The Wine Room

October 31st, 2012

We are having our small version of Sandy here in Tuscany today. This awful weather ushers out October, which has been the most sublime month I’ve witnessed in all my years in Tuscany. Almost every day has been clear, aurous, mild and sweet. The funghi porcini hunters swarm our mountain house hillside every day. There was even a little fender-bender near our lane. Some over-zealous mushroom hunter speeding to the next patch encountered another madman invading his territory. Actually, our land–but in Italy everyone has the god-given right to forage anywhere.  The chestnut hunters have arrived in force, and we are awakened to gunshot as poor wild boar get chased across the hill.  It’s all to the good–fall food is the best! I urge you to hurry to the hearty recipes for veal shank, polenta with sausage and wild mushrooms, pasta with four cheeses, big soups–all in, guess what, The Tuscan Sun Cookbook!  We’ve been celebrating the olive oil harvest, as well as Ed’s birthday so our kitchen windows stay steamy, and the oven seems always cranked up for a fig and walnut tart or a chocolate cake.

I found a great round cutting board at the Cortona Third-Sunday antique market and put it to good use for crostini by the fire.

This is the most celebratory season of all in Tuscany. One feast after another, and this fall, we are wine tasting constantly. (What were those Carter’s Little Liver Pills in the medicine cabinet when I was growing up?) With the Baracchi family, who make Ardito and other grand wines, we are working on importing a few wines ourselves. What I’m looking for is excellent drink-now daily wines priced below $16. I’m always stunned when I go home and find little day-to-day wine available, at least that I want to drink. One night we blind-tasted nineteen at the Baracchi’s sybaritic inn, Il Falconiere, and all of us benefitted by the super palate of the owner, Silvia Regi. Here, we’ll all set in their wine library.

Which leads me to our cosy and secluded mountain house, Fonte delle Foglie. The main dining table is at one end of the kitchen, here all set with olive branches and Bramasole’s roses for our olive oil tasting dinner, an annual event. Everyone brings their just-pressed oil and we all compliment each other, while everyone privately is thinking that their own is the best. Uh oh, wine glasses and napkins are not yet on the table!

The small dining room, where Ed and I eat when we are alone, is called the wine room. It serves as a place to gather for prosecco and antipasto when we have guests. The painted door shows animals that live around Fonte. The doors on the other side of the bedroom beyond show animals who formerly lived in the downstairs–cow, rabbit, pig, goose, donkey, etc.

We had the iron racks made by a local blackmith and topped them with old wood. The chestnut-plank ceiling is original to the house, and the painting of Saint Francis and the Wolf, recalls that the house was built by his followers in the 1200’s.

Here’s the sideboard from my Drexel Heritage At Home in Tuscany collection. It’s command central for opening the next bottle. Hard to see because of their blazing 20 watt glory, the wall lights are electrified carriage lights, another antique market find. This room is always romantically lit, usually just with candles.

The corner marble “bar sink” came from a lot full of building salvage. I added the Busatti linen skirt and we store tall bottles underneath. Not visible in these pictures are four sculptural green glass demijohns on the floor. I’ve already admitted to scavenging these from where they’re often abandoned–near garbage bins. Ed always hopes no one sees me hauling a filthy bottle into the car. I spend hours trying to clean out the dried dregs.

I can’t imagine getting rid of a dining room, as is the trend now. But I do like the idea of double use–a dining room as a wine library, or as a regular library. Eating is one of the major activities of life; you might as well lavish attention on where that takes place.

My last blog, Books at Bramasole, engendered marvelous responses. I am so grateful to everyone who shared book ideas and liked our bookcases. Please feel free anytime to recommend a good book. I’m always looking for the next one. Hope some of you rushed to the bookstore or library, as I did. Actually, I had to download, since I’m in Italy. At the end of the blog, I said I was about to read The Hare with Amber Eyes.  Trust me, trust me–it is a magnificent book. I had to cry a little at the end just from the joy of Edmund de Waal’s great writing.

Next post will be from North Carolina!

