Terre and Positano, as well as Tuscany. Someday!!! Meanwhile, I’m intrigued by Mediterranean Summer. Adding it to my TBR list.

Comments have been disabled.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)