What you should read this summer if you love Italy
The brand new author, C. d'Angelo, and I talked about her two new books. We also chatted about our top choice best summer reads with an Italian flair.
C. D'Angelo's two books are perfect for light and easygoing poolside or at-the-beach summer reads. C. D'Angelo is passionate about Italian food and everything Italy so get ready to take a dive into tasty recipes and virtual trips to some charming spots in Italy.
Have a listen to our chat about her books and our top choice reads for summer 2022.
The Difference was released in 2021, and The Visitor is a brand new May 2022 release.
Both books use the backdrop of a love story to dig into some historical Italian stories. Newly published The Visitor takes place in New Orleans and recounts the fascinating Italian American history in New Orleans, like the Spaghetti District and pasta production back in the late 18 century and early 19 century.
C. D'Angelo also shares the story of a lynching of Italian Americans in New Orleans back in the 1800s.
Best summer reads if you're traveling to Italy…
Here's what you should read before you pack your bags, or on the plane, to get you warmed up and in the mood for your destination. Or perhaps you'd just like to make a virtual trip to Italy.
Books that take place Rome
Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr
I always head back to this book even though I've read it many times: it's delightful. While Doerr was living in Rome as an American Academy fellow he struggled to write his Pulitzer Prize winning book All the Light We Cannot See. That year was his first living experience overseas - and with six-month-old twin boys. He didn’t apply for the award and was nominated anonymously. The day Anthony Doerr and his family returned home from the hospital with the twins he received the letter from the American Academy announcing his award and fellowship. Six months later he and his family headed off to Rome for their experience of a lifetime.
The full title of the book is Four Seasons in Rome: on twins, insomnia, and the biggest funeral in the history of the world. I enjoy reading parts of the book over and over; the book makes me giggle with delight and reminds me what it was like when I first fell in love with Rome. That first impact tasting certain foods, random encounters with Italian people, the beauty of the city and especially the light and reflections: “… the whole city looks spectral, insubstantial. As we watch, two clouds uncouple and a fan of sunlight surges through the gap, sending a wave of orange across the domes, crashing against the sides of apartment buildings, breaking across a massive white marble…”
His description of winter vegetables is enchanting: “…one type of cauliflower white as cotton, another purple as dusk; sheaves of young leeks with mud still packed in their roots; basins of squash; tiny, spherical potatoes like miniature moons… red-leaf lettuce are aloof and silent; they burn like torch flames… emerald piles of spinach, the orange pyramids of carrots…”
If you haven't read this book grab it; it's a short delightful book you can almost read in an afternoon.
The Latinist by Mark Prins
The Latinist was just published this year and is full of great reviews, including this review in the Washington Post: "the perfect suspense novel to kick off your [summer] reading". I love a good thriller and this certainly is one. It's an academic thriller that takes place at Oxford University, in Rome and at an archaeological dig in Ostia Antica south of Rome. In many ways it's a retelling of the Apollo and Daphne myth and if you've ever seen this Bernini sculpture you'll understand that it's a wonderful reinterpretation of this tale. Mark Prins is a scholar and fluent in Latin so all fictional Latin references from the archaeological dig were written by Prins himself.
You can visit Ostia Antica with a local archaeologist - book your tour here.
Best summer reads that take place in and around Naples
The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
There are four books in this series by Italian author Elena Ferrante: My Brilliant Friend (2012), The Story of a New Name (2013), Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (2014), and The Story of the Lost Child (2015). Ferrante (a pseudonym) views her four books as a single novel published serially. The books follow the lives of two Neapolitan girls, Elena ("Lenù") Greco and Raffaella ("Lila") Cerullo, from childhood into adulthood and old age. The series starts off as coming of age stories and continues throughout the lives of both women as they pave their way in a poor neighborhood of Naples, Italy. If you haven't yet read this series then this summer is the perfect time to dig into these four delightful books.
Me, You by Erri De Luca
Right now my favorite Italian author is Erri De Luca. He's relatively unknown in the United States most probably because few of his books have been translated into English. He's the most prolific contemporary Italian author and has published over 50 books. Erri De Luca was born in Naples in 1950 and now lives in the Lake Bracciano area outside of Rome. In 2013 he won the European Prize for Literature. De Luca’s works published in English include Me, You, The Day Before Happiness, Three Horses: A Novel, and God’s Mountain (Montedidio).
