January 02, 2024
Like music and film, reading books can transport us to beautiful destinations, whether real or imaginary, nostalgic moments or future desires. From memories and romance novels to historical fiction, reading is my favorite past-time to immerse myself in the richness of Mediterranean culture, landscape, and history whenever I long for a mental escape. Discover a round-up of books that will do just that, exploring themes of love and identity to food and culture throughout countries of France, Greece, and Italy.
One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle
One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle is a novel that tells the story of 17-year-old Italian-American artist, Carolina Connelly, and her life during a summer in Italy. Caro has always dreamt of going to Italy, the birthplace of her father and her heritage. When an opportunity arises for her to spend the summer in Montepulciano, a small town in Tuscany, Caro's dreams seem to be coming true. However, upon arriving in Italy, Caro's dream summer quickly turns into a nightmare. As Caro navigates these challenges, she meets a local boy named Lorenzo, who helps her rediscover the beauty of her heritage and the love for art. Throughout the novel, Caro learns important life lessons about change, family, and the power of embracing one's roots.
The Land Where Lemons Grow by Helena Attlee
A non-fiction book written by British author Helena Attlee, The Land Where Lemons Grow is a book that explores the history, mythology, culture, and cuisine of lemon production in Italy’s four southern regions: Campania, Puglia, Calabria, and Sicily. Attlee takes readers on a journey through the sun-drenched landscapes, delving into the stories and legends surrounding the lemon. From the ancient Greek temples of Paestum to the bustling markets of Amalfi, she explores the role of lemons in Italian culture, from their use in traditional medicine to their symbolism in art and literature. The book is illustrated with beautiful photographs by Jean Boydston and Attlee shares recipes for traditional dishes that showcase the versatility and flavor of the country’s famous citrus fruit.
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
"My Family and Other Animals" is a semi-autobiographical novel written by the famous British author, Gerald Durrell. The book tells the story of Durrell's childhood years spent on the Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939 with his over-the-top family before the start of World War Two. The book’s title highlights the overall theme of Durrell’s unique relationship he had with the island’s natural beauty, nature, and wildlife. Throughout the book, there are themes of family, identity, nature, and self-discovery with bits of humor and resignation.
A Very French Affair by Sue Roberts
A Very French Affair is a romantic comedy novel written by Sue Roberts. The story revolves around Evie, who has recently separated from her husband and is looking for a fresh start. She decides to take a trip to France to visit her sister, Sophie, who runs a bed and breakfast in the picturesque French countryside. Upon arriving in France, Evie is immediately charmed by the beautiful landscapes, the delicious food, and the laid-back lifestyle. As Evie settles into her new life in France, she meets a handsome Frenchman named Olivier. The chemistry between them is undeniable, and Evie finds herself falling in love for the first time in years.
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
Call Me By Your Name is a novel written by André Aciman, first published in Italian in 2007 as Chiamami col Tuo Nome and then translated into English in 2007 (If you’re on your Italian language journey, try the copy in Italian!). The main characters of Call Me By Your Name are Elio Perlman, a 17-year-old boy spending his summer at his family's estate in Northern Italy, and Oliver, a 24-year-old graduate student working as an intern for Elio's father. As the story unfolds, their relationship starts as a casual friendship but soon blossoms into a deep and intense romance. The novel explores how the young men grapple with their burgeoning emotions and desires, as they navigate through the complexities of first love and self-discovery. The novel tackles issues of identity, sexuality, and familial relationships, all set against the backdrop of the Italian countryside in the 1980s.
From Scratch – A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home by Tembi Locke
"From Scratch – A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home" is a memoir written by Tembi Locke. In this memoir, Locke shares the story of her romance with Saro, an Italian chef she meets while studying abroad in Italy. Their love overcomes cultural differences, language barriers, and the disapproval of Saro's traditional Sicilian family. Eventually, the couple marries and begins building a life together in Los Angeles. However, their happiness is short-lived when Saro tragically passed away from cancer. Devastated by her loss, Locke seeks solace in the places and memories they shared, particularly in the Sicilian village where she first fell in love with him. Returning to Sicily, the vibrant culture, the warm, welcoming people, and the delicious food all remind her of the love she shared with Saro.
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Words by Gabriela R. Proietti