If you’re a reader like I am, you probably have a few rock star authors who you nerd out on. For me, at the top of that list, is Frances Mayes, she of Under the Tuscan Sun. Lest you think her repertoire starts and ends with that book made famous by the movie of the same name, let me educate you: she’s written a dozen books, most of which deal with my favorite place on earth: Italy.
I was fortunate enough to have met Mayes last year when she glided through San Diego on her book tour for See You at the Piazza. She was as dazzling in person, with her honeyed Southern accent and quick wit, as she is in her books.
So when I heard she had a new book out, Always Italy, I was, understandably, giddy with delight.
A Treasure Trove of Italian Delights
Here’s a little secret about me: I am planning to move to Italy when my son graduates in two years. That’s as far as I’ve gotten with the planning. I don’t yet know which idyllic town will feel like home, so I’ve got some fun research ahead. As soon as I opened Mayes’ book, I thought, “Great! This will help me narrow it down.”
Oh, Frances. You disappoint. You didn’t make it easier for me to pick a town! You made it harder!
Each chapter covers a different region of Italy, from Trentino-Alto Adige in the north all the way down to Calabria at the boot. Mayes pontificates on the wonders of each region, highlights specific towns (those are my sticky notes you see in the photo), and marvels over local wines we Americans will never taste unless we visit.
You get the sense that Mayes loves each region as much as her beloved Tuscany! Not a hard feat, given the magnificence that is Italy.
Use It as a Guide for Travel (or Relocation)
I plan to keep this book close as I think about future trips to Italia (once the world rights itself and we can leave our homes again). I want to pick a region, visit a few towns she tells me I should, eat the dishes she revels in, see the region through Mayes’ eyes. And then, maybe, I’ll find my own Cortona (her adopted town) where I will feel at home.
The photos are gorgeous and make you yearn to sit in a sunny piazza with a caffelatte and a good book (maybe one written by Mayes?).
Even if I can’t go to Italy right now (let alone out to an Italian restaurant) thanks to the coronavirus, at least I can dream of it.
Speaking of dreaming, here’s a little bonus for you: Kathy McCabe of Dream of Italy spent some time with Mayes in Cortona. You can watch the full episode here, but here’s a sneak peek. Dream of Italy publishes a digital and print magazine on all things Italy. You can learn more about subscribing (and for a limited time, your membership will include Frances Mayes’ book!) here.