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Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 9, 2010

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Kim Sunée Reviews Every Day in Tuscany

Kim Sunée is the author of Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home.

"The Bard of Tuscany" (New York Times) is back and better than ever. Two decades have passed since the purchase of Bramasole, Frances Mayes’s first Italian adventure into the meaning of home, made famous in Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany. In Every Day in Tuscany, her third beautifully rendered memoir, Mayes generously serves up another delicious helping. She continues to contemplate the satisfaction of a life created by one’s own hard work, but also celebrates the joys of the piazza, reminisces on her South Georgia roots, reveals her love of architecture and painting, and is especially hungry to follow the trail (which she has generously mapped out for us) of Renaissance painter Luca Signorelli.

After transforming Bramasole, you’d think that Mayes would have had enough of repairs and renovations, but she expands the idea of belonging with the purchase of a mountainside cottage. One day, as she and husband, Ed, are picking blackberries on a rugged slope above Cortona, Mayes writes of being "fatally attracted" to a "lonesome beauty," a partially collapsed stone-roof cottage. This new home becomes a place of comfort, especially when something shifts, when "one glorious summer evening at Bramasole," Mayes writes, "something unexpected intruded on this paradise."

Enchanted by the simple life, a life lived in accordance with the cycles of the sun and moon, Mayes tells her story through the seasons of a country and those of the heart. Winter is about restoring privacy, summer for reading, moonlight swims, watermelon and plum crostata. Mostly, though, the seasons are made up of days meant for being. She admires the Italians for their ease and grace of pure existence. "How do Italian friends naturally keep the jouissance they were born with?" she wonders.

Since Mayes is a poet first, her prose is infused with startling and indelible moments, and she will always inspire you to cook something. Luckily, there are recipes for everything from Melva’s Peach Pie to Risotto with White Truffles, as well as mouthwatering menus, including Roasted Garlic with Walnuts and Guinea Hen with Pancetta. Of the choreography of the kitchen, she writes, "meat glistens, lettuces float, you sneeze, I sing oh, my love, my darling, and dough rises in soft moons the size of my cupped hand as planet earth tilts us toward dinner."

People are always eating in Mayes’s world, and eating well. But good food is essential for a good life, which includes travel and the private discovery of something no less significant than a new star. On watching a couple from Milan eat a midday meal consisting of a full antipasto platter, risotto, then steaks, she writes, "Those are delicious moments for the traveler--a fine lunch with someone you love, poring over the The Blue Guide and Gambero Rosso, a weekend to explore a new place and each other."

More than anything, Every Day in Tuscany is a book for all travelers, those hungry hearts craving a lesson in living life to the fullest, whether at home or on the road. "It is paradoxical but true," she tells us, "that something that takes you out of yourself also restores you to yourself with a greater freedom.... The excitement of exploration sprang me from a life I knew how to live into a challenging space where I was forced--and overjoyed--to invent each new day."

With Mayes as our luminous North Star, we can navigate our way to a place where--if we are lucky--we will choose the road less-traveled, find our own rugged mountainside, and become part of the landscape, perhaps even find a sense of self, if not a place to call home.

From Publishers Weekly

In her most recent Tuscan tour, Mayes conducts readers through the gentle and sometimes violent and disruptive undulations of the seasons from winter to summer in her Tuscan home of Bramasole. In this new memoir, she reflects on the palpable scents emitted by the old-growth chestnut, apple, and olive trees, the jovial hospitality and strength of her friends and neighbors, and the familiar and sometimes disturbing sounds of herds of wild boars rushing through the orchards. Mayes and her husband, Ed, situated themselves even more firmly in Tuscany a few years ago when they discovered a falling-down stone cottage on a rugged slope and restored it as a second home. We follow Mayes as she forages for the prized amarini, cherries the size of five-caret rubies, which are bottled with alcohol and brought out in winter to spoon over polenta cake, pears, blackberries, asparagus, fennel flowers, and figs. We continue on our journey with her as she leads us in search of the great Renaissance artist Luca Signorelli from Cortona, where her new house lies. Mayes's affectionate and warm memoir vividly celebrates the lush abundance and charm of daily life in the Italian countryside. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway (March 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767929829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767929820
  • ASIN: B00BRATXPU
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (174 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,156,158 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 106 people found the following review helpful By PT Cruiser TOP 50 REVIEWER on February 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I am a fan of Frances Mayes first book, "Under the Tuscan Sun" and thought I would really enjoy this book, but I was rather disappointed and had a lot of mixed feelings about it. The things I liked about her writing style is that she sometimes writes with a kind of flourish, lyrical and almost poetic in her descriptions. But I didn't like that this book read more like a blog more than a story of her life there. Sometimes it felt like a lot of random thoughts that didn't have much of a direction. It had a "thrown together" feel. Rather than feeling involved in the book like I did with her first one, I found it difficult to concentrate on it. It took me weeks to get through and I actually started and finished a couple other books while I was reading it.

