Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site

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Some Non-Fiction Books About Italy





Child's Books





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Italophile Book Reviews offers personal views on many books that might interest lovers of Italy.  Authors and Publishers:  I review books set in Italy, or about Italy and Italian culture, or about hyphenated Italian culture.  My site is family-friendly. Indie (Self) published books, and small publishing houses are welcome.  Contact:   info @

Italophile Books is an linked shop that has only products Italophiles are sure to love.  Shop with no distractions!  You can click through to the full site at any time, keeping your shopping cart.  Checkout is through's usual secure system.



Mysteries set in Italy

Mysteries set in Ancient Rome

Romances set in Italy

Thrillers set in Italy

Children's Books

Historical Novels set in Italy

Italian Bestselling Writers


Non-fiction books about Italy are many and varied.  I've stuck to four categories here:

Books on other subjects such as the following, you can find on the specific pages on these subjects here on my site:

Click on the book covers to link through to's page for the book.  There you can read:

  • back cover, flap text
  • professional reviews
  • prices and formats
  • availability of second-hand copies.

Most are out in paperback, so be sure to check, if you think the price of the hardback is too high.

For Kindle readers, here are some direct links to the Kindle pages for:

Kindle Italy Travel Books

Kindle History of Italy

  Kindle Italian Cooking


Personal Experiences

In A Thousand Days in Venice, Marlena de Blasi, food writer and chef, recounts her love affair with Italy and Fernando, the Italian who becomes her husband late in life.  They begin in Venice and end in Tuscany.  Food and recipes, of course, are mixed in with life, love, philosophy and sumptuous descriptions of all. 

From a reader review: "Few books make me both misty-eyed and laugh out loud... This was one of them. Can't recommend it highly enough, even if you don't care to move to Venice in the near future."

For more about this entertaining book, please visit my full and illustrated review at my Italophile Book Reviews site.

Marlena de Blasi has been a busy woman!  Below are the direct links to her other books, each highly ranked by readers on 





A Zany Slice of Italy by Ivanka Di Felice 

Ever wonder what it would be like to take a year off and live among your Italian relatives in Italy?  Wonder no longer!  The author has done it and recounts it with wit and wisdom in this memoirs.  Her first-generation Canadian-Italian husband manages to get Italian citizenship, so they can stay in Italy legally, and have some health coverage, too.  What they didn't count on was the gregarious Italian social life that centers around family.   

Family in Italy means obligations, inspections, helping hands, intrusive noses, lots of free food, opinionated lectures, and a bedroom now and then when touring the country.  North American culture allows for more privacy than the author and her husband, both a bit introverted, discover is an oddity in densely populated, highly-social, and close-knit Italy.  

The style of humor and writing in A Zany slice of Italy reminded me of Ferenc Mate, another Canadian who emigrated to Italy and wrote a book about it.   

The book is well-written and expertly edited.  The cover is cute and fits the book perfectly.  I feel that the book is actually a book and an half.  The selective story of the couple's year in Italy feels like one book that should end when the couple returns to Canada.  I looked for the chapter on how they try to integrate into their life in Canada all the things they learned they loved while living in Italy.   

Instead there is an immediate and barely explained leap back to Italy, where the couple hopes to live permanently.  They leave good jobs behind to move to a country where it is nearly impossible to find a job, let alone a job that provides a livable wage.  The stories related in that "second book" are so negative I kept waiting for the leap back to Canada. 

That leap may still come, but it is not in this book, which is why I feel like the second book is only half there.  There is no resolution to their economic woes.  Perhaps this book is an attempt to find one.  As the author says:  "...despite my reality--the chaotic, relentless visits from fun-loving paesani and relatives; dealing with Italy's Byzantine bureaucracies; the difficulty earning a living--I realize my life here is much richer than I ever could have imagined." 

I wish them all the best of luck and happiness! 

Please read my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.


Eat Now; Talk Later by James Vescovi

Eat Now; Talk Later is a collection of stories that make up a memoirs-biography about the author's grandparents, who emigrated to the United States from Italy in the 1920s.   

The fifty-two essays that make up the book, cover various moments in the lives of Antonio and Desolina Vescovi, and explore their relationship with their only child, Selvi, and their relationship with Selvi's children, especially with the author, who helped care for his grandparents in their old age. 

Antonio (Tony) and Desolina were born circa 1900 and passed away circa 2000.  Their move to The States was for the proverbial "better life".  The author writes that the essays have "a universal quality about them", and that they are "about what it is to be human".   

Yes, they are universal and human stories, about economic migrants.  Tony and Desolina's emigration follows the same pattern most economic migrants follow to this day.Eat Now; Talk Later is well-written and well-edited.  The author's voice is engaging, as is his sympathy for his father, Selvi.  While he loved his grandparents, he saw clearly how their old-world demands on their new-world son took a toll on the man. 

The photographs included with the text are lovely additions to the book.  As an extra bonus, the author includes a few of his grandparents' favorite recipes, worked out by the younger women in the Vescovi family.  I received this book as a review-copy.

Ever wonder what it would be like to have parents or grandparents from another country?  Eat Now; Talk Later will give you an idea.  Did you have parents or grandparents from another country?  Then you will identify with these stories, and recognize the commonality of all immigrants and children of immigrants and grandchildren of immigrants, for it is a universal story.   

Are you quick to criticize immigrants for sticking to their home-country ways?  This book can offer you a glimpse into the reasons why that is the case, hopefully creating in you greater compassion for people who have given up so much in the hope of gaining just a little bit more to eat, and more security for themselves and for their children. 

Please read my full, illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.



Letters Home by Glenda Helms 

I enjoyed the book.  It is well-written, and well-edited.  It flows nicely, chronologically, and the Postscript gives us some closure.  I would have loved to have seen photographs in the book to accompany the story. 

The largest portion of the book covers the time the couple lived in Italy.  That is why I requested a review-copy of Letters Home.  The couple lived near Brindisi on the heel of Italy's boot, and they took every opportunity to travel through Italy and Europe.  It is interesting to see what has changed and what has stayed the same in forty years. 

Letters Home feels like the contents of a time-capsule from over forty years ago that has been opened and made public.  That feeling comes not only from the far greater number of European military bases in that period, but also to the social and economic situations in America and Europe.  What I found most striking was the depiction of innocence and decency in the U.S. that seems to have been replaced in forty years time by much harshness and crudity. 

Perhaps the contrast is so strong due to the decency of the narrator and her husband, and of their families?  Perhaps it is because of the lovely, human details included in the book, and the direct, honest, simple narrative style?  Or perhaps the contrast is so strong because a major crude and rude-ification of U.S. society has taken place in the past forty years?  I will leave the answer to that question to you. 

I found this time-capsule book a fascinating read.  Because of my age, I could see what had changed in the forty or so years since the letters were written.  I could also see what had not changed much in that time.  I find myself wondering what younger readers might make of the book?  And what might military spouses think of it?  Italy, warts and all. 

Read my full review at Italophile Book Reviews


Direct link to Letters Home e-books at Smashwords


Kindle and Paperback from

Wrestling with the Devil by Antonio Russo and Tonya Russo Hamilton

Wrestling with the Devil is an autobiography written by a mature man, Antonio Russo, with the help of his daughter, looking back on his well-lived life.  Mr. Russo has overcome obstacles that only a few of us can say we've shared.  He was an immigrant to America at the age of ten, without his parents and sibling. 

The fearlessness, physicality and competitiveness the author had exhibited since childhood, inherited from his father's side of the family, combined with the hyper-competitive spirit from his mother's side of the family, to create in the author a dynamic energy that he, at times, had difficulty controlling.  American coaches spotted these traits early on and wisely directed the author into competitive sports.  The author found wrestling, a sport he excelled at.   

I found it fascinating to read the mindset of an athlete.  How does it feel to be so competitive?  How does working up a sweat feel like therapy?  It is foreign to me. 

