Marina Fiorato’s The Glassblower of Murano (2008) tells the story of Eleonora, a young woman who travels to Venice in search of her genealogical past and existential roots. Coming from London, Eleonora incarnates a “modern” outlook on what she assumes to be the timeless life and culture of Venice. At one point in the novel, admiring the old houses on the Canal Grande, Eleonora is “on fire with enthusiasm for this culture where the houses and the people kept their genetic essence so pure for millennia that they look the same now as in the Renaissance” (2008, 15). This discourse of pure origins and unbroken continuities is a fascinating fantasizing on characteristics that extend from the urban territory to the people who inhabit it. Within narratives centred on this notion, Italian culture, perceived as holding a privileged relation with history and the past, is often contrasted with the displacement and rootlessness that seem to characterize the modern places and people of England and North America. Through a discussion of two Anglo-American popular novels set in Italy, and several relocation narratives, this paper proposes an exploration of the notion according to which history is the force cementing the identities of societies perceived as less modern and frozen in a timeless dimension. From a point in time when the dialectics of history have been allegedly transcended, Anglo-American popular narratives observe Italy as a timeless, pre-modern other.