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Recommended Literature for a Trip to Campania

The region of Campania, which includes of course Naples, its Bay of Naples, with Mt. Vesuvius , the Amalfi Coast and the world famous island of Capri, has always attracted ‘foreigners’, since Roman times. Therefore there is a not only vast travel literature on the area, but also many novels and plays are staged in Campania or have drawn their inspiration from this area.

Among others we can recommend:

  • Naples ’44, A World War II Diary of Occupied Italy  •  Norman Lewis   • BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR  •  A classic book by one of the 20th century’s great travel writers. Naples ’44 is a funny and moving book, and ultimately a meditation on war and the indomitable character of the Italian people.
  • Siren Land •  Norman Douglas • LITERATURE  •  One of the ‘classic’ books on the area of the Sorrento Peninsula. Douglas narrates the topographical and archaeological features of the Bay of Naples and above all its ‘genius loci’, the spirit of the place, heading back and forth between history and the present.
  • The Story of San Michele •  Axel Munthe • LITERATURE  •  Perhaps one of the first books on the ‘couleur locale’ of a Mediterranean country (years later followed by hundreds of books like ‘A Year in Provence’ and so on), but also an autobiographical account of his work and life.. Immensely popular in the 1930ies, said to be one of the best-selling books of the 20th century.
  • Pompeii, A Novel  •  Robert Harris   • LITERATURE  •  A fast-paced historical novel set in Pompeii. A young engineer sets out to repair the Roman aqueducts and discovers the imminent eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Full of suspense and period detail.
  • The Volcano Lover, A Romance  •  Susan Sontag   • LITERATURE  •  A steamy and evocative historical novel by social critic Sontag, set in 18th-century Naples. The sweeping story focuses on the British Ambassador to the King in Naples, his passionate and notorious love, and her infatuation with Lord Nelson.
  • Extraordinary Women and Vestal Fire •  LITERATURE  •  Two novels by the Scottish writer, Compton Mackenzie, set in the Capri of the 1920’s, in which he describes the life style on the island in the period of his stay there. Especially the second one is very entertaining.
  • Capri – Island of Pleasure • James Money   • LITERATURE / HISTORY  •  Best to be read after the books by Mackenzie,  ‘a scholarly study of the trivial gossip society’. Studies the effects of the ‘air of Capri’ on the persons frequenting the island, from Tiberius until the 20th century.
  • Sailing to Capri  •  Elizabeth Adler   • MYSTERY  •  Bestselling author Adler weaves a suspenseful tale of a cruise, where nothing is what it seems, no one is telling the truth, and murder happens.
  • Amalfi  •  Robert Gathorne   • TRAVEL NARRATIVE •  Aspects of the city and her ancient territories as seen by the writer during his travels to Amalfi in the 1950ies and 60ies.
  • The Tragedy of The Duchess of Malfi •  John Webster•  LITERATURE  •  Classic play, among others to be found in The Works of Alexander Dyce, George Routledge & Sons, London 1858.
  • The Mystery of The Duchess of Malfi •  Barbara Banks
  • My Amalfi  Coast •  Amanda Tabberer   (2009)
  • The House in Amalfi  •  Elizabeth Adler   • MYSTERY  •  Adler, master of suspense and romance, intertwines lush descriptions of place with fast-paced intrigue in this her 16th novel, set in Amalfi.
  • Greene on Capri, A Memoir  •  Shirley Hazzard   • BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR  •  This book is ultimately a memoir about the author’s friendship with Graham Greene, but there’s plenty of commentary of Capri’s history and culture for those seeking a flavour of the place.
  • Italian Days  •  Barbara Grizzuti Harrison   • TRAVEL NARRATIVE •  Grizzuti Harrison writes with warmth and depth of her journey from Milan south to Calabria in this sprightly account of Italy and the Italians.
  • Cosi Fan Tutti  •  Michael Dibdin   • MYSTERY  •  Romantic entanglements complicate the investigation of a murder in Naples in this instalment of the enjoyable series.
  • The Seven Sisters  •  Margaret Drabble   • LITERATURE  •  A novel in diary form about an aging Englishwoman, Candida Wilton, who leaves rural life for gritty London when she divorces her husband. The second half of the book is about Candida’s hilarious and emotional trip to Naples to see the city of Virgil’s Aeneid.

 

Of course there are many books as well on the (ancient) history of the area:

Between Salt Water and Holy Water, A History of Southern Italy  •  Tommaso Astarita   • HISTORY  •  Astarita captures the fanfare, rivalry and changing fortunes from antiquity through Norman, Spanish and Bourbon rule to unification and the 20th century.

  • Herculaneum: Italy’s Buried Treasure  •  Joseph Jay Deiss   • HISTORY  •  An artful and wonderfully written description of ancient Herculaneum.
  • Italy, A Short History  •  Harry Hearder   • HISTORY  •  Elegantly written, generous and informative, this compact book takes in the sweep of Italian history from the Roman Republic through the Renaissance, World War II and up to the present.
  • Modern Naples, A Documentary History, 1799-1999  •  John Santore   • HISTORY  •  A source book and history of Naples from its foundations to Bourbon Capital and unification.
  • Pompeii, Public and Private Life  •  Paul Zanker  •  Deborah Schneider   • CULTURAL PORTRAIT  •  A comprehensive guide to the architecture, people and culture of Pompeii, focusing on both grand public spaces and private villas. With 21 color illustrations and 55 halftones, including site plans, models, mosaics and sculpture.
  • Vesuvius A.D. 79  •  Giovanni Patricelli  •  Ernesto De Carolis   • HISTORY  •  An illustrated account of the catastrophic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius drawing on science, report, literature & folklore.
  • Pompeii, The Living City  •  Alex Butterworth  •  Ray Laurence   • ARCHAEOLOGY  •  A meticulous historical and archaeological reconstruction of the city of Pompeii, its people, culture and daily rituals both before and after 79 AD, the year of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
 
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