When I started this book, I despaired: I had loved Under the Tuscan Sun, and I was having a hard time finding my rhythm with this book. Where Frances Mayes’ book is about a love of a house and finding a place, Marlena de Blasi’s book is about a love of the people and the food of that place. There are many similarities between the two, and it took me a while to shake comparing them, and understand what de Blasi was trying to tell me. By the end, however, I was hooked, luxuriating in the descriptions of the food and immersing myself in the stories of the people.
De Blasi and her Venetian husband, Fernando, uproot their somewhat comfortable Venetian lives and head for Tuscany, somewhat on a whim: they need something new, something different, to feel alive again. It’s scary and intimidating and exhilarating all at once. And once they got to their rented house in Tuscany, they find so much more than they bargained for: a friend in Barlozzo, an old curmudgeon who has opinions about everything, and yet is generous with his time and knowledge about the countryside and its charms (especially food-related!). They find a community in the town they’re living in, friends, kindred spirits, family. They find solace in simplicity and rusticness (OK, not a word, but you get what I mean).
While the book is slow to show its charms, it’s like an old friend, sitting down over a glass of wine (for those who drink wine, anyway), talking about everything and nothing all at once. It speaks to your soul and invites you to look at what you have and need, to reflect upon what is truly important.
And what better kind of book is that?
Rated: Mild for mild language.