There is an underlying sadness throughout the book, a feeling of loss for the communal and family life in Italy.  Just like many immigrants in the past and today, the desire for wealth and an easier life cost Antonio his family, for a time, and his peace of mind, for a long while. 

Wrestling with the Devil is very well written, with the engaging first-person narrative voice of Antonio Russo.  The text is clean of errors, and it is stylishly presented.  I enjoyed every word of it!  A wonderful read! 

Read the full review at Italophile Book Reviews.



Not in a Tuscan Villa by John and Nancy Petralia

The text that appears on the cover of this book is:  Not in a Tuscan Villa:  During a year in Italy, a new jersey couple discover the true Dolce Vita when they trade rose-colored glasses for 3Ds.  Quite a mouthful, but actually quite accurate!  This couple, who co-author the book in alternating chapters, really do open their eyes to the real, in-depth Italy, by embracing all the experiences they possibly can in their year of living in Italy.   

When the authors finally settle in Parma, the book is about their growing social circle, their tours around Italy, and the stories of connecting with the ancestors and the living relations of the husband, who is a first-generation Italian-American, or more precisely, Sicilian-American.  The account of their trip to his namesake town in Sicily, Petralia, is especially lovely.   

For me, the most fascinating chapter in the book was the one about the investigations and trials that dragged on in an attempt to bring the killer/killers of the young, English student of the Italian language, Meredith Kercher, to justice. 

Their return to the U.S. is as jolting as their arrival a year earlier in Italy.  To find out how they deal with those feelings, and how they dealt with the barrage of new sensations, thoughts, experiences, art, cities, food... you can read this curious, intelligent couple's book Not in a Tuscan Villa. 

Read the full review at Italophile Book Reviews.


At Least You're in Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell

The full title of this books is At Least You're in Tuscany, A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Sweet Life.  The book is a memoirs about one year in the life of an Italian-American woman who attempts to emigrate to Tuscany, Italy, at the age of thirty-eight-going-on-eighteen, with her elderly dog. 

To be honest, I found that the litany of bad decisions by the author made me wonder about her sanity.  I suspect much of the fun people find in reading this account of a search for the good-life in Italy, is a large dose of schadenfreude, taking joy in another person's woes.  If it is, I won't spoil it for you. 

The author's experiences are not unique, but she is very honest about her own failings, and has an amusing, self-deprecating humor.  She is a fluid writer, who confidently tells her tale.  This is the kind of book you would gift to any friend who says they are going to emigrate it Italy, so they can be forewarned. 

Read the full review at Italophile Book Reviews.



Beyond The Pasta; Recipes, Language and Life with an Italian Family  by Mark Leslie

Beyond the Pasta is an engaging, inspiring, fun, and at times very moving, account of a month that changed not only the author's life, but also touched his host family's life. In fact, the book is dedicated to his host family in Viterbo, near Rome, who opened not just their home to the author, but their warm hearts. Mr. Leslie comes across as a respectful, serious, warm-hearted, funny, kind and sweet man, so it is no wonder that the family embraced him.

Beyond the Pasta is created from Mr. Leslie's journal, which he kept while in Italy. The book is divided by day, and includes events from that day with the family and other Italians, and his advances and setbacks in acquiring the Italian language.  His gentle humor adds to the book, as I am sure it added pleasure to his host family's month with this American in their home.

I would suggest the book be read in sections, a few "days" at a time. Then take a few days to try out those "day's" recipes. Then move on to reading a few more "days". The recipes are for Italian home-cooking specialties, and they are very clearly explained in the recipe sections at the end of each "day", and at the end of the book.

Read my full review at Italophile Book Reviews.


Kindle and Hardback and Paperback


The Assisi Walking Adventure Guide  by John Litwinowich

This guidebook offers travelers roughly thirty sections of the book, each with photographs, giving the modern visitor lots of choices for the short time they will probably spend in Assisi.  You can remain in Assisi self, or venture out to nearby villages with the guide's help.  The author has a gentle sense of humor, and the book is scrupulously edited.

The guidebook is generously offered for free via Smashwords, in various formats, several of which are perfect for pads and phones, so you can take the guide with you when you travel.  This is a book designed to have to hand while walking the streets and trails of Assisi.

Read my full review at my Italophile Book Reviews blog.

Smashwords is an on-line e-book shop and distribution service that offers all their books in various e-book formats including epub, Kindle (mobi), and pdf.  Where adds a surcharge onto Kindle sales to countries without official Kindle Stores, Smashwords does not.  Kindles sold via Smashwords cost the same for every customer no matter where they live in the world.



Smashwords link to the free e-book

A Footpath in Umbria by Nancy Yuktonis Solak

It is in the sub-genre of book "Italy as therapy" where I place this memoirs, because the U.S. American author, who suffers from anxiety and a high-strung nature, finds solace in Italy's slower pace of life; Italy's more humane social interactions; Italy's wild nature, low-technology society, relaxed mindset, lovely sounding language, and the ease of making friends in Italy's sociable society.  

True to the author's need for order, the memoirs does not follow the usual chronological order of memoirs, but is instead grouped by subject matter.  So, intentionally or not, the book can be seen as a guide for the visitor to the various tasks necessary for daily life in Italy. 

The style of writing reminds me of a letter home to a dear friend, letting them know about the daily struggles of the writer's new adventure.  The book is scrupulously edited, with not a typo in sight!  There are fifty photographs that compliment the text perfectly. 

Read my full review at Italophile Book Reviews.

The book is available as a paperback and Kindle e-book


The Venice Experiment:  A Year of Trial and Error Living Abroad by Barry Frangipane and Ben Robbins

From the book description:  "My secret plan to move to Venice was ready. It was time to see if my wife would buy into the idea of leaving our home to live for an entire year in a foreign country. 
And thus the journey begins - Barry and Debbie Frangipane, a middle-class couple tired of the rat race leaves it all for the lure of Venice. But can they make it in a foreign land? Read about the hilarious twists and turns their lives take during their year in the city of water, as they show us a Venice we never knew existed. The Venice Experiment is about fulfilling dreams on a journey that any of us could make - but would we?"


Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

How could I not put her books?  From Frances Mayes:  "I thought I was strange to feel this way.  Since I've met so many people who read Under the Tuscan Sun, I've found out that lots of people feel this way.  It's complicated but feels so very easy.  The warmth of the people, the human scale of the towns, the robust food, yes, but I've begun to think, too, that it's the natural connection with art, the natural exposure to beauty on a day-to-day basis."  See her follow-up books:  Bella TuscanyIn TuscanySwanBringing Tuscany Home, there are also many poetry books by the author.

The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran

The first.  Also called Mayes-with-a-sense-of-humor.  From Booklist:  "In funny, breezy, offhand prose, yet one more American discovers the pleasures and pains of restoring a superannuated, bucolic Tuscan dwelling.  A writer-producer of television series, Doran moves from Los Angeles to Tuscany at the behest of his interior-decorator wife and begins to live out his own Italian-inflected version of Green Acres."

Too Much Tuscan Sun by Dario Castagno and Robert Rodi

Tuscany from the Tuscan book, memoir, and more.  From the Book Description:  "...But the bulk of the book is devoted, with humor and affection, to the Americans he has met-the vain, the silly, the ignorant, the ambitious, the horny, the condescending, the charming, and the outright pathological.  Some of them have made his life hell and live in his nightmares; others became lifelong friends."  The ultimate guide on how not to be the Ugly-American (Australian/British/...)

Reclaiming Francis by Charles M. Murphy

The full title of this book by Monsignor Charles M. Murphy is Reclaiming Francis:  How the Saint and the Pope Are Renewing the Church

In the Foreword to the book, provided by the Archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts, we learn that Monsignor Murphy had completed a book proposing Saint Francis as the model for renewal and reform, evangelization, within the Catholic church, when the newly elected pope chose "Francis" as his papal name, after Saint Francis.  The author then worked his manuscript to incorporate into the book Pope Francis's vision for the church's renewal, and how to help people renew their faith. 

