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Fiction books?

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Hartford, WI
Level Contributor
93 posts
42 reviews
Fiction books?

In the past, I have enjoyed reading historical fiction books for an area that I will be visiting. For example, before visiting the ruins at Pompeii, I read Pompeii by Robert Harris. It really gave me some context for my visit. Any suggested fiction books for a visit to Florence?

Level Contributor
392 posts
31 reviews
1. Re: Fiction books?

I've been retreading The Agony and The Ecstasy by Irving Stone... The life of Michelangelo. Also, not fiction but excellent and often recommended here was Brunelleschi's Dome... There are lots of threads I have read here about book recommendations. Do a forum search and you'll find more!

Cortland, NY
Level Contributor
2,857 posts
206 reviews
2. Re: Fiction books?

Just finished The Agony and the Ecstasy, and I can't wait for our upcoming October trip to Italy!

It's not historical fiction...but Playing for Pizza by John Grisham makes me want to be in Italy!

Lund, Sweden
Level Contributor
8 posts
18 reviews
3. Re: Fiction books?

Here are some of the threads that'll give you some suggestions



I would personally recommend The Agony and the Ecstasy and Brunelleschis dome (non-fiction but still an excellent read)

Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
2,367 posts
22 reviews
4. Re: Fiction books?

Here's another vote for The Agony and the Ecstasy, but with the following caution: It's written in a bit of a breathless style that might get on your nerves, and it completely ignores Michelangelo's actual sexual orientation, which was a heavy influence on his art.

Level Contributor
334 posts
3 reviews
5. Re: Fiction books?

I've read The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant which is a fantastic book about the Medici & Renaissance Florence, fictional but base on historic fact, an absolute winner for story telling yet an understanding of the actual events of the city at this time, I just loved this book. Also try any books by Michele Giuttari, crime fiction, mostly based in Florence but in the modern time, my pick is The Birth of Venus though. Happy reading !!!

Level Contributor
1,144 posts
35 reviews
6. Re: Fiction books?

Jacob Burkhardt wrote that Florence is "alone and above all other states in the world, the home of history."

I think one of the reasons there are so few great novels about people and life in Florence is because the reality is so dramatic, who needs fiction?

Five recent books top my list of things to read about this incredible town:

Miles Unger's "Magnifico" and his "Machiavelli" are two superb portraits of Florence and its dominant figures (not just the two named) at its height, in the mid-late 15th century, and after its collapse starting with the invasion by the French in 1494. Nowhere have I read a better account than the one in "Magnifico" of how all Europe revolved around Florence and the Medici, before the fall in 1494.

Lauro Martines - a radical hater of the Medici - has written a super account of the turning point in the history of Renaissance Florence - the Pazzi Conspiracy - in his riveting account, "April Blood". And his biography of Savonarola, "Fire in the City" gives a fascinating account of how Medici Florence fell and how the Reformation almost got started in Florence, rather than in Wittenberg.

Frances Stoner Saunders' "Hawkwood" is one of the best-written books I have ever read on any subject - a riveting account of the almost total destruction of civilization in 14th century Italy - thanks to a mini-ice age, the plagues, religious upheaval largely caused by Saint Catharine of Siena, and, perhaps above all, by the marauding bands of largely English cut-throats led by John Hawkwood, the "condotierre", whose bizarre, skeletal portrait by Uccello graces the north wall of the Duomo.

These books are so vivid, such wonderful windows on Medieval and Renaissance Florence, so full of storm and stress, romance, dramatic ups and downs, who needs "Downton Abbey" or any other such make-believe?

Florence Italy
Level Contributor
1,658 posts
2 reviews
7. Re: Fiction books?

"Romola" by George Eliot. She perfectly nails Savanarolean Florence. And Henry James's "Portrait of a Lady" -- a good deal of which transpires in a suburban Florentine villa.

Hartford, WI
Level Contributor
93 posts
42 reviews
8. Re: Fiction books?

Thank you so very much for the suggestions. I see I am going to be busy reading :) :) :)

Florence, Italy
Level Contributor
989 posts
9. Re: Fiction books?

If you want to get a good sense of what It was like around here in the mid-fourteenth century, give Boccaccio's "Decameron" a shot! It's a series of 100 short stories: at the outbreak of the Black Death, ten young patricians meet inside the basilica of Santa Maria Novella. They decide that life in the plague-ridden city's too dreary and decide to leave town to ride it out. They move to an uninhabited villa in the countryside and there, to entertain themselves, each of the young nobles tells a tale each night for ten nights. The tales are witty and give you a great feeling not only for the time and place, but of the character of the Florentine upper classes of the time. The opening is about as vivid an account of what it was like to endure the plague as you'll read anywhere. It's a big book - you don't have to read it all, but leaf through it and enjoy seeing the late Middle Ages through contemporary eyes.

Level Contributor
52 posts
33 reviews
10. Re: Fiction books?

if you still need something while in Florence there is this great library called The paperback exchange which has a whole department of Florentine setting, and since they sell also a lot of used books you'll find a lot of bargains.

I am actually reading The Swerve (Pulitzer prize on how the renaissance began) and I am really loving its approach