Author of the international and New York Times bestsellers Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany and In Tuscany, Frances Mayes has also written five books of poetry and a reader's guide, The Discovery of Poetry. She edited Best American Travel Writing, 2002. A native of Georgia, she now lives in California and Italy with her husband, the poet Edward Mayes.
In a carefully written story, poet Mayes (Ex Voto, Lost Roads, 1995), who chairs the creative writing department at San Francisco State University, recounts the purchase and renovation of an abandoned Tuscan villa. She begins with the 1990 search with her companion, Ed, for a summer home to take the place of the rented farmhouses of past years. They finally decide on Bramasole ("Yearning for the Sun"), a villa with 17 rooms and a garden that has been standing empty for 30 years. There is the ordeal of getting money transferred via the tangled Italian banking system, as well as bringing together the owner, builders, and government officials to get the necessary work done. The daunting process requires several years. Meanwhile, Mayes finds Italian country life a healthy antidote to hectic San Francisco, enjoying, for example, the fruits of her own garden, friends in the village, and the first olive harvest. This is an unusual memoir of one woman's challenge to herself and its successful transformation into a satisfying opportunity to improve the quality of her life.‘William R. Smith, Johns Hopkins Univ. Lib., Baltimore
Mayes's favorite guide to Northern Italy allots seven pages to the town of Cortona, where she owns a house. But here she finds considerably more to say about it than that, all of it so enchanting that an armchair traveler will find it hard to resist jumping out of the chair and following in her footsteps. The recently divorced author is euphoric about the old house in the Tuscan hills that she and her new lover renovated and now live in during summer vacations and on holidays. A poet, food-and-travel writer, Italophile and chair of the creative writing department at San Francisco State University, Mayes is a fine wordsmith and an exemplary companion whose delight in a brick floor she has just waxed is as contagious as her pleasure in the landscape, architecture and life of the village. Not the least of the charms of her book are the recipes for delicious meals she has made. Above all, her observations about being at home in two very different cultures are sharp and wise. (Oct.)