Ten holiday books for a trip to Italy

Rome, Florence, Naples, Venice, Pisa, Milan… Italy is a true paradise for art and culture lovers. The beautiful weather, delicious food, tasty wine and beautiful nature make the country one of the most important tourist destinations in the world. What better way to prepare a trip to Italy than by informing yourself about the country in the best non-fiction works of Fik Meijer, Luc Verhuyck or Ross King? Or by immersing yourself in novels by top Italian writers such as Niccolò Ammaniti, Sandro Veronesi or Paolo Giordano? These books immediately evoke that wonderful holiday feeling… even on a rainy afternoon in the Netherlands.

Table of contents

  • Niccolò Ammaniti – I’ll pick you up, I’ll take you with me
  • Giovannino Guareschi – Don Camillo and his flock
  • Sandro Veronesi – Calm chaos
  • Paolo Giordano – The loneliness of prime numbers
  • Fabio Genovesi – Feeding fish
  • Ross King – Brunelleschi’s Dome
  • Luc Verhucyk – Florence. Anecdotal travel guide to Florence
  • Fik Meijer – The Mediterranean Sea. A personal history
  • Saskia Balmaekers – Ciao tutti. A journey of discovery through Italy
  • Marc Leijendekker – The land of curls. Culture guide for Italian life


Niccolò Ammaniti – I’ll pick you up, I’ll take you with me

Publisher Lebowski / 1999 / 419 pages / ISBN 9789048801305
Niccolò Ammaniti (1966) is seen by many critics as one of the best contemporary Italian writers. His books have been translated into many languages, including Dutch – and are selling like hot cakes in our language area. For example , I’ll pick you up, I’ll take you along, published in 1999, sold more than three hundred thousand copies. In the fictional village of Ischiano Scalo, the lives of three completely different characters come together. There is the adult macho Graziano Biglia, who returned to the village with his great love Erica to open a shop. The other two main characters are young people: Pietro and Gloria – one comes from a poor, deprived background, the other has been privileged by life. Ammaniti knows how to masterfully connect their lives in his well-known style: powerful sentences, sometimes even labeled as one-liners, and a brisk pace: ideal holiday reading.
Ammaniti’s other best-selling books include Let the Party Begin , I Am Not Afraid and the Premio Strega (the most important Italian literary prize) award-winning If God Wills It . Anna was released in early 2016 , which was generally described as disappointing by critics.

Giovannino Guareschi – Don Camillo and his flock

Uitgeverij Fontein / 1953 / 247 pages
The books about the famous village pastor Camillo date back to the 1940s and 1960s. The book Don Camillo and His Flock is the second in the series and was first published in Italian in 1953. Guareschi tells in short stories about Camillo, a simple pastor in a small mountain village in Northern Italy. The pastor was, as was common at the time, virulently opposed to socialism and communism. Unfortunately, these left-wing movements are very popular in his village. Peppone, the communist leader, is even elected mayor. Camillo fights an often hilarious battle with him.
Guareschi takes the reader to Italy before 1970. It is a time without the internet, computers and smartphones. Even television had barely become established. In the simple world of Don Camillo, all the residents of the village know each other and their pastor. Read about arm wrestling between pastor and mayor, stolen bicycles and clocks, a dog that commits treason and many other entertaining topics. Although the world has changed a lot since then, the core of the Italian national character is very recognizable in the series. Even though they can sometimes be a bit short-tempered, in the end the Italians will go through any fire for each other.
They are not profound books, but very pleasant reading for a train ride or plane trip, or to simply enjoy on the beach or on a terrace. The series about Don Camillo has also been made into a film with the famous French actor Fernandel in the leading role. The books are no longer available in new condition, but because hundreds of thousands of them have been sold, they can easily be found second-hand on the internet.

Sandro Veronesi – Calm chaos

Publisher Prometeus / 2007 / 416 pages / ISBN 9789044611748
What happens when the person you love most, your partner, suddenly dies? It happens to Pietro Paladini, main character of the critically acclaimed novel Calm Chaos by Sandro Veronesi. The immense shock puts him in a kind of daze. He now has to take care of his ten-year-old daughter Claudia all alone. When he drops her off at school in the morning, he no longer finds the strength to go home – or he doesn’t dare to leave her behind, afraid of losing her too. His daughter is the only thing he is still alive for. He will continue to wait at the school gate for the next few months. In the meantime, he gets to know the local residents and puts everything in order. Although the subject matter is heavy (loss, grief, death), the book remains light and reads smoothly. In April 2015,
Rare Earths , Veronesi’s second book with Paladini as the main character, was published . Just when he gets his life back on track, a series of small events causes a new crisis. Other books by Veronesi in Dutch translation include Hardly Hit , about the young Belinda and her small universe and the bestseller XY , in which the tiny village of San Giuda (Holy Judas) is shocked by a brutal mass murder. A priest and a young female psychiatrist look for the cause. These books were also a great success.

Paolo Giordano – The loneliness of prime numbers

Uitgeverij De Bezige Bij / 2009 / 318 pages / ISBN 9789023463733
A prime number is only divisible by one and itself … and in that sense, according to the physicist Paolo Giordano (1982), it is lonely. The novel is (fortunately) not about mathematics, but about people: the young, but already scarred by life, Alice and Mattia. Like these prime numbers, they are lonely. It is not loneliness in the sense of being alone, having no friends. It is a deeper, existential form of loneliness: not being understood, not being able to connect with others. Mattia is half of a twin – he is intelligent, almost brilliant, his sister is mentally retarded. Alice has been paralyzed in her leg due to a skiing accident. They start hanging out together and become friends, but like the primes, they can’t really get close to each other. It is a profound novel to think about.
Other interesting books by Giordano that have been translated into Dutch are The Human Body (2013) and The Black and the Silver (2015). Giordano received the Premio Strega
for The Loneliness of Prime Numbers , quite an achievement considering the book is his debut.