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44 Responses to “The Wine Room”

  1. Pietros Maneos says:

    A gorgeous post, as always, Frances. Your writing coupled with the photography evokes a nostalgia for the old world. Have a safe return to North Carolina where we will be something of neighbors as I am closing on a 40 acre property in Wilkes County in November.

  2. Judy N says:

    This feeds my passion for dining rooms. The sight of your set table makes me long to gather people together, to make more of those moments with friends. A good dose of warmth on a cold and windy day in the Bay area.

  3. Leah says:

    Frances, your mountain home is lovely and those ceilings are incredible! What a cozy feel, and the perfect place to enjoy a robust red wine on a cold evening with the fire burning. Thank you for sharing this place with us!

  4. Rick says:

    Ciao Frances,
    This post is a delight to read. I can close my eyes and am once again transported. It is especially warming after having endured the real Sandy here in New York.

    The devastation and sadness here is horrific. As one who chose not evacuate, I watched in horror as the normally placid waters of the bay and spring fed lake behind my home, rise rapidly Monday night. The waters swallowed up out buildings and my dock, spitting out the splinters on the lawn, as if to say the meal was not enough. While I had secured much of my furniture, potted plants and sculpture, anything that was not tethered was washed away. Angry winds lashed out, coating the siding and glass with veneer of salt spray and wind mulched debris. Power lines twisted around the fallen limbs of once mighty sycamores.

    For all of the damages I have to my property, I am one of the lucky ones. My home stood stalwart and intact. Protecting the dreamers as you would say. The inconvenience of no power for a few weeks is small compared to what others are enduring now. So many homes damaged, destroyed or washed into the sea. A stop at the local Home Depot, which somehow had power had me in tears as I watched neighbor embrace neighbor, tearfully recounting how they survived the ordeal and what the belligerent storm gods had so savagely ripped away from them. Stories about heroism, stories that after the suffering the indignity of being flooded out of their homes, their homes caught fire and burned to the foundation. A modest beach front community was drowned by the sea, then raped by a fire that consumed 110 homes at once. An entire community gone because fire trucks could not travel the flooded roads.

    I returned to work today, but these images remain etched into my mind. My own financial situation is tenuous at best, but I needed to give something to the community I have called home. I stopped off at a supermarket and bought a few cases of bottled water ( I was surprised they even had any) and drove through my neighborhood offering them up to those that are busy sawing, cleaning, repairing and restoring their own dreams. It was not nearly enough.

    This post reminds me of what is still good in this world; happier moments that take place in the same time. New Yorkers (and the folks in New Jersey too) are a strong group. Like those wonderful souls that rebuilt New Orleans, we too, will rebuild. For the few moments I read this post, I felt the steamy, warm air in your home, I could smell the sweet smells and taste the finest of those wines and I am so grateful for that. The power of word to transport is healing. For my family, this will be over in a few weeks, others, much longer if at all. So until, I can again create such warmth here, it is so good to see it there. Wishing Ed a joyous birthday and to you my thanks for a most enjoyable post.

    Be well.


    • Frances Mayes says:

      Oh, Rick! How much good comes out of these horrible situations. I remember the ’89 earthquake so well–how neighbors who’d never spoken suddenly were in it together. Hope blue skies are returning over your house. The memory, of course, will live forever. Sending heartfelt wishes for calm and recovery. Frances

    • Jeff Minnich says:

      And though we don’t know you, Rick, we are sending all good wishes into the Universe for a speedy recovery of your bit of the Earth. I live right outside Washington, DC, in Arlington, VA; my partner lives in Wilmington, NC; and though we experienced a rough and roaring night or two, we were mostly spared the awful wrath of H. Sandy. Memories of H. Isabel run through my head as I read your post, and Wilmington seems to get pounded often, and often badly. We’ve been there, too, and you’re right: you all will recover. Please take good care.

      When I am seeking reassurance that there is calm and stability in the world, I, too, come to Frances’ blog and stay awhile.

