A writer is only as great as his muse. And for many, that muse isn't very good. From broken-down forests, to clichéd seashores, the vast majority of books published in the United States fail to capture the attention of the public at large, mainly because the thing that lies at the core of them either isn't interesting or has been done better before.

However, for the select few, the few that we now know as the pantheon of American writers, the muse and book created because of it have gone down in the annals of history as canonical, a reflection of the person who wrote it, the time he or she lived in, and, of course, the place that inspired their masterpieces. In honor of that we, at Travelers Today, have listed below five of the most interesting and important touchstones in American literature, places that have interested and inspired some of our most important writers, and will continue to provide inspiration for generations of literally minds to come.

5. The French Riviera- Fitzgerald

Most people best know this American master for his work on The Great Gatsby, one of (if not the) defining novels of the 20th century. What many people don't know, however, is that F. Scott Fitzgerald spent many of his most productive years not in New York or Minneapolis, but France, specifically Southern France and the French Riviera.

It was, after all, Fitzgerald's time in the Riviera that gave him the material for his last, and most underrated major novel Tender is the Night, a heart-breaking pseudo-biography about life with his troubled wife Zelda. Visits to the beautiful region today can include trips to some of the cafes where Fitzgerald worked on his novels, as well as one of the mansions he stayed in, the Villa Picolette, which just went on sale for $35.5 million dollars.

4. Pittsfield, Massachusetts - Melville

 Okay, so this item involves a little cheating. Technically, the best place to visit to understand what inspired Herman Melville is Arrowhead, his Pittsfield home that saw the writing of Moby-Dick, as well as some of the author's better novellas and short stories (including The Confidence-Man and The Piazza Tales).

However, to get a complete feel for what Melville is all about, you have to drive three hours from Pittsfield to Cape Cod, to see the sea that consumed many of the writer's most enduring works. Indeed, any trip on a modern whaling boat setting off from the Cape will reveal, in all of its grandeur, the awesome forces of the Atlantic Ocean that made Melville such an important author, and gave him the ability to write such compelling, unforgettable stories.

3. Salinas, California - Steinbeck

Perhaps the greatest author the West Coast has ever produced, John Steinbeck just can't be understood without a visit to his hometown of Salinas and the giant Victorian home he grew up in. Indeed, a walk through the Nobel Prize-winning author's small hometown, or even better, a drive along his native Pacific Coast highway, reveals just what Steinbeck loved so much about California, and what inspired him to write masterpieces like Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath.

Also worth a visit is the National Steinbeck Center, located just two blocks away from his boyhood home, and the only museum in the country to fully dedicate itself to one author. In other words, if you drive up to Northern California not only will you see what inspired Steinbeck, but you'll have the resources to learn anything you'd want to know about the great author's life.  


2. Oxford, Mississippi - Faulkner

 While Faulkner was certainly interested by a great many things about the South, the thing that he couldn't get over - and that appears in his work again and again, in different forms - is Oxford, Mississippi, his hometown and one of the best representatives of quintessentially southern values in existence today.

The highlight of a trip to Oxford would, of course, be the tour of the late master's antebellum estate, Rowan Oak, a visit that would allow you to peer into the rooms where he wrote masterpieces like As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and A Fable. However, while you're in town, you could also walk down the halls of Ole Miss, or visit the writing haunts of a younger generation of authors who also spent time in the city, including the likes of John Grisham, Cynthia Shearer, and Ace Atkins. In short, whether you're looking for something classic or something new, Oxford is the perfect place to find a little piece of inspiration.

1.     Pamplona, Spain - Hemingway

However, the number one spot is reserved for a very different author, the legendary "Papa," one of the great and most influential stylists of all time. Indeed, the toughest part about putting Ernest Hemingway at number one was deciding which of his great places of inspiration to include: whether it should be suburban Michigan, or the African plains, or even the small fishing ports of Key West.

Ultimately, however, we settled on Pamplona, home of the world-famous "running of the bulls," and the setting of Hemingway's greatest novel, The Sun Also Rises, as well as his shorter treatise on bullfighting  Death in the Afternoon. The city, one of the largest tourist destinations in the world, also has some of the world's best-preserved "Hemingway" attractions, including the Café Bar Torino and the Casa Marceliano, where the writer spent many evenings and nights with his literary friends.

In short, while a visit to Pamplona may not make you Hemingway, it will certainly give you unparalleled insight into the author's process, works, and inspiration, an advantage that definitively marks it as the best place to go to understand the creative process of American masters.