Books Set In Rome: Roman Novels
As an ancient civilization and one of the oldest occupied cities in Europe, there is no shortage of books set in beautiful Rome. This list includes a wide range of titles that capture the eternal city, from ancient times through to the present day. I hope these titles will transport you to the Italian capital, or perhaps even accompany you on a visit! 🇮🇹
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Books Set in Rome: Introduction
In 117AD when the Roman Empire reached its territorial peak, it spanned from Britain to Egypt across an incredible 2.5 million square miles. Many of the titles below are set during this period and right across the empire, including the epic I, Claudius by Robert Graves, bestseller Imperium by Robert Harris and Roma by Steven Saylor.
The modern city of Rome covers a much smaller area of about 800 square miles, and is just as celebrated in literature. Some contemporary books set in Rome include romance The Food of Love by Anthony Capella, thriller The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi and historical fiction Early One Morning by Virginia Baily.
Books Set in Rome: Shortlist
If you’re short on time, these are my personal picks for books set in Rome:
- The Woman of Rome by Alberto Moravia
- That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana by Carlo Emilio Gadda
- The Food of Love by Anthony Capella
- Tiger, Tiger by Lynne Reid Banks
- Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous
- The Italian Wedding by Nicky Pellegrino
- The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato
- The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi
- Early One Morning by Virginia Baily
Books Set In Rome
1. The Italian by Ann Radcliffe, 1797
From the first moment Vincentio di Vivaldi, a young nobleman, sets eyes on the veiled figure of Ellena, he is captivated by her enigmatic beauty and grace. But his haughty and manipulative mother is against the match and enlists the help of her confessor to come between them. Note: mostly set in southern Italy and Rome.
2. Italian Journey by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1817
As Goethe travelled to Venice, Rome, Naples and Sicily he wrote many letters, which he later used as the basis for the Italian Journey. A journal full of fascinating observations on art and history, and the plants, landscape and the character of the local people he encountered, this is also a moving account of the psychological crisis from which Goethe emerged newly inspired to write the great works of his mature years.
3. The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1860
The fragility-and the durability-of human life and art dominate this story of American expatriates in Italy in the mid-nineteenth century. The author’s evocative descriptions of classic sites made The Marble Faun a favorite guidebook to Rome for Victorian tourists, but this richly ambiguous symbolic romance is also the story of a murder, and a parable of the Fall of Man.
4. Daisy Miller by Henry James, 1878
The young Daisy Miller, an American on holiday with her mother on the shores of Switzerland’s Lac Leman, is one of James’s most vivid and tragic characters. Daisy’s friendship with an American gentleman, Mr. Winterbourne, and her subsequent infatuation with a passionate but impoverished Italian bring to life the great Jamesian themes of Americans abroad, innocence versus experience, and the grip of fate. Note: set between Vevey, Switzerland and Rome.
5. The Child Of Pleasure by Gabriele D’Annunzio, 1889
Sperelli is a young count, who – like Joris Karl Huysmans’ Baron Des Esseintes or Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray – following family tradition, seeks beauty and despises the bourgeois world; leads an extraordinary life, which he lives as a work of art; and rejects the basic rules of morality and social interaction.
6. Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz, 1894
Rome during the reign of Nero was a glorious place for the emperor and his court; there were grand feasts, tournaments for poets, and exciting games and circuses filling the days and nights. Petronius, a generous and noble Roman, a man of the world much in favor at the court of Nero, is intrigued by a strange tale related by his nephew Marcus Vinitius of his encounter with a mysterious young woman called Ligia with whom Vinitius falls madly in love.
7. I, Claudius (Claudius #1) by Robert Graves, 1934
Despised for his weakness and regarded by his family as little more than a stammering fool, the nobleman Claudius quietly survives the intrigues, bloody purges and mounting cruelty of the imperial Roman dynasties. In I, Claudius he watches from the sidelines to record the reigns of its emperors: from the wise Augustus and his villainous wife Livia to the sadistic Tiberius and the insane excesses of Caligula.
8. Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina (Claudius #2) by Robert Graves, 1934
In I, Claudius, Robert Graves begins the story of the limping, stammering young man who is suddenly thrust onto the throne after the death of Caligula. In Claudius the God, Graves continues the story, detailing Claudius’ 13-year reign and his ultimate downfall. It paints the vivid, tumultuous, and decadent society of ancient Rome with spectacular detail.
