From the bestselling author whose memoirs Under the Sun and Bella Tuscany have captured the voluptuousness of Italian life comes a lavishly illustrated ode to the joys of Tuscany's people, food, landscapes, and art. In Tuscany celebrates the abundant pleasures of life in Italy as it is lived at home, at festivals, feasts, restaurants and markets, in the kitchen and on the piazza, in the vineyards, fields, and olive groves. Combining all-new essays by Frances Mayes and a chapter by her husband, poet Edward Mayes, with more than 200 full-color photos by photographer Bob Krist, each of this book's five sections highlights a signature aspect of Tuscan life:
La Piazza--the locus of Italian village life. With photgraphs of the shop signs, the outdoor markets, medieval streets, people, their pets and their cars, and snippets of conversations overheard, Mayes reveals the life of the Piazza in her town of Cortona as well as out-of-the-way places such as Volterra, Asciano, Monte San Savino, and Castelmuzio.
La Festa--the celebration. Essays and photos of feasts and celebrations, such as the Christmas dinner for twenty-seven at a neighbor's house and a donkey race around the church at Montepulciano Stazione, illustrate how the Tuscans celebrate the seasons--their open ways of friendship, their connection to nature, and most of all, their sense of abundance.
Il Campo--the field. Here Edward Mayes evokes the deep sense of the shift of seasons as he picks olives before he and Frances head off to the olive oil mill and enjoy the first bruscette with new oil.
La Cucina--the kitchen. An intimate view of the all-important role of the kitchen in Tuscan culture, including photographs of her own kitchen and gardens, menus from great local cooks, the elements of the Tuscan table, dishes with cultural and culinary notes on each, and, of course, delectable recipes.
La Bellezza--the beauty. From the quality of the light falling on sublime landscapes in different seasons and Tuscan faces in moments of laughter to a silhouette of cypress trees in the early evening and a wild bird perched on a neigbor's head, In Tuscany features views of beauty that reveal the singular splendor of one of the world's best-loved and most artistic regions.
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