      All the best,
      Jeff and Steve

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Yes, Jeff, saw that Rick also fell into a sinkhole while out walking. What a horrendous storm but at least the response has been good, unlike Katrina. ciao, Frances

  5. Jeff Titelius says:

    So this is the new (old) farmhouse that you’ve been working on?! It’s enchanting…so rustic and so Tuscan. Would love to spend some time in wine room and touring the rest of this charming 900-year-old farmhouse. Surely a treasure to you and Ed and all who visit! I am so glad you posted this article because I have been wondering about the farmhouse since you mentioned awhile ago. It’s sublime!

  6. Wendy Rechsteiner says:

    Chocolate is perfect for Halloween and I envy you your fireplace for November. My daughter (the one doing her internship in NYC)did not lose power but lost internet and her way to get to work. Keep writing!

  7. Katherine says:

    Another rec.- “Legend of the Holy Drinker” by Joseph Roth. You may have read this? I guess this would be called a novella but has the depth of a full-length novel. Melancholic subject matter but still uplifting.

  8. gereon de leeuw says:

    Dear Frances,

    The warmth and cosiness literally venture into my dining/reading/working room. Looking outside, seeing the bounty of autumn colours. Wind now sweeping through the trees. Soon every tree will be fast asleep, regathering new energy for the coming year. What a wonderful combination a library wine room. Certainly this would be one for me, books and wines together, two of my many passions. You have given my a new project. I think I am going to get my books upstairs from the cellar again (Eet your heart out, realtor) and place them back together with some luscious Burgundy wines. And the hibernating can start.
    All I wish you for now is a pleasant stay in Tuscany and a very nice rentrée in North Carolina!

    Saluti cordiali

  9. David Terry says:

    Dear Frances,

    Well, we missed you and Ed last night (Halloween, as you’ll probably know).

    I considered dressing up as a ham so as to represent one of our county’s finest products, but, having practically memorized ” To Kill a Mockingbird” at least thrity years ago, decided that attracting-undue-attention wasn’t among my priorities. We left the big-city for a good reason.

    In any case?….Halloween was fun in Hillsborough. My only regret is (no surprise, given the enterprising and almost complete WHITENESS of Hillsborough) is that, for the first time in twenty-something years, I didn’t get to hand out candy to crowds of elaborately costumed and obviously-cherished little black and hispanic kids. The girls always seem to be dressed as princesses (which is, I’m the first to admit, a great relief from all the 12 year-old caucasian girls whose mothers seem to think that “sexy vampire” or “sexy-cheeerleader” is an amusing, well-considered costume for a pre-pubescent girl).

    At 9:30, Herve and I cloed up this old house’s front porch, put out all the candles and jack-o’-lanterns, and we dutifully trotted up to Allan Gurganus’s house for his “open house”. As you may know, he generously does this every year….opening up the house for all the folks who line up for the “tour” of tableaus-vivantes. Last night’s doings prominently featured not entirely convincing impersonations of Mitt and Anne Romney. I’m scarcely the first person to have noticed that this year’s presidential candidates don’t easily lend their I-Take-Myself-VERY-Seriously selves to comedic parodies. Odd…but true, of both Romney & Obama.

    As for dining-room set-ups? I haven’t had one in years and years, and I don’t have one in this house. the kitchen (which is where the action is, anyway) is big enough (you’ve seen it) to accomodate two long tables….enough to sit 16 or 18 at a pinch…..and I just cook and folks just serve themselves….and everything just pops along on its own, merry way.

    Basically, no one could pay me enough to ever have the sort of “formal” (which is to say, scarcely and/or uncomfortably used or even entered) dining-room. You’re quite right, as usual, in emphasizing that having friends over for dinner (whether that be four or 18 folks) is about the people and the food….that’s all.

