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3.5 out of 5 stars
Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 28 May 2001
This book is hard to define - it's an autobiographical account of an American couple who buy and restore a glorious villa in the Tuscan countryside. Part gardening manual, part travel diary, there are even recipes included, and its style is warm, enthusiastic and written by someone with a poet's love of words. I particularly liked the way Mayes shares her learning of Italian with the reader. One Italian idiom which made me laugh was 'acqua in bocca' which literally translates as 'water in the mouth, and means 'I won't tell anyone'.
Days are spent designing their garden, feasting with neighbours, and touring their new country, talking in copious amounts of food as well as culture.
However, the second half of the book lost me completely. There was less of the Italian experience and more of the writer's own childhood in America. Sorry, but I wasn't reading it to find out about her family or America! More of Italy please!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2014
I am not aware of having read the first book in this series but I certainly wouldn't bother to read the next. I can't quite understand the reason she is writing the books, they certainly don't have anything enlightening to say about Tuscany or the people. The characters in the book are so lightly drawn that you cannot reach any understanding with them. This was overall very disappointing and I really had to persist to the end, which is a sorry state of affairs. I also have an awful characterisation in my mind of an American arriving to her holiday home and then jetting back leaving the plebs behind, having spent her time rambling about looking at frescoes, which she describes in a very ordinary way. You would expect a lovely read from the cover picture, sadly it turned out to be just the disjointed musings of a not-very-good writer. You would do better with a guidebook. Resist the temptation to purchase this.
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on 29 December 2009
Frances Mayes' sequel to "Under the Tuscan Sun," this book finds Mayes and partner Ed with a (mostly) restored villa and more time for exploring Tuscany and other parts of Italy.

Mayes' writing is rich and evocative. She lovingly recounts golden days driving the back roads of Umbria, a last-minute trip to sunny Sicily when the Tuscan spring weather turned stormy, buying antiques in Arezzo, planning the garden at her villa Bramasole. As in her first book, she includes a few of her tried-and-true recipes - make sure you have something nice to eat in the fridge because they'll make you hungry!

Don't buy Bella Tuscany if you are looking for pure travel writing - this book is a memoir and Mayes includes passages about her life growing up in the American South, her daughter's wedding, her house in California. You will read about how a divorced, middle-aged woman decides to take a big risk in buying an abandoned house in Italy. How she restores it, and in turn restores in herself a sense of "the sweet life," an element that was missing from her hectic working life in California. The writing is sensual, sometimes whimsical, her love of Italy apparent in every chapter. She writes intimately, almost as if the reader is a close friend. Of all the books written about realising the dream, taking a risk and moving abroad, Mayes is by far my favourite author. If I can live my life as fully as Frances Mayes does, I will consider it a live well-lived.
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on 14 August 2015
Belle Tuscany is the second of two books Frances Meyes has written about her life in Tuscany (the first one was called under the Tuscan sun). It is pretty impossible to get any quotes from this book so I will have to do without.

This book is carrying on with the characters and the house that Frances and Ed brought and decided to renovate in Tuscany. They live back at home in California the rest of the year and then come to Italy for the other part of the year.

I would describe this book as nice. The writing is fine but not amazing, nothing dramatic happens but it ambles along at a sedate pace. Italy is my favorite country that I have been to so far), which is what first attracted me to the book and it wasn’t disappointing. Frances described Italy just how I remember it from my three previous visits (I am also getting married there next year!). This book also makes me hungry. Frances has included lots of Italian recipes she uses so you can have a go (I will be at some point).