9. The Woman of Rome by Alberto Moravia, 1947
The story of Adriana, a simple girl with no fortune but her beauty who models naked for a painter, accepts gifts from men, and could never quite identify the moment when she traded her private dream of home and children for the life of a prostitute. It also tells the stories of the tortured university student Giacomo, a failed revolutionary who refuses to admit his love for Adriana; of the sinister figure of Astarita, the Secret Police officer obsessed with Adriana; and of the coarse and brutal criminal Sonzogno, who treats Adriana as his private property.
10. The Ides of March by Thornton Wilder, 1948
The Ides of March is a brilliant epistolary novel set in Julius Caesar’s Rome. In this inventive narrative, the Caesar of history becomes Caesar the human being. Wilder also resurrects the controversial figures surrounding Caesar – Cleopatra, Catullus, Cicero, and others. All Rome comes crowding through these pages – the Rome of villas and slums, beautiful women and brawling youths, spies and assassins.
11. The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone by Tennessee Williams, 1950
The story of a wealthy, fiftyish American widow, recently a famous stage beauty, but now “drifting.” The novel opens soon after her husband’s death and her retirement from the theatre, as Mrs. Stone tries to adjust to her aimless new life in Rome. She is adjusting, too, to aging. With poignant wit and his own particular brand of relish, Williams charts her drift into an affair with a cruel young gigolo: “As compelling, as fascinating, and as technically skilled as his plays.”
12. Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar, 1951
Marguerite Yourcenar reimagines the Emperor Hadrian’s arduous boyhood, his triumphs and reversals, and finally, as emperor, his gradual reordering of a war-torn world, writing with the imaginative insight of a great writer of the twentieth century while crafting a prose style as elegant and precise as those of the Latin stylists of Hadrian’s own era. Note: this is set in Rome, Athens and Alexandria.
13. The Ragazzi by Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1955
An unsentimental depiction of the poverty and chaotic lives of those in the slums of 1950s postwar Rome, this novel follows Ricetto, an Italian youth, and his gang who survive by their wits, their cruelty, and their instincts for survival. Their lives are shaped by hunger, theft, betrayal, and prostitution, and they celebrate their triumphs with brutal abandon and die bleak deaths.
14. That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana by Carlo Emilio Gadda, 1957
In a large apartment house in the center of Rome, two crimes are committed within a matter of days: a burglary, in which a good deal of money and precious jewels are taken, and a murder, as a young woman whose husband is out of town is found with her throat cut. Called in to investigate, melancholy Detective Ciccio, a secret admirer of the murdered woman and a friend of her husband’s, discovers that almost everyone in the apartment building is somehow involved in the case.
15. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, 1958
The Renaissance was a turbulent time of plotting princes, warring popes, the all-powerful de’ Medici family, the fanatical monk Savonarola and the brilliant young artist Michelangelo Buonarroti. A masterpiece in its own right, this novel offers a compelling portrait of Michelangelo’s dangerous, impassioned loves, and the God-driven fury from which he wrested the greatest art the world has ever known. Note: mostly set in Rome and Florence.
16. A Violent Life by Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1959
Revealing that a beautiful and cultured European city has a dark and dangerous underbelly, this novel chronicles the violent lives of Rome’s slum inhabitants. Born in a shantytown, Tommaso Puzzilli was once young and hopeful, but he soon succumbs to life on the streets, where he must resort to crime and prostitution simply to stay alive.
17. Julian by Gore Vidal, 1964
Julian the Apostate, nephew of Constantine the Great, was one of the brightest yet briefest lights in the history of the Roman Empire. A military genius on the level of Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, a graceful and persuasive essayist, and a philosopher devoted to worshiping the gods of Hellenism, he became embroiled in a fierce intellectual war with Christianity that provoked his murder at the age of thirty-two, only four years into his brilliantly humane and compassionate reign.
18. The Public Image by Muriel Spark, 1968
Spark chooses Rome, “the motherland of sensation,” for the setting of her story about movie star Annabel Christopher, who has made the fatal mistake of believing in her public image. This error and her embittered husband, and unsuccessful actor, catch up with her. Her final act is only the first shocking climax – further surprises await.
19. Eagle in the Snow by Wallace Breem, 1970
Banished to the Empire’s farthest outpost, veteran warrior Paulinus Maximus defends The Wall of Britannia from the constant onslaught of belligerent barbarian tribes. Bravery, loyalty, experience, and success lead to Maximus’ appointment as “General of the West” by the Roman emperor, the ambition of a lifetime.
