Frances Mayes, whose enchanting #1 "New York Times bestseller Under
the Tuscan Sun made the world fall in love with Tuscany, invites us
back for a delightful new season of friendship, festivity, and
food, there and throughout Italy.
A companion volume to Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany is
Frances Mayes''s passionate and lyrical account of her continuing
love affair with Italy. Now truly at home there, Mayes writes of
her deepening connection to the land, her flourishing friendships
with local people, the joys of art, food, and wine, and the rewards
and occasional heartbreaks of her villa''s ongoing restoration. It
is also a memoir of a season of change, and of renewed possibility.
As spring becomes summer she revives her lush gardens, meets the
challenges of learning a new language, tours regions from Sicily to
the Veneto, and faces transitions in her family life. Filled with
recipes from her Tuscan kitchen and written in the sensuous and
evocative prose that has become her hallmark, Bella Tuscany is a
celebration of the sweet life in Italy.
In addition to her Tuscany memoirs, Under the Tuscan
Sun and Every Day in Tuscany, Frances Mayes is
the author of the travel memoir A Year in the World; the
illustrated books In Tuscany and Bringing
Tuscany Home; Swan, a novel; The Discovery
of Poetry, a text for readers; and five books of poetry. She
divides her time between homes in Italy and North
1. Mayes writes, "It can be dangerous to travel. A strong
reflecting light is cast back on ''real life,'' sometimes a
disquieting experience." What does she mean? How does travel change
your perception of yourself? Has a hidden piece of your identity
ever been revealed to you through travel?
2. While in Sicily, Mayes connects existential thoughts of death
with traveling. "Why am I here where I don''t belong? What is this
alient place? I fell I''m in a strange afterlife, a haint blowing
with the winds. I suspect the subtext to this displacement is the
dread of death. Who and where are you when you are no one?" Do
these thoughts of displacement enter your mind when you travel? Do
you think they are connected to a fear of death?
3. How is Mayes''s trip to Sicily different from her travels in
Tuscany and the Veneto? What are specific traits of the Sicilian
character? What in Sicily''s history can account for these traits?
Are there regional differences in your own country that are as
4. At one of the many extravagant feasts he attends throughout
the book, Ed remarks, speaking of the bitter after-dinner drinks
called amari, "Italians seem to have acquired more tastes than many
of us." Do you agree? Why might that be the case? How is Italy''s
relationship to food different from that of other countries?
5. On a number of occasions, Mayes describes the many elaborate
gestures Italians have for expressing how good food is. Do any of
them make sense to you? How many gestures do you have to show your
enjoyment of food? How often do you use these gestures? What does
it mean to frequently express your appreciation of food through
physical gestures? What does that say about a culture?
6. Why do you think Mayes includes recipes in her book? What is
the effect of the recipes on you, the reader? Does it bring her
story more alive? If so, how? Do you intend to make any of the
dishes? Which ones? Is your interest in these specific dishes
connected to Mayes''s narrative?
7. Throughout her travels in Italy, Mayes frequently encounters
ancient Roman and Etruscan monuments. How does the historical scope
of Italy change her perception of time? Does it change yours just
by reading about the ancient landscape? How do you think growing
up, surrounded by so much ancient history, would change a person?
Do you see those differences in the Italians that Mayes encounters?
How do these Italians feel about their heritage?
8. Mayes writes of the balance between "ambition, solitude,
stimulation, adventure...What is replenishing? What is depleting?
What takes? What gives? What wrings you out and, truly, what rinses
you with happiness?" Do you think restoring Bramasole in the
summers and teaching the rest of the year in San Francisco is a
good balance? What balance have you struck? Are you content with
9. What is the relationship of the foraging woman, who used to
work at Bramasole, to the estate now? Is she trespassing when she
picks their fruits and mushrooms? How is the sense of land
ownership profoundly different in Tuscany than in Mayes''s native
10. Mayes writes, "The garden, I begin to see, is a place where
I can give memory a location and season in which to remain
alive...Scents operate like music and poetry, stirring up wordless
feelings that rush through the body, not as cognitive thoughts but
as a surge of lymphatic tide." What do your plants or garden mean
to you? Is your garden a repository of memories of places, events,
or loved ones? Do you use scents to remember?
11. Quoting a haiku from Basho, Mayes writes, "Deep Autumn,My
neighbor, howDoes he live, I wonder?" Why do you think Mayes
travels? Why do you? Does your urge to travel change as you get
older? What inspires you to leave your home and wander?
12. What is the relationship Italians have with art? How does
Mayes attempt to emulate that relationship? What role does art play
in your day-to-day life? How do you access art in your everyday
13. How is Mayes''s rose garden in conflict with Anselmo''s
olive trees? Why do you think the olive trees are so important to
Anselmo? Is there a larger issue at stake here?
14. Mayes writes that, "Multilingual friends assure me that a
new personality emerges when one acquires a new language." Have you
experienced that, or seen it in others? Do you see a change in
Mayes over the course of her year spent on sabbatical in
15. Mayes asks, "What can we take back [from Tuscany] to our
lives in the new house [in California]? What accounts for the
dramatic shift in our minds and bodies when we live [in Tuscany]?"
How do you incorporate life lessons you''ve learned in your
travels, or while on vacation? How do you infuse your daily working
life with the spirit of Tuscany? What specific, concrete changes in
your life did BELLA TUSCANY inspire?
16. Why do you think Mayes was unable to recognize her
ex-husband at the rehearsal dinner fo their daughter''s marriage?
Has your world ever been so transformed as to make the past
17. BELLA TUSCANY brings the Tuscan countryside so vividly to
life. As you journey through Tuscany with Mayes, through a year of
changing seasons, what specific images have left an indelible
imprint on your mind? Have you been to Tuscany? Do you plan on
18. Bramasole is in perpetual need of repair. Mayes''s
restoration work will never end. Would she have been better off
buying a more modern villa? What is her attraction to dilapidated
buildings? Do you share it? If you restore your own house, does it
change your relationship to it? How so?