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5.0 out of 5 stars The Sweet Life in Italy
After reading Under The Tuscan Sun several times I was so happy when this book came, more wonderful Italian living from Frances Mayes' pen. And I was not disappointed. As I did with the first book I have also read this one several times.
Together with her husband, Frances Mayes have bought and restored an old Italian country house. The first book was mostly about the...
Published on April 20 2002 by Britt Arnhild Lindland

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1.0 out of 5 stars Don't Buy This Book !!!
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...
Published on Aug. 9 2000


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1.0 out of 5 stars La Brutto Americana, June 21 2002
By 
J. Fercho (Calgary, AB. Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy (Paperback)
Ugh, not believing that this could possibly be worse than "Under the Tuscan Sun", I have again subjected myself to Ms Mayes take on Italy. Never again!! At least her previous work had some decent recipes in it.
We are now privy to Fran's ramblings on her ingrate houseguests, the Mafia, various odd phobias, the inconvenient timing of Ed's mothers death, along with the fact that she is apparently unable to recognise the father of her own child at her daughter's wedding. Oh the horrible burden of having to jet back and forth between Tuscany and San Francisco. The financial hardship of renovating not one but two homes simultaneously (oh the inhumanity, make it stop!!) All this with that shop till ya drop attitude that makes Fran twitch with excitment in her quest to find the perfect 400 thread count sheets.
And what about dear Ed? I think he is either a figment of Fran's imagination or he must spend a great deal of time in a vino induced state to endure her.
This book is NOT about the real Toscana, it is pure unadulterated drivel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Sweet Life in Italy, April 20 2002
This review is from: Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy (Paperback)
After reading Under The Tuscan Sun several times I was so happy when this book came, more wonderful Italian living from Frances Mayes' pen. And I was not disappointed. As I did with the first book I have also read this one several times.
Together with her husband, Frances Mayes have bought and restored an old Italian country house. The first book was mostly about the restoration, in this one we meet the couple living long summer months and also other parts of the year in Tuscany. They also travel to other places of Italy, and all the time we meet the country using Frances Mayes' eyes and writing hand as glasses.
Mayes has a deep love for Italy, and she shares her love with us in a way that we can never be untouched. I remember last year driving southward in Italy, through Tuscany on my way to Rome (for my first time) it was like visiting a country I already knew. I had read so much about it in Mayes' books, and know I will read the books again and again.
I'm always waiting for more books from Mayes' pen, and it was a pleasure to find an article in Traditional Home by Bramasole, Frances Mayes Italian home this month.
Britt Arnhild Lindland
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1.0 out of 5 stars A Shopping Memoir, Not a Travel Memoir, Dec 10 2001
By 
This review is from: Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy (Paperback)
This book was a real disappointment. I had hoped to learn much about Tuscany, but actually learned very little, apart from Ms. Mayes' appreciation for material wealth. I, too, was annoyed by the "money is no object" approach to Ms. Mayes' life. But, then, I'm no Marxist. She has the right to live that way. But if she's going to write a travel memoir she should focus on the people of Tuscany. The only Tuscans we get to know are the ones she's contracted to renovate her house. All I got was a great deal of shopping, with but a little site seeing.
On top of all that, we have to read about her buying a new house in California as well. The real irony of the story is that she returns home to find her partner's mother (future mother-in-law) near death; someone she describes as devoted to family and not wealth; someone she has unfortunately only met twice in her life. So much Ms. Mayes could have learned from her family if she had spent more time with her and less time using Italy as a mall.
Finally, this book is full of such inappropriate imagery, like the flower that reminded her of her first open-mouth kiss. Her metahpors are generally pretty wierd. Please don't read this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as Under the Tuscan sun, but close, Feb. 14 2001
By 
atmj (Rochester, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy (Paperback)
This book was not as engaging as "Under the Tuscan Sun" which was Frances Mayes first book on her experiences in Italy. I found the chapters to be way too long. I don't know why this matters, but it just struck me that way. Maybe some ideas were "over covered"? However, this book had it's own charm.
I did find her discussions of meals and food to be a bit too much at times. I guess too many details that attempt to display her growing knowledge of the local cuisine, that are not useful facts to me as a reader. Also the recipes are limited for use in the average suburban home here, as the ingredients are not that common. However, this was true for Under the Tuscan sun as well. It just did not seem to be emphasized as much.
