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Every Day in Tuscany by Frances Mayes


Every Day in Tuscany by Frances Mayes

Every Day in Tuscany by Frances Mayes is sub-titled Seasons of an Italian Life, and it is a life that Frances Mayes has made for herself and shared with readers the world over through her books about her life in Tuscany.

Twenty years ago Frances Mayes purchased a house in Italy and during years of restoration it became home. After living there seasonally for many years, since their retirement from teaching in California, Mayes and her husband now make Tuscany their home year round. Bramasole, near Cortona, is no longer just a house in Italy – it has become home.

Under the Tuscan Sun, published in 1997 and Bella Tuscany published in 2000, covered Mayes first decade at Bramasole. Every Day in Tuscany brings her story up to the present time, as Mayes continues the story of her life in Tuscany.

My first impression is a jealousy I can taste – why can’t I live in Tuscany!! Then I think about my cottage on Georgian Bay – my equivalent of Bramasole. Because what Mayes realized, as I do, is that this “holiday home” is really where the heart is – it is truly home – not just a place to live – but a place to LIVE. Mayes says “When I am away, I miss it as I miss a person I love..”

“In Tuscany I learned to take time”, writes Mayes. In retirement she can read into the night and sleep late, take time to make slow tomato sauce. Frances Mayes is now 69 years old and I think she is sensing that she must make the most of the life she is living now even more than she did in the past. Joan Anderson, another writer just a few years older than Frances Mayes, writes about living the second half of life differently than we did the first – and Mayes writes the same thoughts “Living well in time means taking back time from the slave-masters – obligations, appointments, the dreary round of details …”. Mayes realizes that “time is elastic.. that time, which devours, also stretches.” She knows that a big part of what made her home in Tuscany so special, while she was working in the United States, was that when she was at Bramasole her time was her own. Now in retirement it is completely her own choice how to use that time.

When I began this book I expected to be reading about Italy and found that I was also reading about time and place, thinking about my own life and my own choices about how I spend my time. Life is too short to waste the time we have.

We follow Frances Mayes on day trips and holidays exploring other parts of Italy, and days at home at Bramasole and in Cortona, with visits from friends and family. Gardening and harvesting, and cooking – with recipes included - Mayes finds a natural renewal from being at home in nature, in the rural surroundings of her home. And in the kitchen she finds “delight, joy, excitement, surprise”. In her kitchen there are many meals prepared – quiet meals to share as a couple – and massive spreads for dozens of friends and neigbours. In Italy every meal is a celebration – Mayes writes “Eating in Italy made me aware of how tortured the relationship to food is in my country.” In Italy food is eaten when it is in season and fresh, the menu changes with the harvest, “Dinner invigorates the spirit as it nourishes the body.”

She is a fortunate woman – and I am as well. She has found at Bramasole what I have found on Georgian Bay “To be where there is no one. Solitude, the real luxury item.” And happiness – “how to hold happiness, how to find it, how to live inside a great happiness of your own making…The Sustainability of Happiness.”

This is not just another book about Italy. In rural Tuscany where Frances Mayes makes her home “work and play are happily still balanced, giving the chance not to just enjoy but to revel in everyday life.”

As Frances Mayes travels, she explores, she learns, she absorbs, and she experiences “a joyous sense of release from the present tense”. Eureka! I thought as I read this. When I travel I am always amazed at how I feel that I have left my real life completely behind – my husband responds that travel is just a part of my “real life” and he is right of course, but I know exactly what Frances Mayes means – travel is to drop out of the day to day routines and explore - not only geographically but spiritually.

So, travel along with Every Day In Tuscany, treat yourself to some Tuscan sunshine compliments of Frances Mayes – prepare a meal from this book, share it with a friend – and take time for yourself.

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