The profession of a travel writer and a gourmet cook is really exciting. I have come across several books whose authors depict the real tastes and pleasures of a foreign country by sharing their personal experience while living there as well as their passion for cooking and local cuisine. And again the “usual suspects”, are two of the sunniest European countries to the South – Italy and France. There’s no need to explain why…simply because they possess an extremely beautiful nature, long history and a great number of historic sites, strong traditions in cooking and wine-making, charming locals, and two particularly famous regions – Tuscany and Provence, respectively.
Yes, bella Toscana! Its hidden “Tuscan Secrets” are revealed one by one by Marlena de Blasi. The region is dotted by numerous small villages like San Casciano where rural life attracts the author and her husband who move there from Venice in order to restart their life. They become part of the lives of the local folks that is full of happiness and grief at the same time, season festivals and pleasures of food and wine. All these rhythms of the country life are the pulse and heart of Tuscany.
These are always the feelings that one has when they are “Under the Tuscan Sun”. The simplicity and beauty of the region are well described by Frances Mayes who buys an abandoned villa and does her best to restore it somewhere there in the amazing Tuscan countryside. Her task isn’t that easy at all as she comes upon a new culture and new traditions which are unfamiliar to her. The Italian il bel far niente (the beauty of doing nothing) even shocks her but after some time she gets accustomed to all of the peculiarities of the Italians and speaks about them with much love and emotion. While reading the book, one dives into the idyllic atmosphere of the spectacular Italian countryside whose three main “pillars” are the simplicity of life, the happiness of small things and the complete connection between locals and the earth & nature cunningly presented in the movie starring Diane Lane, based on the book.
Frances Mayes, actually, does for Tuscany what Peter Mayle does for Provence. His Provence Trilogy (“A Year in Provence”, “Toujours Provence” and “Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of France”) is the author’s detailed narrative about the southern region of France. After 15 years in the advertising business he moves to Provence where he buys a villa in the village of Ménerbes. His intriguing story captures any soul longing for the beauty and again the simplicity of life filled with gusto and pleasures, delicious meals and excellent wines. As to the folks living there, they’re like the Tuscans – good-hearted and charming, open-minded and lovely.
Wouldn’t you want to move either to Tuscany or Provence? …. Wouldn’t you prefer to escape from a big city and go to live in a small quiet village where cypresses along the roads or lavender fields will fill up your days with the flavour of life? …. Last but not least, wouldn’t you choose to be a foodie with a taste for simple home-made local meals from natural ingredients, warm roasted country-bread, just-pressed olive oil and excellent wines. Definitely, I would choose such life even for some time. 🙂