Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life

Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life

by Frances Mayes

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Overview

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER AND A TIMELESS CLASSIC FROM THE AUTHOR OF UNDER MAGNOLIA
 
Frances Mayes—widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer—opnes the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. In evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Mayes also creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes from her traditional kitchen and simple garden, all of which she includes in the book. Doing for Tuscany what M.F.K. Fisher and Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780767929837
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 03/08/2011
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 137,744
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

In addition to her Tuscany memoirs, Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany, FRANCES MAYES is the author of the travel memoir A Year in the World; the illustrated books In Tuscany and Bringing Tuscany HomeSwan, a novel; The Discovery of Poetry, a text for readers; five books of poetry; and most recently a southern memoir, Under Magnolia.  She divides her time between homes in Italy and North Carolina.  Visit France Mayes’s blog at www.francesmayesbooks.com.

Read an Excerpt

Buongiorno, Luca    

In winter-cold blue light, the bells of Cortona ring louder. The cold iron clapper hitting the frozen bell produces clear, shocked, hard gongs that reverberate in the heads of us frozen ones in the piazza, ringing in our skulls and down to our heels, striking the paving stones. In leafy summer, when softened air diffuses the bells, the clarion call accompanies but does not insist; the bells remind, punctuate, inspire. As a benison to the day, the reverberations settle on those nursing cappuccino in the piazza, then fade, sending last vibrations out to the circling swallows. But in winter, the solitary sounds feel more personal, as though they ring especially for you. I even can feel the sound waves in my teeth as I smile my umpteenth greeting of the morning.  

Returning in early March, I'm thrilled to see my friends in the piazza. We greet each other as though I have been gone for a year instead of four months. I love the first trip back into town after an absence. I walk every street, assessing the state of the union. What has changed, who has traveled to Brazil, what's on display at the vegetable market, who has married, died, moved to the country? What's on exhibit at the museum? Half of an enormous cow hangs by a hook in the butcher's, a square of paper towelon the floor to catch the last three splats of blood. Under neon, red meat in the cases reflects a lavender light on the faces of two venerable signoras leaning in to inspect today's veal cheeks and pork roasts. Orange lilies against the glass steam the flower shop window with their hothouse breath, and there's Mario, a blur among them, arranging a row of primroses.  

Winter returns Cortona to its original self. The merchants along the main street complain that all winter long the town feels dead. Non c'e nessuno. There's no one. They wonder if the tourists will return this year. "The dollar is broken, the euro likea hot air balloon," Fabrizio says as he whooshes the imaginary balloon into the sky, then spirals his hands. I visualize a striped balloon heading toward Mars. In Italian, part of every conversation takes place without words. A woman on her cell phone in thepiazza paces, gestures, stops, slings back her head, paces again. She says grazie fifteen times, laughs. She's on stage, a monologue actor. When she hangs up, she snaps shut the phone, shoves it in her enormous borsa, and charges ahead toward her shopping.  

I pause to look at shoes, then sweaters. "That war of yours. It's costing the whole world," Daria scolds, as though I personally have bombed Iraq. She's sweeping off her already clean threshold. They forget that when the lira converted to the euro, almost everyone abruptly raised their prices; some simply started charging in euros the same amount they'd charged in lire, effectively doubling the cost of their pizza, shirts, coffee, albums, and pasta. Since Italian wages hardly have moved, most people today are feeling more than a pinch. "Not to worry," our friend Arturo says. "There are two Italies. One economy in sight and another whole economy out of sight.

Everyone has their own ways never revealed to the statisticians. You get paid in cash—nobody knows." This, I think, applies more to independent work and less to the shop owners, who have to give receipts. If I walk out of the bar with no receipt for my panino, the Guardia di Finanzia could fine the owner and me. When I buy a chicken, I am astonished—14.65 euros—twenty-threedollars at the current exchange rate. I think of the reconstruction South prices after the Civil War. What is happening to our country? Our dollar is debole, weak, shockingly so.  

