5 Love Themed Literature Inspired Places to Visit in Italy with Kids
Plus, suggested books to read for Kids, Teens & Adults
Italy has inspired endless amounts of stories of love by authors throughout the ages. From the well-known Romeo and Juliet of Verona to the lesser-known I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), taking place in Northern Italy. With Valentine's Day coming up, I started thinking about these places you could visit in Italy and their connections to love-themed literature.
Visiting places in Italy from fictional texts as well as the authors' homes is a form of literary tourism. In Italy, the magic of the books your kids and teens read can come to life through literary tourism. Giving them a deeper connection to the experience of travel.
Discover five places in Italy you can visit to connect to classic stories of love that take place in Italy. I also include book suggestions for your kids and teens. You may be interested in reading them yourself!
1 // Juliet’s Balcony in Verona
The Italian poet Dante mentioned two feuding families in his work, named the Montecchi and the Cappelletti, who became the inspiration for Romeo and Juliet by the English playwright Shakespeare. However, Juliet is not believed to be a real person, and the house in Verona labeled as Juliet’s has no real relation to the story of Romeo and Juliet.
People are still drawn to the romantic balcony and the statue of Juliet in the courtyard. For a fee, you can visit the museum Casa di Giulietta filled with Renaissance-era costumes. The museum also contains the actual bed, some furniture, and costumes used in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film adaptation (my personal favorite) of Romeo and Juliet.
You can also visit Juliet’s tomb located at the 13th-century Franciscan convent, where Juliet died in the play. If you are really into literature, Dickens was said to have visited this location in homage to the Shakespeare play.
Books for Kids & Teens
Shakespeare wrote many plays that took place in Italy, but most historians believe he never left England. It was thought he often used the backdrop of Italy to include sensitive political topics of the time in England without being obvious or get in trouble.
Use these books to introduce your kids and teens to Verona and the story of Rome and Juliet.
2 // Campo del Ghetto in Venice
Another Shakespeare play, The Merchant of Venice, is a story of love, hate, and prejudice. The story centers on the love of Bassanio, a young Venetian nobleman who wishes to charm the beautiful and wealthy heiress Portia of Belmont. Having squandered away all his money, Bassanio must turn to Shylock for a loan.
The Campo del Ghetto (Jewish Ghetto) in Venice dates back to the 16th-century. It is the oldest Jewish Ghetto in the world with five synagogues, and a Jewish community still remains. It is a quieter part of Venice infused in history where you can imagine what daily life must have been like in Shakespeare's time.
No visit to Venice is complete without a visit to the iconic Doge’s Palace. This is where the courthouse scene takes place in the Merchant of Venice. It is now a museum and one of my favorite places to visit in Venice with its Gothic architecture, beautifully decorated residential apartments, contrasted with the austere prison cells.
Books for Kids & Teens
The Merchant of Venice is considered one of Shakespeare’s most controversial plays. Some believe the play to be anti-Semitic, playing into negative stereotypes of Jewish people. You may want to be prepared to discuss this with your children.
3 // Ponte Santa Trinita (Santa Trinita Bridge) in Florence
Ponte Santa Trinita crosses the Arno River in Florence. The corner of the bridge is featured in the painting by Henry Holiday, Dante meets Beatrice at Ponte Santa Trinita. In the background of the painting, you see the more famous Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge with shops built on it. The art is inspired by Dante Alighieri’s (mostly known just as Dante) autobiographical work La Vita Nuova.
The text, La Vita Nuova, describes Dante’s love for Beatrice Portinari. Dante concealed his love by pretending to be attracted to other women. In the painting, Dante meets Beatrice at Ponte Santa Trinita, Beatrice is depicted walking by Dante in a white dress with a friend refusing to speak with him.
To view the Dante meets Beatrice at Ponte Santa Trinita painting in person, you would need to leave Italy. It is located in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, England.
You can visit Dante’s birthplace in Florence as it is now a museum. It is located in the core area of medieval Florance between the church of S. Martino and Pizza dei Donati.
Books for Tweens & Teens
Dante was an Italian poet who lived in Tuscany during the Middle Ages. During this time, most poetry was written in Latin, making it inaccessible to uneducated readers. Dante would often write in the Tuscan dialect making his writings more accessible for ordinary people. Dante's writing aided in establishing the Tuscan dialect as the bases for the national Italian language. He is often described as the "father" of the Italian language and Italy's most famous poet.
La Vita Nuova (Poems of Youth) is recommended for teens into poetry & literature. It consists of Dante’s early poems and his own commentary. The poems tell the story of his love for Beatrice from when he first met her to his intense grief when she dies. The book contains some of the most famous love poems in literature.
4 // Fiesole, a town of the Metropolitan City of Florence
In the novel, A Room with a View, by E.M. Foster, Fiesole is where the characters Lucy and George kiss overlooking a scenic view of Florence. Fiesole was once considered a place where the upper class of Florence could get away from the city. This charming town, tucked in the Tuscan hills is still a great place to escape the city with a day trip.
A Room with a View is both a love story and a humorous look at English society at the beginning of the 20th century. Part one takes place in Florence, Italy, while part two takes place in Surrey, England.
To retrace the steps of the book, you can also visit the places Lucy visits as a tourist in Florence. Like the Basilica of Santa Croce and the Piazza della Signoria where she witnesses a murder.
Edward Morgan Foster was born in London, England, in 1879 and published six books in his lifetime. Many of his novels take a look at the differences between social classes.
5 // Lecco on Lake Como
You may not be familiar with The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi in Italian) by Alessandro Manzoni. But most Italians are as it is required reading in the upper levels of Italian schooling. It is an Italian historical novel set in the Northern Italian town of Lecco and surrounding areas. The story takes place during the oppressive Spanish rule over Italy in the early 1600s. The love story focuses on the young lovers, Renzo and Lucia, who are not permitted to marry.
Inside the city of Lecco, you can experience the backdrop of the novel's events. Visit the Pescarenico district, the location where the character Fra Cristofor lives. The Olate and Acquate districts house the fictional homes of the characters Lucia and the villain Don Rodrigo. There are two churches people claim to be the inspiration for where the priest Don Abbondio marries Renzo and Lucia. The Church of Saints Vitale and Valeria in Olate (Chiesa dei Ss. Vitale e Valeria) and the Church of Saint George (Chiesa di San Giorgio) in Acquate.
Visit the home where Alessandro Manzoni spent his first 20 years then later made his summer residence at the Manzoni Museum.
The book also gives a detailed description of the plague that hit Milan, Italy, around 1630. Giving the reader insight as to what it may have been like to live there during that time.
Book for Teens
In researching for this article, I discover the author Alessandro Manzoni was considered a slow developer and labeled a “dunce” at school. At 15, he began a passion for poetry and started writing. His book The Betrothed is now considered a masterpiece of literature and is studied throughout Europe in Romanticism literature classes. A reminder, children need time to develop at their own pace and find their passions to bloom.
Have I missed and classic romantic stories set in Italy you would like to know more about? If so, let me know!
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