Her momentary concentration on the "Mafia" in Italy, I was prepared for as I read previous reviews. Her vehemence struck me as been one that one feels when they find a flaw in a cherished item. Her illusions of Italy are ones of an idyllic place and the presence of the Mafia or anything that does not fit that, obviously struck a dissonant chord with her. She may very well be relating the opinions and attitudes of the people around her and not just her own. I find it hard to think that these opinions as a foreigner here were not influenced by the local people she deals with. Some of the comments struck me as ones only a local could perceive.
What I did find a bit rude was her characterizations of some of her visitors. I certainly hope this was shared with them prior to publication. Like Ann Landers says you can't be taken advantage of if you don't allow yourself to be (or something like that).
If you are looking for more on Bramasole, this book may disappoint. This book featured more of her trips beyond Cortona and even into Venice. Some people may find her self-absorption a bit over done at times, as she relates bits of her childhood and life outside of Italy. However, I found it interesting to see how the "other half" lives. I liked her way of relating her current thoughts with past actions. Like collections and family life. It is nice to get into her head. I think we all do that to some extent and when we get a glimpse of what another thinks, it shows first that we are not so weird after all, but just how different or similar another's experiences are.
I guess what makes these books special to me is her way of describing the day to day surroundings as an American would see them. This I feel makes them real for me. She is going in with American expectations and when these are different she relates this. I then feel like I have been there right along with her. I wonder how a local feels when they read some of this?
All in all, it was a decent follow on to Under the Tuscan sun. Not as good, but close. The couple of pictures on the dust cover and the diagrams inside helped flesh out the area she was referring to. The engagement calendar, does an even better job at that.
I have bought the next book she does on her life in Italy (In Tuscany)and am about to start it. I feel she has a lot to offer as a writer. In Bella Tuscany, she experimented a bit more in her writing, with some successes and failures. I hope to see how she reacted to Bella Tuscany's impact with "In Tuscany". Also I'm looking forward to the pictures included in "In Tuscany" to further flesh out this world.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Get swept away into another life!, July 22 2000
This review is from: Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy (Paperback)
While I loved "Under The Tuscan Sun," Mayes' first tribute to Italy, I was enthralled for the first 3/4 of the book with it's complete focus on the farmhouse restoration, but she changed focus so much toward the end (traveling, food, etc.), that I was disappointed (just a little bit....). But, with "Bella Tuscany," Mayes had much more of a consistent weaving in and out: focusing equally on the farmhouse, travels, people, food, and her "other" life in California, that I really got caught up in HER life. I'll admit there were times when I had to put the book down, for sheer envy of her, but I also got to see her life in another sense this time. Like "normal" people, she had her share of losses and tragedies, and those annoying "friends" who suddenly wanted to visit her to have a free place to stay in Tuscany - hilarious! I laughed, cried and vowed to see Italy next year - especially Venice - her description made my mouth water! I found her candor about admitting she had stereotyped Sicily and her willingness to be "Un PC" refreshing. I can't wait for her next set of adventures in Tuscany to be published!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and Offensive, June 6 2000
Although I thoroughly enjoyed Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany was a major disappointment. I don't think this book should be considered a "travel narrative" as it is really a personal, opinion-filled chronicle of one woman's experience in several different parts of the world (Minnesota, California, and Sicily- not just one village in the region of Tuscany). Although I envy Mayes' financial ability to travel at will between California and Italy, I do not envy her selfishness or ignorance. I could not relate to her buying ease, or her annoyance at having to travel home for the death of her significant other's mother.
Being the daughter of a native Sicilian, I was offended by her depiction of the people of the island. While the mafia is still existent there and plays a definitive role in the economic system of the country, it does not rule the lives of every man, woman, and child. If Mayes feels bad for the Sicilians, she shouldn't say so in this book.