    As for the ’89 earthquake in San Francisco?… favorite tale of that
    terrible time comes from a British friend of mine, whose quite elderly (but quite healthy up to that date) father was visiting her when the quake struck. Her eighty-something year-old English father was out walking her two little dogs when SOMETHING HAPPPENED….and he fell to the ground, thinking “Oh Lord….I’ve finally had a stroke….I’m disoriented….I’ll just lie here on the sidwalk until someone notices me and sends ‘help’…”

    ….and he lay there and lay….and, then, he began wiggling his toes, and then his knees, and then his legs, and then kept wiggling other things until he realized that he hadn’t at all had a stroke.

    He eventually just stood up. There was no traffic on the street. He walked to the end of it, turned the corner, and he saw that all sorts of only-in-america hell had broken loose. According to my friend, he was quite cheered at this further proof of his resilience, and he chipperly went back to his daughter’s house, telephoned her at work, and told her that there’d been an earthquake. Not that she didn’t already know…..

    See you and Ed later in the Fall……

    —-david terry

  10. Margie says:

    Just saw the pic.. they are beautiful. Love the house it takes me on an armchair vacation for a brief but enjoyable moment. I also got to look at the recipes and one of my favorites, Jambalaya. My family made it for us when we were kids and always at family get togethers, even at Christmas and Thanksgiving. When you said have a green for the side.. we always used kale or spinach with feta sprinkeled on top, with a touch of apple cider vinagar, red onion and mandrin oranges. Yummy. A sweet sour combo taht left you wanting more. I copied a few of the recipes to see what I can do with it. Wish me luck. THanks for all you do.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Margie???? Wonder if this is really to me???? I love Jambalaya but have posted or published no recipe for it. Frances

  11. Jill Devaus says:

    Ciao Frances
    A lovely blog. Disappointed not to meet you recently in Cortona. Right now I am sitting in a roof top bar in a hotel in Athens looking at the wonderful Acropolis which is backlit by the sunset. In an hour or so they will turn on the lights and it will be a different magic. We had 4 days on Santorini and sampled some lovely Greek food and 3 days on Paros which provided the rest we needed. The wine takes a bit of getting used to but my friends and I have developed a taste for vin santo. We don’t usually drink red and the whites are a bit hit and miss. It has been a lovely month away and it will be good to get home next week. I have converted my friends who now all own your books and I am thinking of starting off my book club with a cooking night and your cookbook. Hope the weather in Toscana improves. Kind regards Jill

  12. Alicia says:

    Happy Belated Birthday to Ed! My husband just came home from a leadership conference at Duke Divinity School and guess what he brought me!?
    It was your new cookbook Frances and Ed. I just put my little 8-year old darling to bed and we are nearly ready to sit together and plan, plan, plan… Thank you for sharing your recipes. We stay in Borgo Rapale each Fall for a little while and catch a glimpse and taste of heaven as all the wonderful foods come into season. Our daughter, Sarah’s favorite of all time is cinghale in any way, form or fashion. Thank you again for taking the time to write it all down. The pictures are gorgeous.
    Best regards from Fairhope, AL.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Alicia, ah, Fairhope. We have relatives there–the McInerneys! Hope to visit there soon. Best, Frances

  13. Rick says:

    Hi Frances,
    May I use the blog to thank Jeff and Steve for their kind words… Thanks guys, I know you are regulars here as well and I enjoy reading your contributions too.

    Re: the sinkhole… While I was removing my muddy leg from the hole and simultaneously fishing out my shoe which chose to remain in the muck, I had a great idea for a marsh garden for this space for next spring. I then sat on the ledge of the wrecked gazebo floor, looked out on to the space and dreamed. It was enough to make me smile. What’s the expression “out of the ashes…”

    Ciao all,

  14. Mary 'B' says:

    Dear France,
    I adore reading your blog. I feel as though I am still in Cortona as I see all your wonderful photos, explanations and comments to your readers.
    I have come to Cortona in the summer for the past 9 years and enjoyed it so much that I finally bought an apartment in the center at the ospedale and settle in December.
    Can you explain the differnce in becoming a resident or non-resident? The tax differs and I can’t get a true explanation.
    Any suggestions?

