What I Learned About Italy

Coliseum, Rome
Ken in Rome

Has it been five years since we were in Italy? Unbelievable! But Italy stays with you once you have traveled there.

Here’s another of my round-up posts and good books about Italy (read: she’s traveling and not blogging every day).


Author Interview with Susan Van Allen who wrote 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go (Obviously ALL of Italy).

I learned more about some destinations in Italy that I had not heard of, and much about the Venus/Mary connections. But most important, I learned that Italian guys don’t pinch so much any more. (So it wasn’t just because I was getting old!) And of course Susan gave us some great tips on books about Italy.


An Irreverent Curiosity by David Farley, coverIrreverent Curiosity by David Farley (Calcata) and a bonus–interview with David in which he recommends his own favorite Italy books.

In Irreverent Curiosity, Farley goes on a quest for a very unusual relic. I said: If this book were only about one of the thousands of bits and pieces of holy personages that populate Catholic churches (bones, skin, organs), particularly in Italy, I would lose interest fast.  But cleverly, Farley mixes religious history with present day culture, and even the clash of various national cultures together with a crystal clear picture of an idyllic medieval village in Italy.



Naples : View from Certosa San Martino : Posillipo / Mergellina / CapriNaples ’44 by Norman Lewis, (Naples) one of my very favorite travel writers.

Before reading this book, I had NO IDEA how the people of Naples suffered during World War II, and how tragi-comic the miscommunications between troops could be. I wrote:

Sometimes I thought of Naples ’44 as the true forerunner of Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 or M.A.S.H, except that Naples ’44 is not fiction.  Lewis lived through this. The people of Naples lived through it, amazingly.


Italy Out of Hand book CoverItaly Out of Hand: A Capricious Tour (Most of Italy) by Barbara Hodgson is a beautiful book, sensuous to hold, but so much more. Okay, the most fascinating thing? Why the Duke’s portrait was always painted in profile. In May of 2009 I kicked off a whole week in Italy with this book, (which the dog liked too, but you’ll have to read about that on the original post) and I said:

Author Barbara Hodgson dwells on details–some serious, some quite mad–just like the country.  Her attention to detail is such that even the books typeface brings up a little story about a long-forgotten Italian.



St. Peter's Basilica, Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

Michelangelo (Rome and Florence)–This is a very short piece that covers two books and a video and my sad travel tale. Speaking of Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, I said:

The book’s 384 pages may have more details about, say, the mixing of colors, than some readers can tolerate, but I loved every fussy, gossipy moment of it.



Italian Street Scene
Italian Street Scene

A Season with Verona , Italian Neighbors and Italian Education(Verona)  by Tim Parks.

Before I went to Italy, I was happy to find these books by Tim Parks about life in present day Italy.

 Adding books like these to my travel library lifts the curtain that separates cultures, and helps me understand the real world beyond the familiar tourist grounds of hotels and restaurants and museums.


Venice Gondola Traffic Jam
Venice Gondola Traffic Jam

Acqua Alta and other mysteries (Venice)  by Donna Leon. When I wrote that paean to Donna Leon in 2009, she had written 16 mysteries. Now she has produced 4 more plus Brunetti’s Cookbook and several other unrelated books. Her books taught me a lot about present day Venice.

Leon (and Brunetti) also led me to hidden treasures of Venice, and explained the little cultural secrets that sometimes elude a tourist. I went on a Comissario Brunetti alert, recognizing street and plaza names and remembering the crime that took place in a particular canal.

Of course, I have written other things about Italy, books and movies and travel experiences, but these are the best of the books, I believe. A little something from Rome, Florence, Naples, Venice,Verona and the rest of Italy for you to browse on while I am elsewhere.

What’s your latest recommendation for movies and books from Italy?

Instead of overloading you with links to Amazon in this post, I’m hoping if you are interested in a particular book, you’ll go to the article and click on the title OR you can go to that Amazon search box on the far right and find anything you want. It helps pay the rent on my blog site. Thanks!

You’ll find disclaimers on each blog post, but the pictures here belong to me, with the exception of the book covers and the picture of Naples, which is form Flickr with Creative Commons license.

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

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