Mirror Mirror is a fantasy novel set in 16th Century Italy, delving into a world of dwarves and mystery. The noble man Don Vicente de Nevada finds a mirror at the beginning of the book in a pond on his farm in Montefiore, in and amongst the rolling hills of Tuscany. Don Vicente decides to bring the mirror, which was crafted by dwarves, back to his house where he lives with his daughter Bianca de Nevada.
Lily Collins played Bianca de Nevada in the 2012 film adaptation
The two live peacefully on their farm with their beloved cook and Priest and have hardly a care in the world. Yet one day a noble entourage makes the ascent to where they live, heavily interrupting their lives. The entourage includes the two children of an immoral Pope who clearly did not stick to his vows, named Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. Cesare sends Don Vicente on a mission to bring back the relic of the Tree of Knowledge which he so desires, and Bianca is left in the care of Cesare and Lucrezia.
Lucrezia, who is extremely vain and jealous, plots the death of young Bianca, hoping to kill her in the woods located beneath the family farm. This however proves more difficult than imagined in a forest which seems to have eyes and ears. The story has been compared by some to Snow White, with Bianca as our hero and Lucrezia as the wicked Queen. It is extremely well written, breathing fresh life into the genre and has been one of the most popular books set in Italy ever since its release in 2003. As with many other books set in Italy, it was made into a film in 2012 starring Julia Roberts and Lily Collins.
The latest on our series of books set in Italy, Mark Helprin’s novel, “A Soldier of the Great War”, inspects how war can overshadow the rest of your life. The story follows Alessandro Giuliani from a noble Roman family, who, as a young man, climbed the Italian Alps and rode horses across the countryside. He had even fallen in love while studying at the University of Bologna before the Great War intervened.
Depiction of the Battle of Doberdò, fought in August 1916 between the Italian and the Austro-Hungarian armies.
The book takes us on the journey from the perspective of an older Alessandro, who is retelling the story of his life to a travelling companion in 1964. The book reflects on love and loss and Italy during the war. Alessandro was serving in the North, but was sent to Sicily to search for deserters. Alessandro became a deserter himself and was sent to prison. The story follows what he has learnt over the course of his lifetime and shows how war can change a person’s outlook irrevocably.
Today in our series of books set in Italy, we bring you Paolo Giordano’s first novel, The Solitude of Prime Numbers. Published in 2008, it has since sold more than a million copies globally, winning him the prestigious Italian writers’ award, the Premio Strega.
The story focuses on the lives of two characters, Alice, who was left physically scarred by a skiing accident, and Mattia, who lost his disabled twin sister in the park when he abandoned her for a friend’s birthday party. Both were aged 8 when the events occurred, and as teenagers, the two are lonely at school as they struggle with their past. The author uses the metaphor of ‘prime numbers’ – always alone – to describe them, yet Alice and Mattia become close, although their relationship never becomes romantic.
Later, Mattia, who is a budding mathematician, is offered a job which takes him miles away from Alice and the two appear to have lost touch until Alice sees someone who she thinks could be Mattia’s lost sister.
You might not recognise this as one of the books set in Italy, but we are glad to say you’d be wrong! The book follows an American woman who, unhappy with her marriage and career, decides to embark on a voyage to discover happiness which covers Italy, India and Indonesia. While the praying happens in India, and she falls in love in Indonesia, the first part of the book, ‘eat’, is based in Italy – where else could it have been – where the main character lands in Rome. The author, Elizabeth Gilbert, who intends to learn how to speak Italian, falls in love with the food in the country and spends her time sampling the best that Italian cuisine has to offer.
Upon arrival in the Italian capital, the author makes three Italian friends who teach her the language and how to enjoy life whilst doing nothing. She also manages to fall in love with one of the most important parts of the food culture, the gelato, memorably even managing to eat it for breakfast. As the author discovers from a local bus driver, the best place to eat ice cream is Il Gelato di San Crispino, which has several branches throughout Rome and many different flavours to test.
Julia Roberts plays Elizabeth Gilbert in the 2010 film version of the film
As Italian introduced the expression ‘la dolce vita’, it is not difficult to imagine why the Italian phase of the trip is all about rediscovering enjoyment for the author. After all, what better place to revive a lust for life than with the pleasures that Italy has to offer? Like many others before her, the author is sad to leave Italy behind when the time comes to move onto the next stage of her journey.
