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Elena Ferrante’s ‘Neapolitan novels’ – a series of four books documenting the lifelong friendship of two women in a changing Italy – have had a startling impact on tourism in the city, formerly passed over in favour of Venice or Rome, or dismissed by tourists as too dirty or dangerous.
With the books translated into numerous languages and a TV series in the works, ‘Ferrante fever’ is sweeping not just Italy but the world.
Inspired by Ferrante’s vivid descriptions, many people are now just as eager to explore the working class neighbourhoods depicted in her fiction as they are to see the city’s impressive churches and art.
While Ferrante’s true identity remains a mystery – she argues that books “have no need of their authors” – the Naples depicted in her novels is definitely real, making the series a must-read for anyone seeking an authentic taste of Italy.
Here are five brilliant Italian novels, all of which are available in English and most of which have also been adapted into films, to help you get to know the country a little better.
1. Elena Ferrante – My brilliant friend (Naples)
The first of the four-part series begins the story of the friendship between Elena and Raffaella (Lila), as Elena finds out her friend has gone missing. She recalls their childhood together in the poor suburbs of Naples during the economically difficult postwar period. The series follows their friendship in a changing Italy, as their own lives set off down different paths but remain intertwined.
In Naples, you can visit many of the locations depicted in the novel and see how the differences between the old and new, rich and poor neighbourhoods are still visible.