20. Augustus by John Williams, 1972
A mere eighteen years of age when his uncle, Julius Caesar, is murdered, Octavius Caesar prematurely inherits rule of the Roman Republic. Surrounded by men who are jockeying for power – Cicero, Brutus, Cassius, and Mark Antony – young Octavius must work against the powerful Roman political machinations to claim his destiny as first Roman emperor.
21. History by Elsa Morante, 1974
History was written nearly thirty years after Elsa Morante and Alberto Moravia spent a year in hiding among remote farming villages in the mountains south of Rome. There she witnessed the full impact of the war and first formed the ambition to write an account of what history – the great political events driven by men of power, wealth, and ambition – does when it reaches the realm of ordinary people struggling for life and bread.
22. The Silver Pigs (Falco #1) by Lindsey Davis, 1989
When Marcus Didius Falco, a Roman ‘informer’ who has a nose for trouble that’s sharper than most, encounters Sosia Camillina in the Forum, he senses immediately all is not right with the pretty girl. She confesses to him that she is fleeing for her life, and Falco makes the rash decision to rescue her – a decision he will come to regret. Note: part of a 20 book series set in Rome and Britannia.
23. Shadows in Bronze (Falco #2) by Lindsey Davis, 1990
It’s the first century A.D. and Marcus Didius Falco, Ancient Rome’s favorite son and sometime palace spy, has just been dealt a lousy blow from the gods: The beautiful, high-born Helena Justina has left him in the dust. So when the Emperor Vespasian calls upon him to investigate an act of treason, Falco is more than ready for a distraction. Note: part of a 20 book series.
24. The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough, 1990
Here is the story of Marius, wealthy but lowborn, and Sulla, aristocratic but penniless and debauched – extraordinary men of vision whose ruthless ambition will lay the foundations of the most awesome and enduring empire known to humankind. The reader is swept into the whirlpool of pageantry, passion, splendor, chaos and earth-shattering upheaval that was ancient Rome.
25. The King’s Gambit (SPQR #1) by John Maddox Roberts, 1990
Vicious gangs ruled the streets of Crassus and Pompey, routinely preying on plebeian and patrician alike. So the garroting of a lowly ex-slave and the disembowelment of a foreign merchant in the dangerous Subura district seemed of little consequence to the Roman hierarchy. But Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger, high-born commander of the local vigiles, was determined to investigate. Note: part of a book series.
26. Roman Blood by Steven Saylor, 1991
Elena asks that you come to the House of Swans at once. Compelled by this message, the wealthy, sybaritic Sextus Roscius goes not to his harlot, but to his doom – savagely murdered by unknown assassins. In the unseasonable heat of a spring morning in 80 B.C. Gordianus the Finder is summoned to the house of Cicero, a young advocate staking his reputation on this case.
27. Venus in Copper (Falco #3) by Lindsey Davis, 1991
Marcus Didius Falco, ancient Rome’s hangdog investigator, hates sharing a cell with a rodent – though being bailed by his old mother is almost as embarassing. His highborn girlfriend can’t decide if she wants him and Titus Caesar’s reward for past services is a wet fish. Hoping for a better life, or at least a better apartment, he takes on new clients. Note: part of a 20 book series. Note: part of a 20 book series.
28. The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch, 1992
The Discovery of Heaven begins with the meeting of Onno and Max, two complicated individuals whom fate has mysteriously and magically brought together. They share responsibility for the birth of a remarkable and radiant boy who embarks on a mandated quest that takes the reader all over Europe and to the land where all such quests begin and end. Note: this is mostly set in the Netherlands, along with Cuba, Rome, Poland and Jerusalem.
29. Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon #1) by Dan Brown, 2000
World-renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to a Swiss research facility to analyze a cryptic symbol seared into the chest of a murdered physicist. What he discovers is unimaginable: a deadly vendetta against the Catholic Church by a centuries-old underground organization – the Illuminati. In a desperate race to save the Vatican from a powerful time bomb, Langdon joins forces in Rome with the beautiful and mysterious scientist Vittoria Vetra.
