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Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensuous Style From the Heart of Italy (Englisch) Audio-CD – Gekürzte Ausgabe, Audiobook

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In addition to the two-million-copy bestseller Under the Tuscan Sun, FRANCES MAYES is the author of Bella Tuscany and In Tuscany; Swan, a novel; The Discovery of Poetry, a text for readers; and five books of poetry. EDWARD MAYES is the author of six books of poetry. They divide their time between the San Francisco Bay Area and Cortona, Italy. STEVEN ROTHFELD’s photos appear in Frances Mayes’s annual “Tuscan Pleasures” desk calendar, and he has illustrated many books and calendars, including his own French Dreams, Italian Dreams, Irish Dreams, and Entrez. He lives in California’s Napa Valley.

Leseprobe. Abdruck erfolgt mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Rechteinhaber. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.



In 1990, we bought Bramasole, an abandoned, scorpion-inhabited, blackberry-choked villa perched on a terraced hillside just outside Cortona. My husband, Ed, and I were first known as "the French" (because we had a French license plate on our rented car). Later we were called the stranieri, the foreigners. We chose Tuscany for the serene landscape, the frescoes, the piazzas with their fountains and liveliness, the wine, the markets, the festas, and the perfect espresso. We stayed for the people and the way of life we learned from them. Now, after fourteen years of eating pasta al dente, we've found ourselves inextricably folded into the intense life of a small town. Without our permission, our private vacation and writing retreat became home.

Ten thousand joys attract us to life in Tuscany. Each time we push through the arrival doors at the Florence airport and speed toward Cortona, we both feel rushes of excitement as we pass toasted farmhouses surrounded by vineyards and, in the distance, silhouettes of walled villages. We still marvel: a castle! When we stop at an autostrada grill, Ed tastes his first espresso. Inevitably, he says, "At last, real coffee," and he thanks the barista as though he's been handed a gift. After that, he drives even faster. Just off the Valdichiana exit, we pass the tenth-century abbey of Farneta, our first marker that we're near home. I always look back to see the rounded brick apses, as Ed straightens out the curved roads through gentle fields of wheat and sunflowers. Climbing toward town, we love to see the golden stones, rippled tile roofs, and aqua dome of our little città nestled on the hillside. We stop at our gate. Bramasole looks mysteriously down on us, and we remember the first time we saw it, when I stepped through weeds taller than I, and said, jokingly, "This is it."

This is it. I didn't have the prescience to know that our lives were about to change profoundly and that we would become deeply married to this plot of land under the Medici fortress and the Etruscan wall. We live on the Strada della Memoria, where every cypress tree memorializes a Cortona boy killed in World War I. Six hundred local boys, what a horror. One of our current projects is replacing a hundred missing trees along the road. At night, with only moon and stars as light, these immense dark trees sentinel the road, and as I walk in the tide of cool currents that stream across the hills, I think what a good tribute the cypress trees are to those who forfeited the chance to live their full lives in this sublime landscape.

Entering the house after an absence brings back the first time I ever walked inside. The small rooms-so many of them and all the same size-were crammed with chests that provided homes for generations of mice and upright upholstered chairs that looked like Abraham Lincoln died there. Someone's bad attic. Lugubrious religious paintings hung over tubular iron beds. I was fascinated by the bleeding sacred hearts, the sappy Madonnas, and the saint-eyes rolled to heaven-with a dagger in her chest. I grew more excited by the minute. Stepping out on the balcony overlooking a classic Tuscan landscape, dotted with toffee-colored farms, I scarcely heard the agent's warning: Signora, at any moment, please, the floor might collapse.

Is it an homage to that initial impression that I, too, have my collection of religious paintings? Two Christs crowned with thorns, two Mary Magdalenes, several crucifixions, one Madonna and Child, and a few of the eye-rollers, too. I was stunned to open a gift from a friend and find a painting on tin of the saint with the dagger in her chest. The antique markets have stacks of these religious paintings, as well as other objects of fascination to a South Georgia Methodist. A visitor would view my bookcases as a study in holy dismemberment, filled as they are with a collection of heads, arms, and legs of various saints and putti, but my collection of relics protects us (so far) from harm.

