From the Amanda Knox debacle to Berlusconi's resignation to the impending financial crisis, modern-day Italy can seem quite tumultuous. But, of course, this is nothing new for the nation that brought us Caesar, Cicero and Sophia Loren.

Three new books--perfect for the Italy-bound or armchair enthusiast--explore this often-rocky, always fascinating history:

Rome In art-and-culture critic Robert Hughes's new book, Rome is the backdrop for power, ambition, desire and corruption. Beginning with his own impressions of the city as a young man in the 1950s, Hughes guides readers through the darkest alleys, strangest mythologies and most compelling artistic movements of the past two millennia in the Eternal City.

The Pursuit of Italy British biographer David Gilmour's highly readable new book is both a fascinating look at Italian history and a fierce argument against alleged Italian nationalism. Ultimately, it explains modern Italy's fractured state, as well as the fierce loyalty citizens--say, Neapolitans or Tuscans--have for their region.

Seeking Sicily Poor Sicily has often gotten a raw deal (the Mafia-man stereotype, 3,000 years of occupation by various invaders, etc.). This new history-cum-travelogue gives the oft-misunderstood island its due, exploring Sicilian people, food and culture with visceral delight.

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