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Fried Flowers and Fango
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This isn't the first book to be written about the experience of living in Italy, but it might have the most bizarre tales to tell. After a near-obsession with visiting spa towns, the writer finally fetched up in a faded backwater once renowned as having the best mud in Italy. The book is about becoming immersed in this place and its mud, (the fango of the title is Italian for mud) with observations about the crazy inhabitants and goings-on, after taking the plunge with a prescription for 6 buckets of hot mud a day. The weird characters of the village became her friends: the Man With No Voice (just how do you cure an ailing larynx with mud?) the mad woman who makes fur coats; Massimo, the ex-champion heavyweight boxer; Alberto the ancient odd-job man, the Grand Dame of Tuscany and her best friend Jack Daniels...etc. Then there are the local oddities: the castle with half an aeroplane stuck in its tower; the dilapidated Palladian villa with a satellite dish in a niche facing a bust of Dante; the crazy bureaucracy involved in paying the rubbish tax; and the misunderstandings about local events from the grape harvest to the canal's 800th birthday pageant. There's a chapter on food, of course, since it's a national obsession. (Did you know that a live wire coming from the ceiling in an otherwise stylish restaurant is always a hallmark of gourmet excellence?) There's also an original take on Venice, only 50 minutes away, the world's largest floating cocktail party on the doorstep, and all but ignored by the locals. This original and entertaining book is full of infectious enthusiasm. You may not wish to try the mud cure, but you'll definitely keep turning the pages and, like the author, come to love the place.
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