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Mary, congratulations. The former ospedale looks like an interesting project. We are residents–there’s some break on electricity bills, but otherwise I see no need for it. If you are a resident, you must obtain a driver’s license within the year–a formidable project! Overall, I’d say don’t bother. Frances

  15. David Terry says:

    P.S. Hey Frances…

    (1) This old house DOES, indeed, have a dining-room, which was fine&dandy, I suppose, back in the days when it also had live-in servants who merely had to trot the food out of the then-separate kitchen building, down an outside passageway (converted to a very long, narrow bathroom in the forties), and plop it down in front of folks.

    That bathroom’s gone, courtesy of the 1990 renovation/restoration. So, predictably enough, are all of the servants. So, that admittedly very pretty, large, many-windowed, high ceilinged 1800 room is a sort of stranded, dead-end lacunae….with one door leading into it, and no doors leading to anywhere else in this rambling house.

    We put most of the books there. My predicament now (as I’ve told several folks) is that I don’t know what to CALL the room; “The Library” sounds pretentious, and “The Reading Room” would be utterly inaccurate, since all I ever do there is to leaf through pretty picture books.

    Herve refers to it as “The Sulking Room”; it’s remote from the rest of the house and, consequently, the quitest spot in the joint. Kate, the oldest & crankiest female terrier, goes there, gets on the couch, and spends an hour or so growling-to-herself whenever the too-rambunctious, much younger males get on her nerves.

    2. Reading about your marble “bar sink”, I wondered if the Italians have those enormous architectural-salvage shops that I see regularly (I love visiting them) in small towns and villages in Southern France. Generally, they’re located on the edge of a town, and they usually occupy at least a couple of acres. I don’t as a very general rule, enjoy any sort of shopping outside of groceries or nurseries (plants, not babies), but I always pull over to visit these places.

    You (or at least I) can wonder around for hours…..would you have any use for a 17th century, three-tiered & two-ton marble mantlepiece… or a massive stone staircase (these are inevitably stuck out in the back lot, shooting off & up into nowhere)?….or perhaps a pair of six-foot high garden urns?….or the remnants of a cloister?…

    I always choose the largest cheminee/mantlepiece I can find,and I testily tell Herve “Well, if I can’t have what I WANT, then just don’t bother getting me anything else on this trip….”

    He’s always pleased to indulge me in this request, and (as you might guess, and nine years into the relationship), I remain a remarkably cheap date.

    3. I was looking through your cookbook last night (folks coming for dinner tonight, and my tiny brain couldn’t think of anything “new” to cook), and I found myself informing Herve that, actually, I’ve never eaten an artichoke in my life. Not a single one, nor even a piece of one.

    Odd (he was sort of shocked), but true. I do recall that, back when I was growing up, those little, quartered & sort of rancidly pickled ones would sometimes show up in “fancy” country-club salads, but I was always told by my older cousins to avoid them because they were “nasty”.

    I saw artichokes for sale yesterday at Weaver Street Market. I’m going to buy a few, follow your recipe for stuffing them, and see what happens. If nothing else, I’ll have at least eaten an artichoke during my lifetime.

    Level Best as Ever,

    David Terry

    • Frances Mayes says:

      David, I am truly shocked. Artichokes are one of the gods’ foods, especially when sliced and fried. Yes, we have those huge salvage yards and I am partial to cotto, the old hand made bricks. I often buy a stack, not knowing what will become of them, but little projects present themselves and I’m happy to visit my own stash. Why not say “The Library”??? Doesn’t sound pretentious to me. Books, combined with your paintings…a galleria. A presto, Frances

  16. Anne - Music and Markets Tours says:

    What inviting and beautiful rooms! Your mention of demijohns reminds me of when Kirk found an abandoned one in the little village of Vias when we were walking home with neighbors from a dinner. He’s always on the lookout for interesting trouvées (found items) and was excited to see this. Our neighbors could not understand – why in the world would you want an old wine jug??? But even they agree that it looks interesting tucked in the corner of the living room under the spiral staircase of La Belle Cour, our village house in Vias. And he also found a smaller one with a long neck kind of sticking out sideways which we have on an etagére. Love those found treasures!

