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9 amazing books to read before you visit Italy

From Walking in the Dolomites to the zest of Helena Attlee's The Land Where Lemons Grow, Jude Brosnan recommends 9 incredible books to give you a whole new perspective on Italy

Cinque Terre, Italy (Dreamstime)

The Land Where Lemons Grow by Helena Attlee

You'll discover how much you've taken lemons for granted after reading this book. We can all recall cuisine that Italy is famous but citrus fruit might not be at the top of the list.

Helena Attlee has written many books about Italy and in this one she explains with passion how the citrus trees and their fruit have played a radical part in Italy's political and social history.

From the citrus collectors in Renaissance Tuscany, blood oranges in the shadow of Mount Etna, to Limonaie on Lake Garda. Voted Food Book of the Year in 2015 by The Guild of Food Writers, Atlee marries food and travel writing in perfect matrimony.

SPQR by Mary Beardundefined

Buy it here: www.stanfords.co.uk/SPQR-A-History-of-Ancient-Rome

This international bestseller by Mary Beard tells the history of Ancient Rome. Taking its title from the Roman catchphrase, Senatus Populus Que Romanus meaning 'The Senate and People of Rome', Beard takes on the epic task of explaining a thousand years of Roman history.

In her trademark style that you may be familiar with from her TLS blog 'A Don's Life', she revels how Rome grew into a global superpower and how its influence continues to be so important in culture, politics and how we see the world today.

At +500 pages, this is a hefty book but only physically as Beard has made it easy to digest by telling engaging stories and debunking myths.

Scent of a Woman by Giovanni Arpinoundefined

Buy it here: www.stanfords.co.uk/Scent-of-a-Woman

Made somewhat more famous by the two acclaimed films it inspired, the first in 1979, starring Vittorio Gassman, and the second in 1992, starring Al Pacino, Giovanni Arpino's 1969 novel about the journey shared between two soldiers has become a well-known tale.

Narrated by the younger soldier who is acting as a guide and accompanying the other soldier who, following a bomb explosion, is blind, with a prosthetic arm and 20 years his senior, their week-long journey takes them to bars, brothels and train carriages from Turin, through Genoa and Rome to Naples.

The youthful optimism of the narrator and the worldly, brash, irritability of the veteran make the pair interesting travel companions.

Welcome to Unspoilt Puglia


Buy it here: www.stanfords.co.uk/Welcome-to-Unspoilt-Puglia

The Pugliese have a word that refers to the notion of strong devotion to one's home, 'campanilismo', and this guide is full of it. Billed as 'an impressionistic photographic journey through Italy's most intriguing region', this is in fact, the only English language guide to this region that forms the heel of boot shaped Italy.

Split into provinces, this is a very visual guide that shows off the photogenic Pugliese landscapes and focuses on Puglia's historical and cultural heritage.

Deliberately steering clear of dishing out meticulous itineraries, as it goes against the relaxed pace, this guide states details that allow you to roam around and take everything in.


Wild Swimming Italyundefined

Buy it here: www.stanfords.co.uk/Wild-Swimming-Italy

Swim your way around Italy's hot springs, waterfalls, rivers, beaches and lakes. This comprehensive guide is divided by region but also suggests the best places for hot springs, blue pools, waterfalls, jumping, campsites, history and ruins, waterside food, skinny dipping, wild camping, kids and families, canyons boats and canoeing.

With fantastic photography, informative maps, tips on what to bring (basically just a swimming costume, if that), how to be wild and safe and lots more. The book is expertly written by Michele Tameni, who grew up on the shores of Lake Garda and has been exploring Italy's swimming locations since he was a child.

A Florence Diary by Diana Athillundefined

Buy it here: www.stanfords.co.uk/A-Florence-Diary

Athill describes her first magical experience of travelling abroad, to Florence in 1947, a two-week holiday that was a gift to her and her cousin from her aunt to celebrate the end of World War II.

"Keep a diary for me," asked her mother and A Florence Diary is just that. In an age before cheap and fast travel, in a world recovering from a trauma, this is an innocent, short, sweet account of a trip that ignited a spark for travel in the author. It's a wonderful reminder that if you don't already, you really should document your trips, no matter how small.

It includes lots of funny insights such as, "From our enormous popularity at the end, we deduce that we must, as usual, have over-tipped like mad."

Italian Hours by Henry James


Buy it here: www.stanfords.co.uk/Italian-Hours

Henry James had a deep appreciation for Italy, visiting it many times and using it as a setting for some of his novels. This is a collection of essays and travelogues that he wrote between 1873 and 1909.

As well as a record of the rise in tourism to the country and the period of change that was occurring at this time, he makes wonderful observations on Italian art and architecture.

If you are a fan of his novels, you'll love reading about his love affair with Italy and having him as a tour guide, using the familiar Henry James style of prose.


Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere by Jan Morris


Buy it here: www.stanfords.co.uk/Trieste-The-Meaning-of-Nowhere

We all have places that we have visited that have, for some or no reason, just fallen in love with. Jan Morris captures this relationship between people and places perfectly.

She begins by explaining how Trieste isn't an iconic city. It has no unforgettable landmark or unmistakable cuisine and is tucked away between the Adriatic coast and the Slovenian boarder. However, this place stirs up memories and feelings that make it so personally significant to her at certain times in her life.

She writes, "For me, Trieste is an allegory of limbo, in the secular sense of an indefinable hiatus." This book will give you a great understanding of Trieste and Jan Morris.

Walking in the Dolomites undefined

Buy it here: www.stanfords.co.uk/Walking-in-the-Dolomites

Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009, the breathtaking alpine scenery of the Dolomites attracts lots of walkers. This Cicerone guide contains 25
two- to three-day routes, the majority of which are circular.

Divided regionally, each individual Dolomite group is explored and includes Brenta Dolomites, Sella Massif traverses, Pelmo and Marmolada tours. The introduction explains what first-timers can expect in terms of geology, flora and fauna as well as useful information on getting there, accommodation, food and drink.

The walks themselves contain information on start/finish points, distance, difficulty (using classified grading), ascent/descent, walking time, a 1:25,000 map and access details on getting to the start location.


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