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

3.7 out of 5 stars 185 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; First Edition edition (March 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767929829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767929820
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (185 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #394,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By PT Cruiser TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE 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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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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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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