Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensuous Style from the Heart of Italy
Date Published 10/5/2004
Rated By: HCJL "crowpal"
From: Tacoma, WA
Comments: a book to make you dream! I found this book to be very charming, not at all self-indulgent as the review says. Of course there is lots of material relating to the Mayes, that's part of the charm--they can be our eyes and ears since we can't be there. The anecdotes are entertaining and thought provoking, the photos are breathtaking! I appreciate her advise and help in attaining the "look of Tuscany". The recipes are a nice feature to round out the book.
Rated By: Gail Cooke
Comments: WELL, IF YOU CAN'T HOP A FLIGHT TO FLORENCE Frances Mayes' latest paean to her beloved Tuscany is a visual and gustatory feast. Photographer Stephen Rothfield's gorgeous illustrations (many full page) capture both the beauty and ambiance of that now storied region.
A rose and lavender sunset over the valley is breathtaking; his study of parmigiana is mouth-watering. Many of his shots reveal details either of dishes or household accessories. All add vibrancy to Ms. Mayes' text.
Some 25 recipes as well as an informative discussion of wines and local wine bars tempt one's taste buds. Fried zucchini flowers are an attractive and tasty appetizer, while, of course, the homemade pastas make manufactured spaghetti duck and run for cover. According to the author, Italians eat sixty pounds of pasta per person every year. If I had access to these homemade varieties, I'll wager I could keep up with them.
Friendships formed by the Mayes while in Tuscany are recounted with gratitude and good humor. The spirit of sharing among the Tuscans, whether a bag of green beans or a bunch of wild flowers, is endearing. A friend brings eggs with the feathers still stuck to them, another leaves yellow squash on their doorstep.
As Ms. Mayes points out Tuscany is more than a location, it is a way of life. She writes, "Bringing Tuscany Home is an invitation. We document the portable aspects of Tuscany - practical advice and discoveries. But our intention is, as well, more sublime. This book is an invitation to a way of being, a guide to the good life, and a toast to the Tuscans, who inspire the world with their knowledge of how to live like gods."
In addition to recipes, Ms. Mayes offers recommendations for where to find good things Tuscan from antiques to furniture to ceramics to textiles. Favorite restaurants are mentioned as well as hotels and residences.
As a registered, card carrying Italophile this reader adds a hearty amen to each phrase in praise of Tuscany. Leafing through "Bringing Tuscany Home" is the next best thing to being there.
- Gail Cooke
Rated By: Bookreporter.com
From: New York, New York
Comments: Full of magnificent photos, poetic text, and great recipes If Frances Mayes' sensuously abundant book and film, UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN, had not appeared in advance of BRINGING TUSCANY HOME, they almost would have to be created because of it. Perhaps that's saying an awful lot about a volume that looks for all the world like a first-rate "coffee table book." But that's where appearances are deceiving.
BRINGING TUSCANY HOME starts with being utterly gorgeous on every spacious page, and rises from there to the sublime. In fact you may find, as I did, that it will take several leisurely journeys through Steven Rothfeld's magnificent photos before you flow naturally into a poetic text that weaves the Mayes's Tuscan experience together like the flavors of good country wine.
Although this book began with the discovery and loving adoption of a crumbling, spider-infested villa called Bramasole (the true star of the film), its substance goes far beyond those homey, nostalgic before-after tales where the ingenuity of the restorer sometimes steals center stage. I was even a bit disappointed at first to find no "before" photos of the place, until I realized that this is a celebration of its new life. The former condition of Bramasole, and of several other unique country ruins that play supporting roles, is treated gently and briefly through a few well-chosen anecdotes. These neglected architectural patients had been in a coma, and the big news was to be about their resurrection as living places for real people.
And real people abound here. One cannot read about the beautiful frescoes on Bramasole's walls without being drawn in by the life-journey of the local man who painted them. Same for carpenters, gardeners, arborists, glaziers, vintners, and stonemasons. Any craft or skill you could imagine as part of an old house's revival comes wrapped in the joyous and sometimes poignant package of a richly drawn human being. With their deep affection for people and the myriad textures of their lives, it's no wonder that the Mayeses have long been welcomed as friends, rather than foreigners, in the neighboring community of Cortona.
An especially insightful aspect of BRINGING TUSCANY HOME is its enduring and harmonious reverence for the culture that created places like Bramasole. The Mayeses emphatically do not instruct readers on how to surface-copy Tuscany in their non-Italian abodes. Instead, they use the poetry of sensory awareness to convey the spirit of the place --- the part of home that travels inside the heart and gently prompts one to choose this color over that, this accessory in favor of the other, and so on. Home is, above all, a feeling of belonging.
And speaking of the senses, no comment on this delightful book could overlook its generous collection of annotated Tuscan country recipes that taste good even when you read them. Of course, that's only the first step...on the way to market and, finally, the kitchen.
--- Reviewed by Pauline Finch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rated By: Barbara H. Karpf
Comments: My Dream Home Bravo to Frances Mayes who has once again captured the true Tuscan feeling- one of the most beautiful places in the world, my dream home is right here in this book.