The author uses an entertainingly eclectic mix of quotes to bring home his messages:  poetry by Seamus Heaney and other poets, biographies of saints written by saints and by converts, the Gospel, papal speeches, articles about popular figures from today's culture, writings by the faithful humble and famous, books about modern parenting, comic sketches, many of which are referenced in footnotes that are listed at the end of the book.

Read my full review at Italophile Book Reviews.


Vanilla Beans and Brodo by Isabella Dusi

Two Australians go native, and take us with them.  From a Reader Review:  "This book makes us aware not only of the wonders available to us when we visit Italy but to how much we miss by not being prepared for our visits.  VB&B is a fascinating book about a region and a primer on how to learn to adapt and enjoy another culture than our own."  From Library Journal:  "Culturally sensitive, Dusi avoids the trap of mocking the unfamiliar or seemingly bizarre.  She takes small steps to insinuate herself into social life, always mindful of a history that is not her own."

Ferenc Mate moved to Italy with his family and wrote about the experience in The Hills of Tuscany.  He later purchased a ruin and restored it, along with the wine terraces, finally producing a beautiful home, and an award-winning wine.

If you have ever dreamed of having your own winery, this book will either inspire you or dissuade you from following that dream.  His wines, like all the wines in the region, are aged 5 years, and grow on terraces and fields the Romans prized for the wonderful grapes that could grow there.

Here is a very nice interview with Ferenc Mate, in which he talks about his winery and his fictional series about sailing.  He is also a well-known author of books about sailing and sailboats.


Check out Ferenc Mate's website, and his winery website.


Italy Luxury Family Hotels & Resorts by Debra Levinson

This e-book addresses a niche travel market:  wealthy families who wish to travel Italy in style.  Roughly 406 pages are filled with details about Italian hotels that offer top accommodation to families in mountain chalets, Renaissance palaces, a whole island in the Venetian Lagoon, former monasteries, former farmhouses, former hunting lodges, and castles, as well as new developments.

This edition is newly revised.  It includes a full Table of Contents, lots of full-sized images, and specific information for visitors to Italy who are doing the fly/drive route, driving around italy on their own:  maps of Italy with driving times between major cities, and the local airports.  There are special sections on the wine and food of Italy to compliment your trip there, and to help prepare for journey.

The book is divided into three main sections:  Northern Italy, Central Italy, and Southern Italy.  In each section, each region has a brief description, then information on the region's Classic Cuisine and Divine Wine.  Then there follows lots of hotels to drool over and choose from.

Read my full review at Italophile Book Reviews.



More Personal Experience Books



History of Italy and Ancient Rome



The Greatest Empire, A Life of Seneca by Emily Wilson 

The Greatest Empire is a biography of the philosopher, writer, politician Lucius Annaeus Seneca, who was born in Cordoba, Spain circa 4 B.C. and who died, by his own hand under political pressure, in 66 A.D.   

I should state right away that the "Greatest Empire" referred to in the title is not the Roman Empire, under which Seneca lived.  Seneca, a master of wordplay, believed that if one could conquer oneself, control one's own impulses, then one had conquered the greatest empire possible.  To be Emperor of oneself was Seneca's goal in life, but one that he could not always live up to, because he was, after all, human. 

This scholarly work, which I received as a review-copy, includes a timeline, maps, notes, further reading suggestions, a bibliography, art credits and a full Index.  The writing style is convoluted, stilted, and dryly academic at times.  But the author's female perspective on a paternalistic and misogynistic society is refreshing to read.  And she provides parenthetical explanations for those readers who are not up to speed on Roman and Mediterranean history. 

In Seneca's case, there is the risk that the era was more interesting than the man, which was a thought I had at times while reading this book.  Seneca was a Socratic and Stoic philosopher, a writer of literature, plays and popular aphorisms, and a speechwriter for his former pupil, the Emperor Nero.  Seneca is 18 years old when Rome's first permanent Emperor dies, Augustus.  Then Seneca lives through the reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius.  The Emperor Nero pressures Seneca to take his own life.  

I found the sections of the book that discuss the philosophies of the era the most interesting:  Cynicism, Hedonism, Platonism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, Skepticism, and the Peripatetics, the Pythagorians, and the Sextians!  Everybody wanted to find solace in life and to "overcome grief, pain and fear of death".  Judaism was the annoying old-timer of philosophies because the followers of the monotheistic Judaism refused to worship Roman Emperors.  And the relatively new Catholicism was just as troublesome. 

What was Seneca like, based on what the author tells us?  Well, he was pretty typical for his class, time, and place.  He was a macho jerk, self-righteous, self-important, ambitious, self-pitying, pompous, falsely modest, a narcissist, a slave owner, and a hypocrite.   

Seneca's insights into human nature still apply to us today, since human nature is the one true constant over time.  The author states Seneca's ever-true observation:  "...psychological truth of his central insight that watching acts of pain and cruelty does real harm to our souls." 

That harm is a fact.  Our moral compass is destroyed by watching real and simulated acts of pain and cruelty.  Children can be exposed to that harm without choice, but most people damage themselves by their choices of cultural consumption.  Perhaps that insight alone is reason for people to continue to read Seneca's philosophical works? 

Please read my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.



Augustus, First Emperor of Rome by Adrian Goldsworthy 

The 650 or so pages of this biography of Caesar Augustus (Octavius - Octavian) are a gift to Ancient Roman history fans and students.  The author has combed through all the ancient texts and collected together everything having to do with Augustus.  Then he has put them together chronologically.  He has evaluated the fact, fiction, and propaganda (spin-doctors are as old as politics) and presented the most likely truth.  Even modern conspiracies are evaluated, and discounted for the most part. 

What remains is a detail-rich story of the life and times of Julius Caesar's heir, Rome's first permanent Emperor, the man who gave the ancient world the famous Pax Romana, Octavian, who became Caesar Augustus. 

The book is divides the life of Octavian into five stages, related to his changing title.  A child of the civil wars that rocked the end of the Republic, the man grew into  its First Citizen, its Emperor, who held supreme power for forty-five years, and the honorary Father of his country.  The five titles correspond well to the phases in the man's life. 

Roman leaders were expected to be military men who were tested in military campaigns, but also politicians who were expert in the administration of Rome's vast territory.  So, necessarily, the story of a Roman leader is a story of battles and civil administration.  Anything other than that would "have baffled the Romans", as the author explains. 

Once all the gossip is removed from the stories surrounding Octavian, what remains can be tedious reading:  battles, massacres, building, more battles, more massacres, more building, deaths, rivals, spoils, wealth, sickness...  You have to be a real fan of Ancient Roman history to enjoy this book.  It is not for dabblers in history.    

The writer's style is clear, fluid, and concise when needed, but it is not especially interesting.  Dry, is the word I would use to best describe it.  But that seems to be what the author was aiming for.  His stated goal is:  " write as if this were the biography of a modern statesman, asking the same questions even if our sources make it difficult to answer them, and trying as far as possible to understand the real man." 

Please read my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.


Michelangelo, A Life in Six Masterpieces by Miles J. Unger 

In Michelangelo, A Life in Six Masterpieces the reader is treated to 400+ pages about the life and work of the Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarotti.  The author sketches the long life of the painter-sculptor-architect, but zeros in on six masterpieces created by Michelangelo, to share with the reader vast amounts of details about how the pieces came into existence. 

The book proceeds chronologically, beginning with the early life of Michelangelo.  Along the way to the six masterpieces, the minor works by the artist are discussed briefly.  And all the people who were important in Michelangelo's life are included in this book which is for real Michelangelo fanatics.  

These are the chapters in the book, but they are deceptive, as they are really only time dividers in the long life of Michelangelo.

