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Enough books have been published on Italian culture and history to sink a navy of ships. Vincent Cronin's Concise History of Italy, Jerome Carcopino's Daily Life in Ancient Rome, Bernard Berenson's Painters of the Renaissance and JH Plumb's The Penguin Book of the Renaissance are useful places to start.Venice by James Morris and HV Morton's A Traveller in Italy are classic travelogues.The popular historian Christopher Hibbert's many books include the 'biographies' of Rome and Venice, and The Rise and Fall of the House of the Medici.If you want to tackle the classics, start with Cicero's Selected Works, Livy's Early History of Rome, Ovid's Metamorphoses and Virgil's The Aeneid. You could then progress to Dante's The Divine Comedy, Boccaccio's The Decameron and Machiavelli's The Prince. Modern novels include di Lampedusa's The Leopard, Levi's Christ Stopped at Eboli, Eco's The Name of the Rose and anything by Italo Calvino.For a spot of Edwardian romance, you can't avoid stepping in EM Forster's Room with a View.

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