With the wind that must have originated in the snowy Alps, thirty-five degrees feels like zero. "Che bello, you have returned before the swallows," Lina says. Because it is Women's Day, three people give me sprays of mimosa, which I love for its brilliantyellow in the stony gray air. Massimo offers coffee, and later, so does Claudio. Roberto at the frutta e verdura gives me an extra-large sack of odori, the vegetables and herbs used for seasoning. I see that Marco has closed his art gallery and expanded hisenoteca into the adjoining space. There are two tables for wine tastings and the new display cases are handsome. Still, it's sad to lose the gallery, where many regulars exhibited by the week, hanging their own work and sitting out in the piazza with friendsor making friends, while people wandered in and out. But then I see Roberto in the post office and he says he's starting a new gallery around the corner. The museum will expand to accommodate recent archaeological discoveries at the Etruscan sites and the Romanvilla our friends Maurizio and Helena have excavated. A new chocolate shop has appeared in my absence. It looks as though it landed from Belgium. The hot chocolate tastes creamy and unctuous. An instant hit. The two restaurants that opened last fall are doingwell. One already has the reputation for making one of the best coffees in town. It was there, when I stood at the bar sipping my macchiato, that I overheard two tourists. One said, "I saw Frances Mayes's husband, Ed, driving a Fiat. A Fiat—and one of thosetiny ones. Wouldn't you think they'd have something better than that?" I turned away so they would not recognize me and become mortified. I love my yellow Panda.  

To everything its season, and this is the season to replaster, repair hinges, revise menus, clean courtyards and stairways. From the corner table at Bar Signorelli, I watch this spirited activity along the street. Everyone prepares for the spring and summer that they hope will bring back those innocents with a passion for shoes, leather books, dining, ceramics, peaches, Super Tuscans, and all the good things on offer in this lively hill town.    

**

As I stir my cappuccino, I greet the charcoal self-portrait of Renaissance painter Luca Signorelli above the soft-drink fridge. I'm on a Signorelli quest. He was born here, and spent his life painting all over Tuscany, the Marche, and in Rome. Famous,yes, but in my opinion, internationally undervalued. He always presides over my morning-coffee libations. In the local building superintendent's office, I've signed documents under another copy of Signorelli's self-portrait, which shows my man to be blond asan angel, with direct blue eyes and a strong jaw. A main piazza is named for Signorelli. The local museum features his work. Everyone believes that his fall from scaffolding in the chapel of the Palazzo Passerini caused his death.  

Without doubt, he spent charmed parts of his life centered on the piazza, where he most likely ran into a friend one rainy morning and heard the news that da Vinci, what a fantasist, has conceived of a flying machine. Someone tells him that Michelangelo has obtained a great piece of marble (destined to become the David), and maybe even that far away a German named Gutenberg just invented a machine to print books. It's easy to see Signorelli in gold-trimmed green velvet, sun glazing his light hair, intent as his neighbor mentions that the Pope has excommunicated Venice, and, has he heard, an ancient statue called the Laocoon has been excavated in Rome. In his spotted painter's smock, he raises a glass in his dim studio and listens as his cousin, just back from Rome, describes the newly invented flush toilet. Going home at night, he bumps into Giovanni, the friar at the Dominican convent, whose sweet ways later earned him the name Fra Beato Angelico. His was a heady era. I know that as a local magistrate he was stopped constantly and asked for favors, just as Andrea, our mayor, is this morning. Signorelli, as a preeminent artist and also as a genius loci presence, continues to rise up through layers of time. He's an old friend by now.    

**

The piazza, for a Roman, for Signorelli, for me, for that baby in the red stroller, exists as a great old savings bank of memory. It is a body; it is a book to read, if you are alive to its language. I could offer Luca a caffe if he would just open the door and with a toss of his yellow hair, stride in. He's here; he never left.  

Campanilismo, a condition of being: When you live within the sound of the campanile, church bell, you belong to the place. Command central, carnival ride, conference center, living room, forum—the piazza also is fun. Never dull. Today the barista flourishes my cappuccino to the table. He has formed a chocolate heart in the foam. He shouts to me, "Americans don't drink coffee; they drink stained water."  

"Sporca miseria!" I reply, attempting a pun on a mild curse, porca miseria, which eloquently means "pig misery." My wordplay means "dirty misery." I'm gratified with laughs from both bariste.  

Lorenzo is just back from Florida. He buys my coffee and I ask about his trip. "Very nice." And then, staring out at the piazza, he adds, "Meglio qui a Cortona." Better here in Cortona. "America," he sighs. "Either empty and there is nothing, or there is too much."  

At home in the U.S. of A., I play a CD of the Cortona bells when I feel homesick. Old photos around town show the Allies whizzing in on tanks, liberating Cortona. So familiar is this image, I almost think I was there. The oldest memories, of the Roman forum lying layers below the cobbles, and the even earlier, deeper Etruscan streets, continue to inform the spirit of the place. Memory steams through the baked crust. Old people still call Piazza Garibaldi carbonaia, recalling the place where men brought their charcoal to sell. Via Nazionale to some is still the rough and rustic Rugapiana, flat street.    