·         Michelangelo, the Myth and the Man (Life up to the creation of the Pieta)

·         Pieta (Mary with dead Jesus in St. Peter's Cathedral 1498)

·         The Giant (statue of David symbolizing Florence 1501)

·         Creation (Sistine Chapel ceiling 1510-1511)

·         The Dead (Medici Tomb 1520-34)

·         The End of Time (Last Judgment in Sistine Chapel 1536-1541)

·         The Basilica (St. Peter's Cathedral, the Dome, in Vatican Rome 1547-1567)

·         Appendix: A guide to viewing Michelangelo's art in Florence and Rome

·         Notes

·         Bibliography (a very impressive bibliography, a treasure trove for Michelangelo fanatics)

Part of the fun of reading about Michelangelo is that we have many contemporary accounts of the man, even his contracts for work!  And we have writings by Michelangelo himself, which include poetry and letters.  We get an immediate impression of him from his own words, and this impression is fleshed out by the words of his contemporaries.   

The author makes good use of these resources.  (I provide links below to some free e-book editions of these works.)  Because Michelangelo was famous in his own lifetime, people kept anything relating to him for posterity and for profit.  So we have even seemingly minor details saved for history.

This is a book for real, die-hard Michelangelo fans who desire more detail about the creation of his most famous works of art.  Lots of detail.  It is for fans to savor and to live vicariously with the artistic genius.

All is presented with a lovely prose style that is easy to read.  We are allowed to follow the stories of how world-famous works of art were created, as if we were a fly on the wall.  But again, the level of detail is something that will stun and pleasure die-hard fans, but might repel the casual art lover.

Please read my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.



Italian Venice: A History by R. J. B. Bosworth 

Italian Venice:  A History, a history of the watery city that covers the short "Italian" era of Venice's long history:  

·         from 1797 to the present-day, 

·         including the belle époque period, 

·         World Wars I and II, and Fascism in between, 

·         post war Venice and the Italian miracle, 

·         and the modern mass tourism  era.    

Reading this book, Italian Venice:  A History, you'll get a glimpse of the history that Venice has experienced in the past 200+ years.  That was why I requested a review copy. 

The author asserts that after Italian unification, which Venice joined in 1866, Venice instituted a campaign to keep the city as it was in the past, during their glorious Republic, for posterity and for tourism.  Actually, Venice had instituted the policy long before that, avidly and actively promoting its republican decadence to tourists for centuries.   

Come to Venice, sin with our prostitutes behind the protection of a mask.   

What happens in Venice, stays in Venice!

Since trade routes west opened up alternate trade routes to the east, Venice had declined into an impoverished, crumbling version of its former glorious self.  Not just the women and boys prostituted themselves, but the city itself.  There is nothing new under Venice's sun, except the attitude that many of the citizens of the city have that they are put upon by the very people who give them a living.  

The book reads too often like a "review of all books ever written about Venice".  Quotes fill the text, dropping names at such speed that I expected the Bibliography/Notes section of the book to be equal in length to the book itself!  In fact, the end matter of the book takes up 85 pages, with the book's text filling roughly 250 pages.    

We are also treated to a Who's-Who of anyone of any import who ever lived in Venice during the history covered, for even short periods.  The author does touch on the contempt for modern tourism, but only lightly.  His main thesis is that Venice has always been an international tourist-filled city, and should remain an international tourist-filled city.   

The author attempts to distance his view from many pompous, elitist views that have found their way into publication over the centuries.  His historical sketches of Venice's influential men, the most notable Volpi and Roncalli and Cini, are interesting, and often accompanied by photographs of their monuments in Venice. 

If your trip to Venice was without insult, then count yourself lucky, or count yourself ignorant of the what the Venetians were saying to you in their dialect, thinking you couldn't understand them.  I understood them, and I was horrified by what I heard.  The denial of reality, the sense of entitlement, the rudeness, the insults, the nastiness, the misogyny, the neglect of animals, the money-grubbing... 

My visits to Venice in future will be via books like Italian Venice: A History

Please read my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.



Hannibal Crosses the Alps by John Prevas 

The subtitle of this books is The Invasion of Italy and the Punic Wars, but the book is not limited to only those subjects.  While the book concentrates at least half of the roughly 200 pages on Hannibal's Alp crossing from Gaul (France) to Italy, we also get a history of Hannibal's family and the city-state of Carthage, plus much history of Ancient Rome, mainly in relation to their arch rival, Carthage. 

The author begins the book with a brief summary of all three Punic Wars, then he describes the founding myths of Carthage and Rome, and then explains the hostility between them.  We learn of archeological and linguistic evidence about the rivals, and how both societies functioned, and how they grew from small settlements to trading superpowers. 

Sadism is a running theme in the story of the two empires.  I won't get into all that sickness here, but be prepared for it if you want to study this history:  institutionalized sadism from slavery to crucifixions to torture to infanticide.  The 150+ years described in this book is connected by a string of barbarities committed by both sides of the conflict. 

This is really a book for Hannibal historians to indulge in their fantasies of following along as Hannibal moved his military forces (including his famous elephants) from southern Spain, up the coast of Spain, passing into Gaul (France), traversing Gaul to the French Alps, and then maneuvering a difficult Alpine pass, past savage Celtic tribes, descending into Italy's Po Valley, and continuing on for nearly two decades through the rest of the Italian peninsula. 

The prose is not always smooth, and there is some repetition.  The painstaking detail of the Alpine trip might be tedious for some readers.  The events after the Alp crossing are condensed in the final sixth of the book.  But the author does make his central thesis clear:  the battles with Carthage forced/taught Rome to learn to become the world power that would dominate the Mediterranean and beyond for centuries to come. 

Please read my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.



The New Deal in Old Rome by H. J. Haskell 

This is a fascinating little book that I highly recommend so that the reader can understand the background and substance of discussions that fill today's economic news.  There is nothing new under the sun, so why not learn from what has come before us?  It might help us to avoid those mistakes that can prove so costly. 

The subtitle of this book is How Government in the Ancient World Tried to Deal with Modern Problems.  Actually, "Modern Problems" would have been better as "Timeless Problems", since the book demonstrates that poverty, unemployment, wealth concentration into too few hands, and controversial programs for wealth redistribution are, indeed, timeless and inevitable problems of commercial societies. 

This slim volume (136 pages) was written when The New Deal in the United States was implemented.  For those who do not know about The New Deal, implemented under President Franklin Roosevelt, a minimal social net was created, and greater regulation of financial institutions was instituted to recover from the Great Depression and to prevent another economic crisis from happening.  Another part of The New Deal was a price protection program linked with subsidies to protect farmers from price shocks. 

The author provides a nice timeline of 1000 years of Roman history, and this is followed by a so-called "Tour of Orientation", which is a brief summary of Roman history, hitting all the right points.  He describes all the major social problems the Romans tried to address with: 

  • Monetary manipulation
  • Employment rules to widen the labour base
  • Low interest rates to provide money for investment (when the rates were kept too low for too long, a boom grew that would always end in a bust)
  • Protection from usury rates of interest
  • New markets were opened up for trade (but they sometimes had a negative effect on employment and incomes)
  • Agricultural planning support and crop support with price stabilization schemes, and cheap, subsidized farm loans
  • Trust busting programs
  • Liberal bankruptcy laws
  • Large infrastructure projects and the maintenance afterward
  • Programs to spread the ownership of land
  • Relief programs for the needy in the rough and tumble economy, including food gifts and money gifts and unemployment payments
  • Debt relief programs and debt holidays
  • Government backed property loans to support property ownership and property prices
  • Child allowances to encourage reproduction and the healthy upbringing of children
  • Price, wage and capital controls

Sound familiar? 

Please visit my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.


Link to a Free PDF e-book of The New Deal in Old Rome



The Rise of Rome by Anthony Everitt 

The Rise of Rome:  The Making of the World's Greatest Empire is divided into three parts:

Part 1 - Legend, the story of the founding of Rome and the rule of the city-state under kings.

Part 2 - Story, the conquest of Italy and the growth of the Roman system of government.

Part 3 - History, the Roman Republic and its growth as a Mediterranean power.