Barbara Karpf President www.decoratorsbest.com
Rated By: B. Marold
From: Bethlehem, PA
Comments: First Class Writing and Photography Great Price. Buy It `Bringing Tuscany Home' by Frances Mayes has several different faces, but it's title tells it's primary objective, which is importing to one's American home the furniture, style, feel, and `Zeitgeist' of Tuscany, where the authors Mayes have a `summer' home. For readers who are familiar with my concentration on culinary works, I was lead to buy this book for review by Amazon's bringing it up in a list of culinary titles, so I bought it largely on the strength of Ms. Mayes' reputation as the author of `Under the Tuscan Sun'. While the book does contain a few recipes, the most interesting one being an Italian plum tart borrowed from Tuscan summer neighbor Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery fame, it is not really a culinary title. Edward Mayes appears to be the cook of the family and most recipes are attributed to him, including a soffrito, a tomato sauce, oven roasted tomatoes, artichoke pesto, olive salsa, Tuscan beans, grilled radicchio, farro salad, fried zucchini flowers, shrimp in pasta shells, pici with fresh fava beans, potato gnocchi and sauce, pasta with pancetta, black cabbage soup, vegetable soup, eggplant parmesan, chicken with olives, rolled veal scallops, rolled sole, white peaches with almonds, and tulip shells with berries. Aside from the very last recipe, everything is pretty standard stuff.
The basis of the Mayes' expertise in Tuscan style is their ownership and renovation of a middle-sized villa just outside the village of Cortona in Tuscany for the last fourteen (14) years and their furnishing a Marin County, California home after the Tuscan style. This, more than anything else, is the meaning of the title. If this book were written by a journeyman travel writer and if it were priced above its very modest $29.95, this volume would be on a very short trip to the discount piles near the cash registers at Borders and Barnes & Noble. But, the authors are not ordinary writers. Their `day job' is being successful poets. Travel non-fiction and even novel writing appears to be more of a sidelight to their business of writing poetry. And, based on the rather grand appearance of their two homes and their antique Italian furnishings, poetry must be paying pretty well, as a supplement to income from Frances' best-selling novel and movie adaptation.
The modest list price is especially surprising when you see the quality of the photography, not only in the technical skill, but also in the careful choice of subjects and the simple consideration of providing a caption to all photographs. The captions are especially important in being able to distinguish scenes from their Tuscan house, `Bramasole' from shots of their new Marin County home which has been decorated to appear as if it were furnished by the Medici's.
One can wonder when they have time to write poetry, as their story is that their Tuscan house was at death's door when it was bought with sagging floors and numerous colonies of mice in residence. But, the house probably more than paid its keep by serving as material for poetry, fiction, and non-fiction works, some of which, as already mentioned, have been very rewarding. And, behind all the renaissance antiques and really grand decorative wall paintings, one can see very modern electrical wall switches and the latest in vinyl baseboards above the ancient Italian tiles on the floor.
The modest price is also surprising given the quality of the text. While the best reason to buy this book may be to embark on an interior-decorating project aimed at emulating Italian decorative style; the real value of the book is for the reader. How many travel writers make references to the philosophy of Edmund Husserl, the founder of Phenomenology which is best known as the theoretical underpinning of Existentialism, even though it is primarily a doctrine of epistemology, which is a study of what we can know. And, the Mayes are expert at crafting words to bring the experience of both ancient and modern Tuscany about as close to us as possible without an airline ticket to Florence. I even found a little error in medieval sociology interesting as Ms. Mayes was speculating on the closeness of houses in the Tuscan villages, speculating that the Italians rejoiced in simply being close to one another. My college history professor had a much more probable explanation in stating that this was done to conserve arable land for farming, where every square food of soil was valuable for the food it could produce.
I was pleased to discover that while Ms. Mayes is involved in a business partnership with an American furniture company in cooperation to design a line of Tuscan inspired products, there is but one small reference to this arrangement and no evidence of any commercial inducements benefiting this relationship anywhere else in the book. This is not to say there are no commercial references at all. The appendices to the book contain references to numerous Tuscan sources for wine, antiques, furniture, sculpture, scagliola (a form of mosaic using shards of gypsum ground and embedded into stone tabletops, bound, and waxed), ceramics, prints and frames, terra cotta, textiles, crystal, and tableware. True to the title of the book, all sources are of merchants or workshops in Italy. For a brief moment, I thought it would have been better to cite American sources, but then, these are easy to find for yourself in this time of the Internet.
One product for which an American source may have been nice is the Mayes' own olive oil, produced from the 500 some trees on their Tuscan property. They do give a web site for the product, so I imagine that will give sources. For the traveler, the appendices end with a selection of Tuscan hotels and eateries recommended by the authors.
This is a distinctly better than average `lifestyle' book and a worthy companion to Elizabeth Romer's `The Tuscan Year'. Highly recommended for price and words!