My study walls hold the studio portraits of an Italian family I have imagined for myself-a serene mother holding a letter (from whom?); a stray Fascist uncle all puffed up in his uniform; a cousin with scrolled curls and first communion white; a propped-up baby, his tiny penis proudly poking forward; and the sturdy grandmother of considerable girth, who looks as though she could tell off the butcher, stir the minestrone, and deliver twins all at once. The still life painting of cherries we found at an antique market, the iron bed we've dragged out of a junkyard near Olmo, and the chestnut armadio lugged up to the third floor-everything in our house reminds us of an adventure.

While I visit every room, Ed heads for the olive terraces. He knows each one of our original 160 olive trees by name. This year we bought a grove just below us, adding another 250 trees-more bottles of that liquid poetry, olio d'oliva. Ed named it Il Oliveto di Willie, Willie's olive grove, in hopes that someday our grandchild will continue the good work of husbanding a grove.

When we hand-label our oil for gifts to friends, we write, organic, handpicked, unfiltered, extra virgin, cold-pressed by stone. Extra virgin is oil with less than 1 percent acid, but we've learned to scoff at such a high bar. Ours, like other growers' oil in our area, has but a small fraction of 1 percent, so it is the virgin among all virgins. We bring it home from the mill and invite friends over for the tasting every year. By now, Ed simply scoops up a spoonful, while others of us dip in a finger, a piece of bread. This ritual links us to the deep taproot of Mediterranean life.

Another ritual is seed planting-always connected to the moon's phases. We're stunned to see our seeds sprouting, growing, flourishing so quickly in the ancient dirt. We, too, feel a rich connection to the land and the procession of the seasons. Our roots have spread. We have a tribe of Italian friends who put up with our version of Italian, and who show us, by example, the pleasure of living everyday life in this bellissimo landscape.

The first revelation from these friends-and the most influential-centers on home and friends and the table, the focus of celebration. Tuscans passionately love whatever plot of terra they live on and cultivate every inch with flowers and vegetables. They thrive on their local markets, which provide not only food but social life. Food, in Italy, is not cult but culture. In all my years in Italy, I've never once heard food connected to guilt. The pleasures of eating and drinking are never tortured into psychological struggles. The intense sense of community we feel in Cortona revolves around the table. Mangiare bene, stare bene–eat well, be well.

We hear constantly two Tuscan expressions, per ora, for now, and per piacere, as you please. These are links to why the Tuscans know how to live. After living so long in California, where being in the here and now is a mantra, in Italy I've finally absorbed per ora. You inquire about someone's health and they answer "Good, for now." That tacked-on phrase speaks to the realization that the moment is just that, and, almost superstitiously, we are wise to acknowledge the transitive nature of good fortune. Per piacere appears on menus–as you please. You can have whatever you want, the chef suggests. This carries over into daily exchanges. We relax into the laissez-faire attitudes of these anciently sophisticated people. Absorbing the resonances around these two concepts, our lives have changed. Friends drop by spontaneously for a chat. Just-picked wild asparagus translates instantly into an invitation to make a frittata with neighbors. A...

