I think this is a good place to talk about the book reading prep I have done for the trip to Italy. Not just this time, but over the years. I love to read and cook, except by now you know I’ve been doing the Nutrisystem thing since January 1st, I have that day etched in my mind, so I just read the cookbooks for now. I’ m saving up the eating part for Italy. My book choices are varied because I like history and mysteries too and of course I have to read the books that talk about people who have actually moved to Italy. There are lots of books to pick from, but these are the books that stuck in my mind. Years ago I read Under the Tuscan Sun, At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes, after I saw the movie. I knew then and there I would go to Italy. I was enthralled by someone who could find a villa, fix it up, live amongst the land and people. Who hasn’t seen that movie or read the book? Since reading that book I have been to Italy several times and visited Cortona, where Frances Mays lives.
Italians really do have their own time. Italian time…… slow to slower, to never get on with it. Nothing is ever easy. It gets done when it gets done. It would take a lot for me to get used to that as an everyday occurrence. Frances has written several more books about her stay In Italy, learning to cook, growing her own food, keeping a slower pace, and I have read them all. Then she wrote about the pool incident. The village wanted to place a public pool at the end of the dead end lane where Frances lives. She already had people and bus traffic from tourists who parade by her home. She thought it would just add to the congestion. She tells stories of how she can hear what the tourists are saying about her as they stand by the gate and she sits in one of her rooms. Anyway, she wasn’t crazy about the pool idea and neither were her Italian neighbors. So she did the American thing and put together a petition, opposing the pool, to present to town hall. Her Italian neighbors would not sign it. She couldn’t really understand this and decided it was because they did not understand the idea of a petition. Soon after, while picking up the stuffed animals and other souvenirs left by tourists at her gate, she picked up an oblong shaped grey thingy, not really paying too much attention to it. When she looked at it more closely she realized it was a hand grenade, and froze in her tracks, afraid to move any further. Attached was a note telling her to lay off with the petition stuff. The police were called for a bomb threat. The bomb disposal / explosive ordinance team arrived. The grenade was real but inactive. There was a follow up investigation. The police drew no conclusions to who may have placed it. Finally, one brave neighbor explained to Frances, there were certain people you did not cross when they wanted to do something or approved of something. The Mafia. It was her first realization that they exist and still play a part in Italian society. I began to re-think that I actually wanted to move to Italy, because I usually say what I think and would have to pick up grenades everyday.
I moved on to Marlena de Blasi and started with her book 1000 days in Venice, an Unexpected Romance. Marlena, is my kind of girl, a chef, journalist and food critic. She goes to Venice to work on a cookbook and falls in love with an Italian banker. Through her books you discover the Italian life from Venice to Tuscany to Orvieto. You also discover life with an Italian husband. Soon after they marry, she moves to Venice and he quits his job at the bank. Or maybe he retires, they can retire early there, but anyway, from then on they rely on her book income and his retirement savings. As her books have progressed from their move from Venice to Tuscany to Orvieto, I have felt an edginess develop after the writings of the early book. In the early days there were romantic candlelit perfumed baths taken together, regularly. They enjoyed long walks, holding hands, looking deep into each others eyes.
Now it is, “Marlena, you are spending so much money and you need to get away for a few weeks to write?”
“What, who buys all the fancy clothes? I don’t see your pay going for them!”
“Away from me? Who will cook for me? I have spent two years creating the perfect palazzo for you and you are going off to write? You spend the money on silk furnishings and pillows!”
She now spends more time with women. Her books have really ran the gamut and I have enjoyed them. And she writes about the Mafia. There it is. How they came to be, the influence they still have. Now I have learned another thing. I would not like being married to an Italian man. I have never taken a perfumed candlelit bath with anyone, and I would not like to take care of a husband as I would a child. I would love to see my husband’s face if I suggested that to him, both the bath idea and the supervision! Another reason to love Italy, you realize there are different ways of doing things. When in Rome do as the Romans do. I find it fascinating. I hope this has given you an idea for some great reads. As usual I have typed on and on and never got to the cookbooks or mysteries, so I will leave that for my next post. Grazie!