For hundreds of years, books have inspired people to travel. Whether it’s tracking down the towns that inspired famous novels or following fictional characters off into the wilderness, reading can take you places you’ve never been before.
But if you’re already a book lover, it’s likely you’ve visited many of the places associated with your favourite authors and novels already. You’ve toured the Yorkshire moors of the Brontes’ novels, seen Dublin through James Joyce’s eyes and browsed the shelves at Shakespeare and Company on Paris’s Left Bank.
So if you feel like you’ve already done it all when it comes to book-based breaks, here are a few more unusual ideas to inspire your next literary holiday.
Follow Agatha Christie around the world
It has been 100 years since acclaimed murder mystery writer Agatha Christie set off on her ambitious Grand Tour. And now you can follow her 10-month journey with a series of trips from Black Tomato.
Starting in the UK, the trip takes you through Africa, Australasia and North America. You’ll visit the places that Christie stayed and experience the key high points of her tour around the world - including a spot of surfing on Cape Peninsula, South Africa where the author first tried the sport.
Each leg of the trip has a bespoke itinerary allowing you to weave together the aspects of the Grand Tour that most interest you. There’s even a chance to hear insights from Christie’s great-grandson, James Prichard before your journey kicks off in London. An unmissable experience for fans of some of the 20th century’s best detective novels.
Stay at the Algonquin Hotel
This historic hotel in Midtown Manhattan, New York has a reputation for hosting literary and theatrical notables. In 2019 it became the meeting place for the famous Algonquin Round Table where journalists, authors and actors gathered to talk in the main dining room.
Some of the most famous members included George S. Kaufman and Dorothy Parker. They also influenced famous American authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.
The Algonquin is also renowned for its cats which have the run of the hotel. The tradition dates back to the 1930s when owner Frank Case took in a stray feline called Rusty.
Sleep in Hunter S. Thompson’s Colorado Cabin
Hunter S. Thompson’s cabin within his Owl Farm compound in Colorado, US was opened to the public by his wife Anita in 2019. What you pay to stay at this unusual literary residence helps to fund the Owl Farm Trust and Gonzo Foundation.
The cabin has two bedrooms, a newly renovated bathroom, kitchen and a living area that has one of his writing desks. Also located on the 17-hectare property is the two-bedroom house where Thompson lived and worked. It is just a short walk through the estate from the spot where the author’s ashes were fired from a 47 metre tall Gonzo fist-shaped cannon.
You’ll need to provide an explanation when you book, however, as guests are required to write a short paragraph stating their reasons for wanting to stay at the cabin. There’s also a waiting list for visitors who haven’t been before or don’t have a reference from a previous guest.
A day in the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote extensively while at Princeton University - he even based his novel This Side of Paradise on this Ivy League School in the US. Notoriously a poor student, the writer struggled to achieve good grades, cut classes and eventually dropped out to join the military.
To find out more about his less than successful college days, you can take a walking tour through the university town to visit Fitzgerald’s homes and hangouts. You can see everything from an autographed manuscript of The Great Gatsby in Princeton’s library to the house where he lived during his time in the town and the eating clubs he frequented.
Princeton is also just over an hour from the city of New York where you can experience even more of Fitzgerald’s inspirations. Take a boat tour out towards Long Island to see the summer party playground that inspired the setting for The Great Gatsby.
Investigate Montelbano’s Sicilian inspiration
Inspector Montalbano is a popular Italian TV series based on the work of Sicilian novelist Andrea Camilleri. Despite first airing in 1999, it remains popular with viewers across the world to this day.
The fictional town of ‘Vigata’ where Montalbano is based is inspired by the author’s home town of Porto Empedocle near Agrigento in the southwest of Sicily. The town has even embraced its link with the series and novels by erecting a statue in the image of the fictional detective.
If you are looking for the locations used to film the series then head to Ragusa. The region is known for its baroque architecture and sweeping views that will be familiar to any fans of the show. Once you’ve walked in the footsteps of Montalbano, take a break and grab some food at one of his favourite daytime haunts, Trattoria San Calogero - or Trattoria la Rusticana as it's known in real life.
Elsewhere in Sicily, you can stay at the property, a beach house in the seaside hamlet of Punta Secca, used as his on-screen home. Start your day in the same way as Inspector Montalbano by enjoying an espresso and taking a dip in the sea.
Explore Santiago, the capital of the ‘country of poets’
Though many of Chile’s well-known poets came from across the country, Santiago became a literary capital where they often converged.
Pablo Neruda's La Chascona at the foot of the Cerro San Cristobal Hill is full of unique objects that show the country’s political and historical past. The house itself has an interesting history too, having been ransacked and destroyed by military officers after the poet’s death. It has become a symbol of the resilience of Santiago’s artistic community.
When you are done checking out the poet’s home, take the elevator to the top of the steep hill to witness the view that inspired so many of the city’s artists. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see the snow-capped Andes mountains towering over Santiago.