Frances Mayes - widely published poet, gourmet cook and travel writer - opens the door on a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. She finds faded frescoes beneath the whitewash in the dining room, a vineyard under wildly overgrown brambles - and even a wayward scorpion under her pillow. And from her traditional kitchen and simple garden she creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes, all included in this book.
In the vibrant local markets and neighbouring hill towns, the author explores the nuances of the Italian landscape, history and cuisine. Each adventure yields delightful surprises - the perfect panettone, an unforgettable wine, or painted Etruscan tombs. Doing for Tuscany what Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion. A celebration of the extraordinary quality of life in Tuscany, Under the Tuscan Sun is a feast for all the senses.
In this memoir of her buying, renovating and living in an abandoned villa in Tuscany, Frances Mayes reveals the sensual pleasure she found living in rural Italy and the generous spirit she brought with her. She revels in the sunlight and the colour, the long view of her valley, the warm homey architecture, the languor of the slow paced days, the vigor of working her garden and the intimacy of her dealings with the locals. Cooking, gardening, tiling and painting are never chores, but skills to be learned, arts to be practiced and above all to be enjoyed. At the same time Mayes brings a literary and intellectual mind to bear on the experience, adding depth to this account of her enticing rural idyll.
From Publishers Weekly
Mayes's favorite guide to Northern Italy allots seven pages to the town of Cortona, where she owns a house. But here she finds considerably more to say about it than that, all of it so enchanting that an armchair traveler will find it hard to resist jumping out of the chair and following in her footsteps. The recently divorced author is euphoric about the old house in the Tuscan hills that she and her new lover renovated and now live in during summer vacations and on holidays. A poet, food-and-travel writer, Italophile and chair of the creative writing department at San Francisco State University, Mayes is a fine wordsmith and an exemplary companion whose delight in a brick floor she has just waxed is as contagious as her pleasure in the landscape, architecture and life of the village. Not the least of the charms of her book are the recipes for delicious meals she has made. Above all, her observations about being at home in two very different cultures are sharp and wise.
It takes a determined effort to read this account of restoring and enjoying a Tuscan farmhouse without experiencing a violent attack of adolescent jealousy. Why her and not me, you'll be screaming as writer and professor Mayes describes languorous lunches on the patio, local wine flowing freely and olive pits casually pitched toward the nearby stone wall. Yes, there were problems--wells running dry, workers vanishing--but the image Mayes creates of her house, the Italian countryside, and her summers there with fellow professor Ed and sundry visitors is nothing short of idyllic: a real-life version of the film Stealing Beauty, but without the funny-looking sculpture scarring the landscape. Mayes' delightful recipes, evocative descriptions of the nearby village of Cortona, and thoughtful musings on the Italian spirit only add to the pleasure. This is armchair travel at its most enticing. Can we really blame ourselves for wanting to strap Mayes down in some ratty armchair while we go live in her farmhouse
From Library Journal
In a carefully written story, poet Mayes (Ex Voto, Lost Roads, 1995), who chairs the creative writing department at San Francisco State University, recounts the purchase and renovation of an abandoned Tuscan villa. She begins with the 1990 search with her companion, Ed, for a summer home to take the place of the rented farmhouses of past years. They finally decide on Bramasole ("Yearning for the Sun"), a villa with 17 rooms and a garden that has been standing empty for 30 years. There is the ordeal of getting money transferred via the tangled Italian banking system, as well as bringing together the owner, builders, and government officials to get the necessary work done. The daunting process requires several years. Meanwhile, Mayes finds Italian country life a healthy antidote to hectic San Francisco, enjoying, for example, the fruits of her own garden, friends in the village, and the first olive harvest. This is an unusual memoir of one woman's challenge to herself and its successful transformation into a satisfying opportunity to improve the quality of her life.
William R. Smith, Johns Hopkins Univ. Lib., Baltimore
Let the Tuscan sun warm you. Listeners can savor the delights of the countryside, fresh food, flowers and Italian village life through Frances Mayes's memoir of restoring a stone villa in Tuscany and her exploration of the surrounding countryside. For listeners who prefer to hear authors reading their own works, poet, teacher and food critic Mayes reads this abridgment version. While clear and engaging, her voice reflects her Georgia upbringing and caused this reviewer some consternation as she described an endearing Italian scene with a Southern accent. Mayes's intent is to guide readers as one would a guest, showing them all the delights of the place she finds so magical. One additional plus, a small booklet includes actual recipes from some of the memorable meals. Despite her accent, listeners will find themselves immersed in her vivid perceptions. R.F.W.
FRANCES MAYES is the author of the international bestsellers UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN and BELLA TUSCANY. (UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN will also be a Disney movie - filming begins in 2002.) She has published five books of poetry and writes for various publications, including National Geographic Traveler and the New York Times. Formerly Professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University, the author now devotes herself to writing. She and her husband continue to divide their time between California and Cortona, Italy.
Book Dimension :
length: (cm)17 width:(cm)10.6
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