Holidaying by the Book: Six Perfect Summer Reads

Novels can be a fantastic way to learn more about the history and culture of a region, without the dry factual feel of a guidebook. Here are six novels that are perfect summer reading, and give an added dimension to a holiday taken in the regions where they're set.

Everyone loves a good read when they're on holiday, but how much better if the book you're devouring is actually based in the place you're visiting? Novels can be a fantastic way to learn more about the history and culture of a region, without the dry factual feel of a guidebook. Here are six novels that are perfect summer reading, and give an added dimension to a holiday taken in the regions where they're set.

Summer at the Lake by Erica James - Lake Como, Italy

The faded elegance and stunning natural landscapes of Lake Como form the backdrop for James' tale of an English tour guide working in Italy, whose life is turned upside down when she's involved in an accident. Saved by two very different people, an ageing Italian spinster and a young English property developer, the books charts the stories of the three main characters, weaving them around the sunkissed trattorias and elegant bars of Como. For Italophiles, few places can match Como for it's mix of classic Italian style, old-fashioned glamour and spectacular scenery. Inghams Italy has a selection of hotels and escorted tours in and around Como.

The Poldark Saga by Winston Graham - Cornwall, UK

Winston Graham's 18th century saga got a serious reboot with the launch of the BBC series last year, set on the dramatically beautiful west Cornish coast. There are plenty of Poldark-themed locations to explore, from the 'Poldark Mine', used in the TV series, to the picturesque seaside village of Charlestown, which doubles for Truro in the series. The spectacular clifftops of St Agnes Head feature as part of Ross Poldark's home estate, Nampara, and fans of the series can follow a coastal walk along the stretch of coast that is home to the remains of Botallack and Levant Mines, which feature in the series as Ross and his cousin Francis' mines. Classic Cottages has a selection of properties along the west Coast of Cornwall.

The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe - Dubrovnik & Konavle, Croatia

Perceived as a 'safe' destination in the Med, and more affordable than most due to being outside the Eurozone, Croatia is welcoming more tourists than ever this year to it's island-studded coastline and atmospheric, Venetian towns. The country has a turbulent past, however, and if you want to find out more about how the country fought for its independence in the early 1990's, The People We Were Before is a great place to start. Set in a fictional village close to Dubrovnik, the book tells the story of a young boy, Miro Denkovic, and what happens to him and his family before, during and after the war. Completely Croatia offers hotels, apartments and escorted tours in Croatia.

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith - Ischia & the Amalfi Coast, Italy

This glittering stretch of coastline - home to the eternally stylish towns of Positano and Amalfi - has oozed glamour for decades, and the island of Ischia - a short hop from the mainland - is thought to be the basis for Highsmith's fictional island of Monigbello, where much of the action between Tom Ripley and Dickie Highsmith takes place. Highsmith's novel fuses the beauty of the backdrops with a chilling narrative, ending in a truly shocking denouement - one to be read with a stiff martini to hand. Expressions Holidays offer trips to the Amalfi Coast and the island of Ischia.

My Family & Other Animals by Gerald Durrell - Corfu, Greece

Another recent hit TV series, this semi-autobiographical book by Gerald Durrell, charts his families adventures when they move from grey, dreary England to the Greek island of Corfu in the late 1930's. Although the island has changed hugely since the Durrell's day, the quiet east coast, where they lived in a succession of villas, still remains relatively unspoilt. Gerald and his family lived in the villages of Perama, Kontokali and Criseda; the house in Kontokali is very much as it was during their time. This area of Corfu offers a fantastic mix of quieter beaches, walking trails through olive groves and the bright lights of Corfu Town, with its lovely architecture and buzzy waterfront. CV Villas has a fantastic selection of villas to rent on the island.

The Thread by Victoria Hislop - Thessaloniki, Greece

Few writers bring Greece to life like Hislop; her novels combine the history of the region with a real understanding of rural Greek life. The Thread tells the story of the Kominos family, beginning in 1917, taking them through the wars, invasions and natural disasters that befell the Greek mainland through the 20th century, focusing in on an enduring love affair between Dimitri and Katerina. The story is based in Thessaloniki, now a large, modern city, but beyond the city streets, the Halkidiki region is home to some of the best, most unspoilt beaches in Greece. An ideal destination for those who want a classic Mediterranean holiday without hordes of other visitors, the luxurious Sani Resort makes a great base for exploring the Halkidiki region.


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