Home to Botticelli’s rapturous Venus, Michelangelo’s magnificent David, the picturesque Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio with its upscale jewelry shops, uniquely Tuscan ricciarelli cookies, and enough visitors to make the Italian city swell in the summer. Florence should be on everyone’s bucket list…if only because it’s the birthplace of the Renaissance.

The Enchantress of Florence: A Novel
by Salman Rushdie

pianoMoving between two continents—the Mugal empire of Akbar the Great’s court and the sensuous High Renaissance of Florence, Italy—the novel follows a cast of characters, including a beautiful enchantress, the emperor, Akbar, and the infamous Machiavelli. Salman Rushdie’s enchanting novel brings eroticism, sex, power, and gender to the fore in an unforgettable way.

The Agony and the Ecstasy
by Irving Stone

pianoNo trip to Italy is complete without a glimpse of the great works of Michelangelo Buanarroti, sculptor, painter, poet, and all around Renaissance man. In The Agony and the Ecstasy, American author, Irving Stone, breathes new life into Michelangelo, in this fictional biography. Based on hundreds of the artist’s letters, the novel is exquisite in its scope, details, and rigorous research into the lives of one of the greatest figures in history.

A Room with a View
by E. M. Forster

pianoIn this 1908 novel, E.M. Forster stages a critique of British cultural mores during the Edwardian period in England. A Room with A View is set in Florence and Surrey, England, as it follows the social and intellectual development of its young protagonist, Lucy Honeychurch, as she struggles to follow her heart in a world that dictates its moral codes with a rigidity that she cannot ultimately tolerate.

The Birth of Venus: A Novel
by Sarah Dunant

pianoRenaissance Florence is born of the Medici embrace of culture, high art, and learning. At the same time, it is home to the Dominican friar and preacher, Girolamo Savonarola, with his stringent and repressive religious and political practices. The novel tells the story of Alessandra, who meets and falls in love with a young painter, as she is consigned to marriage with a man she does not love. A must-read for any Florence-bound traveler.