I love to read historical fiction novels, especially those that deal with the Renaissance. I have read many of these novels and at times, it's hard for me to keep the stories straight! But two of the novels I read stand out in my mind because the stories actually have come to life for me! The first one was Leonardo's Swans by Karen Essex. I'm not going to do a summary here because you can look that up on amazon. But what caused excitement for me from this novel has to do with my trip to Milan in 2006. I had read the novel right before my trip and it gave me so much history into the city of Milan that I probably would never have found out on my own. I used it as a mini-guidebook, and it opened up new places for me. One of the settings involved the Castello Sforzesco. From the book, I learned that Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned by the Sforza family to paint some frescoes at the Castello. In fact, one of the halls is adorned with his frescoes, The Sala delle Asse. This is a lesser known work by the great Master, and therefore not something of much interest when one visits Milan. The book also went into a description of the immense bronze horse that Leonardo designed. The horse was never built but has now been replicated and placed in front of San Siro racetrack. Other anecdotes described the painting of the Last Supper, as well as the other masterpiece, the Crucifixion, painted in the same hall by Giovanni Donato Montorfano. From the book, I learned that Ludovigo Sforza had himself painted into this painting by the artist. These tidbits of information are what make history come alive for me and without having read this "fictional" story, I would never have even thought about going to look for these wonderful art pieces.
The other novel which has brought history alive for me is The Ruby Ring by Diane Haeger. This is the love story between Rafael and Margherita Luti, a baker's daughter of Rome's Trastevere district. This story has come alive because of a restaurant in Rome that is housed in the home where this love story took place!! The restaurant is called Romolo nel Giordino della Fornarina. I have just learned of this restaurant's existence so therefore have not had the opportunity to dine here, but you can be sure that the next time I find myself in Rome, I will definitely go!
Whenever I can experience something real from these so called fictional novels, I get very excited! The other book, though not historical fiction, that has made a place come alive is Dan Brown's Angels and Demons! This book is very popular, but it played a role as a guide book for us when visiting Rome. It was fun finding the obelisks, chapels, churches, etc described in the book. It made us feel like detectives and it made sightseeing all that much more exciting!