I’ve recently been reading Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy, the 1999 travelogue/memoir by Frances Mayes. It’s all lush imagery, scent and tastes, capers, lemons and olives, boutique wines and great creaking old country villas. It’s a book in which the reader can easily get lost.
Mayes (who divides her time between Hillsborough, N.C. and Cortona, Italy) actually got her start as a poet. In 1996, she published Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy — her memoir of buying and renovating the villa Bramasole in rural Italy — and immediately attracted a fan base of those attracted to her flowing prose, her glowing (if not always glamorous) description of Italian life and her knack for spinning an engaging story from the most mundane of tasks. Building walls, gardening, cooking: In Mayes words, all of these became magic. That book was made into a film in 2003.
Most recently, Mayes published Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life, her third book set in the small village of Cortona. “Italy equals happiness to me and I like the challenge of writing about that state of being,” she says on her website. And, “I know I’ll never, ever reach a point where I’ll say, Now I know Italy. I love the light and the sound of bells. Then there’s a whole crowd of peak pleasures: friends, food, art, wine, striking out in the Fiat and traveling thirty miles where I’m sure to find a new landscape, pasta, cheese, piazza, dialect, and fresco. Oh, and listening to stories, especially from the old Italians.”
Every Day in Tuscany continues where the two previous Cortona installments left off and also includes recipes. Fittingly, the author reception at Malaprop’s on Wednesday, Match 16 includes a Tuscan Reception by Laurey’s Catering. Tickets to the 6:15 p.m. event are $15 (purchase here or at the store). The reception celebrates the paperback release.