Nina Burleigh has a great article in the New York Times in which she tours Italy, seeking out the locations of gothic English and American novels.
The original gothic writers were much inspired by the duality in the bel paese. Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe and other masters of the romantic and horror genres set some of their most famous works in Italy.
“Italy was the Gothic writers’ favorite background,” wrote Massimiliano Demata, a professor at the University of Bari, who has made a study of the form. The country’s baroque portas, ruined castles, eerie reliquaries and catacombs were a gateway to the uncanny, possessing, as he put it, “a labyrinthine and claustrophobic architecture that was the novels’ perfect physical and psychological setting.” Today, these same books can serve as unconventional guidebooks for tourists who tire of the sun and want to explore the country’s macabre past.