10 Books set in Siena, Italy

Siena in Tuscany, Italy, famed for the Palio Horse Race which takes place twice a year.

Explore the allure of Siena for yourself before traversing its winding pathways firsthand. Delve into a realm of ancient piazzas, meandering streets, and the sprawling vineyards of Tuscany. Immerse yourself in the medieval essence of this renowned city. Discover the treasures of one of Tuscany’s most famed destinations without leaving your armchair.

Amidst the many novels set across Tuscany, this selection exclusively focuses on this UNESCO World Heritage site and offers a tantalising taste of the city’s character. These stories encapsulate the essence of this enchanting location and paint a vivid portrait of Siena’s spirit.

Transport yourself through these narratives to the vibrant Piazza del Campo or the summit of the Torre del Mangia. Picture yourself wandering the cobblestone streets in pursuit of delectable cuisine. Envisage speeding through vineyards in a vintage car on a quest for that perfect bottle of wine.

Books set in Siena that everyone should read before visiting

#1 A Month in Siena by Hisham Matar

Matar’s world shifted at nineteen when his father vanished without a trace. In the aftermath, he sought solace in the world of art, particularly the captivating works of the Sienese School. These paintings became more than mere images; they became a sanctuary, offering respite from the immediate uncertainties of life.

Twenty-five years later, and still haunted by his father’s disappearance, Matar decides to take a pilgrimage to the birthplace of those cherished artworks. A Month in Siena chronicles the profound encounter between the writer and this historic city. It unfolds as an immersive exploration into the realm of painting, and is a poignant reflection on love and loss. It is an earnest contemplation of how art intertwines with the essence of existence. 

#2 The Daughter of Siena by Marina Fiorato

The year is 1729, and the imminent arrival of the Palio, a heart-pounding equestrian spectacle, begins in the Tuscan city of Siena. Yet, beneath the grandeur and splendour lies a dangerous undercurrent of rivalry among the city’s quarters. Each district, symbolized by an animal, thrusts forward a rider vying for the coveted winner’s flag. But beneath the surface, the competition incites a transformation, dividing citizens into factions and awakening primal instincts. Amid this turmoil, Pia Tolomei, a spirited young woman, finds herself entangled in a forbidden romance with a rider from a rival ward. His status as an outsider threatens the delicate equilibrium of power and intrigue governing the land, sparking a fierce conflict of loyalty and love.

This is a tale of love and betrayal amid the thrilling backdrop of the Palio, Siena’s electrifying horse race.

#3 The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer

Beatrice Trovato, a neurosurgeon, grapples with the realization that her deep compassion for patients might hinder her professional effectiveness. When her beloved brother dies, she reluctantly embraces an unforeseen journey to Siena, Tuscany, to settle his estate. Yet, amidst unravelling her brother’s affairs, she stumbles upon an unexpected revelation—a centuries-old plot aimed at the city’s destruction.

Diving deeper into the mystery, Beatrice stumbles upon the journal and artwork of Gabriele Accorsi, a fourteenth-century artist. Astonishment strikes when she discovers a portrait bearing her own likeness, thrusting her back to the year 1347. Waking in an unfamiliar Siena on the brink of the Plague, she navigates a perilous reality.

In a surprising twist of fate, Beatrice encounters Accorsi, finds herself captivated by the allure of medieval life, and unexpectedly falls in love. As the Plague looms, orchestrated by sinister forces, posing an imminent threat to both her survival and the city’s existence, Beatrice faces a profound choice: to embrace the familiarity of her present or immerse herself in the past, deciding where her destiny truly lies.

#4 Under a Siena Sun by T.A. Williams

Lucy Young has dedicated her life to Doctors Without Borders for four years, tirelessly saving lives amidst conflict zones. However, one rescue prompts a significant shift in her path, and she transitions from the chaos of war-torn areas to the tranquility of Siena, where she now practices medicine.

Lucy feels an unsettling sense of displacement in her new role at a prestigious private clinic. Accustomed to aiding those in desperate need, the sudden change to catering to the affluent seeking cosmetic enhancements leaves her disconcerted. Her inner turmoil intensifies when she crosses paths with David Lorenzo, a tennis star nursing injuries. Despite her aversion to wealth, Lucy finds herself drawn to David’s infectious smile, causing a rift in her resolve.

As her feelings for the athlete deepen, Lucy grapples with a profound dilemma: Is she losing herself in a world characterised by luxury and excess? Her innate desire to aid the less fortunate clashes with the comforts of Siena’s clinic and her burgeoning relationship with David. Amidst this internal conflict, Lucy must navigate whether her future belongs in Siena, at the clinic, and perhaps alongside David.

#5 The Italian Party by Christina Lynch

Amidst the allure of Tuscany’s enchanting vistas, Scottie and Michael, newly wedded, find themselves entranced by its renowned beauty. Yet, beneath the facade of picturesque landscapes lies a veil of secrets that strains their bond, unravelling a complex web of truths encompassing Italy, America, and their relationship.

The disappearance of Scottie’s Italian tutor, a teenager concealing his own enigmas, becomes a catalyst. Her quest to locate him unravels deeper, unveiling unsettling revelations about herself, her husband, and the truths shrouding their respective homelands. Michael’s dedication to combating communism falters as he confronts his role as a mere pawn in a much larger and obscured game.