**

The rhythms of the piazza are an ancient folk dance. In summer, the doors of the town hall open and the bride and groom descend the steps into the piazza, where we all gather, even for the weddings of strangers from the Netherlands or England. This is where the new life begins. The newborn is strolled up and down. Boys learn soccer by kicking the ball up against the Etruscan Museum. I've been in the piazza at three a.m. in February. Someone with a cell phone wedged between his ear and shoulder leans against the crumbling Ghibelline lion and gestures with both hands. A young man crosses on the diagonal, whistling, or two people are talking, their breath wreathing their heads. The piazza is never empty. And if it were, it still would not be empty. Luca would bethere.  

The piazza speaks pure Italian—speaks of who lives here and why. Alberto, my architect friend, and I once tried to quantify the meaning of the piazza in purely practical terms. We measured and analyzed piazzas all over Tuscany, looking at their numbersof entrances, the kinds of buildings and businesses that contribute to the liveliness of a piazza, those that are dead spaces, the patterns of entrances and exits, and still there was something mysterious.    

**

This morning a lone tourist appears, guidebook in hand, bundled in down. In the gelid light, she looks like a just-hatched bird, mouth open as she stares at the town hall clock and the surrounding buildings. She removes her knitted hat and her wispy hair,damp against her head, looks as though a little albumen still sticks to her. She glances toward the antiques in a just-polished window. Two shop owners stand in their doorways, eyeing her movements: the hawks and the fledgling.  

I'm done. Buongiorno, Luca. See you tomorrow. My rounds: groceries, book store, post office, many stops to say hello, flower shop for a few yellow roses for my desk. I shouldn't have bothered. En route home, another Claudio gives me a pot of pansies; Gildadrops off camellias, mimosas, and pink hyacinths at Bramasole; and Fabio leaves on the step a handsome creamy cymbidium. Vittoria brings a bouquet of viburnums to our shrine. I've never before heard of Women's Day, a national holiday in Italy, which commemorates lives lost in a New York factory fire in 1912, but I'm overwhelmed by the gifts of so many flowers. By the end of my first day back, flowers ignite every room of my house, giving the impression of warmth to stony rooms that have absorbed the brunt of winter.    

**

The night finishes at Corys, down the road from us at the Torreone crossroad. Renato and Giuseppe, the co-managers of the hotel-restaurant, are busy serving a table of twenty teenagers who now and then break into song. Ah, no, "Volare"—oh, oh, oh, oh. Papa-bear Giuseppe envelops Ed and me together in a grand hug. Of Lebanese background, he was raised in Rome and has brought to Cortona an unerring good taste in food and wine. He always tells us exactly what we are to eat and drink. He brings over a bloodstonered wine we've never seen, from just around the bend near Lago Trasimeno. Renato catches us up on the news. He is building a "beauty farm" in the old stone parish house attached to the church across the road. He is a wiry man with lank black curls and intense eyes, a consummate Italian cynic with a wild humor. He talks with his whole body. Electrical charges run through his veins. I love to watch him, especially when he's furious with the hunters who are parking in his spaces. He almost levitates with anger. I expect him to tear out his hair at any moment or go up in a puff of smoke. Then the anger dissolves and he's joking again.  
"A spa and a church together? The body and the spirit?" Ed asks.  
"Yes, finally, and the graveyard is there, too, so everything can be taken care of."  
Seems surreal, but I can see us heading there for the massages, manicures, and steam bath. "Are we invited?"   "Certo, cara"—certainly, darling. "I am building it for you."  

After the antipasto table with fifty tastes, and a big plate of ravioli stuffed with pecorino and speck, and chicken cooked under a brick, Giuseppe brings over five boxes of Amedei chocolates for tasting. The beans come from Madagascar, Trinidad, Jamaica,all over the chocolate map. Then with a diabolical grin, he puts down a plate of gorgonzola cremosa so delicious that I'm wanting to lick the scoop. Just as we are about to push back, he pours a digestivo we've never tried, a Barolo Chinato, aged Barolo withwhat we finally figure out is quinine. It's complex and meditative, unlike many digestivi that bring to mind being force-fed cough syrup as a child, my mother prying the spoon between my clenched teeth. We are mellow and commossi, emotionally moved, by the largesse of our friends. As we leave, Giuseppe's young daughter, Leda, brings me a branch of mimosa.

