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La Piazza--the locus of Italian village life. With photgraphs of the shop signs, the outdoor markets, medieval streets, people, their pets and their cars, and snippets of conversations overheard, Mayes reveals the life of the Piazza in her town of Cortona as well as out-of-the-way places such as Volterra, Asciano, Monte San Savino, and Castelmuzio.
La Festa--the celebration. Essays and photos of feasts and celebrations, such as the Christmas dinner for twenty-seven at a neighbor's house and a donkey race around the church at Montepulciano Stazione, illustrate how the Tuscans celebrate the seasons--their open ways of friendship, their connection to nature, and most of all, their sense of abundance.
Il Campo--the field. Here Edward Mayes evokes the deep sense of the shift of seasons as he picks olives before he and Frances head off to the olive oil mill and enjoy the first bruscette with new oil.
La Cucina--the kitchen. An intimate view of the all-important role of the kitchen in Tuscan culture, including photographs of her own kitchen and gardens, menus from great local cooks, the elements of the Tuscan table, dishes with cultural and culinary notes on each, and, of course, delectable recipes.
La Bellezza--the beauty. From the quality of the light falling on sublime landscapes in different seasons and Tuscan faces in moments of laughter to a silhouette of cypress trees in the early evening and a wild bird perched on a neigbor's head, In Tuscany features views of beauty that reveal the singular splendor of one of the world's best-loved and most artistic regions.
"Irresistable...A senuous book for a sensuous countryside."
"An intense celebration of what she calls 'the voluptuousness of Italian life'... Appealing and very vivid... [The] book seems like the kind of thing you'd tuck into a picnic basket on an August day... or better yet, keep handy on the bedside table in the depths of January."
--New York Times Book Review
"A love letter to Italy written in precise and passionate language of near-poetic density... Maye's sequel offers something different, even richer and more complex, than her first account of life in Tuscany... This is a book to treasure, as the author so clearly treasures the life she engraves on our hearts."
"Frances Mayes is, before all else, a wonderful writer... She never loses sight of the fact that millenniums-old Tuscany, with its immemorial customs and folksways, is not to be domesticated or made familiar. Her Italy remains intransigently foreign, exotic, a continuing revelation of strangeness and unexpected beauties."
"That's one of the things I love best about Italy," I say. "You can so suddenly be dropped behind the time curtain. But the people are totally of this moment so you don't have a feeling of being a time-traveler." I have a gift for her in my bag, but I am waiting.
"I could smell meat sauce cooking all afternoon from the kitchen below. Someone down the street was playing the piano and the leaves seemed to turn overnight. There was a man carrying a wild rabbit over his shoulder," she remembers. "He looked like a figure in a medieval psalter!" She smiles radiantly.
Now I'm remembering my autumns in Tuscany -- pasta with lepre (wild hare) sauce, the aromas of wild mushrooms sizzling in freshly pressed olive oil, the jar of rice infused by an earthy slice of truffle a friend found in the mountains. Also olive-wood fires in the evening and early morning walks on a Roman road in the damp chestnut forest.
Since I have owned and restored Bramasole, a formerly abandoned house in the Tuscan countryside, I have spent 11 summers, several winter semester breaks, a spring, and two falls in that exquisite countryside. Seasons there are not subtle. Spring is riotously spring. Summer is hot as a blast furnace. Each season brings its beauties and seductions. Thrills. Who could choose a favorite? The long fall is a strong contender, from September, when summer breaks and golden light starts to sift over the valleys, through December, when a few roses still glow in the wintry light.
"I thought you romanticized Italy," my friend continues. "You're a poet so I thought you made it all seem soft focus and nice for me. But you didn't! I felt at home there from the minute I stepped into that big piazza in Siena. No words can do justice to that space." She looks at me almost accusingly. "It's even more divine than you said."
I'm not sure if I've been kicked or complimented. I take my present from my bookbag, a copy of my new book, wrapped in Florentine paper. In Tuscany has 150 photos by Bob Krist, his sublime landscapes, markets, piazza life, and faces I particularly love. Since she is just back, and dazzled by Tuscany, I want to give her this gift. I wrote chapters about how intensely Italians celebrate food and seasons; about the pleasures of off-season travel. I included recipes from favorite meals I've eaten at friends' houses. My husband, Ed, wrote about the pleasures of the olive harvest. But my friend looks only at the photo of the famously beautiful piazza in her Siena, with the shadow of a tower falling across the bricks like a sundial. "I had a glass of wine and watched that shadow," she says slowly and to herself. She pauses. "I will always have this place with me."
Driving home from her house, I'm taking in the coastal California hills with afternoon fog roiling over the crests, the evergreens fringing the ridge, the reservoir where two deer are drinking: a landscape to make the heart flip.
We journey through the world and along the way the heart mysteriously expands. A poppy-covered slope or a curve of beach at dawn or an isolated town silhouetted against the sky can become intimately ours. The bells ringing at night, a waitress who throws back her head in a wild laugh, the touch of a saint's robe, the lemon-scent at a shuttered window, the dinner when an owl flies close over your head, the woman in a doorway knitting a red sock. The purest joy of travel is finding those openings your heart can move through.
Posted December 11, 2000
This new book of Frances Mayes will delight both current fans and new readers. In addition to her touching and perceptive insights on Italian character, culture and 'la bellezza,' Mrs. Mayes adds sumptious new recipes, short pieces by her author husband, Ed Mayes, and the gorgeous photos of Bob Krist. The photos are a special treat, not only due to their outstanding quality, but because they show us people and places in her books that we've loved but only read about. Mrs. Mayes' Tuscany comes truly alive in all its loveable, quirky magic. A true gift from the heart.
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Posted September 26, 2011
I've always dreamed of traveling around Tuscany, so I was absolutely fanatic about finding this book about it. This book contains everything from the histories to the landscapes all the way down to its food and people. Everything is compiled in this perfect book of concoctions filled with beautiful pictures all around the place with wonderful recipes to try out from the origins of the culture. This is a Tuscan masterpiece! It's like you're already there!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 16, 2009
Beautifully presented book that is very readable - I couldn't put it down. Great for the coffee table and would make a wonderful gift for those with a love for Tuscany. Mayes best book so far.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 24, 2002
It is like going through snapshots from a friend's vacation. Oh, there is the sink Frances & Ed dug up in Under the Tuscan Sun. Ah, there is the bathroom tile that ended up in the sea in Bella Tuscany. So that is what the kitchen & the majolica from Passignano looks like. I can only wonder if Ed & Placido will plant more grapes or if the apricot tree yields more fruit. I wait in anticipation for book number four.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 8, 2000
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has been in Tuscany! It will take you back there as soon as you open the book. I would also recommend it to people who dream of going there. You will fall in love instantly! The photos are amazing--the color, detail, this photographer is excellent! You will want to frame the photos. Go out and buy this book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 25, 2000
Posted April 23, 2010
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Posted November 2, 2008
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Posted January 17, 2010
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