If you want a good little read on holiday or sitting on the sofa of an evening then this is perfect but if you want lots of things happening and mystery then this is probably not for you. I would recommend this book and would give it three out of five stars.
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on 16 November 2014
This NOT, nor is it meant to be, a travel guide of Tuscany, the book is about the author's life there. Whilst I enjoyed the the first book Ms. Mayes wrote about her Italian life, I bought the second as a cd to listen to in the car and I regret not buying it again as a book. The author really should have paid for an actress to read the book, because her reading is excrutiatingly boring, totally monotone with sentences, paragraphs and chapters leading straight from one into another without any change in tone or pace so that you never know where one finishes and another begins. Very confusing. Also when she is speaking for Italian characters, there is no Italian accent even attempted at so that every character has the same soft southern American drawl.. This totally spoilt the book for me as I got more and more annoyed at Ms. Mayes' total inability to transfer the excellent written word to a vocal delivery.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2002
I have just finished reading Bella Tuscany during our family holiday in the hills east of Florence. 2 years ago at the same old Tuscan farmhouse, I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book Under The Tuscan Sun. This follow up started off reasonably well but by half way it began to loose its grip on me. Being in Italy I could relate to quite a few of the passages but bagan to wonder what the purpose of this book was. Jumping back and forth across the Atlantic, from present to past, by the end I realised that one third of the text should have been in the first and the rest was simple padding out. The recipes especially are a waste of pages particularly those from the deep south of the US. One passage that summed it all up for me was the section about tourists in Venice - the author appears to look down on those, like myself without realising that She too is just another tourist in Venice. Bramasole was an interesting conversion project but is still a holiday home.
The current book started whilst still under the Tuscan sun is a very different matter - Tim Parks' Italian Neighbours is a joy - a real ex-Pat living and working near Verona - this book captures the real Italy without the distractions contained in Bella Tuscany.
I have still to read the third book In Tuscany which I bought for the photographs - sorry Frances, if I wanted another recipe book I would have bought one. If Under The Umbrian Sun appears I don't think I'll bother.
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on 10 December 2013
This book probably mainly appeals to people who have lived in Italy for quite some time or are still living there. Preferably in a rural area. Like I do.
The expressions in Italian, the recipes, the way Ms. Mayes describes the interaction between Italians and foreigners, it is all very familiar to me. And how to handle all the 'friends' who want to come and visit you, learning to say No.
I especially like the way she talks about her gardens, the food, her houses (one in Italy, one in the US), her husband and the beautiful Italian countryside.
It is a positive book.
I was less taken by her historic outings and descriptions of churches, but that is probably because I do not live in Tuscany.
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on 27 March 2015
Not very pleased with the condition of this book. Stated as good ......it contained several notations written in pen on the text and in the margins. Not a way to treat a book.... If you must add comments write them on a piece of paper and leave them in the book. I bought the book to read the authors thoughts not the owners
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2002
I've read Mrs Mayes' book on life in Tuscany whilst on holiday and I must say it is filled with amazement about springtime, gardening, ancient fresco's and the "italina way of life" Everything is wonderful, beautiful or amazing -or so it seems after reading the first 100 pages. The couple (mrs mayes and her husband hero Ed) take you on a trip through Italy, guided by tourist guide books (!) at an American speed. Husband Ed often complains about "not having seen everything" in Venice or Palermo or wherever. Also, any contemplation or deep thought nver last the page it is written on.It gets tiring to some extent.
What I missed most - but this is personal - is some self-irony, some critical looks at Italian life and often some research/background. The latter improves thoughout the book, although we end with moving house in California, a quick marriage or two, a quick move back to the US for tragic family reasons and back to lovely Italy.
On the whole its an easy accesible book, though nowhere near to benchmark 'One year in the Provence' in my view. The book reads like a lot of little stories spun around diary entries.
What annoyed me most, was the extent of rosyness and sometimes the 'over the top' comments. Also Mrs Hayes dispersal of Italian phrases can become a little weary. On the whole it is the speed at which things occur that was the most annoying in the end. It left me without knowing much about Italian life, but with the Californian perception of it fimrly established. Nice, though, but not something I would buy for my friends.
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on 14 August 2013
Not quite as good as Under a Tuscan Sun. But then again, I was always interested as much in the house rebuilding project as I was in Tuscany itself, so that prejudiced me a bit.
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