  17. Joy says:

    Thank you for posting all those lovely pictures. I especially loved seeing the roses! When I was in Italy last May there were so many big, beautiful rose bushes just starting up. How nice to see the fall crop.

  18. Riki D. says:

    There is something to be said in support of a dining room. It has always been my favorite room of a house. But many people today no longer dine… They have found alternative ways to eat…

    The avalanche downward all started in the 50’s with television trays that supported one’s dinner while taking part in the anti-social participation of watching television while eating one’s dinner. It was the beginning of the loss of family values – knowing and being acquainted with each other and learning how to converse. Table manners, too, began their long slide downward…

    The idea of dining has never died at my house… The dining room has a table and chairs for four. Intimate dinners are important to me. In the dining room, there are also the chandelier, the sideboard, the server, side chairs and a handy dumb waiter. I have augmented the idea of dining to all the rooms of the house by installing a table of some sort and chairs – providing spaces to dine, sit and have tea or coffee, read a book, write a hand-written letter, and other things that might strike my fancy. I can have a snow day breakfast and sit at the right table for watching the birds in the snow. I can easily have 24 for dinner by having four people at six tables… The look of the house can change easily by moving about the tables and sets of chairs to suit my current mood.

    My first trip to Italy, I lived with a family in Le Marche. There, we lived around the dining room table. Life occurred at the table. We read, had serious discussions, we played cards, we chatted, we partook of a merenda or a caffè and we used our olfactory senses to anticipate the forthcoming meal… The table was where life in the house happened – sitting there with others until we went to bed. It recalled life at the home of my German grandmother, who lived in Pennsylvania – a table life that I had long forgotten because I visited so infrequently… I never stopped to think that the habit might have European roots…

    On returning home from my first trip to Italy over 40 years ago, I started in the living room and pushed back the sofa and chairs. I installed a table with leaves in the center of the room and several comfortable chairs. On the table’s surface, I created a tablescape – books, an urn of dried flowers, several small paintings, a sculpture and some gorgeous shells and other curiosities – like a Dutch cabinet. It was there that I began to entertain as I lived in Italy; serving cheese, bread and wine or tea and scones for those that came to visit. Somehow, I became more comfortable at that table sitting in a chair with arms and my cat sitting in my lap enjoying my company… Who really needs a living room?

    But nothing will ever take the place of dining at a table in a proper dining room! There is something so right about those things that intimidate those that have never used them – big, freshly starched, damask napkins; the size of silver that is appropriate for the meal – breakfast, lunch or dinner; fish forks and knives; fruit served from a crystal bowl of ice cold water; and even finger bowls are fantastic every once in a while as needed. They are little treats of civility that bring back the past and make dinner a bit more ceremonious. Even in Italy food has its time and place and is served in courses – plates never look as if one has been to the buffet table and made overly abundant choices. But it is fun to experience new things in the dining room to expand one’s horizons and enrich one’s life and especially to decide if something that is unfamiliar is perhaps more to your liking…

    It is time for the dining room to take back its place in our lives to teach us civility: good manners; dining etiquette; the skills of conversing and listening; and most importantly, how to be good friends…

  19. Andrea Olynick says:

    Dearest Frances,

    I love you, your sensibilities and your writing truly changed my life. It gave me courage to try new things (for me cooking, gardening, and a little sewing – i had never given myself permission to do something poorly, hence wouldn’t even try – so boring. I’ve always loved words but your descriptions and thoughts made me see the world in a new and brighter light. I thank you and ask God to bless you. Have you ever read: Starting With Tuscany – Giovanna Peel or Merry Hall – everley Nichols, French Lessons – Alice Kaplan, French Impressions – John S. Littell, and one of my favorinte audiobooks, Nella Last”s, War and Nella Last’s Peace, and Soul of a Lion – Alice Von Hildebrand. You brought be to these books and I love them. I buy your audio I love your reading and I buy your books so marvel at your writing in print too. Thank goodness you read your books. Don’t stop. Can’t wait for the memoir. I had made a list of books I wanted you to write and a memoir of your childhood and youth was on my list! Yeah. I also love Enchanted April both book and movie. Just watched it during Scary Hurricane Sandy. Everyone keep the book recommendations! Loved Palladians Days! Audio was great too. God Bless!