This is not a comprehensive history, but an introduction to the history of Ancient Rome covering the eras from 753 B.C. (the purported founding of the village of Rome) to 100 B.C. (the first Civil War between aristocratic forces and plebeian forces) which was the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic. 

Actually, the author jumps forward, past the limits he first set for his book, and explains the second Civil War too, between Julius Caesar and his plebeian forces, and the Aristocratic forces, which lead to a partial democracy.  We also get a peek at Octavius/Augustus and Mark Antony who fought the third Civil War, leading to a total autocracy. 

The book often reads like an introductory textbook of 500+ pages.  The author also spends much time analyzing the big personalities who shaped Roman society and its development:  Sulla, Marius, Pompey....  There are many reference maps, along with some images, a timeline, and lots of Sources. 

Despite the author saying otherwise, the book actually covers:

·         Founding of Rome

·         Laws of Rome

·         Wars of unity in Italy

·         Punic Wars 1, 2, 3

·         Greek Wars

·         North African conquering wars

·         Mithradates Wars in Asia Minor and the Eastern Mediterranean

·         Sulla and Marius's civil war

·         Slave revolt lead by Spartacus and put down by Crassus

·         Pirate Wars ended by Pompey at his own expense

·         Gaul Wars led by Julius Caesar, where he gained his great wealth

·         Pompey vs. Caesar civil war, which Caesar won and which made him a minor dictator

·         Octavian vs. Antony civil war, which began with the assassination of J. Caesar, and ended with Octavian becoming Augustus, a big dictator

Please read my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.



Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome by Anthony Everitt 

In Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome the author attempts to show that the Roman monarchy was combined, under Hadrian, with good governance.  The 400+ page book extends the story beyond Hadrian's reign to explain, briefly, how Antonius Pius and Marcus Aurelius fared as emperors. 

As a young man, Hadrian was groomed to take over the throne on the death of Emperor Trajan.  Hadrian was forty years old when he finally inherited the throne.  Hadrian was not all sweetness and light. 

Hadrian is an excuse for the author to explain much history from that era:

  • Southern Spain, where Hadrian's family home was located
  • Homosexual predation of children and sexual practices
  • Educational system and upbringing
  • Jews and Jerusalem
  • Vespasian, Titus and Domitian's rule
  • Life in Ancient Rome in general
  • Trajan and his household, rule and wars
  • Aristocratic marriage

Because the sources are few, there is much speculation and supposition by the author about Hadrian and his life. 

Please read my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.



The Jesuits by John W. O'Malley

A History from Ignatius to the Present is the subtitle of this book, a brief but entertaining and informative history of the Roman Catholic religious order most people know via their schools, retreats, lectures and scholarly works, and now via Pope Francis:  The Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. 

The stories of the Jesuits' foreign missions that the author includes in his book are fascinating, and will quite likely encourage the reader to seek out more detailed accounts of the talented men who lead those famous missions.  The Further Reading section of the book is a wonderful place to start that search.

Here is the book's Table of Contents, to give you an idea of what's covered:

1.      Important Dates in the History of the Society of Jesus

2.      Foundations

3.      The First Hundred Years

4.      Consolidation, controversy, Calamity

5.      The Modern and Postmodern Era

6.      Epilogue:  Looking Back and Looking Ahead

7.      Further Reading

8.      Index

Please read my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.


When Saint Francis Saved the Church by Jon M. Sweeney

St. Francis of Assisi is in the news lately, due to the new pope's choosing "Francis" ("Francesco") as his papal name, in honor of the humble saint.  That humility and devotion to the poor and victimized is at the heart of Pope Francis's ministry.

The author uses a conversational tone of writing.  The book almost reads like an infomercial at points, and certainly reads like a text with accompanying slides for a presentation, which it turns out was an early form of the book. 

The underlying thesis of the book is posed as a question: Is it too bold to suggest that another Francis may just be saving the Church again in the twenty-first century?   

The author refers to Pope Francis, who told the Cardinals who elected him that if we value institutions over seeking the real goals of the Christina life, then things go wrong.  If the Catholic Church is more concerned with its money and property and avoiding lawsuits, then it will ignore the suffering of the people they are there to consul. The new Pope wants to reformed the church from within. 

Pope Francis cannot work change in the institutions of the Catholic church without the help of the Catholic faithful.  That is the role this book aims to fulfill.  The book is a gentle call to arms in support of the Pope's efforts to emulate St. Francis's humanistic teachings and examples. 

The extensive Further Reading section is a gift to those interested in expanding their knowledge of St. Francis of Assisi, and further exploring the ideas of the author. 

Please read my full, illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.


The Secrets of a Vatican Cardinal by Costantini, Pighin, Mussio

From the book's description:

On 19 April 1940 Celso Costantini prophetically wrote in his diary that if Italy followed Hitler into war, it would be allying itself with the "Anti-Christ." Within weeks, Mussolini's fascist regime plunged Italy into the destructive maelstrom of global military conflict. The ensuing years brought world war, the fall of fascism, occupation, liberation, and the emergence of a new political order.

The Secrets of a Vatican Cardinal is an extraordinary and detailed behind-the-scenes account of crucial episodes in Europe's wartime history from a unique vantage point: the Vatican and the Eternal City. Costantini, a close advisor to Pope Pius XII, possessed a perspective few of his contemporaries could match. His diaries offer new insights into the great issues of the time - the Nazi occupation, the fall of Mussolini, the tumultuous end of the Italian monarchy, the birth of republican democracy in Italy, and the emergence of a new international order - while also recounting heartbreaking stories of the suffering, perseverance, and heroism of ordinary people.

Less than a century later, with the world's attention gripped by the first papal resignation in six hundred years, The Secrets of a Vatican Cardinal presents a clear-eyed, fascinating, and complex portrait of the Roman Catholic Church's recent history.

Please visit my review at Italophile Book Reviews.


If Rome Hadn't Fallen by Timothy Venning 

This book's subtitle is:  How the Survival of Rome Might Have Changed World History.  When the author writes "Rome" he is referring to Rome's Western Empire, which collapsed circa the year 500, not Rome's Eastern Empire which survived until 1453. 

This is a "what if" book.  Speculation upon speculation for connoisseurs of Roman history to read, ponder, and play with.  Rome didn't actually fall, to be precise.  It splintered and adapted and evolved. 

But what if Ancient Rome didn't splinter?   

What if the Germans were conquered?   

What if the immigrants were embraced rather than repulsed? 

What if the Germans became Rome's trusted allies? 

This is a popular subject for writers of speculative historical fiction.  There are various historical fiction series that work from a premise that Rome never fell, or that a sliver of Ancient Rome survives into the present day. 

The author poses that there were 9 key turning points in Ancient Roman history, and 19 speculated consequences of those turning points.  He goes into each in great detail.  You really need to know your Roman history to appreciate this book.  The author clearly knows his, and he is especially knowledgeable about Roman warfare. 

The main premise of speculative history is expressed by the author thus:

"One person's actions can alter the course of history, and a political or military mischance can touch off a catastrophic reaction that has repercussions over centuries." 

If your Roman history is up to it, then this is a rollicking ride through what-if land.  Hold on and go for it! 

Please read my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.


The Restoration of Rome by Peter Heather

After Theodoric, Justinian and Charlemagne get the author's treatment, he moves on to his central thesis:  the Papacy reinvented the relic of the old Roman Empire by using religion linked to military power.  That reinvention is still alive today, 1000 years later, in the Catholic church as administered by the Roman Curia under the "CEO" guidance of the Pope.

This book reads like a fresh take on the past, relying on the contemporary sources but interpreting them with a wise eye on what most of them they actually are: products of spin-doctors-of-old making their tyrant employers look good. Through his clear eye we see clearly the mindsets of rulers and of the ruled in late Roman times and in the early Middle Ages.

