Life after the 'Tuscan Sun'

Staff WriterMarch 9, 2010 

  • What: Frances Mayes reading and book signing.

    When: 7 p.m. today.

    Where: The Regulator Bookshop, 720 Ninth St., Durham.

    Contact: 286-2700,

    www.regulatorbookshop.com

This July will mark two decades that Frances Mayes has lived in Italy.

Mayes, author of "Under the Tuscan Sun," splits her time between Durham and Cortona, Italy. She has written her third memoir about living in Italy, "Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life." Her book tour starts at 7 today at Durham's The Regulator Bookshop.

About this new book, Mayes says, "I wanted to write something about the everyday pleasures of living there."

Much of the book is devoted to simple scenes from her life at Bramasole, the Tuscan villa and farm that she and her husband, Ed, restored. She writes about eating chestnuts by the fire with her husband, breaking in their outdoor oven with a pizza party, folding laundry.

Even though Mayes' best-selling book led to a film by the same name starring Diane Lane, two furniture lines and a line of Bramasole olive oil, that doesn't mean Mayes' life in Tuscany has been all Sangiovese and geraniums.

For the first time, Mayes writes about finding a grenade and a threatening letter outside her home.

A few months before, Mayes and her husband had circulated a petition opposing the opening of a public pool near their home. Few of her neighbors agreed to sign, citing what Mayes describes in her book as a "fear of reprisal."

In other words, don't make waves or they will damage your car, burn your fields or worse. The grenade, it seems, was the response her neighbors feared.

"It was a shock to be the focus of something so negative," Mayes says.

Surprisingly, Mayes says, the townspeople embraced her afterward.

"They pulled me in as if I was one of their own," Mayes says. "I realized I had not been, even though I thought I had been."

To celebrate their anniversary of living in Italy for 20 years, Mayes and her husband are planning a three-day party for 50 friends and relatives.

"It's going to be so much fun, like planning a wedding," she says. The event will feature a feast around a long table with seating for 50, music, dancing, bocce, hiking and swimming. The event will celebrate this house that not only changed her life but the lives of her loved ones and friends.

"It was a random impulsive act to buy the house. It changed my life," she says. "It has kind of reverberated through many, many lives."

andrea.weigl@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4848

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