4 of the Best Novels Set in Italy
A country famed for its striking architecture and rich history, its roots planted firmly within the arts, it is little wonder that dreamlike Italy has long been used as a backdrop for countless films and books. Boasting characteristically rustic towns and villages, embedded within breathtaking countryside and punctuated by some of the world's most iconic monuments, Italy is doused in a sort of otherworldly magic, elements of la dolce vita seeping palpably through the cracks of every cobblestone. Understandably, Italy is a source of artistic inspiration for many.
These novels, each so different in their content and style, are connected by one essential factor: their idyllic Italian setting. From André Aciman's long, lazy summers on the Italian Riviera, to the everyday humdrum of 1950s Naples, as told by Elena Ferrante, here are 4 of the best novels set in Italy.
Call Me By Your Name
André Aciman (@acimanandre)
Released in 2007, this poignant novel is as well-reputed for its stunning portrayal of love as for its poetic, lyrical writing style. Set in rural Liguria during the 1980s, Call Me By Your Name follows primarily the blossoming romance between young, introverted Elio - the narrator - and Oliver, an American research assistant hired by Elio's father. The two men spend the summer together in Elio's family's elegant Italian summer house, lounging in the garden and occasionally cycling into the local town. As the novel progresses, and Elio begins to come to terms with his sexuality, their friendship morphs into something much deeper.
Call Me By Your Name was also adapted into a well-received film in 2017, starring Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet.
The Talented Mr Ripley
One of the most well-loved psychological thrillers of all time, The Talented Mr Ripley follows the life of its eponymous protagonist, Tom Ripley, who travels from New York to Italy in search of fortune. There, he meets Dickie and Marge: a wealthy American couple who spend their days relaxing on luxurious yachts and profiting from their affluent lifestyle. As Ripley's obsession with Dickie grows, strange things start to happen within the sleepy, southern Italian village they are living in. When it emerges that Ripley is wanted by the Italian police, he is forced to flee, and change his identity.
The Talented Mr Ripley was also adapted into a 1999 film, starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwenyth Paltrow.
My Brilliant Friend [L'amica geniale]
Penned by mysterious author Elena Ferrante, whose real identity remains unknown, My Brilliant Friend is one of Italy's most famous contemporary novels, and is the first in a four-part series entitled the Neapolitan Novels. Often considered a pivotal coming-of-age novel, the book is set in a run-down neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples during the 1950s, and explores the lives of two young girls: Elena (the narrator) and Lila. As the two girls grow up, their paths begin to diverge, despite their closeness and their upbringing; the novel acts as a very real, flawed, but beautiful depiction of female friendship, as well as highlighting the difficulties of life in southern Italy during the mid-twentieth century.
My Brilliant Friend has been adapted into an HBO series.
Tender is the Night
F. Scott Fitzgerald
A novel which shines a light onto the darker side of wealth and luxury, Tender is the Night was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald during a particularly difficult period of his life. Split between the glamorous shores of the French Riviera, the dramatic Swiss mountains, and the cobbled streets of Rome, this novel is as much an ode to Europe as it is an exploration of mental health. Following the somewhat complex lives of psychiatrist Dick Diver, his wife Nicole, and young actress Rosemary Hoyt, the book highlights the fact that people are not always what they seem, and that relationships are far more intricate and messy than they may initially appear.