March 23, 2013

Books for Armchair Travellers

My favorite novels are those that take me on a mini-vacation to places like Provence, Tuscany and the islands of Greece, immersing me in the cultures, foods and landscapes of places so different from my home.

The French Riviera

I think it all began with The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. This was the first book to really let me experience a setting so fully. When I closed the book after reading the last page, I'd been to Cornwall. I'd walked the windswept beaches and felt the sea spray on my face. And it's the reason Devon and Cornwall have made it onto my Bucket List.

Here are a few more of my favorites. Many of them are still on my shelf, waiting for a second read.


A Year in Provence / Peter Mayle

Some credit (or blame) Mayle's most famous book with popularizing the region with the masses. It was the basis for the film  A Good Year starring Russell Crowe and was followed by Toujours Provence and Encore Provence, as well as several fictional works also set in the south of France: Hotel Pastis, Anything Considered, Chasing C├ęzanne and The Vintage Caper.

The Olive Farm, The Olive Season & The Olive Harvest /

Carol Drinkwater
This series of books by British actress Carol Drinkwater describes the joys and challenges of running an olive farm in Provence.

Olive Grove in Provence

Luncheon of the Boating Party / Susan Vreeland
Experience life in 19th century Paris with Auguste Renoire and his contemporaries as Impressionism is born.

Hotel Riviera / Elizabeth Adler
Love, intrigue and sumptuous food on the glamorous French Riviera.

The Lantern / Deborah Lawrenson

This lush, moody depiction of Provence has been compared to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca (which is still in my to-be-read pile).


Nights of Rain and Stars / Maeve Binchy

A departure from Binchy's other books set in Ireland, this novel takes place on a small island in the Cyclades.

The Holiday / Erica James

A sun-drenched, seaside vacation on the island of Corfu.

The Mask of Atreus / A. J. Hartley

A thriller mixed with Greek history and archaeology.

The Island / Victoria Hislop

A novel about the Spinalonga leper colony off of Crete and its effects on multiple generations of a Greek family.


Breathing Room / Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Mouth-watering descriptions of the food and landscapes of Tuscany.

The Sidewalk Artist / Gina Buonaguro & Janice Kirk

A blend of contemporary and historical fiction through the great art capitals of the Renaissance in Italy.

I Love Capri / Belinda Jones

A romantic escape to the legendary island of Capri.

The Isle of Capri, Italy

The House in Amalfi / Elizabeth Adler
This book introduced me to the spectacular Amalfi Coast and prompted my visit to nearby Sorrento.

Angels and Demons / Dan Brown

This fast-paced thriller races through some of Rome's top sights, such as St. Peter's Square, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon.


I most recently finished reading Bella Fortuna by Rosanna Chiofalo. One of the reasons why I love armchair traveller fiction is the opportunity to relive my own visits to these places. Her vivid descriptions of Venice took me back to La Serenissima: the milky green waters in the canals, the pastel hues of the crumbling walls, and the bustle of Piazza San Marco.

Venice, Italy

The second reason is to learn more about the places I haven't yet seen or plan to revisit. So  I further appreciate her novel for the discovery of a festival that I hope to experience on a return visit to Venice, the Festa del Redentore. This annual festival held in July first celebrated the city's survival of a terrible plague in 1577. Today it features gondola races and a huge fireworks display. Sounds like a lot of fun!

I look forward to her next book, Carissima, which takes place in Rome and comes out in August 2013.


Happily, more fiction for armchair travellers continues to be published. Here are some of the other books on my reading list:

The Gilder / Kathryn Kay (Florence)

Tuscan Holiday / Holly Chamberlin (Tuscany)
The Chocolate Thief, The Chocolate Kiss and The Chocolate TouchLaura Florand (Paris)
Three Months in Florence / Mary Carter (Florence)
Wedding Night / Sophie Kinsella (Greece)
Inferno / Dan Brown (Italy)


Books for Armchair Travellers
Movies for Armchair Travellers

What are your favorite books set in France, Greece or Italy?


  1. Love those type of books - although I often take them on my travels to those places. Nothing like reading books about a destination when you're sitting in the destination itself. Good recommendations!

    1. Thanks, Kimberly. I've never taken a book with me when I travel, but that would be a great total immersion experience. I've been travelling on tours so I haven't been able to spend enough time in any one place and I'm totally focused on living every moment. So much to see and so little time! Maybe someday...

  2. You had me with the Shell Seekers. One of my favorite books ever! Love this post, and now I want to read all of these books. What beautiful pictures.

    I'm one of the A-Z Minions and just wanted to stop by to say hello. I'm glad to have found your blog, it's great to meet you. Good luck with the Challenge! :)

  3. Thanks so much Julie - I really appreciate your kind words and good wishes. A-Z will be my first blog hop so I'm very excited. Thanks for stopping in to say hello!


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