The setting is Porto Vergogna, a small Italian coastal town in April 1962. A young hotelier, Pasquale, is daydreaming about his future when a boat appears on the horizon and docks by the cove. A beautiful American actress, Dee Moray, alights.
Dee has just finished filming Cleopatra in Rome, and is supposedly dying from stomach cancer. She rooms in Pasquale’s hotel, waiting for her lover. Pasquale then plays a ‘walk-on role’ in Dee’s story until she disappears.
Fast forward 50 years to when an elderly Italian man wearing a fedora goes to Hollywood looking for a long-forgotten actress.
Although not one of the most well-known books set in Italy, this intricate novel shows everyone as being a character in everyone else’s ‘script’. Life imitates art, and reality becomes skewed when there are ‘appearances’ from Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, the stars of Cleopatra.
This book took Walter 15 years to create, but the end result was definitely worth the wait.
The latest on our series of books set in Italy and ninth in the Argeneau series of books, Vampire Interrupted carries on where the previous book left off. Set in London, York and Italy, we get to learn more about seven hundred year-old Marguerite Argeneau who has got herself a career. She’s training to be a private investigator, and her first task is to find Christian Notte’s (an immortal) mother. It would appear to be a simple enough assignment, until she wakes up to find herself at the worrying end of a sword. Marguerite realizes that she’s in much deeper than she thought.
Julius Notte feels the need to protect Marguerite, and not only due to the fact that someone just tried to kill her. Marguerite is unaware of the fact that she’s his life-mate and he’s determined to win her over. Although more than five hundred years have passed since he last dated a woman, he figures the techniques can’t have changed that much, can they?
Fun, entertaining and answering lots of questions from the saga, ‘Vampire Interrupted’ is a fabulous holiday read.
Conor Fitzgerald now lives in Rome and The Dogs of Rome is the first in a set of three novels by him featuring Commissario (Chief Inspector) Blume.
It is one of the hottest days of the year, when Blume is enjoying a quiet lunch in Trastevere. He receives a phone call telling him about a brutal murder a short distance away. The victim is Arturo Clemente, whose widow is an elected member of the Senate. Blume arrives to find investigations are already underway, with a prime suspect having been identified. Blume has to fight to gain control of the investigation, and becomes concerned when discovering shortcuts authorised by one of his superiors. Are events being manipulated from on high? Blume unravels some complex and uncomfortable truths which will shock even him. Will his struggle for justice cost more innocent lives?
We found this to be a compelling and interesting read set in one of our most favourite cities. It was given numerous positive reviews.
This book by Amanda Craig is a modern re-working of the one of Shakespeare’s classic comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It tells the story of a family holidaying with friends at the Casa Luna in Cortona, Tuscany and has been described by the Daily Mail in the UK as being ‘The most accomplished reinvention of Shakespeare’s Dream since Peter Brook’s influential RSC production in 1970.’
The name “Love in Idleness” comes from the original Shakespeare’s work. In it, a white pansy was struck by Cupid’s arrows, turning into a magic love flower of a purple colour. When used on someone, the potion obtained from this magic pansy causes this person to fall in love. With this metaphore, Shakespeare wanted to illustrate how crazy and irrational love can be.
It takes a simple premise, given a fresh twist. What seems to be a light-hearted comedy deepens into an examination of the sometimes blurred area between love and imagination. The three children in the novel (Bron, Tania and Robbie) play the fairies, thereby precipitating the complicated love affairs of the adults around them. The characters are well-written and the landscape around Cortona is superbly evoked. It is both intelligent and playful and is the kind of novel that makes for perfect summer reading, preferably while lying on an Italian beach.
Under The Tuscan Sun is the story of Frances Mayes and how she completely rebuilds her life by buying an old villa in Tuscany.
Frances is on holiday to Tuscany trying to recover from the breakdown of her marriage. A series of coincidences keep bringing her back to an old villa for sale in Cortona and, on a whim, she buys it. Gradually Frances makes new friends and she hires a group of polish immigrants to help with the renovations of the villa. When Frances helps a young couple in love overcome family opposition she starts to believe in love again and the book ends with the possibility of future romance when Frances meets an American writer.
The memoir includes several chapters of recipes if you want to bring a little touch of Tuscany into your home. We recommend that you read the book before watching the 2003 adaptation to film by director Audrey Wells, so you have a chance of imagining the beautiful scenery first. All in all, Under The Tuscan Sun conjures such a beautiful picture that you will want to see Tuscany for yourself!