Reading Group Guide

Every Day in Tuscany Readers’ Guide
Frances Mayes
 
About this Guide
Celebrating friendship and the pleasures of life in a beloved corner of Italy, Every Day in Tuscany is a book that is meant to be shared. Gather your friends for a special reading-group experience, feasting on the recipes as well as Frances Mayes’s evocative reflections on the timeless beauty of Cortona. We hope that the following topics and questions will enhance your journey.
 
Introduction
In 1990, Frances Mayes made a daring decision to restore an abandoned thirteenth-century villa in the lush Tuscan countryside. Approaching the twentieth anniversary of that life-changing experience, she began to write a sequel to her previous bestselling memoirs, offering a deeply personal narrative of the changes she has experienced since Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany first appeared. One incident, in particular, becomes a touchstone for memory, forgiving, and surprise. The result is a captivating tour of renewal among the townspeople of Cortona as the seasons unfold. From the treasures of the garden to the enduring triumphs of Renaissance painters, Mayes writes of a place where beauty thrives.
 
No longer a newcomer, she welcomes us back to her other homeland, where strangers become cherished friends, communities thrive by resisting the hectic pace of the modern world, and families honor their rich history. And always there is succulent cooking: a hearty seafood stew, a seasonal plum tart, and much more, in recipes captured in each chapter. You don’t have to cross the Atlantic to relish the daily joys of Tuscany. Its enchanting hillside landscape and the vibrant people who inhabit it are brought vividly to life on the pages of Every Day in Tuscany, a book that beckons you to savor it again and again over the years—just as Frances Mayes has done in her twenty-year love affair with one of the world’s most endearing locales.
 
Questions for Discussion
1. Frances Mayes explores the process of “taking” a decision (rather than making one) and being taken by decisions as well. Italy, she writes, took hold of her and shaped her in its image. How has she been transformed by her second home over the past two decades? What impact has she made on the community of Cortona? What decisions have “taken” you in your own life?
 
2. In the opening pages of Every Day in Tuscany, Frances Mayes describes an unsettling dream she’s had in which she must choose between her house, Bramasole, and her right arm. How does she grapple with her sometimes conflicting feelings about Bramasole? What spurs her to occasionally consider living without it? What makes our relationships to our homes very different from relationships with other material possessions? 
 
3. From cold spring rains to the lavish scent of lemon trees at their peak, Mayes describes a community that is constantly aware of nature. Discuss the seasonal aspects of life in Tuscany. Is your life in tune with the seasons? What can we gain by listening to the natural world?
 
4. Much has changed on the world stage since Mayes’s early days in Cortona. How do her Italian friends perceive her American identity? What are some of the cultural challenges of her expatriate life?
 
5. Discuss the many kinds of love that are captured in Every Day in Tuscany: between Ed and Frances; among their friends and family members; of place; and of life itself, in all its everyday joys. What does it take to bring more love into a life?
 
6. Mayes describes the economic factors she encounters in decisions large and small, and in the lives of those throughout Cortona. How does she measure “costs” (financial and emotional) as she and Ed prepare for the next chapter of their lives? How is security measured and defined in a world that is not driven by materialism?
 
7. What were your reactions as Frances and Ed discussed major renovations for Bramasole? Would you have simply replaced the roof, or would you have said yes to the extensive changes? To what extent is the imperfect state of Bramasole part of its charm?
 
8. Hospitality is a key component to life in Cortona. Does your community emphasize hospitality to the same degree? Why do you suppose this is so? Why is it revitalizing for Tuscan families to host many friends?
 
9. Every Day in Tuscany unfolds as a series of beautiful images and powerful memories. How did Mayes’s voice as a poet shape the format of this book? How does it mirror the way life unfolds?
 
10. Mayes describes the threats she received after signing a petition against a proposed swimming pool near her property. What does this incident tell us about the encroaching modern world and Cortona’s attempts to remain unspoiled? Compared to Americans, how do Italians handle resistance? What are the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches?
 
11. Mayes’s memoir includes several recollections of threats and sorrows she and Ed have experienced in the United States and abroad. What does she offer as the best antidote to fear and tragedy? How have she and Ed created “safety” in their lives?
 
12. Discuss the children who visit Bramasole. What is Mayes’s legacy to them? What aspects of life in Tuscany do you predict will remain unchanged for many generations to come?
 
13. As you read about Lucas Signorelli’s works, what timeless aspects of his culture came to mind? Would he feel at home in Frances Mayes’s Tuscany, just as she feels at home immersed in his art?
 