After living with a host family in Tuscany, I feel I have only begun to grip the unique warmth of the people there. However, Mayes, a stereotypical American who spends summers there and "endures" some lessons in Italian, seems to feel she has become akin to the natives. A more intelligent writer would use a "show not tell" style to avoid condescending generalizations about the land and people. This book is not a total failure thanks to some good descriptive writing and humor those still struggling to learn the language can relate to.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Food, Whine and more Whine in Italy and America, May 4 2000
By 
Nick (San Francisco Bay area) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy (Paperback)
As a Italian-American who has lived in both countries this was a painful read. First Mayes has not become a Italian by living in Italy. A person would not belittle their House guests or the Italian people like she has. Then to whine about how she has to "endure" her many travels to Italy. Then to Whine more about having to restore two High priced homes. MY GOD! She should learn from the Italians to be thankful for your blessings and live in the moment. The one thing I did learn is ED is a Saint or I know why there is so much time spent on Ed buying wine. Why would you add so many personal discovery moments to this book? I do not want to know about Ed's back, her Ex, her whines about not having her way in Vinece and other travels in Italy. The book is a slow painful and irritaing read. The personal complaints about having to deal with Ed's mothers death and not having her way in Italy are just not called for. I should of put the money spent on this book into a travel fund to visit Italy. Maybe just drive into San Francisco and have a wonderful Italian in North Beach. Just wish there was a NO star rating.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Expanding horizons for Frances Mayes..., Jan. 12 2000
By 
L. Alper (Englewood CO) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
In "Bella Tuscany" Frances Mayes finally begins to notice there is more to Italy than Bramasole. Her expeditions to the South of the boot as well as to the Venetian area are very interesting. I just wish we didn't have to be informed of EVERY meal & menu she participated in!
However, the strengths of expanded horizons also proves to be a detriment as the reader discovers when Ms. Mayes feels obligated to also recount her life back in the States, the hassles, stresses, etc. Do we really need to know about her oh-so-traumatic house hunting problems in overpriced San Francisco? All I kept thinking was "Boy, she must have made alot of money on her first book to afford all this!" Luckily since I had gotten the books from the library I did not feel suckered as well!
The title of this book is "Bella Tuscany:the Sweet Life in Italy". When the prose follows the title, it is usually interesting and enjoyable, if a little pretentious. When it digresses (& oh does it ever!) it is just a waste of paper & ink. Too bad Frances Mayes can't buy a sense of humor about herself along with all her antique linen & wine. She really could use one!
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4.0 out of 5 stars delisioso, Nov. 1 1999
By A Customer
Having spent a week in Cortona prior to reading both books I was able to see the clay color hues of the hills of Cortona again,taste the fresh "al dente"vegetables found there like fried baby purple artichokes,long dark wild asparagus, and ounce again climb the steep rocky narrow streets praying that no cars would come thru and get angry at you for taking all the space. I love the simplicity of the Italian life which still finds pleasure in one plump fruit,one crisp vegetable or an aromatic flower,regardless of what others may think of such.We live in a world of excesses,of complicated gourmet dishes with so many ingredients that at the end we have lost the flavor of the main ingredient!I guess you have to be a romantic from the South to like and enjoy the smell of old houses,old vines,old jars and to gladly go thru the pain of renovation finding the end result so rewarding. I only wish I could sit with Frances and enjoy more stories that did not get to the book , watch the olive trees grow and sip red dry ValdeQiana wine under the Tuscan Sun.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Annie Dillard crossed with Martha Stewart and Bob Villa, Oct. 13 1999
By A Customer
This is a wonderful book full of great recipes, historical information, and personal thoughts about lots of different stuff that was a great read at many different levels and from various perspectives. I suspect that some of the more critical reviewers were irritated by the writer's "money is no object" approach to most things. Let's face it, the round-trip air fare between California and Italy alone is completely beyond the reach of most of us, but then that's why we're reading the book instead of restoring our own villa in Tuscany or the south of France or wherever. So, just get over it and enjoy a wonderful book. Sure, she doesn't have a clue about Roman Catholicism which makes most of what she writes about anything relating to churches, rituals, saints, etc., sound shallow and superficial. So maybe she should stick to writing about things she knows something about. But then, like the rest of us, she's learning. And yeah, she was rather cruel to some boorish house guests. But I think they deserved it and will hopefully benefit from the roasting.
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Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy
Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy by Frances Mayes (Paperback - April 4 2000)
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