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106 von 111 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Really Let Down by this book. 5. Dezember 2005
Von puppy's gal - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
I was so excited when I ordered this book and so let down after getting it and looking it over. The cover is VERY deceptive. This is NOT a style/decorating book. This is the story of a couple renovating a wonderful old home in Tuscany. It is well written and at times charming and warm. It is also often quite boring reading about what stone to pick for the house and who they visited and what wine they drank. It almost seems as if the author were forcing another book out for publication!! There are VERY FEW photos...barely any really in the book. The photos present are of wine, friends, a few of the house and a few of home decor/furniture layout, and food. The photos are very striking and pretty....if you enjoy seeing their friends and not really getting any basic decorating ideas. There are about 30 recipes and photos of the food, as I said above. Some recipes are nice but I really didn't see anything new and inspiring. A good Italian cookbook would be a better investment. As for the cover....it is very deceptive to say the least since it focuses on a very pretty vignette: furniture, art, pottery and style of arrangement. This is most definitely NOT what this book is about. In fact: I found the cover to be the best part of the book. I decided to return it and look for a better book really focusing on design. The author clearly loves Tuscany and if you want a nicely written and warm hearted book to read about hers and her husband's story of renovation, friends and their love of food, wine and Tuscany then you will like this book. It is not a picture book at all but rather a reading book with a story that seems rather forced and often VERY VERY boring and drawn out for the purpose of publication.
34 von 36 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
best feature -front cover 7. Juli 2005
Von N. Fairbairn - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
very disappointing publication-suggest you save your money and check it out of the library before making a decision-the front cover was deceptive in its allure to those looking for a creative nudge in decorating tuscany style. but the most chilling part of this book,for me, was a revealing paragraph at the top of page 106 'quote' Given that the farmers probably will not be returning.I begin to plot new purposes for the hundreds of borghi in the italian hills: music camps,artists' colonies,hospices, religious retreat centers. After all,easily taking the past into the future is part or the italian genius for living.'unquote'... well, there goes he neighborhood! i'm just thankful i got to see Tuscany before the Mayes' makeover of the whole region --some people just can't leave rustic charm alone!!...norma
52 von 60 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
First Class Writing and Photography Great Price. Buy It. 27. Dezember 2004
Von B. Marold - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
`Bringing Tuscany Home' by Frances Mayes has several different faces, but it's title tells it's primary objective, which is importing to one's American home the furniture, style, feel, and `Zeitgeist' of Tuscany, where the authors Mayes have a `summer' home. For readers who are familiar with my concentration on culinary works, I was lead to buy this book for review by Amazon's bringing it up in a list of culinary titles, so I bought it largely on the strength of Ms. Mayes' reputation as the author of `Under the Tuscan Sun'. While the book does contain a few recipes, the most interesting one being an Italian plum tart borrowed from Tuscan summer neighbor Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery fame, it is not really a culinary title. Edward Mayes appears to be the cook of the family and most recipes are attributed to him, including a soffrito, a tomato sauce, oven roasted tomatoes, artichoke pesto, olive salsa, Tuscan beans, grilled radicchio, farro salad, fried zucchini flowers, shrimp in pasta shells, pici with fresh fava beans, potato gnocchi and sauce, pasta with pancetta, black cabbage soup, vegetable soup, eggplant parmesan, chicken with olives, rolled veal scallops, rolled sole, white peaches with almonds, and tulip shells with berries. Aside from the very last recipe, everything is pretty standard stuff.

The basis of the Mayes' expertise in Tuscan style is their ownership and renovation of a middle-sized villa just outside the village of Cortona in Tuscany for the last fourteen (14) years and their furnishing a Marin County, California home after the Tuscan style. This, more than anything else, is the meaning of the title. If this book were written by a journeyman travel writer and if it were priced above its very modest $29.95, this volume would be on a very short trip to the discount piles near the cash registers at Borders and Barnes & Noble. But, the authors are not ordinary writers. Their `day job' is being successful poets. Travel non-fiction and even novel writing appears to be more of a sidelight to their business of writing poetry. And, based on the rather grand appearance of their two homes and their antique Italian furnishings, poetry must be paying pretty well, as a supplement to income from Frances' best-selling novel and movie adaptation.

The modest list price is especially surprising when you see the quality of the photography, not only in the technical skill, but also in the careful choice of subjects and the simple consideration of providing a caption to all photographs. The captions are especially important in being able to distinguish scenes from their Tuscan house, `Bramasole' from shots of their new Marin County home which has been decorated to appear as if it were furnished by the Medici's.

One can wonder when they have time to write poetry, as their story is that their Tuscan house was at death's door when it was bought with sagging floors and numerous colonies of mice in residence. But, the house probably more than paid its keep by serving as material for poetry, fiction, and non-fiction works, some of which, as already mentioned, have been very rewarding. And, behind all the renaissance antiques and really grand decorative wall paintings, one can see very modern electrical wall switches and the latest in vinyl baseboards above the ancient Italian tiles on the floor.