14. What universal truths did Mayes learn from Willie Bell? What aspects of a southern childhood does Mayes carry with her, no matter where she lives? What aspects of your childhood are forever part of your own identity?
 
15. Renewal and moving forward are primary quests in this book. What tactics and solitary pursuits described here might you adopt?
 
16. In addition to Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes’s previous nonfiction includes Bella Tuscany and  A Year in the World, as well as the illustrated books Bringing Tuscany Home and In Tuscany. Discuss the ones you have read. What are the constants in her life? At the same time, how do her books inspire us to constantly reinvent ourselves?
 
About the Author
In addition to her Tuscany memoirs, Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany, Frances Mayes is the author of the travel memoir A Year in the World; the illustrated books In Tuscany and Bringing Tuscany Home; Swan, a novel; The Discovery of Poetry, a text for readers; and five books of poetry. She divides her time between homes in Italy and North Carolina.

Interviews

Frances Mayes's Exclusive Essay for Barnes and Noble

Frances Mayes - Private Pilgrimage with Books

"All wars begin in spring," my World History professor droned. This was perhaps all we Randolph-Macon girls retained from the eight a.m. Saturday class. Glazed, clad in raincoats thrown hastily over our pajamas, we sophomores were not thrilled to hear of Hannibal or Hitler or Hammurabi. At a more congenial hour, we warmed to Chaucer's Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, which informed us that in April, folk long to go on pilgrimage. That's as true now as it was in the fourteenth century. Now, the weather has warmed, and surely T. S. Eliot was wrong about cruel April pulling "lilacs out of the dead land." That spring urge comes so kindly on, with the urge to bloom, to flourish. And what better way-let's launch no wars-than to contemplate one's own private pilgrimage. For me, the first step of a trip starts with books.

Writers who focus on a place usually do so out of love and excitement. Their books start from that premise--and passion imbues every page. I have so many favorites in this genre. I love the acute observation in Ann Cornelisen's Torregreca, the lyricism of everything Lawrence Durrell wrote about Greece, the narrative vigor of Patrick Fermor's Mani, and the humor and bravery of Freya Stark, especially in The Valley of the Assassins and A Winter in Arabia. She's one of my A-list, favorite writers. A few others I admire:

The White Nile by Alan Moorehead

Journey into Cyprus by Colin Thubron

Mornings in Mexico and Sea and Sardinia by D. H. Lawrence

Constantinople: City of the World's Desire, 1453 - 1924 by Philip Mansel

Journey to Alcarria by Camilo Jose Cela

Crete by Barry Unsworth

This list could go on and on. Night Letters: A Journey through Switzerland and Italy (actually a novel) by Robert Dessaix stuns me with its illuminated prose. I can't wait to read again Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk, for its loving evocation of that most fascinating of cities. The way he folds his own autobiography into the biography of the city is brilliant. Pamuk is Istanbul. The book proves a premise of mine: who you are is where you are.

Istanbul figures largely in my travel plans so I especially relish the delicious pages of the recently published Istanbul: The Collected Traveler by Barrie Kerper. Also in my right-now stack: 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go by Susan Van Allen and Guatemala: A Journey through the Land of the Maya by Michael Shapiro.
I'm not sure I'll ever see the source of the Nile or cross Arabian deserts. Like Keats, I've "traveled much in the realms of gold." One of those professors long ago told me that the gold Keats referred to was the gilt edging on books. I imagine the gold flaking off onto Keats's fingers as he turned the pages and dreamed of Cortes discovering the Pacific.
All these writers take you there. Even if you never go.

Frances Mayes
A Year in the World
Every Day in Tuscany
francesmayesbooks.com

Introduction

Every Day in Tuscany Readers’ Guide
Frances Mayes
 
About this Guide
Celebrating friendship and the pleasures of life in a beloved corner of Italy, Every Day in Tuscany is a book that is meant to be shared. Gather your friends for a special reading-group experience, feasting on the recipes as well as Frances Mayes’s evocative reflections on the timeless beauty of Cortona. We hope that the following topics and questions will enhance your journey.
 
Introduction
In 1990, Frances Mayes made a daring decision to restore an abandoned thirteenth-century villa in the lush Tuscan countryside. Approaching the twentieth anniversary of that life-changing experience, she began to write a sequel to her previous bestselling memoirs, offering a deeply personal narrative of the changes she has experienced since Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany first appeared. One incident, in particular, becomes a touchstone for memory, forgiving, and surprise. The result is a captivating tour of renewal among the townspeople of Cortona as the seasons unfold. From the treasures of the garden to the enduring triumphs of Renaissance painters, Mayes writes of a place where beauty thrives.
 
