Books that feel like… summer in rural Italy with sunkissed slow days
This post is part of my Books That Feel Like… series, showcasing favourite books that feel like whatever you want more of in life.
Whether it’s spending a summer in Italy, staying in a cabin in the woods, or feeling like you’re in a Studio Ghibli movie, I hope you can find your next best book recommendation.
If you dream of travelling to Italy, this is for you. Even if you can’t plan a trip right now, these books set in Italy feel so immersive you could maybe be in the Mediterranean, enjoying the sunshine and sipping on a cool glass of sparkling water.
Sure, it’s not exactly the same as actually being there, but all fond readers know how valuable and accessible an escape to a good book can be – the best can be a gateway to experiencing new cultures, imagining beautiful landscapes, and meeting new people.
With that in mind, these are some of the best books about Italy in summer. Enjoy the break.
The best books that feel like a vacation in rural Italy
Still Life by Sarah Winman
Listen to Still Life for… a beautiful story of love, hope, and new beginnings in Florence. You’ll also encounter a parrot called Claude, eccentric Brits, and Essex accents.
At the start of this historical fiction novel set in Italy, it’s 1944 and two strangers share an extraordinary evening sheltering from the war in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa.
From this moment, everything will change for Ulysses Temper, a young British soldier, and Evelyn Skinner, a 64-year-old art historian living life on her own terms. It’s a book about family, really, and the many permutations of love.
Still Life is also one of the best summer audiobooks I’ve come across – I’ve loved listening to it as summer emerges here in Denmark.
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
Read Call Me By Your Name for… a vacation to Italy in a book, set somewhere in the Italian Riveria; perhaps Bordighera in Liguria. (The popular movie was filmed in Lombardy in rural northern Italy.)
In a piece for The Guardian, author André Aciman shared how his inspiration for this classic gay romance novel was really a diversion from the work he was meant to be doing:
“One April morning I was dreaming about being in an imaginary Italian villa overlooking the sea. It was a real-estate fantasy: a swimming pool, a tennis court, wonderful family and friends, plus the attendant personnel: a cook, a gardener and a driver. I had even picked the house from a painting by Claude Monet.”
Although he usually fussed over every sentence, he added that writing Call Me By Your Name was easy:
“All I had to do, which I always loved doing when we rented a house in Tuscany, was imagine lying at the very edge of a swimming pool, one foot dangling in the water, listening to classical music on my earbuds, and quietly allow myself to drift [away].”
Perhaps that’s what makes this gorgeous novel feel so real. It’s a love story infused with the heat of Italy in summer, intellectual curiosity and connection, and the memories of first love that last a lifetime.
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
Read Under the Tuscan Sun for… daydreaming about sunny days in Italy and the pleasures of food, slow living, close-knit communities, and living in a beautiful home.
“Splendid to arrive alone in a foreign country and feel the assault of difference. Here they are all along, busy with living; they don’t talk or look like me. The rhythm of their day is entirely different; I am foreign.”
This book has the honour of a one-star Goodreads review describing it as “the meandering incomplete thoughts of a middle-aged woman that eats like an Italian sumo wrestler and bought a disaster of a house”. (I may be biased, but that sounds pretty good to me.)
If you’ve always dreamed of moving abroad, this gorgeous memoir is about the author’s decision to take a bold leap, buy and renovate a home in Italy, and learn to live slowly and contentedly in a small town.
These Tangled Vines by Julianne MacLean
Read These Tangled Vines for… an easygoing book about inheritance, love, and an American mother and daughter who, years apart, find themselves at a winery in Tuscany.
Amidst the lush vineyards and sun-kissed hills of Montepulciano in southern Tuscany, romance author Julianne MacLean weaves a tale of love, loss, and the power of family ties.
It was perfect for me to read on a lazy February weekend in drizzly Copenhagen when I just wanted something low-pressure, sun-kissed, and light.
The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Read The Talented Mr Ripley for… a creepy thriller in a stunning location, in which suave, handsome Tom Ripley becomes enamored of the moneyed world of his new friend, Dickie Greenleaf. However, that fondness soon turns obsessive.
If you’ve seen the film adaptation of The Talented Mr Ripley, you’ll know how this book goes down.
Tumble into this gripping novel and be a fly on the wall (on the beach?) in the seaside town of Mongibello, full of lazy afternoons and never-ending cocktail hours as well as darkness and crime.
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
Read The Enchanted April for… a book that feels like a balm for the soul, brimming with fresh air, new opportunities, and new beginnings.
Pick up a copy of The Enchanted April and escape to a sun-kissed villa on the Italian Riviera with four middle-aged women seeking a change from dreary London.
Thin Paths: Journeys in and Around an Italian Mountain Village by Julia Blackburn
Read Thin Paths for… a tale of the old way of life in the hills of Liguria, accompanied by the author’s story of finding a place for herself on narrow mountain paths and among the native flora and fauna.
In this captivating book that meanders the boundaries between travel memoir and history of a place, Julia Blackburn shares her story of moving with her husband to a little house in the mountains of northern Italy in 1999.
Initially speaking no Italian, she soon connected with the people who have called the beautiful hilly landscape home their entire lives.
The locals – hardened by the war and tough rural living, but eager to talk about the old way of life – asked Julia to “Write it down for us… otherwise it will all be lost.” What follows is a celebration of a place across time and the determination of the human spirit.
For more books that feel like a vacation, you might like perusing…
Enjoy more from me
- Retreat into my new book, Your Life in Bloom: Finding Your Path and Your Courage, Grounded in the Wisdom of Nature.
- I'm also the author of Mountain Song: A Journey to Finding Quiet in the Swiss Alps, a book about my time living alone by the mountains.
- If you love books, are feeling a little lost right now, and would love some gentle comfort and guidance, join The Sanctuary, my seven-day course to rebalance your life.