Who doesn’t love a good story? Savannah’s rich history lends itself to legends and tall tales, and several important writers have called Savannah home, including Flannery O’Connor, Conrad Aiken and John Berendt (for a time, at least).
Don’t just read about Savannah’s literary history – immerse yourself by pairing some of the city’s most important sights with her most delicious bites.
A Day (or Two) in Literary Savannah
Start out the day with breakfast at Clary’s Café, featured in John Berendt’s bestselling 1994 true-crime book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and fill up on a hearty southern breakfast. Then, walk off those grits and biscuits by strolling to the Mercer-Williams House. The home, designed by songwriter Johnny Mercer’s great grandfather and made (in)famous by Berendt’s book, has a rich and tangled history. Although construction began in 1860, the Civil War delayed its completion until 1869. According to local lore, Union soldiers appropriated construction materials to build shelters during their occupation of Savannah.
Pro tip: Avoid asking tour guides questions about Jim Williams or the events of Berendt’s book. Guides strictly focus on art, architecture and antiques, although the tour is far from dull.
Next, head to Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home, a seven minute walk from the Mercer-William’s house, O’Connor’s childhood home provides a glimpse into the writer’s formative years. Visitors enjoy a guided tour that emphasizes early influences, and the home’s original furnishings are well-preserved.
Pro tip: The house is open to the public free of charge on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
After your visit, pop into Back in the Day Bakery for the best baked goods in Savannah and a dose of classic American kitsch. Grab a cupcake or a serving of the excellent blueberry hand pie and reread one of O’Connor’s classic short stories to transport your mind to a bygone era.
Pro tip: Pick up an anthology of Flannery O’Connor’s work at E. Shaver Booksellers and browse the huge selection of local and regional works. Keep an eye out for books about Savannah’s haunted history (you’ll be spoiled with choices).
Next, venture outside of the historic district for a visit to Bonaventure Cemetery, the final resting place of Pulitzer Prize winning author, Conrad Aiken. Legend suggests that Aiken requested a bench for a tombstone so that poetry lovers could stop to enjoy a drink.
Pro tip: Although the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil would lead visitors to believe that Bonaventure Cemetery is open at night, it closes at 5:00 PM.
Finish your day of literary time travel with classic Southern cuisine in one of Savannah’s most beautiful historic buildings, The Olde Pink House. The grand dame of fine dining in Savannah was built in 1771, and the home-turned-restaurant has the rare distinction of surviving the fire of 1796. Diners are provided with a history of the property along with the menu, and the haunted history of the property is the focus of many local ghost stories.
Pro tip: No matter which room you are seated in for dinner, be sure to take a stroll through all of the dining rooms. End the evening with a nightcap in the tavern downstairs.