No longer a newcomer, she welcomes us back to her other homeland, where strangers become cherished friends, communities thrive by resisting the hectic pace of the modern world, and families honor their rich history. And always there is succulent cooking: a hearty seafood stew, a seasonal plum tart, and much more, in recipes captured in each chapter. You don’t have to cross the Atlantic torelish the daily joys of Tuscany. Its enchanting hillside landscape and the vibrant people who inhabit it are brought vividly to life on the pages of Every Day in Tuscany, a book that beckons you to savor it again and again over the years—just as Frances Mayes has done in her twenty-year love affair with one of the world’s most endearing locales.
 
Questions for Discussion
1. Frances Mayes explores the process of “taking” a decision (rather than making one) and being taken by decisions as well. Italy, she writes, took hold of her and shaped her in its image. How has she been transformed by her second home over the past two decades? What impact has she made on the community of Cortona? What decisions have “taken” you in your own life?
 
2. In the opening pages of Every Day in Tuscany, Frances Mayes describes an unsettling dream she’s had in which she must choose between her house, Bramasole, and her right arm. How does she grapple with her sometimes conflicting feelings about Bramasole? What spurs her to occasionally consider living without it? What makes our relationships to our homes very different from relationships with other material possessions? 
 
3. From cold spring rains to the lavish scent of lemon trees at their peak, Mayes describes a community that is constantly aware of nature. Discuss the seasonal aspects of life in Tuscany. Is your life in tune with the seasons? What can we gain by listening to the natural world?
 
4. Much has changed on the world stage since Mayes’s early days in Cortona. How do her Italian friends perceive her American identity? What are some of the cultural challenges of her expatriate life?
 
5. Discuss the many kinds of love that are captured in Every Day in Tuscany: between Ed and Frances; among their friends and family members; of place; and of life itself, in all its everyday joys. What does it take to bring more love into a life?
 
6. Mayes describes the economic factors she encounters in decisions large and small, and in the lives of those throughout Cortona. How does she measure “costs” (financial and emotional) as she and Ed prepare for the next chapter of their lives? How is security measured and defined in a world that is not driven by materialism?
 
7. What were your reactions as Frances and Ed discussed major renovations for Bramasole? Would you have simply replaced the roof, or would you have said yes to the extensive changes? To what extent is the imperfect state of Bramasole part of its charm?
 
8. Hospitality is a key component to life in Cortona. Does your community emphasize hospitality to the same degree? Why do you suppose this is so? Why is it revitalizing for Tuscan families to host many friends?
 
9. Every Day in Tuscany unfolds as a series of beautiful images and powerful memories. How did Mayes’s voice as a poet shape the format of this book? How does it mirror the way life unfolds?
 
10. Mayes describes the threats she received after signing a petition against a proposed swimming pool near her property. What does this incident tell us about the encroaching modern world and Cortona’s attempts to remain unspoiled? Compared to Americans, how do Italians handle resistance? What are the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches?
 
11. Mayes’s memoir includes several recollections of threats and sorrows she and Ed have experienced in the United States and abroad. What does she offer as the best antidote to fear and tragedy? How have she and Ed created “safety” in their lives?
 
12. Discuss the children who visit Bramasole. What is Mayes’s legacy to them? What aspects of life in Tuscany do you predict will remain unchanged for many generations to come?
 
13. As you read about Lucas Signorelli’s works, what timeless aspects of his culture came to mind? Would he feel at home in Frances Mayes’s Tuscany, just as she feels at home immersed in his art?
 
14. What universal truths did Mayes learn from Willie Bell? What aspects of a southern childhood does Mayes carry with her, no matter where she lives? What aspects of your childhood are forever part of your own identity?
 
15. Renewal and moving forward are primary quests in this book. What tactics and solitary pursuits described here might you adopt?
 
16. In addition to Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes’s previous nonfiction includes Bella Tuscany and  A Year in the World, as well as the illustrated books Bringing Tuscany Home and In Tuscany. Discuss the ones you have read. What are the constants in her life? At the same time, how do her books inspire us to constantly reinvent ourselves?
 
About the Author
In addition to her Tuscany memoirs, Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany, Frances Mayes is the author of the travel memoir A Year in the World; the illustrated books In Tuscany and Bringing Tuscany Home; Swan, a novel; The Discovery of Poetry, a text for readers; and five books of poetry. She divides her time between homes in Italy and North Carolina. 

