Review

Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensuous Style From the Heart Of Italy

Frances Mayes with Edward Mayes, photography by Steven Rothfeld



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 (paulinefinch@rogers.com) on December 23, 2010

Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensuous Style From the Heart Of Italy
Frances Mayes with Edward Mayes, photography by Steven Rothfeld

  • Publication Date: October 5, 2004
  • Genres: Essays, Nonfiction, Travel
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway
  • ISBN-10: 0767917464
  • ISBN-13: 9780767917469