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Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy [Hardcover]

Frances Mayes
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 6 1999
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.

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From Amazon

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

From Library Journal

Writing again about Tuscany, Mayes continues to acquaint readers with the delights of Italy. This book follows Under the Tuscan Sun (LJ 9/1/96), Mayess popular account of falling in love with Tuscany and purchasing an old villa for her summer vacations. Now Mayes, on sabbatical from her teaching position in San Francisco, is experiencing Italy in the early spring with her friend and soon-to-be-spouse, Ed. Together they continue work on their house, selecting plants for the garden, pots for the piazza, and tiles for the bathroom. In between projects, they find time to explore regions beyond Tuscany, including Sicily and Venice. Mayes writes with a poets attention to sensuous detail, whether describing a six-course meal (she provides recipes), a fresco in a little-known church, or the challenges of learning Italian. She describes village life with all its warmth, friendliness, and individuality, in sharp contrast to the growing impersonality and homogeneity of America. Recommended for all public libraries.
-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Crossing the valley floor as I leave her place, I look up and catch a glimpse of Bramasole. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy April 25 2001
By Dd
Quick and simple...bad. I have lived in Italy for the past 3 years. As an American, I am embarrassed as Ms. Mayes personifies the term "Ugly American". A pleasant writing style is no excuse for bad manners. I think that Ms. Mayes should know how to embrace the customs and ways of another country.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An imaginary Italy. March 15 2001
By A Customer
This is a very frustrating book, especially for anyone who is involved with Italians or things Italian. The book is generally well and lyrically written. The real problem with both "Bella Tuscany" and "Under the Tuscan Sun" is that they are not actually about Italy. Rather, they are set in an imaginary Italy whose only citizens are stereotypes of the most astonishing obviousness. One is tempted to compare Mayes's project with older elitist visions of Italy--the tradition of James, Hawthorne, and Waugh. Here too the protagonists travel from the complexity and corruption of the metropolis to a bucolic paradise where the simple inhabitants have little more to do than laze around in the sun eating pasta and drinking wine (although at least in these earlier narratives Italy became a theatre in which the political and social dramas of the "first world" were played out). The concerns of Italians--inhabitants of a modern, richly complex and changing society--are completely elided by the narrative. Indeed Mayes doesn't seem to speak enough Italian--after several years there (!!)--to communicate with them substantially. This book is good for those who are looking for a fantasy Italy with which to exorcise the demons of modernity, but is utterly useless for those who love or who wish to understand the real country and its people.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ugh Jan. 9 2001
By A Customer
This is a pretentious, boring, self-absorbed book. I couldn't finish it. The writer comes across as someone I would never want to meet or spend time with, although I'm willing to believe that this was just the effect her writing had on me. Her attitude toward Italy and the Italians I found patronizing and uneducated. And if I buy a book about Tuscany, I'm not looking to read about the author's family and childhood, etc. Highly UNrecommended. Read MFK Fisher for good food writing, and anyone else in the world besides Mayes for good travel writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not what you'd expect.... Nov. 9 2000
By A Customer
I read and thoroughly enjoyed "Under the Tuscan Sun". But, this book left me dry. She apparently has been changed by the success of her earlier work. She seemed self-absorbed and elitist. I actually thought those were the attitudes she went to Italy to get away from in the US. Not a solid follow up to a solid first book. I also heard she "dumped" Ed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't Buy This Book !!! Aug. 9 2000
By A Customer
