For concise background information on Italian authors, it's hard to beat a series called the Dictionary of Literary Biography. The volumes on Italian authors are in the Reference Collection on the 2nd floor of Alden Library, mostly in the PQ4000 call number range and above. Each entry contains an overview of the author's life and writings, illustrations, and a bibliography which can lead you to more information on the author. Highly recommended!
Below are three additional sources on literary history in the Reference Collection on the 2nd floor of Alden. Be sure to look in this same call number area on the 7th floor for many more books on literary history.
Gale Literary Index allows you to locate information on authors from all times and places that are included in more than 100 publications, both print and online, from Gale and other publishers. Search results include the contents of Dictionary of Literary Biography.
It does not provide the full text directly, only pointers to where the full text is located. You will need to use the ALICE Catalog to look for the specific titles that you find listed in the Gale Literary Index.