It is snowing again today, so I really want to dream of far off places. Once of my favorite places in the world is Italy, thanks to some time spent there for school. As a teenager, my journey through Italy changed the whole course of my life including what college I wanted to go to and what I wanted to major in and, mostly, how I saw myself as a citizen, tourist, and even as a girl. I really hope to get back there someday, but for now, let’s start in Northern Italy and wind our way south through some great YA lit!
Verona is, of course, famous as the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. It is incredibly charming and full of beauty. I think I’ve seen Letters to Juliet more times than I should admit, so I knew I had to include a story based in Verona.
The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper
Italy . . . Shakespeare . . . but no romance?
Kate Sanderson inherited her good sense from her mother, a disciplined law professor, and her admiration for the Bard from her father, a passionate Shakespeare scholar. When she gets dumped, out of the blue, for the Practically Perfect Ashley Lawson, she vows never to fall in love again. From now on she will control her own destiny, and every decision she makes will be highly reasoned and rational. She thinks Shakespeare would have approved.
So when she is accepted to a summer Shakespeare symposium in Verona, Italy, Kate sees it as the ideal way to get over her heartbreak once and for all. She’ll lose herself in her studies, explore ancient architecture, and eat plenty of pasta and gelato. (Plus, she’ll be getting college credit for it–another goal accomplished!) But can even completely logical Kate resist the romance of living in a beautiful villa in the city where those star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet met and died for each other? Especially when the other Shakespeare Scholars–in particular Giacomo, with his tousled brown hair, expressive dark eyes, and charming ways–try hard to break her protective shell?
“In fair Verona, where we lay our scene . . . “
Venice, known as Venezia locally, is famous among historians and tourists around the world. It was my favorite place to get lost, winding my way through narrow streets, up and over bridges, and also relaxing in San Marco square. While the gondola rides had very little appeal to my 16 year-old self, they were an enjoyable way for sightseeing and I could see how it would be romantic for a couple. (Wonder how I would find it now… hmm.) The basilica was probably my favorite thing here, as well as seeing Venetian glass created in a demonstration… and of course, as in the rest of Italy, the gelato was worth the stop. I did a lot of research on Veronica Franco, a 16th-century poetess and courtesan of Venice, while in my travels here. Venice has a rich history and a deep connection with the arts and carnival season.
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
Welcome to the magical underworld of Venice, Italy, where hidden canals and crumbling rooftops shelter runaways and children with incredible secrets. . . . Prosper and Bo are orphans on the run from their cruel aunt and uncle. The brothers decide to hide out in Venice, where they meet a mysterious thirteen-year-old boy who calls himself Thief Lord. Brilliant and charismatic, the Thief Lord leads a ring of street children who dabble in petty crimes.
Masquerade (Blue Bloods #2) by Melissa de la Cruz
Schuyler Van Alen is starting to get more comfortable with her newfound vampire powers, but she still has many unanswered questions. A trip to Italy in search of her grandfather only serves to make things more confusing. What secrets are the leaders of The Committee hiding? Meanwhile, back in New York, preparations are feverishly underway for the famous Four Hundred Ball. In true Blue Blood fashion, the ball is totally fab, complete with masks and hidden behind this masquerade is a revelation that will change the course of a young vampire’s destiny.
The thrilling sequel in Melissa de la Cruz’s vampire mythology has all the glamour, attitude, and vampire lore that made the first book a hit.
Tuscany is a region in Italy, not a town or city, but it is sooooooo amazingly beautiful and lush and our next book stop is for 14th century ‘rural’ Tuscany. My must-see recommendation in Tuscany is Assisi, which is on a hill perched above some really beautiful land. It also had the most welcoming people I’ve ever met, and was far enough off the tourist-path that it had a more authentic feel than many of the other cities.
Waterfall (River of Time #1) by Lisa Tawn Bergen
Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Betarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives among the romantic hills with their archaelogist parents. Stuck among the rubble of the medieval castles in rural Tuscany, on yet another hot, dusty archaeological site, Gabi and Lia are bored out of their minds…until Gabi places her hand atop a handprint in an ancient tomb and finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy. And worse yet, in the middle of a fierce battle between knights of two opposing forces.
Suddenly Gabi’s summer in Italy is much, much more interesting.
Florence, or Firenze locally, is also within Tuscany and it is my absolute favorite major city. If you go here, please please please go to the Uffizi Gallery, and also make sure to see the Gates of Paradise. Florence is a city of art and life. And gelato. Lots of gelato.
Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
“I made the wrong choice.”
Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.
But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.
People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.
Rome, or Roma locally, is the heart of the once far-reaching Roman Empire. In addition to being riddled with ruins, there are also ancient buildings standing side-by-side with modern ones, which makes for a very interesting experience. Although incredibly tourist heavy, Rome is not to be missed.
Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran
At the dawn of the Roman Empire, when tyranny ruled, a daughter of Egypt and a son of Rome found each other…
Selene’s legendary parents are gone. Her country taken, she has been brought to the city of Rome in chains, with only her twin brother, Alexander, to remind her of home and all she once had.
Living under the watchful eyes of the ruling family, Selene and her brother must quickly learn how to be Roman – and how to be useful to Caesar. She puts her artistry to work, in the hope of staying alive and being allowed to return to Egypt. Before long, however, she is distracted by the young and handsome heir to the empire…
When the elusive ‘Red Eagle’ starts calling for the end of slavery, Selene and Alexander are in grave danger. Will this mysterious figure bring their liberation, or their demise?
Have you been to Italy? Do you have a favorite YA book set within it’s borders? I really need to find one set on Capri… haha.