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In Tuscany Hardcover – October 31, 2000
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frances Mayes continues her love letter to Italy in this sequel to Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany. The restoration of her home, Bramasole, is complete, but Tuscany keeps unfolding. While the earlier books chronicled her and her husband's first years in Italy, this one is less full of stories than meditations on the elements of Tuscan pleasures, accompanied by photographs that give color to the place Mayes has described so lovingly and well.
"What makes the people so friendly, no, not just friendly, so genuinely kind and generous?" Mayes asks an Italian friend, then turns her intense attention to answer the question herself. Her answers range from baci (kisses), an intimate expression that "keeps alive the joy we all are born with," to la piazza, the navel of Italy's intense sense of community, to a deep love affair with food and seasonal delights. (Mayes shares the latter and once again gives recipes from the traditional to the idiosyncratic while her poet-husband Edward treats us to a description of the olive harvest). Then there is the Tuscans' territorial attachment to the land. Place, Mayes writes, makes you who you are and it is by reading the landscape that you find the story of how the people lived. Like a guidebook written by a good friend who reveals to you all the secret places they've found, Mayes leads us from out-of-the-way towns to great frescoes to tiny restaurants with exquisite delicacies (and even gives you their addresses). Turn down any one of Mayes's streets and there is something to contemplate.
In the distance you see villages crowning a hill or protectively stacked against a slope. Every one pulls me toward its altarpiece, special triptych, arched gate, gothic window, or fountain. Every one has its opinionated, eccentric, friendly, and intrinsic characters who make each place deeply itself.
Once again, Mayes presents Tuscany as an irresistible place where the pleasures are unexpected, sumptuous, and downright enviable. Immersing yourself in In Tuscany is the next best thing to being invited home to Bramasole. --Lesley Reed
From Publishers Weekly
Riding on the success of her previous books, Mayes, who here collaborates with her husband, returns with a curious amalgam of cookbook, coffee-table book, travel guide and memoir. As in Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany, Mayes lovingly admires her adopted Tuscany, where she purchased a villa 10 years ago. Chapters are loosely organized around general concepts: for instance, "Baci (Kisses)" focuses on Italian effusiveness; "La Piazza" centers on the meeting place of Italian village life; and "La Festa (Celebration)" opens with a quote from a song by Jovanotti (an Italian pop band) and goes on to classify the many types of celebrations held in Italy, from Siena's Palio to weekly Sunday lunches. Mayes includes 25 recipes throughout the book, though concentrated in the chapters "La Cucina" and "Il Campo." While there are local recipes such as Onion Soup in the Arezzo Style and Chicken Liver on Little Crusts, some of her choices are puzzling. Mayes freely appropriates non-Tuscan items such as Capri's famed limoncello and Parmesan cheese and even provides a recipe for the mirepoix that is the base of many Italian dishes. A list of resources provides a calendar of festivals in the region as well as addresses and phone numbers for bars, restaurants and specialty stores. Kirst's (Spirit of the Place) endearing photos of Tuscan life fill the pages. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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The pictures are all softened somehow, so you can't see a great deal of detail. It's like Frances wants you to see Tuscany and the other locations as if in a dream.........I didn't care for that.
But as in all her other books, the information is great, so are the recipes, and I'd buy it again. Just this time not from the same seller.
But that's just one part of the book. This is an expansive effort that seeks to encompass not only the Mayes' personal stake in Tuscany but also the lives of the Tuscans as defined by their piazzas, festivals, crops, kitchens, and the general beauty of their surrounds.
It's an ambitious work of nearly 300 pages done in thick paper with a patterned background velum effect for the text. And the recipes are simple and straightforward. I've been working my way through them and my favorite so far is the Pappa al Pomodoro, the Tomato Bread Soup. But next up is the Zuppa di Cipolle Aretine (Onion Soup in the Arezzo Style) and it looks like a contender. Frances has even included a section at the end that tells where to get the best local produce and goods. Of course, you have to actually BE there. It probably won't do much good to order fennel over the internet.
I'd recommend this as a self-indulgent treat, an affordable gift for your favorite lover of Tuscany (or Tuscan lover), or for any occasion that requires a gift of simple beauty.
P.S. the Zuppa di Cipolle Aretine was divine!!