I am a reader. Always have been. My love for reading vies for “favorite” hobby up there with cooking and traveling. I think preparation for big trips by reading can greatly enhance your travel experience. You can know more what to expect, and your appreciation for what you are seeing increases ten-fold. At least it works for me. My husband is also a big reader; he tends to read more non-fiction than I do. So here is a list of recommended books, read and reviewed by either my husband or me. We do own these books. We kind of have a problem with books…..we just love them so!
1. Made in Italy: Food and Stories, by Giorgio Locatelli
Do you ever read cookbooks? I do. Like novels. This is a wonderful “Reading” cookbook because Locatelli begins every section with stories about his childhood, his culinary experiences, and detailed information on cooking techniques and local ingredients. The book is HUGE. Beautifully illustrated. And the recipes I have tried so far have been delicious. This book would be a great one to read in preparation for your culinary experiences in Italy.
2. The Agony and the Ecstasy: a Biographical Novel of Michelangelo, by Irving Stone
This book is not 100% accurate, but it is a lovely way to seep yourself in the atmosphere of the high Renaissance in Florence and Rome. It paints vivid pictures of Michelangelo, the Medici, Pope Julius, and other key figures. There have been a couple of movies made of this book as well.
3. Michelangelo: the Artist, the Man, and his Times, by William E. Wallace
This is based on correspondence between Michelangelo and his family and gives a more personal view. He comes across more as a devoted and spiritual artist rather than as the cantankerous misanthrope that is presented in most books about him. It does not go into detail on some of his most famous works because they have been so exhaustively treated in other books. (Reviewed by my DH, aka PapaChef).
4. Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi, by Donald Spoto
I absolutely loved this book. It is beautifully written, and Francis’ journey of faith is truly inspiring to anyone of any faith. It is a great way to learn more about the development of the early Catholic church and will give insight into the life and times of Catholicism’s most famous saint.
5. Michelangelo: The Complete Sculpture, Painting, Architecture, by William E. Wallace
This book has great pictures of all of Michelangelo’s surviving works and has great information for each. It is very reasonably priced ($26 on Amazon) for such a large and beautiful book. A good companion to Wallace’s bio, above. (Reviewed by my DH, aka PapaChef).
6. Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, by Eamon Duffy
I really enjoyed this book. In addition to gaining an understanding of the evolution of the institution of the papacy, you get a good general history of Christianity, the Catholic church, Western civilization, and Italy. (Reviewed by my DH, aka PapaChef).
7. Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, by Ross King
I thought this book was very interesting. I actually finished it on the flight to Italy. It is written well, with details that make it interesting and fresh. It goes into detail regarding the technique of fresco and how the Sistine Chapel came to be. When I visited the Sistine Chapel, it was amazing how much more I got out of it. I knew which panels were completed first; I could see how Michelangelo the sculptor became Michelangelo the painter. Knowing the techniques behind the art work really does enhance understanding and appreciation.
This is a short yet detailed account of the history of the Duomo dome in Florence. Great writing. Includes illustrations.
9. The Miracles of Santo Fico, by D.L. Smith
This book is a little sentimental and predictable, but it is sweet and funny as well. Definitely a light read. I thought I should include something light since everything so far is pretty brainy. This book is about how a tired little Italian village becomes vibrant again through love, forgiveness, and miracles.
Let’s not kid ourselves. These do not constitute great literature. The content is controversial and the writing just so-so. But they are fun, quick reads that can really get you interested in the art of Leonardo and Bernini.
What about you? Do you have any titles to suggest? I would love to hear about them.