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The Light in the Piazza is a 1960 novella by Mississippi writer Elizabeth Spencer.

The Light in the Piazza
First edition cover
AuthorElizabeth Spencer
CountryUnited States
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages110 pp

At its core are Margaret Johnson and her daughter Clara, on vacation in Italy, where Clara becomes enamored of local Florentine Fabrizio. What appears on the surface to be nothing more than a romantic story of young love slowly dissolves into a more tragic tale involving a past accident with serious consequences, dark family secrets, deception, and a conflict between maternal love and responsibility and an innocent girl's physical and emotional desires as she becomes aware of her awakening sexuality. A secondary plot resembles a comedy of manners as it examines the national differences between Americans and Italians, both represented in a somewhat stereotypical fashion.


Screenwriter Julius J. Epstein adapted Spencer's book for a 1962 film, directed by Guy Green.[1][2] The cast included Olivia de Havilland, Yvette Mimieux, Rossano Brazzi, and George Hamilton, who was nominated for a BAFTA Award for his performance.

In 2003, the book inspired a musical adaptation, written by Craig Lucas and composed by Adam Guettel.


  1. ^ Variety film review; January 17, 1962, page 7.
  2. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; February 3, 1962, page 14.

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