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)
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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 KnoblauchCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved