Ideas for Books to Read Set in Florence

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.

Novels Set in Florence, Italy

As the heart of Tuscany, and a core part of the Renaissance, Florence’s influence in novels and pop culture is undeniable. The breadth of books set in Florence is immense. Whether you like historical fiction, thrillers, art-focused books, or just about any other genre – you’ll find books that are set in Florence. 

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

Read this one with The Medicis and Leonardo da Vinci listed above. This is a fictional take on the Florence of the Medicis. The town is richly illustrated, and the storyline is gripping. If you want a tour of Florence but don’t like non-fiction, this will give you a great sense of the place.

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.

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.

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.

The Prince

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?

Interesting Non-Fiction Books About Florence, Italy

Florence has a deep and robust history, with huge influence throughout the world. The Medici family especially is the source of intrigue throughout the centuries – read some of these non-fiction books to learn more historical context for everything you’ll see in Florence. 

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.

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.

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.


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!

More Ideas for Books Set in Italy and About Italy

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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