  20. Andrea Olynick says:

    Dearest Frances,

    I love you, your sensibilities and your writing truly changed my life. It gave me courage to try new things (for me cooking, gardening, and a little sewing – I had never given myself permission to do something poorly, hence wouldn’t even try – so boring. I’ve always loved words but your descriptions and thoughts made me see the world in a new and brighter light. I thank you and ask God to bless you. Have you ever read: Starting With Tuscany – Giovanna Peel or Merry Hall -Beverley Nichols, French Lessons – Alice Kaplan, French Impressions – John S. Littell, and one of my favorite audiobooks, Nella Last”s, War and Nella Last’s Peace, and Soul of a Lion – Alice Von Hildebrand. I really think you would like that one. You brought be to these books and I love them. I listen to your audio first. I love your writing and I buy your books to marvel at your writing in print too. Thank goodness You doing the reading for your audiobooks. Don’t stop. Can’t wait for the memoir. I had made a list of books I wanted you to write and a memoir of your childhood and youth was on my list! Yea! I also love Enchanted April both book and movie. Just watched it during Scary Hurricane Sandy. Everyone keep the book recommendations Coming! Loved Palladians Days! Audio was great too. God Bless!

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Andrea, many thanks for all these intriguing book recs, and for all the kind words. Heartfelt thanks! Frances

  21. Scott says:

    Dear Frances: I awake to a lovely morning in New Jersey after almost a week of Hurricane Sandy’s wrath. I was grumpy after two days+ without power and heat, plus a small amount of water in my basement and a couple of lost trees on my property–but feel guilty after hearing what so many others have endured and continue to deal with: lost houses, cars, lives, etc. Puts things in perspective and reminds me once again to savor each moment.

    Our two weeks in Italy were two of the best in our very happy lives: we are talking about returning to stay there for a month or two once retirement completely claims me. Now that my wife isn’t teaching and we don’t have to adhere to a summer travel schedule, we are happy to think we won’t do any big traveling during the high-travel tourist summer months and think the fall and spring would be lovely times to be abroad.

    In some ways, I think it must be hard to live in two worlds as you do: your lives in Italy and your lives in North Carolina but, in other ways, I would think the ‘enjoy each moment’ lifestyle would flourish in such a diverse environment. Do you look forward to returning to North Carolina, leaving your life in Italy or is there a gentle tug on you when you close the door to Bramasole knowing you won’t be back for a while? Seeing your photos of both Bramasole and your mountain home, it’s clear that you’ve feathered your nest(s) there.

    Last but not least: In my last e-mail, I mistakenly said “la dulce vita” and my wife (who speaks beautiful Italian but claims she doesn’t) was quick to point out that it should have been “la dolce vita.” Mea culpa! Best regards: Scott

  22. Yolanda says:

    Just beautiful! Thank you for sharing this magnificent pictures they are all lovely.

  23. Margaret says:

    Greetings from Montepulciano. Is that Crostata I spy there in the first picture? It looks delicious. I was discussing this today on my own blog with some people who love all things Italian but find the desserts a bit on the dull side, and crostata (or “jam tart” as someone described it) was top of the list. Like you, we place a lot of importance on eating in the dining room, which in our case is a restored grotta (cave) carved into the hillside that doubles as a cantina for our wine.

  24. Joe says:

    Dear Frances,

    Those iron wine racks look very cool and must weigh a ton!

    Here is a tip for cleaning out the glass wine demijohns – fill 3/4 with water, drop in 2 or 3 Polident tables, swish around every few hours, and empty out after 12 hours. It will remove all of the grit and make them look new!



