Earlier this week, the Georgia Center for the Book sponsored a reading in Decatur by Frances Mayes, author of, among other things, three bestselling memoirs of her life in Tuscany.
Since I’d read all three of these books, I was eager to see the author in the flesh, as were two friends who had shared with me and others a few years ago a week-long villa rental in Umbria, which borders Tuscany. That vacation was partially inspired by Mayes’ first and most well-known book, Under the Tuscan Sun. And we weren’t the only Americans galvanized into villa-renting by Mayes book: it and the movie based on it, initiated an annual stampede of Americans to that part of the world, much as Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence – and the movie based on his book – did for that region (whose landscapes, incidentally, remind me a lot of Tuscany).
Mayes is a Georgia native, and part of the delightfulness of listening to her reading and question-answering was discovering that she hasn’t lost her Southern accent or her Southern sense of humor.
Mayes read a chapter from her latest Tuscany book, Every Day in Tuscany. Having read the book last year when it was published, I hadn’t been overly impressed by it, especially compared to her earlier books or compared to my most recent immersion-by-book in Bella Italia, Barbara Grizzuti Harrison’s Italian Days. But Mayes’ reading of an account of a typical day of her life in the second home she and her husband have purchased near Cortona certainly redoubled my resolve to travel again someday to Italy, and to revisit Tuscany in particular.
Unlike the lucky Frances Mayes and her husband Ed, I don’t shuttle back and forth between the U.S. and central Italy. I do feel lucky to have been in Italy several times, however, and it’s a rare year when my reading doesn’t take me there vicariously. Some of the other engaging books about Italy that keep me wanting to return are listed here.
During her appearance in Decatur, Mayes mentioned that she’s now writing a blog, See You in the Piazza. Having taken a gander at it, I can tell already that Mayes’ ongoing observations of daily life in that part of the world will be keeping my Tuscan fantasies alive and frequent.