BELLA TUSCANY by Frances Mayes


The Sweet Life in Italy
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Yes, la dolce vita—but only for some. In the nearly 40 years since Fellini’s film first ushered the expression into our lexicon, said vita has been drained of all its original sardonic content, its biting irony, and its social criticism. This sequel to Mayes’s bestselling Under the Tuscan Sun, about her second home and life reborn in Tuscany, doesn—t preserve Fellini’s spirit, either—though her account is inevitably charming. Sometimes, too, a tad annoying. For the author does occasionally come off (along with her husband) as cantankerous or supremely unself-conscious. Not appreciating the cold spring rains in Tuscany, for instance, the lucky pair decides, on a whim, to fly to balmy Palermo; on arriving in a hotel room without a view of that city’s justly famous palm trees, gli Americani just march down to the lobby and demand one. To the accidental Italophile tourist, gathering water at a scenic town’s small fountain may appear a quaint and rustic practice—yet for the ancient women who must daily fetch and carry large jugs of water balanced atop their heads, the habit is laborious and boring, alleviated only slightly by the prospect of gossip. Yet we are finally won over by Mayes. Who could fail to affirm this poet’s lush descriptions of the rolling Tuscan hills, with their timeless olive trees and patient oxen? Equally beautiful are Mayes’s evocations of Italians as sincere and welcoming. She realizes that, despite their fame for sweets, the natives actually enjoy foods with a bitter taste—or, as husband Ed remarks, they “seem to have acquired more tastes than many of us.” Other factual tidbits include a survey of the etymology of the Sangiovese grape—used for Chianti, Brunello, and Vino Nobile—as deriving from the “blood of Jove.” Lovely, and no small consolation to anyone who’s far from Tuscany. (Second serial to National Geographic Traveler; $175,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: April 14th, 1999
ISBN: 0-7679-0283-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Broadway
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999


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