I liked the recipes that were included and loved the idea of the Italians eating fresh and seasonally available foods. I liked her description of people eating and enjoying life rather than over analyzing everything they put in their mouths like many of us do here. She had many descriptions of simple meals that went on for hours, of food being a celebration rather than just a means of nourishment. This she conveyed well.

What I didn't like was her description of "ex-pats" and tourists in Italy which came off as being condescending. Although she has owned a home there for many years, from what I've read she lives both there and in the U.S. during different parts of the year and it seems likely that the Italians would put her in that same "ex-pat" category. The book reads like an American living in Italy not as someone who is really a part of the community.

I thought the long discussions of her trips around the country to see the art of Luca Signorelli were just plain tedious.
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59 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Alan L. Chase VINE VOICE on February 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Almost twenty years ago, the publication of Frances Mayes' "Under the Tuscan Sun" signaled the dawn of a new era in the perennial love affair between American travelers and all things Tuscan. This month, she continues her string of fascinating memoirs with "Every Day in Tuscany - Seasons of An Italian Life."

I am one of those Americans who has fallen under the spell of Tuscany - Firenze, Siena, Chianti, the Ponte Vecchio, the three versions of Michelangelo's David that can be found within Florence, the Duoma, the Uffizi. I absorbed the sights, sounds and flavors of this book with great gusto. If, after reading Mayes' latest offering, you are not tempted to book a trip to Italy this summer, then I will be surprised.

The structure of this latest memoir is set between the bookends of Mayes' arrival with her poet husband, Ed, in Cortona for their annual season in Tuscany at her beloved villa of Bramasole and their departure for their winter home in North Carolina. In her chronicling of the intervening months, she leads her readers down a leisurely path that introduces them to some of the colorful characters in town, her life-embracing neighbors, the kitchens of some of the best cooks in the world, and the vineyards and olive groves of the surrounding hillside towns.

Another thread that weaves together her meandering narratives is her love for the paintings of Luca Signorelli. She and Ed visit many Tuscan towns to have another look at some of her favorite Signorelli paintings and frescoes. Spicing up the pages of each chapter are recipes that Mayes has gleaned from treasured Italian friends, and words and phrases from the colorful Italian language. Her use of these phrases is wonderfully instructive, rather than intrusive.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Kearns TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I received this uncorrected proof from the Amazon Vine program, and was looking forward to a book like Under the Tuscan Sun. However, in the 20 years since Frances Mayes bought Bramasole, she has become one of those expats who have lived somewhere long enough to imagine they are "native" and somehow superior to the tourists who visit. I was surprised when I began reading this book to realize that the innocence and sense of wonder from the first book was gone, and that she has basically a shallow life of gazing at paintings and attending five hour feasts with influential locals who have taken her into the bosom of their families.

Things I liked about her book:

- She still has a very colorful and visual way of describing the towns, food, gardens, and people of Tuscany. Her book is written to loosely follow the seasons, from the time they arrive in spring from the USA to when they shutter up the house and return to the USA in winter. One can almost smell the blooming flowers and dusty hot streets of Cortona from her writing.

- She included many recipes for authentic Italian food, several of which which I plan to try.

- I was pleased to read that so many Italians keep backyard orchards, gardens, rabbits and chickens. This is how "slow food" is meant to be - locally raised, freshly harvested and prepared at home. Our American fast food diet could learn a lot from this lifestyle.

- She obviously loves her grandson very much, and enjoys seeing the world through his eyes.

Things I disliked about her book:

- Luca Signorelli, the Renaissance painter, is mentioned on just about every page. At one point I felt like reminding the author that she has a husband already, and that Luca has been dead for 400 years.
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