The book can be read as a popularized history book, with the writer's very modern voice explaining the past to us, with references to the Mafia, warlords, neocons, Wikipedia, The Godfather, and current politicians, wars, rebellions and massacres. He links the past firmly to the present, emphasizing the continuity of human venality. But the book is also a scholarly work, with detailed footnotes, maps, lists of primary sources, a full bibliography, and a detailed index.

Refreshingly, the author clearly considers the human costs of war and military expansion. Past, self-justifying historians have tended to brush over these costs as being the necessary evils associated with the creation of an empire that will eventually bring great good.

Read my full review at Italophile Book Reviews.



Legends of the Sibilline Mountains  by Giuseppe Santarelli

This book was brought to my attention by the translators of the Italian book.  They wrote:  "We have translated Giuseppe Santarelli’s "Legends of the Sibilline Mountains" from the Italian and published it with Staf edizioni of Amandola, Italy. 

"The Sibilline Mountains, dividing Le Marche from Umbria, were "celebrated in the 14th and 15th centuries throughout all Europe for magical fairytales and necromantic intiations," according to the author.

"In the most famous of these tales a mysterious Sibyl inhabits a grotto devoted to the pleasures of the flesh, luring knights to eternal damnation. The Lago di Pilato, a nearby mountaintop lake where Pontius Pilate’s body was said to have been cast, became a destination for demonic rituals. 

"In a witty and personal tone, Santarelli, director of the Sanctuary of Loreto, discusses the origins of the myths in folklore, their literary transformations through the centuries, and the archeological traces left behind."

The book is available from Amazon and other Internet sellers, and here is an e-mail for the authors:

I enjoyed this book (137 pages long) and the interesting links made between fantasy, history, religion and literature.  I thank the translators for their generosity in letting me read it.  It's a wonderful pre-read for anyone traveling to that area of Italy.

This little book can inspire a reader to turn to the many literary and musical transformations of the legends of the Sibilline Mountains, which can never be a bad thing!  Aretino, Wagner, Ariosto, Andrea da Barberino, even Leopardi was inspired by these mountains as he wrote his beautiful poetry.

The book will be especially interesting to those who have roots in that region, and for anyone interested in evolution of thinking from the superstitious Middle Ages to the humanist Renaissance.  Students of European literature will find it especially interesting.


Main Square of Ascoli Piceno circa 1900





For a free, concise history of Italy, visit my History of Italy pages





If you enjoy folktales, and want to read more Italian ones, I can also recommend Italo Calvino's classic Italian Folktales.

Concise History of Italy by Christopher Duggan

Rave Reader Reviews.

From one:  "The book is, as the title indicates, a "concise" history. Very concise, and incredibly well written!  The author covers a lot of ground, and so few words are devoted to character development or the broader context of historical events that one might expect the book to read like an almanac."

And Christopher Duggan has another wonderful history of Italy book:  The Force of Destiny: The History of Italy Since 1796.



Rough Guide History of Italy by Rough Guides

A very thorough and concise history of Italy.  Rough Guides are a series of books that specialize in being practical, concise, accurate, and reasonably priced.


The Pursuit of Italy by David Gilmour


David Gilmour’s wonderfully readable exploration of Italian life over the centuries is filled with provocative anecdotes as well as personal ob­servations, and is peopled by the great figures of the Italian past—from Cicero and Virgil to Dante and the Medicis, from Garibaldi and Cavour to the controversial politicians of the twentieth century. His wise ac­count of the Risorgimento, the pivotal epoch in modern Italian history, debunks the nationalistic myths that surround it, though he paints a sympathetic portrait of Giuseppe Verdi, a beloved hero of the era.

Gilmour shows that the glory of Italy has always lain in its regions, with their distinctive art, civic cultures, identities, and cuisines. Italy’s inhabitants identified themselves not as Italians but as Tuscans and Venetians, Sicilians and Lombards, Neapolitans and Genoese. Italy’s strength and culture still come from its regions rather than from its misconceived, mishandled notion of a unified nation.



Oxford Illustrated History of Italy edited by George Holmes

For the professional historian's point of view...  Although illustrated, don't make the mistake of thinking this is a simple read.  These are articles by historians analyzing in great depth Italy's history in relation to Europe and the world's history.  For the erudite traveler, or the armchair historian...


Books and films about Italy's unification and the great Giuseppe Garibaldi




More History Books



Daedalus Books - Remainders On-Line Bookstore - 50%-90% off Titles

Browse the on-line bookstore that specializes in remainder books.  These are books that publishers printed, but did not sell through the regular outlets.  Beautiful books for GREAT prices.

Italy-related titles are in most of their categories, like Cooking, History, Art.  Try the Renaissance Studies category, for example.



Italian Cookbooks

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazen

From  "Perhaps more than any other person, Marcella Hazan is responsible for bringing Italian cuisine into the homes of American cooks.  We're not talking spaghetti and meatballs here--Hazan's cuisine consists of polenta, risotto, squid braised with tomatoes and white wine, sautéed Swiss chard with olive oil and garlic...  Now a new generation is ready to be introduced to Marcella Hazan's way with food, and in Essentials of Italian Cooking Hazan combines her two earlier works into one updated and expanded volume."


Downtown Italian by Campanale, et. al. 

Downtown Italian's subtitle is:  Recipes Inspired by Italy, Created in New York's West Village.  The recipes and the wine accompaniments and the cocktail creations are by Joe Campanale, Gabriel Thompson and Katherine Thompson.

The sommelier, chef, and pastry chef have interpreted traditional Italian dishes to make them their own, inspired by both Italy and America.  They serve this fare regularly at four restaurants in New York City:  dell'anima, L'Artusi, L'Apicio, and Anfora. 

The book's sections follow the typical Italian feast:  Notes on Wine, Aperitivi, Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, Contorni, Dolci, Digestivi. 

The three authors are not purists; they have a very relaxed attitude to food, and working with food.  "The point is to work with the ingredients, treat them right, cook with love, and create something you and everyone else wants to eat right that minute.  Have fun!" 

The Notes on Wine section is interesting for Italophiles who are also Oenophiles.  The sommelier mentions that there are more than 1000 indigenous grape varieties in Italy.  He describes the wines in terms of their region, grape variety, producer, and the style of wine.  He contributes all the creative Aperitivi, most of which have accompanying photographs.  For each dish in the book, he suggests an accompanying wine. 

There are lots of unusual Antipasti, and many salads, which are not a strength in traditional Italian cooking.  

The Pasta section offers a wide variety of meat ragus and sauces, which seem quite North African. 

The Secondi are solid, do-able dishes of fish or meat, that seem like satisfying, not fussy, dishes.   

Contorni is the shortest section, but each dish comes with a suggested pairing with a main dish.   

The Dolci are quite work involved, and very sweet compared to their Italian inspirations, so they are more for an American palate.   

There is no recipe list at the front of the book.  The recipe names appear only in the Index, which includes all the ingredients and instructions. 

So, what are Recipes Inspired by Italy, Created in New York's West Village like?  Here are some examples:

- Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Panzanella Salad with Black pepper Bacon and - -- -- Picked Watermelon Rind

- Rigatoni with Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon

- Green Tomato Parmesan

- Blueberry Polenta Upside-Down Cake

- Grapefruit-Aperol Granita 

Please read my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.



Audrey Gordon's Tuscan Summer by Audrey Gordon 

What this book does not mention, which it really should, is that this is a send-up.  Audrey Gordon's Tuscan Summer features an actress playing a comic role she created for Australian television. 

Audrey Gordon is a spoof of British star chefs who are more interested in pampering their over-sized egos, selling products on which they get a percentage, and getting paid to vacation in Italy with the excuse of "research" for a new book or TV show. 

"A trip would be a chance for us to step out of the limelight, to get away from the pressures of public life and enjoy a quite, private break together.  And then write a book about it."

The first-person narrative is a purported diary that dim-witted egotist Audrey kept while in her new Tuscan vacation home, with her husband.  Audrey manages to use and abuse everyone in her path, with obliviousness and arrogance joyfully overflowing. 

"I love Italy.  For hundreds of years, if not centuries, the people of italy (Italians) have been living here." 

