I don’t know why but Italy is one of the countries where people come mainly for a self-discovery in novels and movies. Is it because of the fluids in the air, or its cuisine and wines, or maybe Italian men with these wet eyes, charming smiles and gentlemanly attitude towards women. 😉 Whatever the reason is, it’s true that middle-aged ladies, main characters from famous novels, do come to the sunny country and their new lives start namely here. One of them is Marlena de Blasi who has always been a famous food journalist and restaurant critic, a popular food and wine consultant, whose love story starts in Venice.
Yeap, again the romantic and lovely town of Venice with its tiny canals and il Canale grande, the 16th century palazzi and the scent of the Adriatic Sea, is the “stage” on which her a little bit different love story begins. She is spotted by her future husband Fernando in a small local cafe while she’s on her business trip as a food writer. At first sight he falls in love with her profile and gets to know immediately she is His Lady. After some time when Marlena is back to Venice destiny meets these two complete strangers again and soon after that they become a family. She leaves her US life and moves to Venice to marry that guy whom she calls “the stranger”. Thus her “A Thousand Days in Venice” commence. They are filled with the flavours, sights and life of Venice, with her bewilderment of the Venetian culture as well as with her first attempts to learn the sing-songy and beautiful Italian language.
After these 1000 days full of mixed feelings elapse both of them leave the town and travel south to find the “Tuscan Secrets”. They choose the rural life of the small village of San Casciano dei Bagni in beautiful Tuscany. From the very beginning of their Tuscan adventure they are guided by a native named Barlozzo with whose help they explore the old rhythms of the country life (wine, roasted country bread, just-pressed olive oil, season festivals, etc.). While his greatest love, Floriana, and her illness make Marlena understand that happiness is truly a choice that anyone of us should make.
Having been in Tuscany both – Marlena and Fernando, are absolutely sure that their passionate love affair with Italian lifestyle, food and wine, should go on and they choose to move to Tuscany’s little sister Umbria. Their “Umbrian Love Story” begins with their desire to live in an old palazzo that must be renovated first nowhere else but in La Divina (the Divine, i.e. the town of Orvieto). They befriend the local aristocracy as well as ordinary Orvietans from all walks of life and style. This way they get much of the town’s abundance of treasures starting from love, precious friendships, work, wine, mouth-watering breads, cheeses, pastries and so on and so on.
Apart from Marlena de Blasi’s trilogy, the author is a story-teller of a very gentle and romantic love story that happens in “That Summer in Sicily”. It’s an epic drama of the true love and pain, beauty and grief of the main character Tosca Brozzi, a story retold by the writer in the tenderest and most delicate way while she and Fernando are in Sicily one summer. While travelling around the island they stumble upon a magnificent ruined castle somehow hidden somewhere in the mountains. They befriend the elderly patron of the Villa Donnafugata whose life-long love story is the main plot of the novel.
Tosca is “traded and sold” at the age of 9 by her father to the last prince of Sicily, a successor of the French nobles of Anjjou. Since then she’s been living with him and his family consisting of his wife and two daughters. Thus Cinderella’s life changes and she enters the glittering world of Sicily and its aristocracy. When she grows up and turns 18 she becomes the prince’s mistress whom she loves deeply and with whom she lives in an accepted arrangement. Unfortunately, the island is the land of contrasts. Poverty and grandeur, misery and richness, love and pain, mercy and violence go hand-in-hand and side-by-side. All of them don’t bypass either the poor or the rich and misfortunes dump on the Prince, too, when he tries to better the lives of his peasants and his negligence of the order and “laws” of the local Mafia costs him dearly, indeed.
Well, what else can I say about the books by Marlena de Blasi? While reading them, one travels together with the author around il Bel Paese and gets acquainted with the lifestyle and traditions, and local dishes and wines of the various regions, cities and small villages in Veneto, Tuscany, Umbria and Sicily. 🙂