Travel to Italy
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Travel guides: Rick Steve's Italy--the touchstone seems to lead to his Cinque Terre book, but he has a general Italy book that is just great, and then some more specific books too. His are THE most helpful travel guides.
Other good reading:
Italian Hours, Henry James
The Enchanted April, Elizabeth von Arnim
Too Much Tuscan Sun, Diario Castagno
A Room with a View, EM Forster
Fabrizio's Return, Mark Frutkin
Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
Brunelleschi's Dome, Ross King
The Hills of Tuscany, Ferenc Mate
Short Stories in Italian: New Penguin Parallel Text
If you're going to be viewing a lot of art, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth century Italy by Baxandall is a must-read.
Hope that helps!
Conversation in Sicily by Elio Vittorini
The Moon and the Bonfires by Cesare Pavese
If I ever get the chance to travel to Italy, I'll take these two with me!
But the Rick Steves stuff and online boards are always good, not just for the situations described above, but for other things...Have fun!!!
* I read this a few years back, I don't know if you'd like them:
Three Italian chronicles
And: Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History, it's new...