Elena Ferrante’s Naples, Umberto Eco’s medieval mysteries, EM Forster’s Tuscany … Italy comes alive through these great books
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Long before Covid-19, there were always bad things in the press about Italy: corruption, mafia, bureaucracy. But, whenever I went, life seemed to work out even so. People may be poor but they still sit in the sun, drink and chat; music and culture are a birthright; the right seems in the ascendant but on the ground it feels blessed with far-seeing idealists – it has almost four times as much land under organic cultivation as the UK, for example. For now, my remedy to the withdrawal symptoms I feel is to visit via the written word. Many writers have set books in Italy – I was sorry to leave out Martin Amis’s The Pregnant Widow (Calabria), and Ali Smith’s How to be Both (Ferrara) – but here are my top 10 romanze italiane.