Shopping via many of the links on Italy Explained – including all of the links on this page – helps to support the site. You’ll pay the same price you would if you went straight to the tour companies or online shops, but Italy Explained gets a little something for referring you to whatever lovely thing you end up purchasing. I truly appreciate your support, it makes Italy Explained possible.
The Italy Explained Book Series
You’ll find Italy Explained ebooks available on Amazon in the Kindle Store. There are Kindle apps for pretty much every smart mobile device known to man (and a few not-so-smart ones besides), and even without a Kindle or Kindle app you can open Kindle ebooks on your computer and print out what you need. This is why Italy Explained ebooks are sold through Amazon.
- Italy Explained: Italian Trains – $2.99 on Amazon.com – Taking the train through Italy is the best option for most travelers, but that doesn’t mean it’s always as easy to understand as it could be. In this guide, you’ll learn the difference between train tickets and reservations (and when you’ll need both), how to choose whether to buy a rail pass or individual tickets, how to read an Italian train schedule, how to buy tickets and reservations (either from home or once you get to Italy), how to deal with Italian train strikes, and much more. You’ll be a confident traveler on the Italian rail system by the time you finish this book.
- Italy Explained: Gelato – $0.99 on Amazon.com – Gelato is far and away the tastiest and most affordable souvenir you can get in Italy, a treat in which every visitor should indulge often while in the country. In this guide, you’ll learn what all those different Italian gelato flavors mean (and how to pronounce them), how to find the best gelato in Italy, how to order gelato, and much more. You’ll be ready to step to the front of the queue and branch out in your flavor combinations by the time you finish this book.
I’ve got a list of more Italy Explained ebooks in the works – want to throw something into the suggestion box? Let me know what you want me to write about! And sign up to be notified whenever I publish a new Italy travel book!
Italy Tours & Activities
- Context Travel – Context Travel offers small-group tours in (or departing from) Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples. Their docents make you feel smarter in the the most entertaining way imaginable.
- Walks of Italy – Walks of Italy offers small-group tours in Rome, Venice, Florence/Pisa, Pompeii/Amalfi, Tuscany/Siena, Umbria, Milan, and Puglia, typically led by native Italians who are passionate about their country.
- Viator – Viator lists a staggering array of tours and tickets to attractions all over Italy. There’s truly something for every travel interest, style, and budget.
Italy Books & Travel Items I Love
- Italy Explained is based in beautiful Portland, Oregon, home of the iconic Powell’s City of Books. Therefore, whenever possible on the site, I link to books available on the Powell’s website. Because we know not everyone has the luxury of browsing the store’s actual aisles.
- My friend Kathy puts together a monthly newsletter that will keep any Italophile immersed in Italy all year long. There’s great stuff in there about Italian culture, as well as insider tips for those of you planning a trip.
Here’s the Italy Explained Amazon Store, to which I’ve added not only Italy-related books but also travel items you may find handy when you’re planning an Italy trip. Everything is linked in the store window below, and for a little explanation of why each item made it onto my list, keep scrolling down.
Italy Travel Books
These are some of the books about traveling in Italy that I like and use myself. Some are, sadly, out of print and can be difficult to find – I list them here so that if you happen to come across one in a used bookstore you know to snap it up quickly!
* These books are out of print. My very favorite is “Hungry Traveler: Italy” – even after all these years, I don’t travel in Italy without it. If you can find it in a used bookstore, grab it. Lonely Planet’s “World Food Italy” is a good substitute, although the “World Food” series is another that’s out of print. It may be easier to find used than “Hungry Traveler: Italy.” The “Marling Menu Master: Italy” doesn’t have nearly the regional or seasonal food insights as the other two, but it’s a decent menu decoder that’s still in print, making it infinitely easier to find.
Other Books on Italy
Care to do a little armchair traveling, or perhaps dive into the culture of Italy with books set in the country? Here are some of my favorites.
- The Dark Heart of Italy – Tobias Jones paints a different picture of Italy than the “Tuscan Sun” variety; this book is an interesting look at how recent Italian political history has helped shaped the country. A must-read for anyone considering a long-term stay in Italy.
- Michael Dibdin’s Aurelio Zen mysteries – The whole series is fantastic. Each book brings the protagonist, Aurelio Zen, to a different region in Italy, and the place becomes as much a character in each book as the people themselves. Highly recommended, especially if you like murder mysteries. “Ratking” is the first book in the series.
- The City of Falling Angels – John Berendt’s book about the fire that destroyed La Fenice, Venice’s opera house, and the controversies surrounding its rebuilding, is as much about Venetian culture as it is the historic building.
- An Irreverent Curiosity – David Farley masterfully mixes Italian and Catholic history into this story of his year-long hunt for what’s considered the church’s oddest relic in Italy’s strangest town.
- A Season With Verona – Soccer fans will appreciate Tim Parks’ tale of following his team to every game during one season. If you’ve got even a working knowledge of the game, you’ll enjoy the book for the cultural insights it provides as much as anything else.
- Brunelleschi’s Dome – Ross King tells the story of audacious officials in Florence who built a church with a giant hole in the middle, confident that eventually someone would come along who could figure out how to build a dome over it, and of the man (a clock maker and goldsmith, not an engineer) who eventually did it.
- Venice Observed – Mary McCarthy’s timeless book on a city she loved remains as delightful today as ever.
- Pomodoro! A History of the Tomato in Italy – Foodies may already know that the tomato isn’t native to Italy, but David Gentilcore traces the tomato back and forth across the Atlantic in a way that tells us as much about Italian-American culture as it does Italian food.
- The Agony & the Ecstasy – Another classic, this biographical novel of Michelangelo by Irving Stone is a monster of a book, and could be the ideal choice for that long plane ride to Italy.
Other Useful Items for Traveling in Italy
A successful trip depends on more than good travel guidebooks, so here are some of the things I bring when I travel in Italy (or almost anywhere).
- Carry-on suitcase – This eBags Mother Lode Mini is a newer design of the suitcase I use. I love the two-level design. I can always pack more in this bag than I think I’ll be able to, and have easily packed for multi-week trips in this bag – which means no checked bags! Hooray!
- All-in-one electrical adapter/converter – If you’re traveling with lots of electrical gadgets, you may want to pick up a few of these. Just remember, don’t overload the hotel outlets too much by charging everything at once.
- Under-clothing money belt – Please use one of these when you travel, and please wear it under your clothes. There’s no sense in taking the precaution of getting a money belt if you advertise that you’ve got it by wearing it like a fanny pack.
- Cross-body purse – Ladies, a cross-body bag will help make you a less appealing target for drive-by thieves.
- Purse hook – I use my purse hook at home and when I travel; there are less “sparkly” versions for guys, too, and these things can hold quite a bit of weight – so they’re as good for hanging a daypack as they are for hanging a purse from that outdoor restaurant table.
- Collapsible water bottle – No need to keep buying plastic water bottles and contributing to landfills around the world. When not in use, these roll up to take up almost no space.
- Chinese paper fan – It may sound funny, but when you get on that hot Metro car you’ll be really glad you have a fan.
- Chinese jumprope – No, this isn’t for fun and games, although that can be its other use. When I wash a few things in the hotel sink, I string a Chinese jumprope between (say) a doorknob and the shower dial and voila! Instant clothesline.
- Reusable shopping bag – In most Italian markets and grocery stores, bags cost extra, so people bring their own reusable bags. I particularly love these Flip & Tumble bags, as they scrunch into their own elastic pouch. I almost always have one in my purse, at home or on the road.