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.
Happiness? The color of it must be spring green, impossible to describe until I see a just-hatched lizard sunning on a stone. That color, the glowing green lizard skin, repeats in every new leaf. The regenerative power of nature explodes in every weed, stalk, branch. Working in the mild sun, I feel the green fuse of my body, too. Surges of energy, kaleidoscopic sunlight through the leaves, the soft breeze that makes me want to say the word "zephyr"--this mindless simplicity can be called happiness.
Having spent her summers in Tuscany for the past several years, Frances Mayes relished the opportunity to experience the pleasures of primavera, an Italian spring. A sabbatical from teaching in San Francisco allowed her to return to Cortona--and her beloved house, Bramasole--just as the first green appeared on the rocky hillsides.
Bella Tuscany, a companion volume to Under the Tuscan Sun, is her 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 Bramasole's 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.
Work's still not completely finished on Bramasole, the Tuscan house that California-based poet and bestselling author Frances Mayes bought a decade ago and has been fixing up every summer since. Nevertheless, in Bella Tuscany, she goes out--in search of Italy and Italian life. The sequel to Under the Tuscan Sun is awash with sensual discovery, from Sicilian markets with "rainbows of shining fish on ice" to the aqueous dream of Venice "shimmering in the diluted sunlight." Wherever she is, Mayes celebrates everyday rituals, such as picking wild asparagus, "dark spears poking out of the dirt ... stalks as thin as yarn" and driving through country rains, as "the green landscape smears across the windshield" for buffalo mozzarella and demijohns of sfuso--bulk wine kept fresh with a slick of olive oil on top. Mayes also ventures into the world of the locals, some "bent as a comma" and others throwing six-hour communion feasts where half a dozen cooks in a barn continually send out heaping platters of pasta with wild boar sauce, roasted lamb, and even the thigh of a giant cow--wrapping up the festivities with honeyed vin santo, grappa, and dancing to the accordion. Capturing the details that enrich the commonplace, in Bella Tuscany Mayes appears less like a visitor and more like someone discovering in Tuscany a real home and a real life. --Melissa Rossi