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Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy Paperback – April 4, 2000
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
"A love letter to Italy written in precise and passionate language of near poetic density...A book to treasure, as the author so clearly treasures the life she engraves on our hearts."
--Susan Jacoby, Newsday
"Fall in love again with the charming people and countryside of Cortona in this evocative follow-up to Under the Tuscan Sun."
"Mayes displays a gift for conveying everyday life through her writing...Perfect for those with the yen but not the means for a second home...Mayes presents a simpler, less frantic version of how to live one's life."
"Frances Mayes is, before all else, a wonderful writer...She never loses sight of the fact that millenniums-old Tuscany, with its immemorial customs and folkways, is not to be domesticated or made familiar. Her Italy remains intransigently foreign, exotic, a continuing revelation of strangeness and unexpected beauties."
From the Inside Flap
Frances Mayes, whose enchanting #1 "New York Times bestseller Under the Tuscan Sun made the world fall in love with Tuscany, invites us back for a delightful new season of friendship, festivity, and food, there and throughout Italy.
A companion volume to Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany is Frances Mayes's passionate and lyrical account of her continuing love affair with Italy. Now truly at home there, Mayes writes of her deepening connection to the land, her flourishing friendships with local people, the joys of art, food, and wine, and the rewards and occasional heartbreaks of her villa's ongoing restoration. It is also a memoir of a season of change, and of renewed possibility. As spring becomes summer she revives her lush gardens, meets the challenges of learning a new language, tours regions from Sicily to the Veneto, and faces transitions in her family life. Filled with recipes from her Tuscan kitchen and written in the sensuous and evocative prose that has become her hallmark, Bella Tuscany is a celebration of the sweet life in Italy.
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I did find her discussions of meals and food to be a bit too much at times. I guess too many details that attempt to display her growing knowledge of the local cuisine, that are not useful facts to me as a reader. Also the recipes are limited for use in the average suburban home here, as the ingredients are not that common. However, this was true for Under the Tuscan sun as well. It just did not seem to be emphasized as much.
Her momentary concentration on the "Mafia" in Italy, I was prepared for as I read previous reviews. Her vehemence struck me as been one that one feels when they find a flaw in a cherished item. Her illusions of Italy are ones of an idyllic place and the presence of the Mafia or anything that does not fit that, obviously struck a dissonant chord with her. She may very well be relating the opinions and attitudes of the people around her and not just her own. I find it hard to think that these opinions as a foreigner here were not influenced by the local people she deals with. Some of the comments struck me as ones only a local could perceive.
What I did find a bit rude was her characterizations of some of her visitors. I certainly hope this was shared with them prior to publication. Like Ann Landers says you can't be taken advantage of if you don't allow yourself to be (or something like that).
If you are looking for more on Bramasole, this book may disappoint. This book featured more of her trips beyond Cortona and even into Venice. Some people may find her self-absorption a bit over done at times, as she relates bits of her childhood and life outside of Italy. However, I found it interesting to see how the "other half" lives. I liked her way of relating her current thoughts with past actions. Like collections and family life. It is nice to get into her head. I think we all do that to some extent and when we get a glimpse of what another thinks, it shows first that we are not so weird after all, but just how different or similar another's experiences are.
I guess what makes these books special to me is her way of describing the day to day surroundings as an American would see them. This I feel makes them real for me. She is going in with American expectations and when these are different she relates this. I then feel like I have been there right along with her. I wonder how a local feels when they read some of this?
All in all, it was a decent follow on to Under the Tuscan sun. Not as good, but close. The couple of pictures on the dust cover and the diagrams inside helped flesh out the area she was referring to. The engagement calendar, does an even better job at that.
I have bought the next book she does on her life in Italy (In Tuscany)and am about to start it. I feel she has a lot to offer as a writer. In Bella Tuscany, she experimented a bit more in her writing, with some successes and failures. I hope to see how she reacted to Bella Tuscany's impact with "In Tuscany". Also I'm looking forward to the pictures included in "In Tuscany" to further flesh out this world.