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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 14 July 2010
It is 20 years since American author Mayes purchased her dilapidated villa Bramasole, 15 years since the publication of her first book "Under the Tuscan Sun" which recounts the purchase of Bramasole. This book, her third memoir, finds Mayes the owner of two Tuscan villas and a historic farmhouse in North Carolina, where she lives in the winter months. She and Ed are now married, and have a young grandson. Reading this review, you may ask, who's Ed? What is Bramasole? If you're wondering this, then I would advise you go back and read "Under the Tuscan Sun" before you read this book. In my opinion, this was Mayes' finest book and I envy anyone who is about to read it for the first time. It is beautifully written, all about Mayes first years living part-time in Tuscany, taking a risk to purchase an old villa with 5 acres of land, the pleasures of living a new life in a foreign country after a painful divorce. "Seasons of an Italian Life" will have much more meaning if you have read this book first.

"Seasons of an Italian Life" is a collection of Mayes' introspections on her Tuscan life, her friends (she has a lot of them), the places she visits. There is a chapter on an unsettling event which causes her to re-evaluate her future in Tuscany. She writes of another rural property she has purchased nearby, and the careful renovations. (Oddly she lives in both of her houses at the same time, flitting between the two). As in her other books, the prose is luscious, her love of Tuscany shining through. However, I only gave 4 stars, as I felt at times the book was a little disjointed, almost like diary entries. It lacked, I felt, the sense of wonderment of her first book where she recounted the struggle of making her first house habitable, figuring out who she was, her foreign self in a different country. Well, after living there on and off for 20 years, I suppose that's to be expected.

Mrs Mayes appears to live a charmed life, and frankly, I'm a little jealous. Her days are filled with meeting friends, sumptuous dinner parties, travel and exploration, she and Ed cooking together with Vivaldi playing in the background, discovering new wines, lovingly decorating her houses, planning a new herbaceous border, trips to Florence or Rome. Does she ever come home tired, plunk a frozen ready-meal in the microwave, then eat it hunched in front of the TV? Does she get in a muddle with her tax returns? Is the old sofa in the living room with the tatty upholstery still there because she hasn't got the time or energy to replace it? Probably not, but I don't resent her good fortunes. On many levels, her lifestyle is attainable because the love and beauty that surrounds her is available to us all -- not paid for with hard cash, but comes for free, if only we have the good sense to appreciate it -- such as our friends, family, and nature's bounty. A great book for a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon... inspirational and heartwarming.
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VINE VOICEon 5 March 2010
There's something about Italy that evokes poetic adjectives in anyone trying to capture its essence in prose. Blush-worthy effusions, which seem obligatory to the country's foreign inhabitants, are symptomatic of the Italian disease, which, once it strikes, is not only virulent but also incurable.

In Ms. Mayes, I detect a fellow chronic sufferer, and as such, I feel for one whose clouds are "flocculent," whose "topiary trees" are "wise," whose hot chocolate is "creamy and unctuous," whose cypresses are "dark-hearted," to give but a few examples. Having absorbed the magic, the author is endeavouring to convey it to her readers, who, unless they themselves have experienced Italy on a long-term basis, will probably not only fail to perceive the enchantment, but will also be immune to it. They may well dismiss such fulsome prose (as heartfelt as it might be) as either overblown or pretentious.

Of course, I'm jealous! I would give anything to be "waking with the splendiferous Tuscan dawns, listening to the bees mining the linden, lying in the grass at night watching the falling stars" (p. 99) instead of waking in the smog-choked Land of Malls, where the bees have vanished and honey is to be found only on the shelves of pricey supermarkets, and the light pollution is so severe that all the stars (except the three bright ones in Orion's belt) seem to have fallen already.

Bottom line: If your lodestar blazes over Italy, buy this book--especially if you are fascinated by lengthy descriptions of the renaissance paintings and frescos of Luca Signorelli (which, if you are unfamiliar with them, you can view on Google Images), and if you enjoy philosophical epigrams such as "Time, the big breadbasket we fill, raid, fill, and empty" (62). If you prefer a story simply told, and are not especially interested in the daily lives of Chiara, Claudio, Roberto and other people whom you do not know; and you do not care to "feel the greeny translucence of a thin slice of fennel" (p. 99), buy a DK Guide to Italy, a plane ticket, fly over, stay for at least a year, and you will come to understand what all the poetic fuss is about.

Reviewed for Vine, Three-and-a-half stars.
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Have you ever looked forward to a dinner, a party, an event with so much eager anticipation that the reality could not possibly match your expectations? That's descriptive of the situation I found myself in when awaiting the arrival of Frances Mayes's latest EVERY DAY IN TUSCANY.

I am a huge fan of Mayes's work, totally bewitched by UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN and others, so in all fairness it may be that nothing she wrote could possibly enchant me as much as her previous work. As always, her prose is poetic, beautifully wrought, and her powers of description undiminished. EVERY DAY IN TUSCANY is surely a pleasure, but for this reader simply not as exciting, as exhilarating as the others. Wonder if after almost two decades spent in Italy the subhject is not as intoxicating for her either. Mayes's narrative tends to be a bit rambling, disjointed reminiscences of time spent in Tuscany and environs. More introspective, at times very much a diary filled with random thoughts.

