I have a friend who prepares to travel abroad by reading fiction set there. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Indeed, I’ve done it myself.
Of course I will start with Italy, given that I’m here. I highly recommend Donna Leon. She’s a NYT best-selling author of a the Commissario Guido Brunettii detective series, set in Venice. If you like to find a good author and then chow-down, start with her first mystery, Death at La Fenice, and go from there. Her list is somewhat longer than 15. Great on detail and atmosphere and the Italian way.
If you like blood, gore, and atmosphere, check out Tara French’s books, set in Dublin. Her early novels are unusual in that a secondary character in the first book becomes the main character in the second, a secondary character in the second novel becomes the lead in the third. Her descriptions of everything from weather to location are gripping—which I like.
As you may recall, my favorite British writer is Dorothy L. Sayers. But close behind is Colin Dexter. His books spawned the Inspector Morse series on Masterpiece, and its follow-ons with Inspector Lewis, etc. They include Oxford almost as a character.
If you like short stories and/or things other than mysteries, I recommend Prague: A Traveler’s Literary Companion.
But the options for fiction abroad are endless. Check them out online. Maigret in France for more mysteries. Gabriel García Márquez for magical realism. John Steinbeck (The Pearl) or D. H. Lawrence (Lady Chatterley’s Lover), or Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness) if you want literary fiction.
Whether you go other places or not, reading about them is great reading!