THE HILLS OF TUSCANY: A New Life in an Old Land by Ferenc "MatÆ’

THE HILLS OF TUSCANY: A New Life in an Old Land

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This volume takes the author (A Reasonable Life, 1993) and his artist wife into the sensuous heart of Italy and urges them to stay against the comic and idiosyncratic odds that MatÆ’ calls the Italian way of life. Tourists in search of a break from the pressured rituals of New York, the MatÆ’s alight upon the area around Montepulciano, begin house-hunting in earnest, and fall upon a sort of paradise that they turn into home at last. All of this is superimposed against the backdrop of Tuscan seasons, rituals, and rustic anecdotes--which are far more interesting than any of the author's reflections upon them. MatÆ’ never crosses that great cultural divide that hangs like a mist between traveler and native, keeping his real subject (Tuscany? himself?) forever at bay. Almost 100 pages of his memoir are devoted to the comic surprises of house-hunting and its incumbent bureaucracy, in which MatÆ’ rarely steps outside of pure caricature. Blissful about his marriage, rapturous about food and wine, MatÆ’ spends considerable time describing the sounds of bells tolling in the valleys after lunch, the fluttering of linen, and the aroma of chestnuts heating on a grill. But in the end, his recollections of everything else are little more than hot-air balloons tethered to nothing in particular. Lunches launch and cap the author's foray into this personal paradise and frame the friendships he developed with his neighbors in one dimension. He is more passionately observant about mushrooms, grapes, the flavor of new oil, and the simple rustic life than about the human beings who opened these pleasures to him. They're the missing link that makes one wonder if MatÆ’ likes his Italian neighbors at all. Tuscany is a most compelling subject for the telling, but Sonoma might have been just as inspiring to this author. At its heart, the hills of Tuscany echo hollow when MatÆ’ asks to call them home.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1998
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Norton