One would have to share her passion for tracking the works of the artist Luca Signorelli throughout Italy or find interesting her remembrance s of a Southern childhood. Having said all of that the narrative is, of course, pure unadulterated Mayes who often weaves a spell with words, allowing us to smell the bubbling tomato sauce, taste the "creamy and unctuous" hot chocolate, and experience Cortona where "the rhythms of the piazza are an ancient folk dance." So, indeed, there is much to enjoy in EVERY DAY IN TUSCANY.

In addition to meeting her exuberant friends, enjoying time spent with grandson Willie, and understanding her frustration with the boars who seem to constantly root gardens, we join Frances and Ed as they travel from Cortona to other towns, Orvieto, Arezzo, Positano, and more. I found myself making notes, underlining so as not to miss the restaurants and sights Mayes describes so temptingly when we return to Italy. Obviously, few of us can enjoy Italia as she does - with two homes to alternate between. But, as always, this author gives us many happy dreams.

Especially meaningful for this reader was one of the final sections re Rome. She noted, "Of the great cities, Rome has the biggest heart.' How true! And after young Willie saw the Trevi fountain, he closed his eyes and said, "I can't see any more. If I see any more, I will miss Rome too much." If there isn't another book coming from Frances Mayes, I would miss her too much.

Should this be your first Mayes book, you're in for a rare treat. If it's the third or fourth for you, it is still the singular Frances Mayes.


- Gail Cooke
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on 26 October 2013
There are readers who can't get enough of Frances Mayes - I'm not one of them. However, hope springs eternal and I bought this book hoping that her style had improved and that I might gain some additional insight into Tuscany, which is where I live, and Tuscans, among whom I live. No luck I'm afraid - I still can't stand Mayes' creative writing class style of writing and there was little new in the content.
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on 11 January 2012
As an avid fan of Frances Mayes' two earlier books, Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany, I was delighted to find this one had now been produced.

Unfortunately, for me, it did not live up to the expectations. There seemed to be too much of the poetry and historic detail this time and too much about their friendships with other Americans opposed to all the Italian/Tuscan detail in the two earlier books. Those seemed to have the mix about right so maybe I just expected too much.

I have read the other two books many, many times and always find something new. This book may be read a second time to see if I change my mind, but I suspect a second reading will be enough.
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on 7 November 2014
Different from her earlier books - a lot more about the history of the region, which although interesting was a little bit to in depth at times. I enjoy reading about the house or houses, the people and the food, so in away it is down to personal choice. As always the book is beautifully written.
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on 16 August 2013
This book was very repetitive and was hard going to read. Very disappointing content, the authoress seems to have exhausted her subject! On a quality control issue the pages seemed extremely thin and the chapter headlines hard to decipher.
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on 1 January 2014
Frances Mayes "Every Day in Tuscany" combines several different genres: memoir, guidebook, cookbook, poetry. The various stories meander and intertwine, capturing childhood memories in the South, the flora and fauna of rural Tuscany, Frances' conversations with her Italian neighbors and friends, and the renovation on her Cortonese villa Bramasole and her mountain retreat, Fonte della Foglie. I haven't had the chance to try any of the recipes, but several vegetarian recipes appealed to me: porcini and ricotta crepes, farro salad, antipasti, vegetable lasagna, stuffed eggplant and fruit pies.

The various chapters are a jumble of themes: the restoration of Fonte della Foglie, a domestic terrorism incident at Bramasole, the declining health of several Italian neighbors, Frances's fascination with the Cortonese Renaissance painter Luca Signorelli, her lush gardens and the wild boars that seek to destroy it. My main issue was that many of the musings are so deeply personal that they read like a writing journal; shorthand notes that capture a particular memory, or sense of color, that hold great meaning for the author, but not as much for the reader. Also, there are several (brief) excursions into poetry: "I have been to Pilates I found my old coat I took my will to the notary I found my good glasses..." by C.D. Wright, or "the slur of cars," and "the petal of one eye shutting." I found it hard to reconcile these with the back roads of Italy that I'd been searching for. That's not to say that road trips or small towns in Tuscany and Liguria aren't discussed, but these outside memories and Southern contacts creep in at every turn of the story.

At times, I found it difficult to remember where I'd left off; the narrative gently rocks from thought to thought like a paper sailboat riding gentle waves. Reading "Every Day in Tuscany" is kind of like taking a winding country road; you'll find unexpected surprises around some bends, but it's not a journey for those looking for the most direct route from Point A to Point B. If you're willing to spend a little time exploring, it's a fascinating journey.
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on 28 July 2014
Once again Frances Mayes relates the friendships she and Ed have formed in Italy, with neighboring Italians and expats alike. I read this book while on an extended vacation in Italy and so many of her observances and insights into the way of life in Italy are right on the mark. Often she described views and feelings about historical sights, interactions with people and just traveling in that magical country which were right in line with my experiences.
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on 29 January 2013
Enjoyable update to lovers of Frances Mayes' Bramasole home in Italy. Interesting to art lovers; incorporates
guide to artists and places to visit making this a useful travel guide to off the road adventures
Frances and Ed take during their summers in Italy. Her ability to incorporate local recipies their family
have actually learnt, cooked and shared with their friends makes this a pleasant all round read and you just
want to reach for the ingredients and get cooking !
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