You can also read The Trench, a story published online in the New Yorker Magazine.
Start off with Me, You: it’s a short and easy read, almost more of a novella than a novel. It takes place on the island of Ischia right off the Neapolitan coast, immediately following the second world war. It's also a coming-of-age book of sorts but much more and a perfect summer read.
De Luca just published a brand new book which for the moment is only available in Italian: Spizzichi e Bocconi. It recounts De Luca’s personal food memories from his life growing up in Naples and also includes a collection of recipes. As soon as it's translated into English be sure to grab it; it's delightful. You can purchase the Kindle version in Italian here.
A book that take place in Venice
The Prisoner of Paradise by Rob Samborn
The Prisoner of Paradise takes place in Venice and switches back-and-forth between the present day and the late 16th century. It's a mystery cum time travel. The present day main character Nick is also Angelo Mascari from the 16th century. Nick is torn between his life with his wife and soulmate Julia and his life as Angelo Mascari with Isabella Scalfini. It's only when Nick travels to Venice and lays eyes on Tintoretto's Paradise and a woman in the painting, Isabella, that he's transported back to his life with her as Angelo Mascari.
The book has plenty of mystery, suspense and intrigue on how the souls became trapped in Tintoretto's painting. If you enjoy mystery, time travel, secret society intrigue and fantasy, and you love Venice you'll have fun with this book.
The Venice canals, narrow calle and winter fog add to the sense of intrigue in the book.
Books about notable Italian women to add to your best summer reads 2022
Nisa - A Woman, Her War by Ettore Farrattini Pojani
Ettore Farrattini Pojani, Palazzo Farrattini Amelia (Umbria) owner, has written two books and a third is underway. Although not exactly a trilogy, the three books go hand-in-hand and represent different parts of Ettore's personal and family history, and the history of Palazzo Farrattini and Amelia.
The first book, Nisa - A Woman, Her War recounts the story of a woman and her family during World War II. It takes place in Rome and the beautiful Umbrian hilltown, Amelia. Nisa is Ettore’s maternal grandmother.
Chewing the Fat, an Oral History of Italian Foodways from Fascism to Dolce Vita
by Karima Moyer-Nocchi
This book delves into an exploration of Italian women and food during WWII and the fascist era that represents a departure from the romantic vision of Italian cuisine and food that many people believe has always existed. During the fascist period food was scarce. Most Italian women during WWII weren't cooking up all of the delectable Italian classical recipes we have come to view as part of a longstanding Italian culinary history. Instead many Italians were barely able to get food on the table and were sometimes close to starvation. They often subsisted on a monophagic diet, in other words they ate the same food over and over, meal after meal, day after day. This was especially the case in southern Italy. A fascinating book...and some great recipes!
La Marchesa Colombi by Maria Teresa Cometto
Maria Teresa Cometto writes about two trailblazing women in 19th century Italy. The book La Marchesa Colombi was published in 2020 and her book on Emma Stebbins will be published this fall 2022.
The Marchesa Colombi was born in 1840 and died in 1920 at age 80. Her career was mainly in the second half of the 19th century. She was the very first woman journalist for the Corriere della Sera. She wrote numerous books (over 40) most of which were translated into French, German and English - published in both Great Britain and America.
The Marchesa Colombi was a prolific writer - 40 plus books - and she adopted a modern writing style that was highly successful. She often wrote about women’s issues, like her book In Risaia which used a fictional format to talk about women’s poor working conditions in the rice fields of Novara in northern Italy.
A brand new book for your summer reading list
The Angel of Rome: and Other Stories by Jess Walter
This second collection of Jess Walker's shorts published on June 28 2022 is "a glorious addition to the oeuvre, with a much brighter mood than its gloomy predecessor. The title story, which began its life as an Audible original, is a mini Beautiful Ruins, including an Italian setting, beautiful movie-star character, and heartbreakingly adorable but benighted male protagonist, here a blue-collar boy from Nebraska whose year abroad involves church-sponsored Latin lessons at a “papal community college” in a Roman industrial building. This. Story. Is. So. Damn. Funny. And almost ridiculously heartwarming. But the same can be said of many of the others, no matter how apparently depressing their topic." says Kirkus Reviews.
Books C. d'Angelo suggests for your summer reads
Other Italy book recommendations
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