Florence is one of the most unique and incredible cities in the world – and it’s also one of the most storied. One of the best ways to get ready for your vacation and immerse yourself in it while you’re there is by reading books set in that location.
I love the history books that make the ancient city come alive, or the retrospectives that will explore how the Medici ruled the city, or even just the history books. All parts of Florence are alive with art, beauty and history.
A Room With a View
As a tourist, what I love about this book is that it’s the story of another traveler falling in love with the magic of Florence. It’s a classic – originally published in 1908, and it also had a movie made in the 80s. This is the perfect book to experience the magic of Florence before the incredible amount of tourism that’s captured it.
The King’s Agent
If you’re looking for a novel that’s more “thriller” than “classic introspection,” this is an awesome choice. The King’s Agent is set largely in Florence, but winds out through much of historical Europe. If you love art and you love a good mystery, this is the perfect plane read for on your way.
The Birth of Venus
This novel is just incredible – whether or not you’re going to Florence! It follows the story of Alessandra during the rise of Savonarola’s Florence. If you’re studying Florence history, you’ll know that the period of Savonarola versus the Medici was a pivotal one for the city. In reading this book, you’ll get to see and feel the city change while entranced in the story. And then, when you’re in the city, you’ll love seeing all the architecture referenced in the book!
The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall
This nonfiction history tells the story of the Medici family. As one of the most interesting families of history, the book dives into both what made the family so successful, and what ultimately caused it to fall. You’ll get a great feeling for much of the architecture the Medicis sponsored. It’s fun to see it all as you walk through the city after reading this book! While it is nonfiction, the author does a great job keeping it moving fast. It’s an easy historical read, and incredibly gripping!
As a ruler, is it better to be feared or loved? Machiavelli’s classic was inspired by the Medici family ruling Florence. So what better book to read when you’re headed to the city?
The Agony and the Ecstasy
This classic biographical novel of Michelangelo is the perfect read for a trip to Florence and Rome. It will introduce you to the art, architecture, and history of Florence in a way that makes the pages fly by! This is one of those incredible books that brings the Renaissance time period and the storied artist to life in a vivid and compelling way.
Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture
If you’re climbing up Il Duomo in Florence, you MUST read this book first. And if you read this book and weren’t planning on climbing it, you’ll change your mind! This is a quick, easy nonfiction read about how Brunelleschi solved getting the Florence Duomo to exist. It’s a remarkable story of genius, and one that will give you a deep appreciation for the Duomo when you see it in person.
I, Mona Lisa
Yes, the Mona Lisa is in Paris at the Louvre. But as a da Vinci masterpiece, it’s likely the woman herself lived in Florence. This novel tells the story of Madonna Lisa and brings a crazy backstory to the painting everyone knows. It’s another story that tells about Florence during the fall of the Medici and the rise of Savonarola. If you need a beach book before your trip – this is perfect!
If you like Dan Brown’s ability to blend art, history, and a pinch of fantasy, Inferno is a great read before you go to Florence. In the fast-paced thriller, you’ll get a tour of both Florence and the art, which is great preparation for the city itself. As always, Dan Brown writes a perfect book for the beach, plane or train.
Death in Florence: the Medici, Savonarola and the Battle for the Soul of the Renaissance City
This nonfiction book focuses solely on the battle between the Medici and Savonarola. You’ll be surprised at the connections drawn between the two. Even though this is a nonfiction history, it reads like a novel (and no surprise, given how interesting the subject matter is!). It’s a great read before you make it to Florence or Italy in general.
Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics, and Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence
As you can tell from this list, Florence and the Medici family are inextricably linked. This book goes more into their banks and business and the family itself than the others on this list.
Looking for more books about Italy?
Find books to read before you go to Italy and books set in Naples, Amalfi and Capri!
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