Rated By: Zecon
Comments: Stuff of Dreams Frances Mayes' latest effort is impressive showing how her and her husband have achieved the good life. Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensuous Style From the Heart of Italy is magnificently illustrated. Readers of her past books will appreciate the full visual effect of what she fell in love with in Italy and how this book captures the evolution of her and her husband's life in both Tuscany and California. This book literally brings home Italy to you in so many ways whether that be Frances Mayes' musings about Tuscan life or her husband's cooking. The recipes are not all from Tuscany, but they are interesting nonetheless. This most recent effort provides plenty of fodder for dreams. On a more practical level, most of us will never experience the complete immersion and utter indulgence of her lifestyle simply because of the cost. But, we can dream.
Rated By: paolo_giovio "lil smooth gi"
From: the States
Comments: Disappointing as a picture book I don't know about you, but I don't always read my coffee table monsters. This one I picked up at a library and it interested me for no more than 10 minutes. The photographs were not 'sensuous' and oftentimes hardly particular to Tuscany. If you are like me, and prefer books like "The Most Beautiful Villages of Tuscany (/Provence/Ireland etc.)" which are brimming with beautiful architecture and interiors, then this book is sure to disappoint. If you are looking for pictures accompanied by moony, meandering ruminations, then this is your book.
Rated By: Jean Waller
From: Scarborough, Canada
Comments: Beautiful Photos Beautiful photos of Bramasole, local people, food & furniture. Great workable recipes, ideas on exactly where to shop, instructions of how to ship treasues to North America, gardens to explore in the Tuscan area, plus other Mayes adventures. Lyrical writing style will make you want to book a trip immediately!
Rated By: N. Fairbairn "italiaphile"
From: port angeles, wa
Comments: best feature -front cover very disappointing publication-suggest you save your money and check it out of the library before making a decision-the front cover was deceptive in its allure to those looking for a creative nudge in decorating tuscany style. but the most chilling part of this book,for me, was a revealing paragraph at the top of page 106 'quote' Given that the farmers probably will not be returning.I begin to plot new purposes for the hundreds of borghi in the italian hills: music camps,artists' colonies,hospices, religious retreat centers. After all,easily taking the past into the future is part or the italian genius for living.'unquote'... well, there goes he neighborhood! i'm just thankful i got to see Tuscany before the Mayes' makeover of the whole region --some people just can't leave rustic charm alone!!...norma
Rated By: Torile
Comments: Enough already!! In my opinion Ms. Mayes is doing for the literary world what Thomas Kincaid has done for art.
I was absolutely entranced with Italy after reading UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN.........and equally so with BELLA TUSCANY. I must admit that while I truly enjoyed the photographs contained in IN TUSCANY I was less than satisfied with the written content. I feel that the passion Ms. Mayes felt with her first book, and so openly shared with the readers, has wained with each successive book and she is nothing but commerical at this point.
I feel she has allowed celebrity and money to corrupt her art ..... much the same as Mr. Kincaid. So, when will we see the Bramasole tea towels or the Cortona coasters???
Rated By: N. C. I. Design
From: Central Kentucky
Comments: terrific service ordered book as a gift and at the last minute. Afraid it would not arrive in time but I received it in less than a week. It was securely packaged and looked brand new. Great experience and will definitely order from vendor again
Rated By: puppy's gal
Comments: Really Let Down by this book I was so excited when I ordered this book and so let down after getting it and looking it over. The cover is VERY deceptive. This is NOT a style/decorating book. This is the story of a couple renovating a wonderful old home in Tuscany. It is well written and at times charming and warm. It is also often quite boring reading about what stone to pick for the house and who they visited and what wine they drank. It almost seems as if the author were forcing another book out for publication!! There are VERY FEW photos...barely any really in the book. The photos present are of wine, friends, a few of the house and a few of home decor/furniture layout, and food. The photos are very striking and pretty....if you enjoy seeing their friends and not really getting any basic decorating ideas. There are about 30 recipes and photos of the food, as I said above. Some recipes are nice but I really didn't see anything new and inspiring. A good Italian cookbook would be a better investment. As for the cover....it is very deceptive to say the least since it focuses on a very pretty vignette: furniture, art, pottery and style of arrangement. This is most definitely NOT what this book is about. In fact: I found the cover to be the best part of the book. I decided to return it and look for a better book really focusing on design. The author clearly loves Tuscany and if you want a nicely written and warm hearted book to read about hers and her husband's story of renovation, friends and their love of food, wine and Tuscany then you will like this book. It is not a picture book at all but rather a reading book with a story that seems rather forced and often VERY VERY boring and drawn out for the purpose of publication.
Rated By: Rhon
Comments: Great photos This a wonderful exploration into Italian design. Loved it. Highly recommended for the designer or homeowner.
Rated By: Vicki Landes
From: APO AE
Comments: How can a Frances Mayes book be anything but fabulous? Francis Mayes does such an incredible job of bringing Tuscany to the rest of the world. This book includes fun recipes and beautiful photos...a joy to read! --Vicki Landes, author of "Europe for the Senses - A Photographic Journal"