The best books on Italy: we've asked novelists, academics and one chef to recommend which books to read to learn more about Italy, its food, its culture and its history.
If you’re going to look at the past, you have to understand the people who were living there and see the world through their eyes, says historian and Renaissance specialist Kenneth Bartlett. He explains that while Machiavelli is much misunderstood and maligned, Donald Trump is a Machiavellian in the truest sense of the word. He picks the best books of the Italian Renaissance.
From her early novellas to the Neapolitan quartet, the elusive Elena Ferrante has achieved deserved superstar status for the compulsively readable, addictive quality of her writing. Two of the authors of The Ferrante Letters, Sarah Chihaya and Merve Emre, introduce us to Ferrante and recommend what to read next after My Brilliant Friend.
Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy has inspired countless thinkers and writers since it was first published almost 700 years ago. Here, Dante scholar and author Nick Havely picks the best five books on how one medieval poet had such a lasting impact on world literature, and how Dante’s vitality transmits into modern culture.
Catiline’s War, The Jugurthine War, Histories
Sallust (trans. AJ Woodman)
Res Gestae Divi Augusti: Text, Translation, and Commentary
by Alison Cooley (editor) & Augustus
Rome's Cultural Revolution
by Andrew Wallace-Hadrill
The Neighborhoods of Augustan Rome
by J. Bert Lott
by Karl Galinsky
Is it possible that Augustus was not the first Roman emperor, but the last of Rome’s great populist champions? That’s what classicist Peter Wiseman argues in his book, The House of Augustus: A Historical Detective Story. Drawing on a lifetime of research and writing on this period, the emeritus professor of classics and ancient history gives a brilliant overview of the Augustan age, and recommends what to read to better understand the adopted son of Julius Caesar, who found Rome in brick and left it in marble.
The Two Mafias: A Transatlantic History, 1888-2008
by Salvatore Lupo
Men of Honour: the Truth about the Mafia
by Judge Giovanni Falcone
La Sicilia e gli Alleati: Tra Occupazione e Liberazione
by Manoela Patti
Mafia Life: Love, Death and Money at the Heart of Organised Crime
by Federico Varese
by Clare Longrigg
The three biggest Italian mafias remain a powerful presence, with tentacles reaching deep inside Italian business and politics, but our understanding of them is marred by myths and misconceptions. Professor John Dickie of University College London, author of three books on the mafia, recommends what to read to get a better understanding of what the mafia really is.
Journalists are no longer able to properly investigate organised crime in modern Italy — leaving it to crime fiction writers to pick up the slack, says the acclaimed Italian novelist, Massimo Carlotto. Here he chooses five noir novels that explore the reality of Italian corruption in highly original ways.