Top 5 Books to Understand Italy

These aren't necessarily books that make me feel like I'm sun-addled and full of handmade pasta. Rather, these are books that have helped me understand Italy. Her history, but also how she has been seen by the world, and how she sees herself. Have suggestions, leave them in the comments, below!

1) Brunelleschi's Dome, by Ross King. It's a story of genius, politics, and architecture in Renaissance Italy. A gripping read.

2) The Agony and Ecstasy, by Irving Stone. A book about Michelangelo that gives a real understanding of his mind and his process. Plus, the special guest stars and familiar locations are fun.

3) Room with a View, by EM Forster. Italy through the eyes of the English. Watch stuffy English gentlefolk loosen their borders under the influence of Italy.

4) The Italians, by John Hooper. An easy read with interesting insights into Italian history and how it effects Italy today.

5) My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante. Fiction? Memoir? It's sort of hard to tell. Elena Ferrante has a spare style that feels revolutionary, as she describes life in Naples. The book is also an excellent exploration of gender politics, particularly in art. As one of Italy's greatest current writers, reading Elena Ferrante gives a real sense of modern Italian literature.