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Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy Hardcover – April 6, 1999

3.3 out of 5 stars 185 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Work's still not completely finished on Bramasole, the Tuscan house that California-based poet and bestselling author Frances Mayes bought a decade ago and has been fixing up every summer since. Nevertheless, in Bella Tuscany, she goes out--in search of Italy and Italian life. The sequel to Under the Tuscan Sun is awash with sensual discovery, from Sicilian markets with "rainbows of shining fish on ice" to the aqueous dream of Venice "shimmering in the diluted sunlight." Wherever she is, Mayes celebrates everyday rituals, such as picking wild asparagus, "dark spears poking out of the dirt ... stalks as thin as yarn" and driving through country rains, as "the green landscape smears across the windshield" for buffalo mozzarella and demijohns of sfuso--bulk wine kept fresh with a slick of olive oil on top. Mayes also ventures into the world of the locals, some "bent as a comma" and others throwing six-hour communion feasts where half a dozen cooks in a barn continually send out heaping platters of pasta with wild boar sauce, roasted lamb, and even the thigh of a giant cow--wrapping up the festivities with honeyed vin santo, grappa, and dancing to the accordion. Capturing the details that enrich the commonplace, in Bella Tuscany Mayes appears less like a visitor and more like someone discovering in Tuscany a real home and a real life. --Melissa Rossi

From Library Journal

Writing again about Tuscany, Mayes continues to acquaint readers with the delights of Italy. This book follows Under the Tuscan Sun (LJ 9/1/96), Mayess popular account of falling in love with Tuscany and purchasing an old villa for her summer vacations. Now Mayes, on sabbatical from her teaching position in San Francisco, is experiencing Italy in the early spring with her friend and soon-to-be-spouse, Ed. Together they continue work on their house, selecting plants for the garden, pots for the piazza, and tiles for the bathroom. In between projects, they find time to explore regions beyond Tuscany, including Sicily and Venice. Mayes writes with a poets attention to sensuous detail, whether describing a six-course meal (she provides recipes), a fresco in a little-known church, or the challenges of learning Italian. She describes village life with all its warmth, friendliness, and individuality, in sharp contrast to the growing impersonality and homogeneity of America. Recommended for all public libraries.
-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway; 1st edition (April 6, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767902831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767902830
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (185 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #984,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Frances Mayes has always adored houses, and when she saw Bramasole, a neglected, 200-year old Tuscan farmhouse nestled in five overgrown acres, it was love at first sight. Out of that instant infatuation have come four marvelous, and hugely popular, books: the bestsellers Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany, In Tuscany, a collaborative photo-textbook with her husband, the poet Edward Mayes, and photographer Bob Krist, and Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensuous Style From the Heart of Italy, another collaborative book with Edward Mayes and photographer Steven Rothfeld. All four highly personal books are about taking chances, living in Italy, loving and renovating an old Italian villa, the pleasures of food, wine, gardens, and the "voluptuousness of Italian life." The third book in her Tuscan trilogy, Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life (due out in spring 2010), is about Tuscan seasons and Mayes' reflections on her Italian life. She was awarded the Premio Casato Prime Donne for a major contribution in the field of letters in 2009.

Her first novel, Swan, a family saga and mystery, returns Mayes to her childhood home of Georgia and was published in 2002. A film version of Under the Tuscan Sun, starring Diane Lane, was released in fall of 2003. Frances Mayes was the editor for the 2002 Best American Travel Writing. She is also the author of the travel memoir entitled A Year in the World: Journeys of A Passionate Traveller, which immediately debuted as a New York Times bestseller in 2006. Working again with Steven Rothfeld, she published Shrines: Images of Italian Worship, also in 2006.

A widely published poet and essayist, Frances Mayes has written numerous books of poetry, including Sunday in Another Country, After Such Pleasures, The Arts of Fire, Hours, The Book of Summer, and Ex Voto. Her work The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems is widely used in college poetry classes. Formerly a professor of creative writing at San Francisco State University, where she directed The Poetry Center and chaired the Department of Creative Writing, Mayes now devotes herself full time to writing, restoring an historic garden and to her "At Home in Tuscany" furniture line at Drexel Heritage. She and her husband divide their time between North Carolina and Cortona, Italy.