The modest price is also surprising given the quality of the text. While the best reason to buy this book may be to embark on an interior-decorating project aimed at emulating Italian decorative style; the real value of the book is for the reader. How many travel writers make references to the philosophy of Edmund Husserl, the founder of Phenomenology which is best known as the theoretical underpinning of Existentialism, even though it is primarily a doctrine of epistemology, which is a study of what we can know. And, the Mayes are expert at crafting words to bring the experience of both ancient and modern Tuscany about as close to us as possible without an airline ticket to Florence. I even found a little error in medieval sociology interesting as Ms. Mayes was speculating on the closeness of houses in the Tuscan villages, speculating that the Italians rejoiced in simply being close to one another. My college history professor had a much more probable explanation in stating that this was done to conserve arable land for farming, where every square food of soil was valuable for the food it could produce.

I was pleased to discover that while Ms. Mayes is involved in a business partnership with an American furniture company in cooperation to design a line of Tuscan inspired products, there is but one small reference to this arrangement and no evidence of any commercial inducements benefiting this relationship anywhere else in the book. This is not to say there are no commercial references at all. The appendices to the book contain references to numerous Tuscan sources for wine, antiques, furniture, sculpture, scagliola (a form of mosaic using shards of gypsum ground and embedded into stone tabletops, bound, and waxed), ceramics, prints and frames, terra cotta, textiles, crystal, and tableware. True to the title of the book, all sources are of merchants or workshops in Italy. For a brief moment, I thought it would have been better to cite American sources, but then, these are easy to find for yourself in this time of the Internet.

One product for which an American source may have been nice is the Mayes' own olive oil, produced from the 500 some trees on their Tuscan property. They do give a web site for the product, so I imagine that will give sources. For the traveler, the appendices end with a selection of Tuscan hotels and eateries recommended by the authors.

This is a distinctly better than average `lifestyle' book and a worthy companion to Elizabeth Romer's `The Tuscan Year'. Highly recommended for price and words!
19 von 20 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
a book to make you dream! 6. Oktober 2004
Von HCJL - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
I found this book to be very charming, not at all self-indulgent as the review says. Of course there is lots of material relating to the Mayes, that's part of the charm--they can be our eyes and ears since we can't be there. The anecdotes are entertaining and thought provoking, the photos are breathtaking! I appreciate her advise and help in attaining the "look of Tuscany". The recipes are a nice feature to round out the book.
28 von 32 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Von Gail Cooke - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Frances Mayes' latest paean to her beloved Tuscany is a visual and gustatory feast. Photographer Stephen Rothfield's gorgeous illustrations (many full page) capture both the beauty and ambiance of that now storied region.

A rose and lavender sunset over the valley is breathtaking; his study of parmigiana is mouth-watering. Many of his shots reveal details either of dishes or household accessories. All add vibrancy to Ms. Mayes' text.

Some 25 recipes as well as an informative discussion of wines and local wine bars tempt one's taste buds. Fried zucchini flowers are an attractive and tasty appetizer, while, of course, the homemade pastas make manufactured spaghetti duck and run for cover. According to the author, Italians eat sixty pounds of pasta per person every year. If I had access to these homemade varieties, I'll wager I could keep up with them.

Friendships formed by the Mayes while in Tuscany are recounted with gratitude and good humor. The spirit of sharing among the Tuscans, whether a bag of green beans or a bunch of wild flowers, is endearing. A friend brings eggs with the feathers still stuck to them, another leaves yellow squash on their doorstep.

As Ms. Mayes points out Tuscany is more than a location, it is a way of life. She writes, "Bringing Tuscany Home is an invitation. We document the portable aspects of Tuscany - practical advice and discoveries. But our intention is, as well, more sublime. This book is an invitation to a way of being, a guide to the good life, and a toast to the Tuscans, who inspire the world with their knowledge of how to live like gods."

In addition to recipes, Ms. Mayes offers recommendations for where to find good things Tuscan from antiques to furniture to ceramics to textiles. Favorite restaurants are mentioned as well as hotels and residences.

As a registered, card carrying Italophile this reader adds a hearty amen to each phrase in praise of Tuscany. Leafing through "Bringing Tuscany Home" is the next best thing to being there.

- Gail Cooke
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