Book and travel lover Richard E Grant journeys to southern Italy, in the footsteps of great authors whose work was inspired by the country, its culture and history.
Reading key passages from the books as he goes along, Richard learns about the lives and experiences of the authors. His journey gives him fresh insights into the people and diversity of the region and its distinctive and captivating landscapes. He also discovers examples where books have had a direct effect on the area’s prosperity.
Starting in Naples, Richard explores the rich traditions and complex history of one of the oldest cities in the world, whose crumbling palazzi, vibrant street life and turbulent history have proved inspirational to many writers, among them Charles Dickens, Elena Ferrante, Elizabeth Gilbert and Norman Lewis.
Having climbed Vesuvius, Richard travels to the city of Pompeii, famously destroyed by the volcano in 79AD. Here, informed by Robert Harris’s thriller Pompeii he explores the remains of what once was a thriving Roman town.
In the glamorous town of Positano, just eight miles further south on the Amalfi coastline, Richard stays at the hotel where American crime writer Patricia Highsmith stayed in 1952 after a tempestuous journey through Europe with her girlfriend Ellen Blumenthal Hill, and where she was inspired to create her most famous character, Tom Ripley, as she watched "a solitary young man in shorts and sandals with a towel flung over his shoulder, making his way along the beach".
Travelling south to the Basilicata region, Richard’s final stop is the city of Matera, now a Unesco world heritage site but just 80 years ago considered ‘the shame of Italy’. Here he looks at how the city’s fortunes were changed by Carlo Levi’s book, Christ Stopped At Eboli.