My favorite way to gear up for a trip is to read everything I can get my hands on about that place and its culture. Luckily, this is an absolute pleasure when your destination is Florence! Here are books in several categories for you to consider. I’ve read most of them, and the ones I haven’t come highly recommended.

Guide Books

The Blue Guide: Florence

Rick Steves: Florence & Tuscany

National Geographic Traveler: Florence & Tuscany

Secret Florence

The Food Lover’s Guide to Florence

The Civilized Shopper’s Guide to Florence


A Selection of Books by Faculty (Please visit their websites for a full list)

The Promise, by Lisa Clifford

Death in the Mountains, by Lisa Clifford

David, by Mary Hoffman

City of Flowers (and entire Stravaganza series), by Mary Hoffman

Amazing Grace, by Mary Hoffman

The Curse of Addy McMahon, by Katie Davis

Kindergarten Rocks!, by Katie Davis

Little Chicken’s Big Day, by Katie Davis

A Troop is a Group of Monkeys (Coming Soon!), by Julie Hedlund



The Sixteen Pleasures – This is one of my favorite books of all time. When I found out there was a sequel (The Italian Lover), I

The Italian Lover – To my pleasant surprise, I enjoyed the sequel almost as much as the first.

A Room with a View, by E. M. Forster – Or you can cheat and watch the lovely film! 🙂

The Doorbells of Florence, by Andrew Losowsky


Historical Fiction

The Agony and the Ecstasy, by Irving Stone – Epic fictionalized biography of Michelangelo

I, Mona Lisa, by Jeanne Kalogrides

The Smile, by Donna Jo Napoli

The Second Mrs. Giaconda, by E. L. Konigsburg

Leonardo’s Swans, by Karen Essex – Takes place mostly in Milan and Mantua, but a stunning tale of Leonardo da Vinci’s genius and the political climate of Renaissance Italy

The Birth of Venus, by Sarah Dunant

The Passion of Artemisia, by Susan Vreeland

Galileo’s Daughter, by Dava Sobel



The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri – I know, I KNOW! Not an easy read. But since we are in Dante’s city, it’s worth a try.

The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli

The Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio

Michelangelo: Life, Letters and Poetry, translated by George Bull and Peter Porter

The Lives of the Artists, by Giorgio Vasari

The Essential Petrarch, by Francesco Petrarch and Peter Hainsworth



Dante in Love, by A. N. Wilson

Dante, A Life, by R. W. B. Lewis

La Bella Lingua, by Dianne Hales

Brunelleschi’s Dome, by Ross King

The House of Medici: It’s Rise and Fall, by Christopher Hibbert

The Stones of Florence, by Mary McCarthy


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