Your Guide to the best contemporary Italian writers that need to be in your library today.
Italy is known for being the birthplace of some of the most revered classic writers of all time – including Dante and Niccolò Machiavelli. However, Italy’s literary acclaim is not something of the country’s past. There is no shortage of contemporary Italian writers making their mark on history at home and abroad.
Here are ten must-read contemporary Italian authors to add to your reading list.
Perhaps the best-known modern Italian writer to us readers in the United States, Elena Ferrante is the author of the hugely popular four-book series, the Neapolitan Novels. As a testament to her global influence, Time magazine declared Ferrante one of the 100 most influential people in 2016. Despite her great acclaim, Ferrante remains a mystery: She writes under a pseudonym and has managed to maintain her anonymity throughout the course of her decades-long writing career. Her 2015 novel (and the fourth book in the Neapolitan series) The Story of the Lost Child was nominated for the Strega Prize, which is Italy’s most prestigious literary award.
Paolo Giordano may have studied physics at the University of Turn (he even earned his Ph.D. in the discipline!) but he has enjoyed an acclaimed career as a novelist. Giordano released his debut novel, The Solitude of Prime Numbers, in 2008. It won that year’s Strega Prize. The novel’s success was remarkable – it sold over one million copies and was translated into thirty different languages. Since Solitude, Giordano has written three novels. He also penned the short essay How Contagion Works: Science, Awareness, and Community in Times of Global Crises, which shaped Italy’s national conversation around the coronavirus pandemic.
Before she became a novelist, Melania Mazzucco was a screenplay writer who had extensively studied literature and cinema. In 1996, she wrote her first novel, Il bacio della Medusa. It was her 2003 novel Vita, however, that earned the most acclaim: it received the Strega Prize. Since then, Mazzucco has even had her works turned into films. The adaptation of her 2005 novel Un giorno perfetto was entered into the Venice International Film Festival.
Born in Rome, Italy, Nicolò Ammaniti is a prolific modern Italian writer. He’s written multiple novels and short story collections and earned his share of accolades along the way. His 1999 novel Steal You Away was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, while his 2007 novel The Crossroads won the Strega Prize. His most famous work is the 2001 novel I’m Not Scared which was translated into multiple languages, won the Italian Viareggio-Repaci Prize for Fiction, and was adapted into a film.
Crime novels have taken American readers by storm in the contemporary age, and the same is true over in Italy. Carlo Lucarelli is one of Italy’s most popular crime writers. (He’s also enjoyed a career as a magazine editor and TV personality.) Throughout his career, he has written more than twenty novels. Perhaps his most revered novels are those that belong to the Deluca Trilogy, which is set in the aftermath of World War II.
Stefano Benni is considered one of Italy’s premiere contemporary novelists, and for good reason. He writes with an expert’s hold on both satire and magical realism. Time and time again, this talent has made him a best-seller – he’s sold over two million books in Italy. Plus, many of his titles have been translated into other languages. Some of his most noteworthy titles include Bar Sport, The Company of Celestini, and The Cafe Beneath the Sea. In addition to novels, he also writes poetry and essays.
Valeria Parrella is a writer of diverse forms and talents. She first made a name for herself through her short stories: In 2004, she was awarded the Premio Campiello literary prize for the best debut work. Then, her 2005 collection Per grazia ricevuta won the Premio Renato Fucin award for the best collection of short stories. Since that time, Parella has also written novels and plays. She’s a dedicated activist and writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines.
Giorgio De Maria
Giorgio De Maria passed away in 2009 and enjoyed the height of his career in the 1970s. However, he remains a singular voice in Italian literature and cannot be left out of conversations relating to Italy’s modern literary landscape. He is internationally known for his 1977 novel, Twenty Days of Turin, which was written when Italy was experiencing unprecedented domestic terror. In the decades since its publication, the novel, and De Maria, has gone on to accumulate a cult following.
Born in Munich to Polish Jewish parents who had survived the Holocaust, Helena Janeczek has lived in Italy for over thirty years. Over the course of her multiple decades in Italy, Janeczek has established herself as a gem of Italy’s literary scene. Her 2017 novel, The Girl with the Leica, won the Strega Prize. Janeczek’s win was significant as it was the first time in 15 years that a woman had been awarded the prize.
At 85 years old, Dacia Maraini is one contemporary Italian writer that has an exceptionally storied career. She has written numerous plays and novels and has won many awards in the process, including The Book of the Year Award in 1990 and the Strega Prize in 1999. During World War II, Maraini was imprisoned in a Japanese concentration camp. A documentary film was made about Maraini’s life, with emphasis on this period. Maraini’s work has championed women’s issues and feminism across the decades.
Natalli Marie Amato
Natalli Amato is a music and lifestyle journalist from Sackets Harbor, New York. Her bylines include Rolling Stone, Vice, and The Boot. She is also the author of several collections of poetry.