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Every Day in Tuscany 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
Have you ever looked forward to a dinner, a party, an event with so much eager anticipation that the reality could not possibly match your expectations? That's descriptive of the situation I found myself in when awaiting the arrival of Frances Mayes's latest EVERY DAY IN TUSCANY. I am a huge fan of Mayes's work, totally bewitched by UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN and others, so in all fairness it may be that nothing she wrote could possibly enchant me as much as her previous work. As always, her prose is poetic, beautifully wrought, and her powers of description undiminished. EVERY DAY IN TUSCANY is surely a pleasure, but for this reader simply not as exciting, as exhilarating as the others. Wonder if after almost two decades spent in Italy the subhject is not as intoxicating for her either. Mayes's narrative tends to be a bit rambling, disjointed reminiscences of time spent in Tuscany and environs. More introspective, at times very much a diary filled with random thoughts. One would have to share her passion for tracking the works of the artist Luca Signorelli throughout Italy or find interesting her remembrance s of a Southern childhood. Having said all of that the narrative is, of course, pure unadulterated Mayes who often weaves a spell with words, allowing us to smell the bubbling tomato sauce, taste the "creamy and unctuous" hot chocolate, and experience Cortona where "the rhythms of the piazza are an ancient folk dance." So, indeed, there is much to enjoy in EVERY DAY IN TUSCANY. In addition to meeting her exuberant friends, enjoying time spent with grandson Willie, and understanding her frustration with the boars who seem to constantly root gardens, we join Frances and Ed as they travel from Cortona to other towns, Orvieto, Arezzo, Positano, and more. I found myself making notes, underlining so as not to miss the restaurants and sights Mayes describes so temptingly when we return to Italy. Obviously, few of us can enjoy Italia as she does - with two homes to alternate between. But, as always, this author gives us many happy dreams. Especially meaningful for this reader was one of the final sections re Rome. She noted, "Of the great cities, Rome has the biggest heart.' How true! And after young Willie saw the Trevi fountain, he closed his eyes and said, "I can't see any more. If I see any more, I will miss Rome too much." If there isn't another book coming from Frances Mayes, I would miss her too much. Should this be your first Mayes book, you're in for a rare treat. If it's the third or fourth for you, it is still the singular Frances Mayes. Enjoy! - Gail Cooke
petrini1 More than 1 year ago
Like Frances Mayes's earlier books about central Italy, "Every Day In Tuscany" is a beautifully written memoir of her experiences as an American living part-time in the house she and her husband bought and renovated in the Tuscan hill town of Cortona. In her first memoir, "Under the Tuscan Sun," Mayes describes the purchase and renovation of their home, Bramasole. In "Every Day in Tuscany," she provides a series of vignettes that give a detailed, evocative picture of what it's like to live there. I brought this book to Tuscany with me, and I found it to be just as useful (and more entertaining) than Frommer's, Rough Guide, and Rick Steves. Because of this book, I knew to try the strangozzi (a wonderful, thick pasta that's a regional dish in Tuscany, excellent with black truffle sauce) and that "cinghiale" on a menu means wild boar. Also because of this book, I made sure to seek out Cortona when I was looking for hill towns to visit, and I discovered that it's just as appealing in person as it is in the book. Mayes describes breathtaking landscapes, quirky villagers, and mouth-watering meals. She provides recipes that I'm dying to try out. And she relates her adventures not just living at Bramasole but also traveling around Tuscany and to other parts of Italy. In particular, I was fascinated by her exploration of Etruscan ruins and her search for artwork by Cortona's 15th-century hometown painter, Luca Signorelli. This book is less focused than some of her others. As the subhead indicates, Mayes is describing scenes from her life in Italy, not telling a unified story. The lack of a real story arc wasn't a problem. The book is not so much a single narrative as a buffet table of Tuscan experiences. It was fun to dip into while traveling, to serve myself up a chapter about one place or one aspect of Mayes's life, and then to put the book away until I had another spare moment for reading. I especially loved the sequences about the author's family. Her daughter and her grandson Willie come from the States to visit Mayes and her husband, and some of my favorite passages were those in which Frances introduces Willie to life in Italy. Whether you're traveling to Tuscany in reality or via armchair (and oven) Mayes is a delightful, insightful tour guide for your trip.
CGR More than 1 year ago
