Italy: Suggested Reading & Listening

The more background we bring to an experience, the more we get out of it (in the moment and in the memories).  So here are a few of our favorite resources to set the stage for a life-changing trip! (Note that this list is hardly exhaustive.  If you have something particular you want to learn more about, or have a suggestion we didn’t include, please say the word!)


Reading – A Few of the Best:


Europe101CoverEurope 101 by Rick Steves

This is the book that started my love affair with art! Shoved into my hand by a friend, I read it on the plane to London in 1993. When I left LAX I doubted I wanted to set foot in another European museum. By baggage claim in Gatwick, I was ready to run to the galleries.

If you need a refresher - or a first introduction! - to European history and the art that emerges from the various epochs, this is the place to start!!!

dantecoverDante's Divine Comedy, trans. by Mark Musa

Few investments will reward your upcoming experience of Italy like reading Dante. Really! He will give you the experience of classic literature (esp. Virgil), insight into Florentine politics on the dawn of the Renaissance, while steeping you in the worldview of medieval Christianity. The writing is moving, funny and, well, brilliant. And Musa's footnotes make sense of the confusing stuff!
roomwithaviewA Room with a View by E. M. Forster

A classic in a different sense. This is a clever, witty, warming story about what time in Italy can do for our humanity! It's an easy read and will make you long for the wine and the walks.
innocentsabroadThe Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

What's it like when a group of Americans take the trip of a lifetime to go see the sights and wonders of Europe? No one can describe it better than Twain! A guaranteed laugh and great preparation for the trials of foreign travel. And it's available for free on your Kindle.
essentialscookingcoverEssentials of Classical Italian Cooking by Marcelle Hazan

Why eat, when you can savor??? And Hazan will have you drooling by the end of the introduction! This is not mainly a collection of recipes, but a guide to understanding how to make the most of ingredients. What is a tomato and how is it best prepared? When is garlic perfectly cooked? Why so many shapes of pasta and why does it matter? If you never make a dish, your palate will thank you for reading this book; but why not try a sauce and see how you do? You'll never buy Prego again, and the food of Italy will mean so much more when you arrive!


Listening – Rick Steves’ Audio Tours:

These audio tours, narrated by Rick Steves himself, are meant to be listened to while at the sights.  But listening in advance will only add to your excitement and give you ample time to absorb the information.  Put them on your iPod for the trip itself, but start now and picture yourself there.  Or better still, go to Google Earth and see where we are headed!

If you are familiar with podcasts, you can easily listen via iTunes. Or you can listen online or download (right-click; then “save link as”) by clicking the links below:

…if these don’t have you warming up your passport, I don’t know what will (a nice cappuccino, maybe?).  If you want even more from Rick, check these out!