This is a pretentious, boring and poorly written book that has very little to do with Tuscany. The author is a wealthy American who vacations in Italy 3 months out of the year with her lover, Ed, and spends the majority of her social time with British and American expatriots. The Italians she knows are primarily tradesmen. They are drawn as caricatures with little or no depth. She declines a dinner invitation with an Italian family because after 7 years her Italian is evidently not good enough to converse. If this book is about anything it's about a subject near and dear to the author's heart: herself. Mayes is riddled with fears and she shares all of them with us. She's afraid of the mafia. When she goes to Sicily she thinks they're everywhere. They run into a funeral and it must be a mafia funeral. Their Sicilian waiter reminds her of a terrorist. It makes you wonder if she didn't check under the bed each night to make sure the mafia hadn't snuck in. She's afraid of robed priests because they remind her of the Ku Klux Klan! (I'm not making this stuff up) She's afraid of birds and bats. She's filled with insecurity. At the end of each trip she feels sad because her friends and relatives are going on with their lives without knowing where she is. No ego problem here! The author is ambivalent about religion in general and Chritianity in particular. She makes numerous insensitive comments regarding Catholicism, the primary religion in Italy. The author is downright rude and thoughtless. She paints an insulting picture of the "assault of houseguests" she faces each year. And with all of this is the same conspicuous consumption described in her previous book. She and Ed contantly eat and drink and buy their way through Italy. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Noiossimo July 4 2000
I really enjoyed "Under the Tuscan Sun", so I decided to read "Bella Tuscany". I found "Bella Tuscany" to be a little boring and not at all what I'd expected. I had expected to see Mayes grow more accustomed to living in Italy and there fore be more "Italian". She still seemed like an American living in Italy with the "Oh my I'm in a foreign country" syndrome most tourists encounter. I had expected Mayes to have grown a lot more as a writer also, I found this book to be dry. It was like she was rambling on and on and on. I was to the point where I didn't even want to finish the book just so I could be put out of my misery. The book should have ended at the end of "Anselmo's Idea of Tomatoes", she had the perfect book-ender as the chaper closer, instead she rambled on and on for 30 more pages. It was nice to see what happened to some of the characters and things like that. But, she is writing "In Tuscany", she could have saved some of the rambling for that. I'm not sure if I will even bother with "In Tuscany" because I found this to be so boring.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Frances Mayes 'gets' Italy...
Enjoyably written by someone who knows and appreciates Italy, especially Tuscany.
Even her philosophical diversions are fun.
Definitely worth reading!
Published 7 months ago by Peter Overing
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful!
It read beautifully and has already been loaned to a friend. I've even tried one of the recipes. The book makes me want to travel .
Published 13 months ago by Ann Jakins
4.0 out of 5 stars Closest thing to being there!
If you can't get to Italy anytime soon, this novel will take you there!
The graphic detail of all the history, charm of the country side and fabulous food and wine give you a... Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2010 by L. Kovacs
4.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite!
Mayes is a treat. I loved this book as much as her previous Italy book; can't understand the attacks herein, but it doesn't matter. I love all of the Italian references. Read more
Published on Sept. 17 2003 by CoffeeGurl
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read if you love Italy
This is a great book! It actually take you to a portal of Italy. Well written of Italian culture, Frances Mayes capture the bella of Italy. Read more
Published on April 19 2003 by "bellalivia"
4.0 out of 5 stars a diamond with some flaws
OK--Many of the customers who wrote previous reviews about Bella Tuscany have some valid complaints. It is several chapters too long and we do get tired of Mayes' whining. Read more
Published on March 6 2003 by Cynthia K. Robertson
5.0 out of 5 stars Bella Tuscany
The Mother of the Tuscany books! The second in her series, about her home in Tuscany, not as good as the first but very good.
Published on Feb. 23 2003 by D. G. Welch
Published on Jan. 31 2003 by linda c. walker
4.0 out of 5 stars a good follow-up book
Just as good as the first book, this time the author focuses more on daily living in Tuscany, rather than the restoration of the house. Read more
Published on Jan. 28 2003 by C. Hill
2.0 out of 5 stars Fresh voice is corrupted in Bella Tuscany
The magic of Tuscany fades with this novel, where Mayes looses her objective and foreign voice, and trades it in for a more settled and self-centered opinion. Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2003 by Meredith
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