Dante Alighieri is, posthumously, Florence's golden son. His The Divine Comedy is often considered one of the greatest pieces in the history of Italian literature, and has inspired many a literary pilgrimage to his native Florence. The city is still home to a number of the ancient buildings where Dante spent time, from his home and the home of his beloved Beatrice to the House of Dante museum and frescoes in Santa Maria Novella that depict paradise and hell as he wrote them. Within a few blocks, find Il Gelato Vivoli for some of Italy's best gelato, and if you press further, find fresh pasta and vegetables at the Sant'Ambrogio market.
Touring the English countryside is a worthy adventure whether or not you're a Jane Austen devotee, but her tales provide passionate backdrops. At her home in Chawton, Austen wrote Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice before moving to Bath, where she penned Northanger Abbey. Stroll through Basildon Park, visit the medieval city of Winchester where Austen is buried, and stay in her former room at the Rutland Arms Hotel, where she is said to have revised Pride and Prejudice in 1811. Stop for lunch (or afternoon tea) in the Garden Room at The Cavendish Hotel nearby, where classic English fare awaits.
Hunter S. Thompson wrote The Rum Diary while living in Puerto Rico in the 1960s, though it wasn't published until 1998. And with Johnny Depp starring as the story's Paul Kemp on the big screen, there is a new pilgrimage for Thompson fans that has nothing to do with Las Vegas. The UNESCO-protected Old San Juan is still as Thompson knew it and wrote it, with bodegas and cantinas, brightly colored houses on incredibly narrow roads, a raucous nightlife, old cigar shops, and, of course, plenty of rum on the scene.
Largely considered one of the greatest works of literature from Spain's Golden Age, Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote has influenced and permeated Spanish, and Western, culture since the first volume was published in 1605. To see Quixote's Spain, start with the famous windmills in La Mancha, followed by a stroll through Madrid's Plaza Mayor, and a stop at the Hanging Houses of Cuenca. Wineries abound in the area, and beckon to travelers driving through to stop for a sip and a taste of manchego cheese, a local specialty.
Leopold Bloom made his way throughout Dublin, from Eccles Street to Mountjoy Square and then Leinster Street as James Joyce's main character in Ulysses. One of the most important pieces of Modernist writing, Joyce's novel shows a day in Bloom's life and many important sites mentioned in the book still stand today. Stand before the Temple Theatre (called St. George's Church in the novel), find Joyce's old school on Gardiner Place, and at 35 N. Great George's St., sift through papers and memorabilia at the James Joyce Centre. Stroll down Lombard Street, and then stop at Davy Byrnes for lunch, where Bloom ordered a Gorgonzola cheese sandwich and a glass of burgundy.
Ernest Hemingway wrote in some spectacular and inspiring locales, from Havana to Key West. Visiting his home, gardens, and some of his favorite Key West haunts is to see where he finished A Farewell to Arms, and reportedly wrote Death in the Afternoon and For Whom the Bell Tolls. His home and museum have been kept just as he left them, with artifacts from his travels dotting every room. Look out for the property's many (more than 40) cats, stroll through the lush gardens, and seek out the original location of Sloppy Joe's bar, one of Hemingway's favorites, where Captain Tony's now stands.
One of the most widely studied novels of the 20th century, Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time discusses time and memory within seven epic volumes, of which the madeleine and lemon tea scene is one of the most famous. Walking through Paris is to walk in Proust's footsteps, stopping at his childhood home in the eighth arrondissement, visiting his grave in the Pere Lachaise cemetery (pictured), whispering in the Bibliothèque Mazarine where Proust worked (for only a few days), and strolling down the Boulevard des Italiens where Swann looked for Odette, in the novel. Stop for afternoon tea (and a madeleine) at Mariage Frères.
All around Oxford, Miss., are landmarks of William Faulkner's novels — the plantation home (the Thompson-Chandler house) from The Sound and the Fury still stands, as does the courthouse from the same novel. He definitely wrote what he saw and knew, using the First National Bank in town as the inspiration for his Satoris Bank in Unvanquished and Flags in the Dust. Rowan Oak, Faulkner's home for more than 30 years, is now run as a museum by Mississippi University and you can also stop by his grave where he and his family are buried, alongside a fourth mystery grave marked "E.T." and known only as a family friend. Dine at City Grocery before taking that classic swig of Jack Daniel's at Faulkner's gravesite.