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The Lady in the Palazzo: At Home in Umbria Hardcover – December 21, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Following A Thousand Days in Venice and A Thousand Days in Tuscany, de Blasi's new book, set in Orvieto, is ostensibly about her effort, with her Italian husband, first to find, then to renovate and at last to move into the ballroom of a splendid, dilapidated medieval palazzo. The renovation becomes an engrossing portrait of the town and some of its inhabitants. Nothing goes according to plan or schedule, but de Blasi uses the years (literally) of waiting to explore the life of the town, centering on the home-based caffé-kitchen of her friend Miranda and the caffé's patrons. De Blasi's exuberance and her American disregard of Italian class distinctions at times distress her new friends and also her husband, but eventually, almost by accident, she pulls off a coup of diplomatic détente just after they finally set up housekeeping in the palazzo. Vvid writing and an affectionate appreciation of the sounds, scenes and flavors of Italy, as well as of the somewhat eccentric Umbrians she meets, will charm lovers of that country. (Jan. 26)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In previous books having chronicled her emigration from St. Louis to Venice and her subsequent sojourn in Tuscany, chef and writer de Blasi pulls up stakes again and decamps to Umbria. Her first encounters with locals leave her wondering if Orvieto really is for her. Umbria, de Blasi contends, differs from other Italian provinces because it touches neither the sea nor another country. Its central location gives it characteristics of both north and south. Despite Umbria's singular physiography, Orvietans are even more guarded and distant than the neighboring Tuscans. After a few false starts, de Blasi and spouse settle into a decrepit palazzo of uncertain vintage. The owners promise renovation, but handshake agreements rarely turn out as either party might expect. The chef in de Blasi rebels at the compact kitchen with its tiny refrigerator, single-burner stove, and multiple microwave ovens. But the land's charms counterbalance these shortcomings. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 317 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1St Edition edition (December 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565124731
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565124738
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 1.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marlena de Blasi has been a chef, a journalist, a food and wine consultant, and a restaurant critic. She is the author of two cookbooks, Regional Foods of Northern Italy (a James Beard Foundation Award finalist) and Regional Foods of Southern Italy. She and her husband, Fernando, now direct gastronomic tours through Tuscany and Umbria.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There is a lot to love about this book, which is the third - and I think the best - of her books on life in Italy. It chronicles her search for a home in Orvieto, in Umbria. She and her husband find an ideal place, an apartment in what was once the grand palazzo of the Ubaldini family - a home dating back to medieval times. Unfortunately, the apartment had been sitting vacant for 13 years and was in dire need of restoration. They could not live in their home during the construction. So they waited. And waited. And waited! This story follows the author as she adjusts to life in her adopted community during this long wait, and it culminates with a lavish dinner party held in her new home.

As usual, with de Blasi, you can expect a book filled with sensual talk of wine and food; with regional recipes; with cultural and historical tidbits. But the real heart of this book - the soul of this book - is in the people to whom we are introduced. Some of them are given space to tell their life stories in their own words - and their stories are deeply moving.

"Let life shape itself" is the underlying theme of this book.

I can think of no author to compare to Marlena de Blasi. Part chef, part philosopher, part travel guide, part poet..she is an original.

Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
After being disappointed by 1,000 Days in Tuscany my expectations weren't as high for this new offering from Marlene DeBlasi but I loved it.Her affection for Orivieto and the characters in the surrounding countryside, and her developing appreciation for the centuries-old relationships, not to mention her description of the home she is creating, were described in similar loving and wondering terms as her descriptino of her early days in Venice. I appreciated the personal moments (wondering if she would ever get to live in the palazzo) interspersed with cultural descriptions (the venetian's understanding of conversational subtext) and on top of it all her yearning to get on on with her life (cooking, writing) while living with the unexpected. I really loved the book.
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Format: Hardcover
You know what they say, never judge a book by its cover. Well in this case the photograph of the author on the inside of the cover led me to some judgemental thoughts.

It should be said that am drawn to books on Italy and I enjoyed my visit to Umbria several years ago. But I almost didn't buy this book because of the picture of Marlena De Blasi. Well I took a chance and I have to say I was wrong. There is no doubt that De Blasi is a free spirit, bohemian, and different. That is her charm and you can read about it on every page.

It is a wonderful story that she tells of her integration into to the conservative Italian life of Orvieto in Umbria. She mixes her quixotic lifestyle with the down-to-earth inhabitants of this city on a hill for delicious results. She is exuberant and her story is redolent with her passion for life and total disregard for the Italian class system. Despite this all turns out well in the end.

I highly recommend this tale of life in Italy. It is a completely different perspective
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Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. However, to maximize your enjoyment, you should read De Blasi's A Thousand Days in Venice first to fall in love with her and her Venetian banker. That book is one of my favorite books I've read in the past 10 years--especially if you like travel, Italy, are a bit of a romantic, enjoy reading about someone's life that equals any good fiction. She and her banker are an original and live adventurously, and you get to travel along with them in their minds which is a treat.

Once you've read A Thousand Days in Venice, which has the central conflict of the Venetian banker meeting her and courting her, which is a delicious plot, then you'll enjoy A Thousand Days in Tuscany and this narrative on their home in Umbria. It's really a trilogy, and best if you meet them first in Venice. To jump into this book without the preceding ones might be off-putting unless you're an Italianophile or a chef or love Umbria. One needs the first introductions to properly fall in love. The evolution of their relationship and life is what draws you in and helps you enjoy the subtle magic. I just bought her book on Siciliy today and will enjoy a visit with them there. Go to Venice first, then Tuscany, then Umbria with this enchanting couple!
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Format: Paperback
"The Lady in the Palazzo" is a love story: love of life, of good food and wine, but mostly love of people. The main story line of finding ( and eventually moving into) a home in Umbria is a device that allows Ms. De Blasi to expose the wonderful textured lives of the characters in her book. In addition to being a fine chef she is a keen observer of life and takes us on a wonderful journey as her story unfolds....in short , this is a wonderful, sweet book that anyone who loves all things Italian will enjoy immensely...
P.S. This was given to me by my Italian chef wife at our home in Italy where we reside 6 months a year.....some of the people in this book remind us of friends.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read two other of Ms. de Blasi's books and thoroughly enjoyed them but this one was the most enjoyable so far. I think of A Thousand Days in Venice as a love story both for her new Italian husband and her new life in Venice, A Thousand Days in Tuscany as a continuation of her life in Italy. The Lady in the Palazzo was more like being her neighbor in Umbria and hearing her tell the story of her new life experiences.

I felt like I was sitting in the cucina with her over a cup of coffee...actually many cups of coffee.

In other words, I really liked it.
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