THE ROUTE SO FAR
Base map: Designed by Freepik
KEY SITES: Days 15-16, Lake Como
After our trek through the Grimsel Pass we entered northern Italy by way of the Italian Lakes area. Our first stop was the sleepy town of Menaggio on the western edge of Lake Como. The “beachy” feel of the place, as well as the friendly vibe, reminded me of the setting of Cecy Robson’s Inseverable, which is displayed here.
A short ferry ride across Lake Como brought us to the eastern shore, and the very old, very charming Corenno Plinio, just north of Dervio. Since I watched the movie adaptation of André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name (set in Italy) on the plane trip to Europe, I thought it the perfect book to display here. Don’t the colours of this cover version match well?!
KEY SITES: Days 17-18, Cinque Terre
Busseto, North Italy
On our way down to Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera, we stopped for a snack in Busseto. This is a historic little town close to the birth place of opera composer Giuseppe Verdi. In the interest of keeping with the music theme, I chose to display Vivaldi in the Dark by Matthew J. Metzger.
While in the Cinque Terre, our main place of residence was the “fourth” town of Vernazza. The exotic air about this small yet historically significant area was incredible! It also reminded me a bit of Damen’s culture shock in Vere (though without the slavery thing) in C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince, which is displayed in this picture.
Monterosso al Mare
Our second day in Cinque Terre began with a hike along the coastal trail heading towards the northernmost town of Monterosso al Mare. Unfortunately, we were caught in a massive rainstorm and ended up thoroughly drenched. Given this, I felt it was appropriate to display Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder with this dreary image!
The weather completely cleared that afternoon, and we caught a train back south to Manarola, which seems to be the town most often portrayed in Cinque Terre travel photos. All the vibrant colours and the seaside setting made me think of Pene Henson’s Into the Blue, which is why I decided to display its cover here.
KEY SITES: Days 19-20, Tuscany & Umbria
Leaning Tower of Pisa
On the road through Tuscany we of course made a stop in Pisa to see its famous leaning tower. It was quite surreal to stand before such an iconic landmark—though I must admit I was equally impressed by the Pisa Cathedral itself. I wasn’t sure what book to display here, so I chose one with the word “tower” in the title: Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas.
The second Tuscan stop was in San Gimignano, a small walled hilltop known known for its medieval architecture, tower houses, and unique preservation. It truly felt like being back in the Middle Ages! Given that, I chose to display Victoria Hanley’s The Seer and the Sword, a thrilling medieval-inspired YA fantasy novel.
Our single night in Tuscany was spent in the historic town of Siena. I was fascinated by all the close-pressed buildings and narrow streets, though the lack of green, growing things was a little depressing. All the sandy stone and the sweltering sun reminded me of Yhelteth from Richard Morgan’s The Cold Commands, which is displayed here.
The ultimate destination the following day was Todi, within the neighbouring region of Umbria. Todi is another hilltop town, which affords majestic views across the surrounding low-lying countryside. The scenery was actually somewhat reminiscent of the cover of Common by Laurie Lucking, which is currently on my TBR. I’ll have to read it soon!
KEY SITES: Days 21-22, Rome
Civita di Bagnoregio
On the road from Todi to Rome, we made a stop at the stunning-yet-ridiculous clifftop town of Civita di Bagnoregio. I’m not sure who, 2500 years ago, decided this was a good place to found and build a town! It reminded me a lot of the Eyrie, hence why I decided to display George R.R. Martin’s A Feast For Crows here.
During an evening stroll through Rome, we stumbled across the Piazza Navona just around the corner from our accommodation. The current square and its Egyptian obelisk were built on the site of a 1 A.D. stadium used for watching “games”. Given the game theme, I decided to display The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins here.
Our second Roman stop was at the towering Castel Sant’Angelo, which was commissioned by the Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. These days, it’s a museum. I have displayed here Mason Thomas’ Lord Mouse, because I could see Mouse easily getting inside despite the building’s fortress structure and modern security used today!
Since we rocked up to the Pantheon on a Sunday morning during church hours, we unfortunately couldn’t go inside, but it was good enough seeing this iconic temple from the outside! I wanted to display a book with Roman mythology themes but couldn’t find a good one, so went with the Greek-themed The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller instead.
The Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome and one of the most famous in the world—and the milling crowds around it certainly indicated its popularity. Its theme is supposedly “the taming of the waters”, so I thought I’d stick with aquatics and displayed To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo.
HURRAH THE COLOSSEUM!! We braved the sweltering 35°C heat and enormous Sunday crowds to get a peak at this ancient and iconic Roman landmark. It was enough to see the almost 2000 year old amphitheatre without going inside. I chose to display The Gladiator’s Master by Fae Sutherland and Marguerite Labbe because, well, it’s about a gladiator!
Saint Peter’s Basilica & Square, Vatican City
Of course, one can’t make a trip to Rome without visiting the Vatican. We were there in the evening, hence the small crowds and stunning sky. While I admired the architecture, I must be honest and admit the first thing I thought of was Ewan McGregor and that helicopter scene in the movie adaptation of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, which is displayed here.
KEY SITES: Days 23-25, Venice & Villnöß
My first proper impression of Venice came upon disembarking from an overcrowded ferry at San Marco. Despite all the people and the steel-grey sky (which later pelted down rain), I instantly fell in love. This was a very similar first impression to what Monty had, hence my decision to display Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue here.
Rio di San Zulian
At least, I’m fairly sure this was the name of the canal where I took this photo. The vibrant colours, the buildings and gondolas and the bridge…they’re picturesque, right? To match, I’ve displayed Votive by Karen Brooks, which is largely set in an alternate historical La Serenissima (old name for Venice).
Rialto is the oldest of the four bridges spanning Venice’s Grand Canal and is a VERY popular tourist attraction. It was good to get a look at it from the edge of the canal as well as its underbelly on the way to San Marco. Here I chose to display The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green for no other reason than the cover’s colour scheme works well with the picture.
Basilica San Marco
Our beautiful little apartment was conveniently located close to the San Marco (a.k.a. St Mark’s) Basilica and Square. Apparently the architecture is Italo-Byzantine in style, though our impression was that it vaguely Russian. Must be all the domes. I chose to display Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone here because (to my knowledge) Ravka is vaguely Russian-inspired.
The “Doge” was the supreme authority of Venice back when it used to be its own republic, and this was his palace on the edge of the Grand Canal. I didn’t go in, since it was damned hot and there were SO many people around. In Illumination by Karen Brooks, the ruler of La Serenissima is also called the Doge, hence my decision to display its cover her.
After leaving Venice, we sped up to Villnöß, a charming little north Italian town nestled in the shadow of the Dolomites. How amazing are those mountains?! Their name comes from the carbonate rock “dolomite”, which is often a pale colour. Given the geology theme, I chose to display the cover of Antya Sunday’s rock here.
Are you travelling at the moment? Have you been to Italy or read any books that are set there? What are your favourite Italian places?