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Escape with Frances Mayes
on 13 September 2008
Frances Mayes, an American professor in her late 40's, buys a derelict house near the Tuscan village of Cortona. She is recently divorced, and having spent many happy holidays in Italy before, decides to take a big risk in buying this small estate with 5 acres of land that is half way across the world. This book is about "what happens next" as she and her partner Ed begin the long process of renovating an old house that has not been lived in for over 30 years.
Due to their teaching schedules, they are able to devote an entire summer every year, plus a Christmas break, to the renovations. In between removing eco-systems of spiders and scorpions, linseed oiling the cotto floors, cleaning windows, designing the new kitchen and bathrooms, clearing the terraces of weeds, they also make trips to other parts of Tuscany where Mayes describes the food, the architecture, the people, the landscape. As the renovations progress, you get to meet the local tradespeople, some of the villagers, as well as Mayes' guests who visit from America.
I love this book and read it about once a year. Warning! By the end you will be longing to jump on the next plane to Italy, if only to find a good trattoria and sample some of the foods & recipes Mayes presents in her book. It is a quiet book, which may not appeal to those who saw the movie starring Diane Lane, but if you are looking to read something heartwarming on a cold winter's day, do read this one.