Torn apart by deceit, Michael and Scottie navigate an entwined mixture of history, memories, emotions, and conflicting loves.

#6 Juliet by Anne Fortier

When Julie Jacobs inherits a mysterious key to a safety deposit box in Siena, Italy, she’s propelled into a mesmerising quest promised to unveil an ancient family treasure. As she embarks on this enigmatic journey, she finds herself entangled in the captivating history of her ancestor Giulietta, whose profound love affair with a young man named Romeo shook the foundations of medieval Siena.

Julie’s path converges with the descendants of the families immortalised in Shakespeare’s infamous blood feud, revealing that the ominous curse—”A plague on both your houses!”—still casts its shadow, with Julie as its unforeseen target.

Amidst this challenging unravelling of events, Julie realises she’s at the mercy of a destiny entangled with the past. With the looming threat surrounding her, Julie seeks the elusive Romeo, believed to be her only saviour from an impending fate. However, the quest for salvation and the unavailable Romeo raises poignant questions—where does fate guide her, and who holds the key to altering her inevitable course?

#7 Seven Seasons in Siena: My Quixotic Quest for Acceptance Among Tuscany’s Proudest People by Robert Rodi

In the heart of Siena, where modernity meets ancient traditions, lies a city bustling with life and history. Unlike its neighbouring Florence, Siena holds onto its age-old customs. Most notably highlighted by the grand spectacle of the Palio. This exhilarating annual horse race showcases the rivalry among seventeen unique contrade within the city’s medieval walls.

Enter Robert Rodi, a Chicago-based writer and an outsider to Siena’s cultural intricacies who hesitantly navigates the Italian language. Despite feeling like a stranger, Rodi finds himself drawn to the strong sense of belonging exuded by the Sienese, sparking a desire to integrate into this close-knit community.

“Seven Seasons in Siena” narrates Rodi’s fascination with the inhabitants of Siena, a chronicle of his earnest, occasionally comical, and at times challenging attempts to become an accepted member of the Noble Contrada of the Caterpillar. Embracing the complexities of being American, gay, and a writer in this unique corner of Tuscany, Rodi embarks on a quest akin to a determined jockey to overcome every obstacle.

Across seven immersive visits spanning different seasons, Rodi immerses himself in the tapestry of the contrada’s life, working in their kitchens, engaging in sporting events, and navigating the intricate web of their alliances and conflicts. Through persistence and dedication, he slowly forges connections with this proud community, weaving himself into the fabric of their existence.

#8 Siena Summer by Teresa Crane

Under the scorching Tuscan sun unfolds a poignant narrative of love and vengeance. Poppy Brookes receives an unsettling letter beckoning her to the neglected family estate near the captivating city of Siena. Siena is also where her sister Isobel had eloped with an artist years before. Upon arrival, Poppy discerns a disquieting tension in Isobel and her husband Kit’s relationship, stumbling upon a harrowing secret by chance.

Set against the backdrop of 1920s Tuscany, Poppy’s quest for love intertwines with the haunting aftermath of a war long past. Amidst this, a thirst for vengeance emerges, leading to tragic repercussions that shatter the lives of the unsuspecting innocents.

#9 Siena, My Love by Tom Bisogno

At 18, Michael Ventura rose to fame as an American singing sensation, captivating audiences worldwide with renditions of classic tunes and beloved love songs from revered crooners, gracing grand concert halls with his performances.

Michael’s life became a whirlwind of acclaim, affection, and heartache. However, when his grandfather required assistance, Michael returned to his family’s vineyard near Siena, Italy, where, at the age of 10, he crossed paths with the spirited Sophia.

Initially, when they met, there was a language barrier. Their encounter led to an amusing misunderstanding when Sophia sought help from the authorities by calling the “polizia” on the perceived intruder. Despite this initial hiccup, their bond blossomed during Michael’s summer visits until an unforeseen and awkward adolescent moment during the Palio festival in Siena. These childhood friends, initially following divergent paths in careers and relationships, find their lives interconnected once more when circumstances call Michael back to Tuscany.

#10 The Shepherdess of Siena by Linda Lafferty

Set in the 16th century, young orphan Virginia Tacci possesses an unwavering passion for horses. However, her station as a peasant girl, compounded by societal constraints placed upon her gender, dims the possibilities of her ambitions. Yet, amid her pastoral duties, Virginia becomes entranced by the fearless equestrian prowess of Isabella de’ Medici. A woman who defies conventions with her bold and daring riding skills. An act that unsettles her tyrannical brother, Gran Duca Francesco de’ Medici.

Inspired by Isabella’s courage, Virginia nurtures a genuine dream to participate in Siena’s prestigious Palio. Twenty-six years post-Florence’s capture of Siena, Virginia’s defiance emerges as a beacon of hope, rallying the downtrodden Sienese people and challenging the dominance of the Gran Duca. This vivid saga breathes life into the storied history of Tuscany’s revered city. It depicts a determined young woman’s resilience and unyielding spirit amidst a backdrop of turmoil and oppression.

Have you read any books set in Siena that you would recommend to others?

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10 Books set in Siena, Italy via @tbookjunkie

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