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Books | © ninocare/Pixabay
Books | © ninocare/Pixabay

7 Books To Read Before Visiting Sicily

Picture of Aubrey Martin
Updated: 8 December 2017

When you’re planning a trip, and when you embark on one, it’s important to pack some words into your luggage as well. Being able to transport yourself into a good book while travelling can help ease the boredom. Especially since you will likely be riding a lot of trains in Italy, as well as the occasional taxi ride and ferry trip, it’s a bonus to have a distraction. Here are some of the essential reads to not only prepare you for spending time in Sicily, but keep you entertained, too.

A House in Sicily by Daphne Phelps

Penned by a British writer who resided mostly in Taormina throughout her life, this memoir takes you on an authentic and colourful journey through the idyllic hilltop Sicilian town, while telling a story of starting anew, working to get by and achieving the dream of experiencing the world. The book tells the tale of a woman attempting to save a house in Taormina that she inherited from a friend and documenting her journey of falling in love with a local, as well as with the city itself. Accompany her as she works to save Casa Cuseni and follow her new life in Sicily with the voyage that is discovering want from life.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

One of the current popular authors of Italy has composed this rich story capturing the experience of growing up in post-war Naples, and the strong friendships built during those years. Engrained in the first of this four-part series is the powerful feeling of transition in the characters’ lives as well as the progression of an Italy recovering from war. Featured in the stories are a litany of vivid descriptions of places you can visit in your travels in Italy, and the author paints an accurate picture of what to expect regarding architecture and city life. Enjoy an engaging and mysterious story, as the main character learns her old friend has suddenly vanished, and relives her memories from a different Italian era.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Yes, this is a story based in Tuscany, in the north of Italy, but it still oozes with Italian atmosphere. Known for the romantic film it was based on, the book itself is a captivating and charming account of a woman moving to a new place and restoring an abandoned villa, situated in the splayed majesty of the Tuscan countryside. It’s a beguiling story of the Italian landscape, depicting tangled vineyards, crumbling buildings and an insight into Italian traditions. It’s a definite page-turner that will help you feel familiar with the animated and fascinating scenery of Italy, while telling a heartfelt story of a woman trying to begin again.

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Panorama Vicino Certaldo | ©Fancesco Sgroi/Flickr

The Villa by Rosanna Ley

A preposessing story that expresses three generations’ perspectives on the experience of family, history, and assimilating the events of living. It tells of the quest of a mother and her daughter to retrace their heritage in a clifftop town of Sicily and to tend to a worn villa she must claim in her inheritance. In doing so, she will unearth secrets of the family she knows little about, uncover old family recipes and history, while caring for her teenage daughter who is discovering her own unique enigmas in this new and foreign place. An ardent and beautifully written story that reaches you on a purely personal level while incorporating you into a enchanting scenic Sicily.

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Italian Houses | ©Tristan Ferne/Flickr

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

This renowned novel is a heartwarming and intimate firsthand work that is filled with illustrative and striking descriptions of Italian towns, customs, and cuisine. Enjoy hearing the author’s tantilising descriptions of mouthwatering pizza, languid oil pouring over cheese and prosciutto, and classic pasta dishes. Touring throughout Italy, the travel log recounts the author’s interactions with local people, indulging in culinary traditions, and accurately encapsulates the overall mood and experience of visiting Italy. It may just be one portion of the places Gilbert visited (the ‘Eat’ part), but it is well worth getting a taste of her personal account of Italy.

I Malavoglia by Giovanni Verga

Written by one of the most revered authors of Sicily, I Malavoglio is a historic and gripping novel telling a moving story of family hardships and the tumultuous lifestyle of fishing in the mid-to-late 1800s. Set in the seaside town of Aci Trezza, it is dripping with elegant retellings of this bustling and ancient town. You are absorbed into a powerful story of making a living in a small village, while feeling the strong loyalty and customary allegiance to family that is ingrained in Italian culture. Translated into multiple languages, this classic novel will have you ready to dive into the spirited world of Sicilian life, history, and travel.

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Cyclopean Islaes, Aci Trezza | ©CreativeCommons/Pixabay

In the Hand of Dante by Nick Tosches

This engrossing book merges a witty mystery and crime story with the long-established work by Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy. While creating a narrative about the life of Dante paired with a thrilling story of New York mobsters, you will be drawn into a chaotic yet classical drama, that will leave you guessing. Rotating between three mysterious narrators, you will wonder who is actually telling this riveting story. Dodging from assassination plots to poetic contemplations, this novel provides an insightful viewpoint on Italian history while integrating an exhilarating plot.