30. As the Romans Do: An American Family’s Italian Odyssey by Alan Epstein, 2000
In 1995, after a twenty-year love affair with Italy, Alan Epstein fulfilled his dream to live in Rome. In As the Romans Do, he celebrates the spirit of this stylish, dramatic, ancient city that formed the hub of a far-flung empire and introduced the Mediterranean culture to the rest of the world. A celebration of the character and style of one of the world’s most spectacular cities.
31. The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland, 2001
From extraordinary highs – patronage by the Medicis, friendship with Galileo and, most importantly of all, beautiful and outstandingly original paintings – to rape by her father’s colleague, torture by the Inquisition, life-long struggles for acceptance by the artistic Establishment, and betrayal by the men she loved, Artemisia was a bold and brilliant woman who lived as she wanted, and paid a high price. Note: set in Rome, Florence, Genoa, Naples and England.
32. Roma Eterna by Robert Silverberg, 2003
No power on Earth can resist the might of Imperial Rome, so it has been and so it ever shall be. Through brute force, terror, and sheer indomitable will, her armies have enslaved a world. From the reign of Maximilianus the Great in A.U.C. 1203 onward through the ages – into a new era of scientific advancement and astounding technologies – countless upstarts and enemies arise, only to be ground into the dust beneath the merciless Roman bootheels.
33. The Food of Love by Anthony Capella, 2004
In Anthony Capella’s delicious debut novel, Laura, a twentysomething American, is on her first trip to Italy. She’s completely enamored of the art, beauty, and, of course, food that Rome has to offer. Soon she’s enamored of the handsome and charming Tommaso, who tells her he’s a chef at the famed Templi restaurant and begins to woo her with his gastronomic creations.
34. Tiger, Tiger by Lynne Reid Banks, 2004
Two tiger cub brothers are torn from the jungle and taken to Rome. The stronger cub is trained as a killer at the Coliseum. Emperor Caesar makes a gift of the smaller cub to his beautiful daughter, Aurelia. She adores her cub, Boots, and Julius, a young animal keeper, teaches her how to earn the tiger’s trust. Boots is pampered while his brother, known as Brute, lives in a cold and dark cage, let out only to kill.
35. The Secrets of Rome: Love and Death in the Eternal City by Corrado Augias, 2005
Augias moves perceptively through twenty-seven centuries of Roman life, shedding new light on a cast of famous, and infamous, historical figures and uncovering secrets and conspiracies that have shaped the city without our ever knowing it. Augias creates a sweeping account of the passions that have shaped this complex city: at once both a metropolis and a village.
36. Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous, 2006
A small culturally mixed community living in an apartment building in the center of Rome is thrown into disarray when one of the neighbors is murdered. An investigation ensues and as each of the victim’s neighbors is questioned, the reader is offered an all-access pass into the most colorful neighborhood in contemporary Rome.
37. Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius, 2006
Rome one January afternoon in 1943. A young German woman is on her way to listen to a Bach concert at the Lutheran church. Innocent and naïve, the war is for her little more than a day-dream, until she realizes that her husband might never return.
38. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, 2006
Around the time Elizabeth Gilbert turned thirty, she went through an early-onslaught midlife crisis. She had everything an educated, ambitious American woman was supposed to want – a husband, a house, a successful career. But instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed with panic, grief, and confusion. Note: set in Rome, India and Bali.
39. Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Robert Harris, 2006
When Tiro, the confidential secretary (and slave) of a Roman senator, opens the door to a terrified stranger on a cold November morning, he sets in motion a chain of events that will eventually propel his master into one of the most suspenseful courtroom dramas in history.
40. A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome by Alberto Angela, 2007
The roar of frenzied spectators inside the Coliseum during a battle between gladiators. A crowd of onlookers gathered around a slave driver. The wondrous plenty of banquets where flamingos are roasted whole and wine flows like rivers. The silence of the baths and the boisterous taverns. Many books have dealt with the history of ancient Rome, but none has been able to bring its readers so near to daily life in the Imperial capital.
41. Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr, 2007
On the same day that his wife gave birth to twins, Anthony Doerr received the Rome Prize, an award that gave him a year-long stipend and studio in Rome. This book charts the repercussions of that day, describing Doerr’s varied adventures in one of the most enchanting cities in the world, and the first year of parenthood.
42. When We Were Romans: A Novel by Matthew Kneale, 2007
Nine-year-old Lawrence is the man in his family. He carefully watches over his willful little sister, Jemima, and his mother, Hannah. When Hannah becomes convinced that their estranged father is stalking them, the family flees London and heads for Rome, where Hannah lived happily as a young woman. For Lawrence, fascinated by stories of popes and emperors, Rome is an adventure.
