“A love letter to Italy written in precise and passionate language of near-poetic density.”—Newsday
In Tuscany celebrates the abundant pleasures of life in Italy as it is lived at home, at festivals, feasts, restaurants and markets, in the kitchen and on the piazza, in the vineyards, fields, and olive groves. Combining essays by Frances Mayes and a chapter by her husband, poet Edward Mayes, with more than 200 full-color photos by photographer Bob Krist, each of this book's five sections highlights a signature aspect of Tuscan life:
La Piazza: the locus of Italian village life. With photographs 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 seasonstheir 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.
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|Publisher:||Crown Publishing Group|
|Edition description:||1 ED|
|Product dimensions:||8.40(w) x 10.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Bob Krist is the author of Spirit of Place: The Art of the Traveling Photographer. His international photography has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian, Islands, and many other publications. A contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler and Popular Photography, he lives in New Hope, Pennsylvania.
Read an Excerpt
Tuscany is a world; Italy is a universe. “Five lifetimes would not be enough to explore it,” I once wrote. Change that to five times five. After ten summers, six winter holidays, a sabbatical year, various quick spring breaks, and this year six months here, I would have predicted, if I’d had telescopic vision, that by now I would not be dazzled by the place—but Tuscany keeps unfolding. I find more to love on every visit.
I only recently came upon shafts of sun piercing the December fog in the valley—shafts an Annunciation angel might ride. Until last week, I’d missed the white road into Sogna and dinner by the fire in this medieval borgo. And the spotted truffle dog, followed by a puppy-in-training, sniffing through the woods, my boots sinking in the loamy forest floor. There is a man way in the mountains who weaves baskets from osier. In the country, honey-colored churches sweetly lie inside the pleats of hills. Sometimes the caretaker who lives next door will show you martyrs’ relics or ask you into her house, where swags of onions, corn, and peppers are drying, and her 100-year-old mother gives you a big toothless grin and a bone-cracking handshake. The wrong turn in a Chianti village takes you to a two-street town where superb wine is made and cherished. The aristocratic vineyard owner welcomes you like a friend. There’s tripe to try at outdoor stands in Florence, after visiting the Museo La Specola, which displays eighteenth-century anatomical wax models, or the Museo di Storia della Scienza, home of Galileo’s telescope. The sense of discovery enlarges—after ten years of intense travel and attention, I’ve seen so little.
After the famous Piero della Francesca trail from Arezzo to Monterchi to Sansepolcro to Urbino, the trails of Signorelli, Sasseta, and Sodoma are still waiting. I love Fra Angelico, who worked in Cortona and left us a sublime Annunciation painting, but it was the cover of this year’s telephone book that led me to his Marriage of the Virgin at the Monastery of Montecarlo in San Giovanni Valdarno. The arrival of the messenger-angel, heralded by golden trumpets, is painted in some of the loveliest mauves, pinks, sages, and blues ever to sink into wet plaster. (Imagine that the telephone book is graced with regional art every year!) Small towns perform living Nativity scenes around Christmas, and many, such as Montecchiello, stage original plays with local actors in the summer. To happen upon these events gives a strong impression of the life of a place. Who is playing the fool or the Madonna? In your town, would the hunchback be given a part? In a courtyard in Pienza, summer concerts send baroque airs up into the palatial apartments where a pope used to stay. I like to flip time over and imagine him still drowsing over illuminated manuscripts while we shift uncomfortably on the folding chairs in the courtyard. The Benedictine chants at Sant’ Antimo near Montalcino begin at dawn for lauds, praises. Have you stood on the Roman bridge at Buriano? On up the road in Poppi, it’s hard to resist knocking on one of the doors under the arcaded sidewalks. The ancient art of ferro battuto has left a legacy of impressive door knockers in the shapes of sphinxes, gargoyles, mermaids, and lions. Poppi’s paradigm castle looks out over the broad Casentino region, a bucolic land to explore.
Many Tuscans consider the Val d’Orcia to be the most beautiful part of Tuscany. To read War in the Val d’Orcia by Iris Origo, then to visit, is to see it with your own eyes and also through Origo’s experiences there in World War II, when she and her husband sheltered dozens of children from the bombing in the north of Italy. When the war came close to home, she recounts their march across the countryside to the relative safety of Montepulciano, that perfect landscape—the serpentine cypresses wending up the hill, the cut hay rolled into wheels, the pale fields clumped with plowed dirt like the bottom of some antediluvian salt sea. On the tombstone of Iris Origo, you read a quote from St. Catherine of Siena: Chi più conosce più ama, più amando più gusta. The more you know, the more you love, and by loving more, the more you enjoy. A great piece of wisdom for a foreign woman who lived here for so many years. After reading the book, you look twice as hard at the sweep of hills. And where are the children?
Each time I return, I feel a rush of joy as we drive from the valley toward the hilltown of Cortona and my house. Ed, my husband, and I whiz past the grand volumes of the Renaissance church just below Cortona, pass a broken watch tower, glimpse the machicolated tower of a palazzo, then the Cortona walls rise on the right, Etruscan at the bottom, layered above with Roman, medieval then modern stones. Through the three town gates flashing by, I see quick slices of the town. We round the curves, with an eternal line of cypresses to our left keeping us from flying off the road, then pull into our driveway, where the shrine to Mary welcomes us. Someone has left a red votive candle, an artificial blue peony, a peacock feather, a clump of yellow oxalis. When I get out of the car at Bramasole, even the fresh, pine-scented air feels like a gift. Home, an instinctive sense, a sense to trust and follow.
When I bought Bramasole ten years ago, I looked up at the peach and rose facade and thought it looked completely exotic and foreign. I also thought: my house. Although I was a stranger, the house was not. I wrote two memoirs, Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany, about our first nine years here. A stranger comes to town: One of the world’s basic plot lines but always new. I’m a stranger here, myself: One of the oldest greetings to other strangers but reinvented constantly. The two books chronicled the restoration of a long-abandoned house, the land around it, and the pleasures of new friends, work, food, and travel.
We still see the house and land in transparent overlays: before, during, and after. “Remember when the big wall was a heap of stones?” Ed asks, and a thousand images cross my vision like a slide projector gone mad: the Polish workers digging out an enormous stump, the blackberry jungle, the Italian workmen cooking pasta on a Bunsen burner. Then, the rose garden appears along the top of the wall—we’re planting in a snow flurry, they’re opening fully in the sun, then they’re cut to the nub by our friend Lucio, who insists we prune too timidly. “Why did it take us three years to open the living room wall to the other room?” we say, then remember when we opened a wall in the dining room, the rumble of stones made all the workers fly out of the house shouting and praying.
Inside and out, the restoration still feels close. Slowly, slowly, we’ve found antique racks and cupboards at markets, we’ve painted waves and borders on walls and around windows, and have brought, piece by piece, discovery by discovery, authentic Tuscan furniture into the house. Once in place, the corner cabinet, the curvy iron bed, the dressing table seem inevitable.
In writing the two memoirs, the inner story interested me most: how place changes you, how it shapes those who live there. What is at work on all of us, both strangers and Tuscans born to the taste of pasta? I continue to be amazed that I can feel both so at home and, simultaneously, that I’ve just arrived. Will I always be new? I’ve come to think so. I discover more and more that the quick friendliness of the Tuscans comes from a deep reservoir of warmth. I’ve travelled; I find them the most welcoming people on the globe.