Biographical note from Steven Barclay Agency

"Tuscany may have found its own bard in Frances Mayes."
-- The New York Times

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I adored Under the Tuscan Sun and couldn't wait to read Bella Tuscany. But like so many others who have reviewed the book here, I had trouble finishing it. It simply did not have the beauty or the charm of the first book. In addition, the constant sniping really got on my nerves. In my opinion, if you are lucky enough to have a villa in Tuscany and to live "the sweet life," you shouldn't be complaining about the mafia in Sicily or your never-ending parade of rude houseguests. Mayes should have included fewer gripes and more recipes. But worst of all were the unbelievable number of typographical errors in the book. Is it possible that a university professor can be such a poor speller and that her editors could fail to correct so many mistakes? The errors drove me absolutely to distraction and sent the message that Mayes was rushing her second book into print before it was ready, just to capitalize on the success of her first book. I would say that parts of the book were pleasant to read, but all in all I would have been just as happy not picking up the book at all.
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Format: Hardcover
OK--Many of the customers who wrote previous reviews about Bella Tuscany have some valid complaints. It is several chapters too long and we do get tired of Mayes' whining. We have little pity for her trying to restore two houses at once and we don't need to hear about every meal and shopping excursion. It certainly does not surpass her first effort, "Under the Tuscan Sun." Still, as someone who has never been to Tuscany (or Italy for that matter), many of the descriptions in "Bella Tuscany" are little treasures. Who wouldn't want to live where you can go to one local farm for ricotta, another for pecorino romano and a third for wine? Or where Roman and Etruscan ruins are to be found in so many unsuspecting places? Or where fabulous meals can be made with only the simple ingredients you grow in your garden? Or where every small local church has a major work or art or two? I do have two recommendations that would have made this book more enjoyable; a map of Tuscany and Italy would have been helpful in identifying the many places Mayes visited. Also, I would have enjoyed more photographs other than those on the dust jacket. Maybe the few "teaser" pictures are to whet our appetite for her 3rd book, "In Tuscany." In any case, while this book has some character flaws, I think potential readers need to try to overlook these and to dig deeper for the jewel within.
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By A Customer on March 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I really can't understand why so many reviewers have complained about this sweet little book. Although I'm French, not Italian, I have traveled all over Italy and I found Bella Tuscany to be a sweet and interesting book that provides a few evenings of lighthearted and entertaining reading. In Bella Tuscany, Mayes travels to regions outside Tuscany, such as Sicily and Venice, as well as to the many castle towns, fishing villages and islands. Many reviewers have complained about the chapter on recipes, but I found them quite interesting and delicious! Although I don't think Mayes captures the essence of Tuscany with quite the wit and verve of Peter Mayle, writing about Provence, Bella Tuscany is still a sweet and lighthearted look at one of the world's most beautiful regions.
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Format: Paperback
I loved Under The Tuscan Sun which focused on Tuscany, its people, places and food. This book is about Sicily, where the author was either cold, rained on, put in crummy rooms or deeply frightened by the mafia, which she seems to believe are everywhere, and Venice, where we learn about her bird phobia, and San Francisco, where she buys another house to renovate and gives the ultimate bird to her former husband by (if you believe it) not recognizing him at her daughter's wedding. It is also about Ed, who I refuse to believe exists. But most of all it's about shopping. Fran buys everything she sees, smells, or heard rumors of, and will doubtless be named the patron saint of shopkeepers in Tuscany and Umbria. This is a boring and self-absorbed effort that her editor should have stopped cold.
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By Susan on October 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is so obnoxious it surely deserves recognition! Aside from the author being self-obsessed, I found her completely without any sense of the real world. Does one really "endure" the flight to and from Italy several times a year to live in their summer house?
I also found the constant mention of the costs involved with renovating two massive houses in some of the world's most expensive real estate markets quite despicable.
Also, it was in poor taste to allow people to stay at your hallowed house and then write horrible things about them in a published book. As a Southerner, I am quite embarrassed for her manners.
I would suspect that if another novel comes from this series (the first was much more palatable), it is only because she wants to add a guesthouse.
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Format: Audio Cassette
Another disappointment. This dribble has little to do with Italy and no plot. This best part of the book is the picture of the house. The chapter on Sicily appears to be plagerized from On Persephone's Island by Mary Taylor Simeti who has lived in Sicily for years, speaks the language and in contrast to Ms. Mayes really knows the people (published 1986). it is disgusting to see a writer mention her sadness about prostitution in Italy and then move on to discuss hiring full time garderners and choosing between tile or marble for the bathrooms. Also, it is suprising for a woman who claims to love teaching to portray the students she has as "uh like idiots".
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