43. Roma by Steven Saylor, 2007
Spanning a thousand years, and following the shifting fortunes of two families though the ages, this is the epic saga of Rome, the city and its people. Weaving history, legend, and new archaeological discoveries into a spellbinding narrative, critically acclaimed novelist Steven Saylor gives new life to the drama of the city’s first thousand years.
44. The Italian Wedding by Nicky Pellegrino, 2008
Settled in London and with their own delicious slice of home in the form of Beppi’s restaurant, “Little Italy,” the Martinelli’s are a typical Italian family – fighting, eating, and loving in equal measure. Now, Pieta’s sister Addolorata is getting married. Since Pieta is a bridal designer it falls to her to make the wedding gown. But she is distracted by a series of family mysteries. Note: set between London and Rome.
45. The Forgotten Legion by Ben Kane, 2008
Romulus and Fabiola are twins, born into slavery after their mother is raped by a drunken nobleman. At thirteen-years-old, they are sold – Romulus to gladiator school, Fabiola into prostitution where she will catch the eye of one of the most powerful men in Rome.
46. Rome Noir by Chiara Stangalino, 2009
Rome Noir, a collection of short stories that look beyond the tourist facade of Italy’s capital. This is the real city of Fellini, Pasolini, and countless other major artists who devoted their lives to depicting its grandeur and decadence.
47. Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran, 2009
Selene’s legendary parents are gone. Her country taken, she has been brought to the city of Rome in chains, with only her twin brother, Alexander, to remind her of home and all she once had. Living under the watchful eyes of the ruling family, Selene and her brother must quickly learn how to be Roman – and how to be useful to Caesar.
48. Mistress of Rome (Empress of Rome #1) by Kate Quinn, 2010
Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress’s rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome’s newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life – that is quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart. Note: part of a 4 book series.
49. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, 2010
Set against the gorgeous backdrop of Rome, Tom Rachman’s wry, vibrant debut follows the topsy-turvy private lives of the reporters, editors, and executives of an international English language newspaper as they struggle to keep it – and themselves – afloat.
50. The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato, 2010
When part-time model and full-time prostitute Luciana Vetra is asked by one of her most exalted clients to pose for a painter friend, she doesn’t mind serving as the model for the central figure of Flora in Sandro Botticelli’s masterpiece “Primavera.” But when the artist dismisses her without payment, Luciana impulsively steals an unfinished version of the painting – only to find that somone is ready to kill her to get it back.
51. Me and You by Niccolò Ammaniti, 2010
Lorenzo has a few issues. They include the fact that he doesn’t have, or want, any friends. Because this is making his parents unhappy, he tells them he has been invited on a skiing holiday with a group from school. In fact, he is planning to spend the week happily ensconced in the cellar of their apartment building with a supply of canned tuna.
52. Rome Tales by Helen Constantine, 2011
Presenting a vivid mosaic of dramatic, comic, and tragic stories, all set in the Eternal City, these twenty absorbing tales capture the delight of discovering and exploring one of the world’s most beloved cities. Spanning seven hundred years, this marvelous collection includes works by Italian authors ranging from Boccaccio and Casanova to Pier Paolo Pasolini and Alberto Moravia.
53. I Am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith, 2011
At the tender age of fourteen, Livia Drusilla overhears her father and fellow aristocrats plotting the assassination of Julius Caesar. Proving herself an astute confidante, she becomes her father’s chief political asset – and reluctantly enters into an advantageous marriage to a prominent military officer.
54. The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi, 2011
Sandra Vega, a forensic analyst with the Roman police department, mourns deeply for a marriage that ended too soon. A few months ago, in the dead of night, her husband, an up-and-coming journalist, plunged to his death at the top of a high-rise construction site. The police ruled it an accident. Sanda is convinced it was anything but.
55. Daughters of Rome (Empress of Rome #2) by Kate Quinn, 2011
A.D. 69. Nero is dead. The Roman Empire is up for the taking. With bloodshed spilling out of the palace and into the streets of Rome, chaos has become the status quo. The Year of Four Emperors will change everything – especially the lives of two sisters with a very personal stake in the outcome. Note: part of a 4 book series.
