Mediterranean Europe: travel books to read before you go

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This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Mediterranean Europe guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.

For as long as people have been travelling in the Mediterranean, authors have been writing about them . Way back in the 8th century BC, Homer penned The Odyssey, his epic tale of Odysseus’ attempts to return home to Ithaca (modern-day Ithaki) after the Trojan War. Almost a millennium later, in the 2nd century AD, historian and geographer Pausanius wrote the world’s first travel guide, the 10-book Description of Greece. Two of the greatest Mediterranean travel writers, however, sought their fame elsewhere. The great Moroccan explorer Abu Abdullah Muhammed Ibn Battuta (1304–69) is said to have covered some 120,000km in 30 years of travel in Asia and the eastern Mediterranean, while Venetian adventurer Marco Polo (1254–1324) thrilled with his tales of Asian exotica. But as home-grown authors have left, so too northern authors have sought solace in the southern sun. Goethe and Stendhal, Byron, Dickens and DH Lawrence all travelled to the region seeking inspiration.To get you into the mood for a Mediterranean odyssey:

FrancescosFrancesco’s Mediterranean Voyage: A Cultural Journey Through the Mediterranean from Venice to Istanbul (Francesco Da Mosta) An elegant read, this glossy coffee-table book follows TV architect and historian Francesco Da Mosta as he cruises the eastern Med.

On the Shores of the MediterraneanOn the Shores of the Mediterranean (Eric Newby) The ideal travelling companion, Newby turns his sparkling eye to the Italian mafia, Arabian harems and communist Albania as he wanders the length of the Med.

Mediterranean WinterMediterranean Winter: The Pleasures of History and Landscape in Tunisia, Sicily, Dalmatia and Greece (Robert Kaplan) In recounting a trip through low-season Mediterranean, Kaplan vividly recalls the history behind the area’s great landscapes.

LabelsLabels: A Mediterranean Journal (Evelyn Waugh) From Malta to Morocco, Waugh cuts a swath through the Mediterranean with his pointed pen and irreverent wit. It’s as much about the people he meets as the famous sites, and it’s a great read.

Route 66 ADRoute 66 AD: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists (Tony Perrottet) A light read, this is one of the better ‘follow-in-the-footsteps-of-theancients’ books. Perrottet combines classical references, modern jokes and amusing anecdotes.

Pillars of HerculesPillars of Hercules (Paul Theroux) With his usual caustic wit and languid style, veteran traveller Theroux leads the reader along the shores of Spain to the French Riviera, Sardinia and Sicily.

We Followed OdysseusWe Followed Odysseus (Hal Roth) Join Roth in his boat as he retraces Odysseus’s legendary 10-year journey. If you’re not going to read The Odyssey, this is the next best thing.

The Seventh WonderThe Seventh Wonder (Juan Villar) Part travelogue, part guidebook, this is the entertaining account of Villar’s attempt to visit each of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World on a three-week holiday.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found on lonelyplanet.com.