We are treated to lots of glamor shots of Audrey in the kitchen looking far too stylized to be real shots of someone cooking, which might remind readers of a certain British Domestic Goddess. 

There are even a few recipes included in the book.  The eleven or so recipes are filled with humorous asides and comments by Audrey.  The Acknowledgement section alone is a deadly send-up of many an egotistical author's notes.  And we are treated to lots of inappropriate information such as her sex-life and why she fired her assistant. 

Written humor is difficult to pull off.  I must say, sometimes the humor works, and sometimes it doesn't.  The repetitive set-up followed by the punch-line writing can get monotonous.   The level of humor is low, which can wear at times.  Some of it is truly offensive.  But overall, it is a witty book that takes a sharp satiric eye to an industry that has surely reached its peak:  the celebrity chef. 

Please read my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.



The Country Cooking of Italy by Coleman Andrews 

With a strong voice backed up by commanding experience and knowledge, the author presents recipes for Italian country dishes that make your mouth water, and make you want to rush to the kitchen to make the food and make your mouth water for real! 

Besides the 250 recipes, the book includes roughly 50 short essays on various topics, scattered throughout the book:  mozzarella, bruschetta, Apicius...  This is in recognition that many cookbooks are bought to be read these days.  Actually, the essays alone could make up a fascinating book! 

The author is a food scholar, so there is plenty of information about the history of dishes, the Latin names for foodstuffs, quotes from classic cookbooks both modern and from the past going all the way back to Apicius, the relations of the food to other Mediterranean cooking, explanations of unusual ingredients. 

My favorite section is the Soup chapter, that offers the widest variety of Italian soups I have ever seen a cookbook.  But not being a meat-eater, I had a hard time getting through the meat chapters. They are for true and dedicated carnivores. 

The author includes a fascinating bibliography, which is highly unusual for a cookbook, and a treasure trove for Italophiles. 

Please read my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.



Dolci:  Italy's Sweets by Francine Segan 

There are many other Italian dessert books.  So what makes this one different?

There are color images of many of the ingredients (but I always want MORE images).  There are quotes that are quite similar to the ones that can be found in the classic Italian cookbook by Artusi.The ingredient notes are for U.S. readers, but the measurements for both U.S. and Canadians.

The desserts are presented with their English and Italian names.

The region from where the recipe originates is included, and the variations to the recipe in other Italian regions are included.

The recipes include ancient recipes.

There is a Glossary of Italian chocolate candies.

There is an odd aversion to capital letters in the titles.

There are many little asides and articles about Italian sweets makers, with tips for travelers.

Liquor recipes and after dinner alcoholic drinks are included.

There is a Glossary of Italian Dessert Wines and Liquors.

Oddly, there are no recipes for gelato, but only semifreddo and spumoni.

There are traditional Italian sayings that have to do with food sprinkled throughout the book.  The most disturbing one is:  "Children and fried food; the more you make, the better they come out."

Please read my full, illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.



The Italian Cookbook by Maria Gentile 

The free e-book cookbook is a back-to-basics, farmhouse-style recipe book that features all the classic recipes of the Italian cucina casalinga, Italian housewife cookery. 

The Preface stresses that the Italian cuisine is "palatable, nourishing and economical".  It also affirms that Italians are:  ...among whom the art of living well and getting the most out of life at a moderate expense has been attained to a very high degree.  There is also an odd mention of the "splendid manhood and womanhood of Italy".

Without a Table of Contents, it is the hyper-linked Index at the back of the book that offers the best oversight of the simply-explained 221 recipes. 

The organization of the recipes is at times haphazard.  The measurements are most often given in weight, rather than cups, like today's recipes.  The instructions are minimal.  But these things do not detract from the overall breadth of the recipes.  All the basics of Italian cooking are here, for free! 

Here is an unofficial Table of Contents to give you an idea of the every-day Italian recipes in this book:

  1. Soups
  2. Pasta and Sauces
  3. Rice Dishes
  4. Artichokes
  5. Misc. Egg and Chicken Dishes
  6. Fowl
  7. Game
  8. Sauces
  9. Meat
  10. Zucchini and other Vegetable Dishes
  11. Fish and Eel
  12. Roast Meats
  13. Kidney and Other Parts
  14. Onions, Celery & Stews
  15. Trout
  16. Eggs
  17. Puddings
  18. Cakes
  19. Biscotti
  20. Syrups & Preserves
  21. Frozen Desserts

The Italian Cookbook was fist published by the Italian Book Co. New York in 1919. 

The Italian Cookbook is in the public domain so it is offered for free, in various e-book formats, from Project Gutenberg, the grand-daddy of free e-book websites. 

Direct link to the free e-book page for The Italian Cookbook 

The Italian Cookbook is also available from the Internet Archive in various e-book formats, including a PDF of the scanned book.  Look to the top left of the Internet Archive page for the e-book download links.

Direct link to The Italian Cookbook e-book download page


You can also download a free Kindle version from  Here is the direct link:


Apicius - Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome

The Ancient Roman cookbook attributed to Apicius, De Re Coquinaria is presented in an English translation together with a treatise on Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome.  The editors are skilled cooks in their own right, which makes their book, which is in the public domain, one of the more intelligible printings of Apicius's book of recipes. 

The Apicii Librii, The Apicius Books, are actually the ten chapters of the Ancient Roman chef's recipe collection.  Included in this edition is a chapter of notes collected by a student of Apicius.  Manuscripts, books written by hand, of Apicius's cookbook were copied over and over again through the centuries, from roughly 100 B.C., during the reigns of Augustus Caesar and Tiberius Caesar, to the late 1400s. 

In the late 1400s, the only surviving cookbook from the Ancient Roman era was printed using the newly invented printing press.  It has been in print ever since.  While not the first European cookbook to be printed on a press, which was Platina's cookbook in 1474, Apicius's is the oldest European cookery book in existence, and its early printed editions are rare and highly valued.  It is possibly the oldest cookery book in the world. 

There are ten chapters (roughly 500 recipes) in Apicius's cookbook.  The editors include the notes from a Goth (the original meaning!) student of Apicius's called Vinidarius.  Vinidarius includes with his 31 recipes more instructions for cooking and serving the dishes than Apicius does.  Vinidarius also lists Apicius's recommendation for what should be included in every well-stocked kitchen in the form of spices, seeds, dried herbs and legumes, liquids ingredients, nuts, and dried fruit.  The editors of this wonderful translation provide many scholarly additions. 

Please read my full review at Italophile Book Reviews.

Direct link to the Apicius e-book download page at Gutenberg Project, various e-book formats, all for FREE!


Pizza on the Grill by Elizabeth Karmel and Bob Blumer

So, what does grilled pizza crust taste like?  According to the authors (I've not yet tried it) grilled pizza is smoky and crispy, exactly the combination that makes wood-burning pizza ovens so special.  In the photographs, however, the pizza crust looks more like a well-oiled cracker than a puffy, crispy pizza crust.  

Many of the pizza recipes in this book, which I received as a review-copy, are eclectic and unusual, catering to all tastes with, as the authors say, "non-traditional toppings and funky cheeses".  There are recipes for the classic pizzas, and for veggie, seafood, meat and meatless pizzas, and for breakfast and dessert pizzas.  There are beverage suggestions, and there are recipes for more than pizza in the book:  snacks, salads, sauces and toppings. 

The basic techniques of grilling pizza on a BBQ are well explained and accompanied by helpful photographs.  There are many beautiful and helpful photographs in Pizza on the Grill, most in color, some in black and white.  

The ingredient quantities for the toppings seem to large, but that is a personal taste and health issue, and the quantities can be adjusted by each chef.  Probably easiest on a gas-grill. 

Read my full review at Italophile Book Reviews.



Gastronomy of Italy by Anna del Conte

This is a book to be read and savored by Italophile foodies.  Ingredients, cooking techniques, regional variations, popular dishes and pastries, recipes for classic dishes, cooking writers, regional specialties of bread and cheese:  the book is exhaustive with information. 

