Moving to Italy For Members

Eight of the best books to read before moving to Italy

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected]
Eight of the best books to read before moving to Italy
A woman reads a book in Venice’s famous Acqua Alta library. Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

If you’re planning on upping sticks and moving to Italy, there are some reads that can help you get a useful insight into the nuances of life in the country. Please tell us your own recommendations.


If you'd like to leave your own recommendation please tell us in the comments section or via the survey at the bottom of the page.

Il Bel Centro: A Year in the Beautiful Centre

Il Bel Centro (‘The Beautiful Centre’) is a journal-format account of American author Michelle Damiani and her family’s life in the small hilltop town of Spello, Umbria for a year.

The book gives a unique glimpse into what living in rural central Italy is like, exploring local customs, culinary traditions and community lore.

READ ALSO: Nine things to expect if you move to rural Italy

There are also details about the challenges faced by Damiani’s family, ranging from red tape and queues at the local post office to language difficulties and tough decisions about her children’s education.

Living In Italy: the Real Deal

This is an engaging and insightful account of Dutch author Stef Smulders and his partner’s relocation to the countryside south of Pavia, Lombardy.

It paints a vivid picture of the joys and challenges of life in northern Italy, including some amusing anecdotes and observations about experiencing the country as a straniero.

READ ALSO: 'How we left the UK to open a B&B in a Tuscan village'

For those interested in buying property (and setting up a B&B) in Italy, it stores useful information and lots of practical advice along the way.

La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind

In La Bella Figura (‘The Good Impression’) author and journalist Beppe Severgnini chooses to do away with idealised notions of Italy, giving a witty tour of the country and of Italians’ subconscious. 


The book explores some of the most paradoxical Italian habits, touching on the places where locals are most likely to reveal their true authentic self: airports, motorways and the office.

As Severgnini puts it, the book is an insight into how life in Italy can “have you fuming and then purring in the space of a hundred metres or ten minutes”.

The Sweetness of Doing Nothing

This book from Rome resident Sophie Mincilli explores the Italian philosophy of finding pleasure in small things, whether that be basking in the sun while sipping on a coffee, being immersed in nature…or simply being idle.

Rome cafe

A waiter serves coffee to customers at a cafe in Campo dei Fiori, central Rome, in 2009. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP

The book shares suggestions and advice to help you savour life’s ordinary moments the Italian way.

Four Seasons in Rome

This is an account of US author Anthony Doerr’s full year in the Eternal City after receiving the Rome Prize – one of the most prestigious awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

READ ALSO: Six things foreigners should expect if they live in Rome

The book charts the writer’s adventures in the capital: from visiting old squares and temples to taking his newborn twins to the Pantheon in December to wait for snow to fall through the oculus.


There are also very amusing details about Doerr’s interaction with local residents, including butchers, grocers and bakers.

Italian Neighbours: An Englishman in Verona

Manchester-born author Tim Parks wrote Italian Neighbours in 1992, but many, if not most of his observations about the delights and foibles of small town life in northern Italy are just as valid today as they were over 30 years ago.

The book chronicles Parks’s move to Montecchio, in the Verona province, and how he and his Italian wife became accustomed to the quirky habits of their new neighbours.

Parks is also the author of other bestselling books about life in Italy, including An Italian Education, which recounts the milestones in the life of the writer's children as they go through the Italian school system, and Italian Ways, a journey through Italian culture and ways of life based on experiences made while travelling by train.

Extra Virgin

Originally published in 2000, worldwide bestseller Extra Virgin is an account of author Annie Hawes and her sister’s move to a rundown farmhouse in Diano San Pietro, a small village deep among the olive groves of Liguria’s riviera. 


The book is a fascinating tale of how the two British sisters adjusted to life among olive farmers and eccentric card-playing locals and a window into Liguria’s culinary and social traditions.

READ ALSO: Interview: ‘Having an olive grove takes a lot of guts, but it’s worth it’

Burnt by the Tuscan Sun

In Burnt by the Tuscan Sun (a play on bestselling book Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes) American blogger Francesca Maggi offers a series of humorous essays delving into some of the trials and tribulations of daily life in Italy. 

There are details about Italy’s notorious bureaucracy, bad drivers, quirky local habits and superstitions, and even the beloved mamma of every Italian household.

Which other essential reads would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below or via the survey.





Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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helen 2024/04/05 09:22
Thin paths by Julia Blackburn Julia Blackburn and her husband moved to a little house in the mountains of northern Italy in 1999. She arrived as a stranger but a series of events brought her close to the old people of the village and they began to tell her their stories. Of how their village had been trapped in an archaic feudal system and owned by a local padrone who demanded his share of all they had, of the eruption of the Second World War, of the conflict between the fascists and the partisans, of death and fear and hunger of how they hid like like foxes in the mountains. 'Write it down for us,' they said, 'because otherwise it will all be lost.'
Susie 2024/04/02 22:28
I thoroughly enjoyed Graham Hoffman’s “Lorenzo’s Vest”. Laugh out loud funny. He’s got a few more titles to add to the collection.
William 2024/04/02 20:56
The Dark Heart of Italy by Tobias Jones is excellent - twenty-odd years old but the essential truth of it hasn't changed.
Sam Cross 2024/04/02 20:46
I recommend two British writers: Eric Newby - 'A Small Place in Italy', about buying, renovating and living in a small cottage in Tuscany. Newby was a British soldier captured in Italy by the Germans in WWII, recounted in his 'Love and War in the Appennines', about his escape aided by local partisans, including a girl, Wanda, who became his future wife. A beautiful story. Tim Parks - 'Italian Neighbours: An Englishman in Verona' - many simpatico insights into small-town Italian life.
Kate V 2024/04/02 19:06
La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind was published in 2007, Have things changed much since then, or is it still an accurate reflection of the Italian character?
Ginger Hamilton 2024/04/02 18:43
Highly recommend the “A Rosie Life in Italy” series by Rosie Meleady, the delightfully written true story of an Irish couple’s move to Italy, purchase of a home, the process of rehabbing it, and their life near Lago di Trasimeno. Available on Amazon.
Mary Austern 2024/04/02 13:39
Highly recommend Jan Morris', "Venice." A personal view, beautifully written. Per Goodreads: "The classic evocation of Venice, acclaimed as one of the finest books ever written about the city...'Entertaining, ironical, witty, high spirited and appreciative . . . Both melancholy and gay and worldly, I think of it now as among the best books on Venice; indeed as the best modern book about a city that I have ever read."
Brett 2024/04/01 20:55
I also recommend Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words / In Altre Parole, which tells her story of learning Italian. The book is written in both Italian and English, presented on opposite pages, so it’s also a nice learning tool!

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