Italy satiates a couple’s wanderlust.
Since her bestselling book Under the Tuscan Sun appeared in 1996, poet, novelist, and travel writer Mayes (Women in Sunlight, 2018, etc.) has been testifying to the glories of Italy, a country, she writes in her latest celebration, that offers “an endless surprise.” For a year and a half, she and her husband took to the road in search of towns, food, and landscapes exemplary of the nation’s rich gifts, joined for part of the trip by their teenage grandson, who was able to find information on the internet and shares his grandparents’ tastes. Although Mayes writes that “the most vivid pleasures of Italy are often the simple ones,” the hotels, restaurants, and shops that enchant her require a travel budget that points to a particular demographic: sophisticated, well-heeled tourists who share the author’s delight in restaurants with “crisp table linens, good cutlery and crystal, understated flowers,” a stool for her handbag, and solicitous wait staff. Throughout their journey, the travelers seek out the gustatory pleasures of regional wines, cheeses, and prosciutto, staying in well-appointed rooms in elegant hotels with picturesque views, where they can sip prosecco on verdant terraces or in a town’s lovely peach and ochre piazza. Days are spent browsing (and buying) in “curated shopping streets,” taking walks around a lake, reading at poolside, and visiting museums, castles, and churches. Mayes has arranged her memoir geographically from north to south, rather than chronologically, to allow readers to peruse the sections randomly, perhaps using the book as a companion guide to their own trip. Her descriptions are painterly and alluring, and she includes recipes for memorable dishes—grilled prawns with fennel and olives, sea bream poached in special seasoned broth, lemon ricotta tart, gnocchi with wild hare, and crispy octopus—that are likely to whet the prospective traveler’s appetite.
A charming homage to upscale travel through Italy.