Frances Mayes was an English professor in San Francisco CA that bought an abandoned villa in Cortona, Italy in 1990. She journaled as she refurbished her home - Bramasole - and published Under the Tuscan Sun in 1996. Thus was born a legend. Two more books were published in the next four years, with another two in 2004 & 2006. Now, Every Day in Tuscany joins the group, 14 years later. If you liked the other books, you will like this one. Much has changed in the 20 years since this journey began. Frances and Ed married, moved from one house in SF to another, then to Marin County, before transplanting their US base to North Carolina. (It must be a relief to save 10 hours of flying per trip to Italy, not to mention the 3 hour time difference to the West Coast). Another ramshackle building was bought and refurbished near Cortona. Both quit their teaching jobs to write full time. Mayes' daughter Ashley married and had a son named Willie. Fast forward to the present day. Even though decades have passed, Frances's passion for traveling, food and cooking, as well as the artist Luca Signorelli, remains. It is nice to know that has not changed. Willie is now 8. Reading this book is like catching up with an old friend after 4 years. I found the story about the beloved new neighbors, a Cuban American clan of 17, to be charming. While one story was particularly dark, it was included for a reason. Add to that, Ed and Frances were in Cortona when Italy won the World Cup in 2006. I was chagrined to read that Bramasole needed some maintenance, with the Mayes' wondering how it would all be paid for. She only mentioned in passing that she was working with a national American furniture company, designing a collection for them. In addition, a book advance, dear Frances, would pay for the new roof, electrical work, drainage, a terrace door and screens. Life is bella and I look forward to the next installment.
Amcgraw More than 1 year ago
I loved Under the Tuscan Sun, but found this book a little hard to get through. I first found myself thinking it was a lot like some of Peter Mayle's books (which I love), in that it was about everyday life in Italy and there was not a certain cohesiveness to the book, but rather a collection of accounts of life. There were bits of the story that I really enjoyed and some that I didn't care for, but other readers may love. For example, there is an extensive part of the book dedicated to the art of Cortona's Signorelli. I can see art aficionados loving that section, I didn't love it, but liked the religious references regarding the art. I found that thought provoking. I prefer to read about Italy's countryside (which was described in beautiful detail in the book) and the food and this book doesn't just focus on those topics (which isn't all bad!). It would be a nice book club book and I thought it would make a great book to read and discuss in a college art/religion course.
K8Met More than 1 year ago
I've read each of Freances Mayes four travel books, Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany, A Year in the World, and this, Every Day in Tuscany. Each feels like a visit to a friend you haven't seen in sometime, and have a million things to talk about. Ms Mayes invites us to experience Cortona, her Italian hometown, through her eyes. She's been a part-time resident there for 20-odd years, and loves it like a native. I especially like reading her books on a miserable winter day when I long to feel the sun on my face, her descriptions of Italy are detailed and vibrant. Not everyone can make the trip to Tuscany, so we can only hope she continues to send us these snapshots of her life
DebDD More than 1 year ago
I loved the third book on Frances Mayes life in Italy, but had wished she had less description on the religious art in Italy and included more photographs of the town and villages she visited and lived in Tuscany. If you are a fan of her first two novels you will like this book also.
nemoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mayes" prior books always seemed too flowery in their prose, and as a consequence a bit fluffy and lightweight. Either I am getting used to her writing, or she has grown as a writer, because I enjoyed this book which chronicles the good life in Tuscany by following the seasons at her restored villa outside Cortona. She includes numerous recipes. The only portion of the book that flags is her pursuit through different towns to find paintings by her favorite Italian artist. She describes the numerous paintings in detail: however, her failure to include photographs or reproductions of the paintings ultimately leaves the reader clueless.
carrieprice78 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is pretty boring. I think we are supposed to envy her. I feel like she looked up words in the dictionary and thesaurus for the purposes of sounding intelligent.
asomers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am still enchanted by Frances Mayes' wonderful descriptions of Tuscany. I enjoyed this book more than the second, but not as much as the first. I finished the book feeling hungry , ready to pack my bags, and thinking that I should sit down and write in my journal.
thebooky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Typical Frances Mayes, enjoyable. She makes me feel guilty for sitting in my little office with the fluorescent lighting and the mounds of untouched paperwork watching the clock! After reading one of her books I want to drink a good bottle of wine and eat like there's no tomorrow!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rambling, disjointed, hard to finish
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for instant gratification this book is not for you. Frances lingers over wine & food, art and fellowship. She embraces the Italian custom of savoring the moment and she will not be hurried. Bramasole is finished, her gardens lush. Time to travel & see new things. Reviewers who give this book few stars fail to linger and savor the moment along with her.
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