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Other Books About Italy

Pauline Kenny

This is my list of books about Italy that, in my opinion, are not as exceptional as those on Pauline's Picks or are not available any more. Remember, these are just my opinions - yours might be very different! Go to www.slowtalk.com (the Slow Travel message board) where you might read very different opinions of these same books.

Consider These ...

Dario Castagno, Too Much Tuscan Sun: Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guide, self published, 2002
Dario has been a tour guide for many years and in this book he takes you through a year living in Chianti and inserts stories of his mostly American clients. I felt the book was disjointed and insulting to your average American tourist. Dario says it is just a humorous approach and is all in good fun. Not my type of humor, I guess! But many people on SlowTalk love this book. Read it if you are going to Chianti (and if you plan to hire a guide - find out what they are really thinking).

Isabella Dusi, Vanilla Beans and Brodo: Real Life in the Hills of Tuscany , Simon & Schuster, 2001
An Australian woman marries an Italian man in Australia, they move to Montalcino in southern Tuscany and she leaves her type A past behind. Lots of details about Montalcino - the history and the town. I never made it through this book, but several people on the message board love it. Read it if you are going to Montalcino.

Robert J. Hutchinson, When in Rome: A Journal of life in Vatican City, Main Street Books, 1998
Good details about Rome and the Vatican - if you are interested in the Vatican. I am not.

Darlene Marwitz, Italy Fever, Portico Press, 2000
A strange book about wanting to go to Italy and how to do things here in the US to remind you of Italy. Self-published.

Allan Parker, Seasons in Tuscany, Penguin Books, 2000
This book was published in New Zealand and England, but I found it in the book store in Pienza on our last trip. It was written by a New Zealand journalist who was on a round the world trip when he got a house-sitting job in Tuscany and fell in love with an American living in England. She quit her job and moved to Tuscany with him. It is your typical Italy memoir in many ways - follows a year of his life, much local history and local events. Not the most exciting book, but fun to read if you know the area. His house is between Petroio and Trequanda. Read a few more notes about the book.

Charles Richards, The New Italians, Penguin, 1994
A detailed look at real life in Italy. It looks good, but I haven't made my way through it yet.

Jeff Shapiro, Renato's Luck, Perennial, 2000
This is a novel, written by an American who lives in Italy, about a fictional town in Tuscany near Pienza. There is a horrible scene of a car crash on the Siena-Bettole highway that I could too easily picture. But I didn't really like the novel that much. I thought it was a bit lame as a novel and might have been better if he just wrote a memoir - but it did have some good parts.

Ginda Ayd Simpson, Deeply Rooted in Faith and Family, self published, no date (order from the author)
This is a journal style book, written in the first person, about Ginda and her family and their love of Italy. The book follows the author and her husband moving from Egypt, searching for the perfect farmhouse, buying it, moving into it, spending a month in Florence studying art and Italian. You also read about Ginda's connection with her relatives in Calabria and about the wedding of her oldest daughter (who gets married in the ancestral home in Calabria). On the whole, it is a cheerful and very positive book - the writing is mostly about feelings and emotions (mostly happiness).

Don't Bother With These ...

Martin Attwood, Before the Palio, Arti Tipografiche Toscane, 1998
A badly written, self-obsessed story of an English man who moves to Italy in the 1970's, and eventually has an affair with a much younger local woman. The affair ends. I think this book is his revenge on her. I bought this in a bookstore in Siena in 1999. Still, I enjoyed reading it for the daily details. He explains how charcoal was traditionally made.

Merrill Joan Gerber, Botticelli Blue Skies: An American in Florence, The University of Wisconsin Press, 2002
Strange story about someone who spends three months in Florence.

Jean Giono, An Italian Journey, The Marlboro Press, 1953
A travel book originally written in French in the 1950s by "one of the leading novelists of the twentieth century" (from the book jacket). Even though I have never heard of him, I though it would be interesting. It really wasn't.

David Leavitt and Mark Mitchell, Italian Pleasures, Chronicle Books, 1996
I remember this as a disjointed collection of very short stories about Italy. Not that interesting. I did enjoy the book they wrote after this, In Maremma.

Sandra Swanson, A Summer in Tuscany, 1stBooks, 2000
A badly written, boring, self-indulgent journal by a woman who spent a summer in Tuscany - one summer, her first summer. The forward to the book says she tells you how "live Italian", but she gives very few details. Most of her practical information is about shopping at designer stores or outlets. This is not the next Frances Mayes!

Valerie Martin, Italian Fever, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000
I really disliked this book. Don't bother with it.

Laura Fraser, An Italian Affair, Pantheon Books, 2001
I really disliked this book. It is being sold as a book about Italy, when there is more travel information about California than Italy! And it is annoyingly written in the second person - which drives you crazy! Treat this as a light romance novel, not a book about Italy.

Notes from Seasons in Tuscany

Allan Parker, Seasons in Tuscany, Penguin Books, 2000

He talks about Trequanda, Montisi, Castelmuzio, Petroio - the area where we spent 3 weeks in Fall 2001.

Interesting notes from the book:

  • There is a fresco by Sodoma (Giovanni Antonio Bazzi) in the main church in Trequanda (on the main piazza). The Ascension.
  • Belsedere is an agritourism estate near Trequanda.
  • Best Trequanda caffe is on main piazza - Bar La Siesta.
  • Petroio's oldest terracotta factory owned by Benocci family - 200 meters inside the town walls. Five terracotta factories are within the town walls - new ones on the outskirts.
  • He knows the owners of the pizzeria in Torrienieri, the one Zak recommends.
  • He talks about the San Giovanni d'Asso truffle festival.

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