Fabio Genovesi – Feeding fish

Uitgeverij Bruna / 2012 / 352 pages / ISBN 9789056724122
An Italian writer less known in Flanders and the Netherlands is Fabio Genovesi (1974). Only two of his books have been translated into Dutch: Feeding the Fish (2012) and What the Waves Bring (2015). The first novel had a mediocre start in sales, but there was a first reprint in paperback in 2016. Just like Ammaniti, the audience takes a while to get to know and appreciate him.
Feeding fish also has similarities in content with Ammaniti’s I’ll pick you up, I’ll take you away . Once again the reader is immersed in the lives of three diverse characters in a small, confining environment. Tiziana, a beautiful young woman – and very intelligent – decides to give up her career and do something for her hometown in Tuscany. That’s how she ends up in the youth center… where, paradoxically, mainly retirees come to drink coffee. She becomes disillusioned. The adolescent Fiorenzo also struggles with dreams and the reality that conflicts with them. And then there is Mirko, a cyclist, still a teenager, but with a lot of potential to become a champion. Fiorenzo’s father pays more attention to Mirko than to his own son. The lives of these three people intertwine in a slightly ironic way.

Ross King – Brunelleschi’s Dome

Publisher De Bezige Bij / 2007 / 216 pages / ISBN 9789023417088
Anyone who has ever been to Florence will never forget the magisterial dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. Including the lantern, the dome is no less than 114 meters high; the characteristic red color makes the cathedral glow brilliantly in the rising sun. The design and construction of this dome is the theme of Brunelleschi’s Dome by Canadian author and historian Ross King. The intrigues of architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) to win the commission, the problems with construction (in a time without modern building materials) and all the fun anecdotes make for an entertaining, easy-to-read book.
Similar books by Ross King on Italian works of art are The Pope’s Heaven , about the Sistine Chapel in Rome and the paintings of Michelangelo (2005) and Leonardo and The Last Supper , about the famous fresco in the Santa Maria delle Grazie Monastery in Milan by Leonardo da Vinci (2012).

Luc Verhucyk – Florence. Anecdotal travel guide to Florence

Uitgeverij Singel / 2012 / 472 pages / ISBN 9789025358891
It has been since 2001 that SPQR. Anecdotal travel guide to Rome appeared. After the great success of this atypical travel guide, there is a similar successor, this time about Florence – perhaps the most popular tourist destination in Italy after Rome (and Venice). Luc Verhuyck wrote a travel guide for culture lovers. No talk about the best ice cream parlor, the local Hard Rock café or nice boutiques where you can buy souvenirs. The book only offers what the subtitle claims: anecdotes and background information about the sights in Florence. He does not limit himself to the major attractions such as the Uffizi, the cathedral or the Academy, but almost everything there is to know about this beautiful city is mentioned. Highly recommended for planning a visit to Florence and as a travel guide on site. Luc Verhuyck is now working on a similar book about Naples.
Source: Sc3pter, Pixabay

Fik Meijer – The Mediterranean Sea. A personal history

Uitgeverij Singel / 2010 / 446 pages / ISBN 9789025368081
The Netherlands’ greatest writer on classical antiquity is of course Fik Meijer. The former professor now has more than twenty works to his name. Most are intended for the general public, including top players such as Gladiators. Popular entertainment in the Colosseum , Emperors do not die in bed and Power without limits. Rome and Its Empire . Actually, all his books are suitable as introductory reading for a cultural trip to Italy, but De Mediterranean Sea, published in 2010. A personal history stands out.
As the title indicates, the book had a strong personal approach. Of course, don’t expect Meijer to suddenly dig up overly romantic stories about the sea he loves so much, but the love he has for the Mediterranean Sea and the civilizations that could arise around it is noticeable – the Greek, Roman and Carthaginian civilizations could not do without it. this sea exists. Meijer describes how tourism already existed in ancient times. Well-known examples are Emperor Nero, who admired Greek cultural treasures (and allowed himself to be praised) and Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine, who held a pilgrimage and treasure hunt in the Holy Land. The sea provided trade and economic prosperity, diplomatic contacts and warfare. As always, Meijer substantiates his story with the necessary anecdotes, which makes the book easy to read.

Saskia Balmaekers – Ciao tutti. A journey of discovery through Italy

Publisher Xander / 2013 / 208 pages / ISBN 9789401601078
Saskia Balmaekers has been singing her passion for Italy on Ciao Tutti for quite some time. Originally started as a blog, it is now an entire website with an incredible amount of background information about Italy in all facets: food, drinks, art and culture, transport, exhibitions, politics, music… Later a number of books were published that captured the best of the website. combine with additional background information and tips. The first in this series is the beautifully illustrated Ciao tutti. A voyage of discovery through Italy . The major tourist attractions are discussed: major cities, the Italian Riviera and Sicily. Lesser-known places are also (briefly) discussed. The book is ideal for novice Italy travelers. The successor was published in 2015: 101 most beautiful places in Italy. The very best selected by Ciaotutti.nl , a similar book, but with more attention to the smaller places.

Marc Leijendekker – The land of curls. Culture guide for Italian life

Publisher Bert Bakker / 2012 / 351 pages / ISBN 9789035133730
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