The information on Italian cuisine, Italy's regions, and the 200 recipes in this comprehensive book are presented in an A-to-Z dictionary format, with all the defined words in Italian, and sorted by the Italian name.  The e-book edition's Search-feature allows you to easily move through the text to quickly find what interests you the most, and to electronically bookmark the recipes and food preparation techniques that you use most often.  You can also adjust the text size for ease of reading.  There are some beautiful photographs, too. 

The variety of Italian cooking is one of its great appeals to the foreign palette.  Where many national cuisines are homogenous in ingredients, methods and flavors, Italian cuisine is most definitely not!  Regional differences abound.  The author describes these differences in her book.  The dictionary entries on the regions are wonderful summaries, touching on the area's culinary strong points.  And many of the ingredient entries explain the history of the item. 

Read my full review at Italophile Book Reviews.



Culinaria Italy

From the publisher's site:

"Food and culture are inexorably tied together. The Culinaria series reports on every aspect of a country’s cuisine within the context of the people who created it. One of the most successful series in cook book history, these new editions are updated with the guidance of first-class chefs, and come in a durable flexi-cover format to withstand abuse while spending time in the kitchen.

The teams behind each Culinaria volume spend months in the region they are working on, allowing them time to fully absorb all of the food and drink a country can offer. Profusely illustrated with spectacular photography and abundantly peppered with authentic recipes, these volumes are a treat for both the mind and the palate.


  • Learn about the history behind the dishes, their cultural significance, and how to prepare them
  • Beautiful photographs take you on a tour from the local villages to inside the kitchen where you will find the final product
  • Enormous variety of magnificent photographs and tempting recipes together with knowledgeable text that is easy for readers and cooks of all skill levels to understand.
460 pages.

Direct order page from the publisher in the U.S. for Culinaria Italy. 

Check out my Culinaria Italy page that has other Italian cooking and art books from the same publisher.  They offer wonderful books at great prices.  Try to find them in a store to look through to really see what you can get for your money!

And read my book review at Italophile Book Reviews.


This is a link for the new edition of the book that is due out soon.  You can pre-order it via



Robert Tinnell's Feast of the Seven Fishes has taken on a life of its own.  It began as his family's story of Christmas Eve, preparing seven fish dishes.  It became a 'graphic novel', or strip, telling such an engaging story, appreciated by so many.

You can purchase the story, together with the fish recipes, courtesy of Robert's wife, Shannon (15 recipes, not all fish recipes), a Foreword by Steve Geppi, and a section by Robert Tinnell discussing his inspirations (92 pages in all).  Besides getting recipes for your own Italian Christmas Eve, you have a fun book for the family to read while digesting.  And you'll have a head start on everyone when the movie finally comes out (perhaps for next Christmas). And be sure to watch the lovely promotional video at the book's website.

The author has a strong presence on, so be sure to search for him there, to see his real family members cooking fish.  And he hosts a blog, too, celebrating things Italian, especially Italian cooking (not just fish).  Here are two excerpts from the book.  And visit my page about La Vigilia for more about Robert's book.

Read my book review at Italophile Book Reviews.




Celebrate...Italian Style by Jacqueline Miconi

Jacqueline Miconi is an Italian-American cook and author.  Her book shares not just her family's and friends' time-honored recipes, but her lovingly remembered stories from her rich life in an extended Italian-American family.  If you're not of Italian origin, after reading her engaging stories, you may wish you were!  But at least you can eat like an Italian-American using the 100 recipes as guides. 

I've read Jacqueline's book, and found myself thinking of those wonderful old Women's Guild books from days gone by, that collected together contributed recipes and stories from their members.  The printed collection, while at times in need of a strong-armed editor, was full of warmth and heart, just like Jacqueline Miconi's book.  The book is especially entertaining if you grew up near the author's hometown of East Haven, Connecticut.  The recipes are directed to a U.S. audience.

Here's a description from her website, where you can find recipes, excerpts and ordering information.  From her website:

"This cookbook includes over 100 traditional recipes using readily available ingredients for dishes that are not only easy to create, but even more enjoyable to indulge in. It is divided into 10 different chapters, covering the many celebrations that make up our lives. Through chapters like Sunday Dinner, La Pasqua (Easter Sunday), A Feast with your Paisani and An Italian Christmas, this cookbook reads like a continuous feast of memories and wonderful Italian dishes, all while showing readers how to prepare authentic Italian meals, even for the most amateur of cooks."

Read my book review at Italophile Book Reviews.


Celebrating Italy by Carol Field

While the previous book celebrates Italian-American festivals and life, this book celebrates Italian festivals and holidays, in Italy.  Here's a rave review from an Amazon visitor:

"I highly recommend all Carol Field books, even if you don't cook. She TAKES you to Italy and FEEDS you. She writes engrossing and vividly descriptive literature which also happens to contain really great, authentic Italian recipes. Celebrating Italy will make you want to move to Italy and eat all day and night."

This book was also recommended by a site visitor.  He and his family use it to keep their Italian culture alive after several generations removed from Italy.  Italian food is the most enduring aspect of Italian culture, and the most popular!


Mario Batali is what is now known as a 'super-star chef'.  Whatever you want to call this restaurateur, cookbook writer and TV-personality, people like his recipes.  Here's a quote from an customer. 

"You know it's a different kind of grilling book when it includes a recipe for homemade ricotta. The grill recipes are unusual, relatively easy, and the ones I have tried so far have been delicious--from the ribs to the chicken legs with fennel and blue cheese sauce to zucchini with the aforementioned ricotta. And yes, that is Mario's kickass barbecue sauce dripped on one of the pages of my copy!"



Claudia Roden is more than a cookbook writer, she is a sociologist, ethnologist, essayist, historian and chronicler of food's role in the lives of people all over the world.  This from

"Containing more than three hundred recipes, Claudia Roden’s timeless and enchanting book (CR's The Food of Italy) is set against a backdrop of the story of Italy and its people and is the most authoritative and approachable guide to one of the world’s best-loved cuisines by one of the great food writers of our time."  You can't get any better than that!

They go on to explain:  "For an entire year Roden traveled up and down Italy, through every region, taking in city and countryside, to discover the local specialties on their home ground."  One Reader's Review says she and her daughter used the book as a culinary guide to order at restaurants while travelling Italy.


Vegetarians do well with an Italian diet.  The grains and beans and vegetables are rich in nutrients and low in calories.  Here a few books just for vegetarian Italophiles.



Eating Italian food every day.  That's the goal of these three cookbooks.


Italian Immigrant Cooking by Elodia Rigante

From a Reader Review:  "Mrs. Rigante and my husband's grandmother were acquaintances in her Brooklyn neighborhood; they lived just a few blocks from one another.  Grandma didn't write down a lot of her recipes, so Mrs. Rigante's cookbook is a lifesaver.  Their recipes are so similar it's like having a bit of home every time you open up the book.  We can't look through it without getting hungry!  Every recipe we've tried is excellent, and I love the family anecdotes and pictures.  This is a staple for every cookbook collection."  Rave Reader Reviews.


Some Italian Sweets Cookbooks


More Cookbooks


Also see my pages:

Mysteries set in Italy

Mysteries set in Ancient Rome

Romances set in Italy

Thrillers set in Italy

Children's Books

Historical Novels set in Italy

Italian Bestselling Writers



For fans of Indie E-books


Enter keywords in the Smashwords search bar, followed by a comma (for example:  nonfiction, italy,) to locate the books that interest you.  The books are available in various e-book formats for immediate download.  And there are over 30,000 free e-books!



Daedalus Books - Remainders On-Line Bookstore - 50%-90% off Titles

Browse the on-line bookstore that specializes in remainder books.  These are books that publishers printed, but did not sell through the regular outlets.  Beautiful books for GREAT prices.

Italy-related titles are in most of their categories, like Cooking, History, Art.