56. Empress of the Seven Hills (Empress of Rome #3) by Kate Quinn, 2012
Brash and headstrong, Vix is a celebrated ex-gladiator returned to Rome to make his fortune. The sinuous, elusive Sabina is a senator’s daughter who craves adventure. Sometimes lovers, sometimes enemies, Vix and Sabina are united by their devotion to Trajan. But others are already maneuvering in the shadows. Note: part of a 4 book series.
57. Blood & Beauty by Sarah Dunant, 2013
By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy is matched by its brutality and corruption, nowhere more than in Rome and inside the Church. When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy as Alexander VI, he is defined not just by his wealth or his passionate love for his illegitimate children, but by his blood: He is a Spanish Pope in a city run by Italians. Note: set across multiple Italian cities.
58. The Ides of April by Lindsey Davis, 2013
Based on real historical events: mysterious poisonings, in which victims died, often unaware they had been attacked. Albia is now 28 and an established female investigator. Her personal history and her British birth enable her to view Roman society and its traditions as a bemused outsider and also as a woman struggling for independence in a man’s world.
59. Ties by Domenico Starnone, 2014
Ties is the story of a marriage. Like many marriages, this one has been subject to strain, to attrition, to the burden of routine. Yet it has survived intact. Or so things appear. The rupture in Vanda and Aldo’s marriage lies years in the past, but if one looks closely enough, the fissures and fault lines are evident. Their marriage is a cracked vase that may shatter at the slightest touch. Note: set between Naples and Rome.
60. Early One Morning by Virginia Baily, 2015
Chiara Ravello is about to flee occupied Rome when she locks eyes with a woman being herded on to a truck with her family. Claiming the woman’s son, Daniele, as her own nephew, Chiara demands his return; only as the trucks depart does she realize what she has done. She is twenty-seven, with a sister who needs her constant care, a hazardous journey ahead, and now a child in her charge.
61. Conclave by Robert Harris, 2016
The Pope is dead. Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election. They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals. Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.
62. One Summer Day in Rome by Mark Lamprell, 2016
An enchanting novel about three couples drawn irresistibly to Rome, narrated by the city itself. Alice, an art student in New York City, has come to Rome in search of adventure and inspiration before settling down with her steady, safe fiancé. Meg and Alec, busy parents and successful business people from LA, are on a mission to find the holy grail, a certain blue tile. Connie and Lizzie are women of a certain age – who come from London to scatter the ashes of their beloved husband and brother.
63. The Invitation by Lucy Foley, 2016
Rome, 1953: Hal, an itinerant journalist flailing in the post-war darkness, has come to the Eternal City to lose himself and to seek absolution for the thing that haunts him. One evening he finds himself on the steps of a palazzo, walking into a world of privilege and light. Here, on a rooftop above the city, he meets the mysterious Stella. Hal and Stella are from different worlds, but their connection is magnetic. Note: this is set in multiple locations across Italy, America, Morocco and Spain.
64. The Rome Affair by Karen Swan, 2017
1974 and Elena Damiani lives a gilded life. Born to wealth and a noted beauty, no door is closed to her, no man can resist her. At twenty-six, she is already onto her third husband when she meets her love match. But he is the one man she can never have, and all the beauty and money in the world can’t change it. 2017 and Francesca Hackett is living la dolce vita in Rome, leading tourist groups around the Eternal City and forgetting the ghosts she left behind in London.
65. The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George, 2017
Built on the backs of those who fell before it, Julius Caesar’s imperial dynasty is only as strong as the next person who seeks to control it. In the Roman Empire no one is safe from the sting of betrayal: man, woman or child. As a boy, Nero’s royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life, first when the mad emperor Caligula tries to drown him, then when his great aunt attempts to secure her own son’s inheritance.
66. The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman, 2018
Rome, 1955. The artists are gathering together for a photograph. In one of Rome’s historic villas, a party is bright with near-genius, shaded by the socialite patrons of their art. Bear Bavinsky, creator of vast, masculine, meaty canvases, is their god. Larger than life, muscular in both figure and opinion, he blazes at art criticism and burns half his paintings. Note: this is set between Rome, London, Toronto, New York, France, and Pennsylvania.
What do you think of these books set in Rome?
Have you visited Rome? Are you planning a trip there soon? What are your favorite books set in Rome? Do you know some books set in Rome that are missing from this list? I’d love to hear more about your tips for books set in Rome below!
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