  25. Laura (Tutti Dolci) says:

    Lovely photos, your home is beautiful! I was on the train from Rome to Florence on Oct. 30 and the views were breathtaking. Fortunately we had one clear day for photos in Florence before the rain moved in! Hope you are enjoying this season of delicious feasts!

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Laura, you probably saw Cortona out the train window. Too bad you didn’t hop off and have a glass of wine with us! Frances

  26. Marie says:

    I pop in to the blog or twitter feed as a reward during my work-day – a little mini virtual travel break, smiling to find that Frannie and Eddie are on the move, living well in NC or Italy, surrounded by beauty and friends. Tonight we’ll light a fire in the wood-stove, open a bottle of something delicious, plan some fun for our the warmish week-end to come(can’t rake or finish garden clean up, we’re covered with snow) and savor a happy end to the elections….the angels were on our side, may it continue…

  27. Barb says:


    First – thoughts and prayers to those in the path of Sandy. Such terrible devastation. Rick, pleased that the sink hole was small and churned new ideas and Scott, lucky you for escaping as much as you did. I had the misfortune to live in Ontario in ’98 when the ice storm hit – 11 days without power. Some went 3 weeks! What a thrill when it suddenly returned at 10 pm one dark night. I ran around like a manwoman cleaning the bathrooms….ice melting in the bathtub for flushing the toilet leaves one really nasty ….ring?

    And Frances, many thanks once again – I am having the pleasure of re-reading the Tuscany books and once again enjoying my way through A Year in the World. “We” just left Portugal!

    So far, here in the Ottawa Valley, we have been spared any serious weather of the white type. The leaves are long gone and the grey skies are payment for the lovely bright leaves. But your books take me to sunny skies, forno oven pizza and beauty. It is such a welcome respite.


  28. Christina says:

    Cara Frances,

    It’s been years since I have read your book and watched Under the Tuscan Sun. I have to tell you that I cried sooo much the first time (5 times at least so far 🙂 and the reason is because at that moment I could picture my self in Tuscany. And I still do. I decided to make my dream come true: leave everything behind and go live in Tuscany.

    I am 33 years old. I live and work as a copywriter in Greece the last 15 years. I have contacted the Florence University of Florence to go and study winery there and I have sent emails to villas and wineries in Tuscany to go and work for free for a couple of months, learn the job and afterwards, hopefully to work there for real 🙂

    It’s a hard decision to leave your life as you know it and go start all over again in a foreign country, but because of you and your books and movie, I feel that Tuscany is my home. And I’ve never been there. Imagine…

    I haven’t had any news from anyone after my emails, but I don’t lose hope. After all, they say they built the train tracks over the Alps before there was a train that could make the trip. They built it anyway. They knew one day the train would come…

    Thank you so much. And if or should I say, when everything turns out the way I dream, I will write to you again and let you know what you did 😉

    Ti baci,


    • Frances Mayes says:

      Christina, I do believe the poet William Stafford’s lind “Act in the little ways that encourage good fortune.” Best to you–Frances

  29. Kay German says:

    Have just spent my Christmas Holiday reading “Under the Tuscan Sun.” I feel that I have had a wonderful vacation in Cartona.

  30. Kay German says:

    Please forgive my incorrect spelling of Cortona.

  31. Tina Bland says:

    Frances, my mom and I just ADORE your books. This summer, my husband and I traveled to Italy and stayed west of you in Lucca. We visited all over Tuscany and some wineries and athe Cinque Terre and are now obsessed with the Italian way of life. I noticed your cookbook in a little book store in the walled town, and had to have it. I had read Sun and Bella, and knew I’d love your cookbook instantly. I think you should write at least 10 more! Mom loves your cookbook too, just bought her her own copy so I could have mine back. She’s never been to Italy, but I am trying to talk her in to going with us soon – she would never want to come back. Tuscany sings to my soul, I can’t wait to live there one day!

    Anyways, love your writing, your cooking, and think you are great. You are my true inspiration, like the beautiful sun shining down on me telling me to live and enjoy. THANK YOU!

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