La Primavera! First Day of Spring!

March 20th, 2013

We’re planning a bonfire this weekend, with a burning of Old Man Winter. This cold has gone on too long but, at last, there’s a bit of balm in the air. The garden is brightening every day and bunches of daffodils grace every room in my house. Tromboni they’re called in Italian, and so I listen to their loud yellow music. Right now my North Carolina vegetable garden looks bare but in a few weeks, we will be planting. Soon, I’m starting the tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse. Those are scuppernong grapes in the back, along with Percy Gourd, our scarecrow. The second photo is our vegetable garden in Tuscany last summer. Those are raspberries–both red and yellow–along the fence, and they’re the best thing we plant, other than tomatoes.

Yesterday I started giant sunflower seeds in those little plantable pots, and hacked off a lot of rosemary to root. With a garden this large, you have to plant seeds and propagate plants or face bankruptcy. My neighbor gave me a Duchesse de Brabant rose cutting, and a few of her wild cyclamen. Those gifts of plants I somehow cherish over others and try to baby them into flourishing.

During the chilly nights, we’ve served dinner on trays by the fire, then we read and research our summer travel plans. I have especially enjoyed The Life of Objects by Susanna Moore and plan to find her other books. I’ve read many WWII-era novels but never one from the perspective of cultured, non-Nazi Germans. First we’re in their pre-war world, and then witness their drastic experiences and the end of life as they knew it. The story is told by a young Irish woman who was employed to make lace in their household, and ended up living through the war and the hard Russian occupation with them. The writing is compelling.  Horse People: Stories by Cary Holladay is my other current favorite. She links the stories and they seem to fall through time, catching events and landing them elsewhere, catching characters and letting them fall into later stories. That’s vague, I know, but the stories are hard to describe. I found the loose sense of time and the reoccurances very moving. A fine writer!  If you liked Olive Kittridge by Elizabeth Strout, you’ll enjoy this. I read A Strong West Wind by Gail Caldwell, a memoir of Texas and leaving Texas, or trying to leave Texas. Her perspective is the long view, and many, many literary references are mentioned in order to explain emotion. Some might find this distancing but I was carried along by her energetic prose. The first two-thirds of the book bounces around–it’s neither chronological or thematic–but you just go with the flow. The last third focuses on her father and stays on point. Both Ed and I have been thrilled to read Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle, a collection of lectures on poetry and the world-at-large. They’re humorous, erudite, thoughtful. I’m still dipping into Alice Munro’s new stories, Dear Life. She’s marvelous. I love how she seems to write like one might draw, without lifting the pen, just letting it loop and join, and somehow the picture works.

If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear what you thought.

We’re loving our fireside trip research. This summer, en route to Italy, we are taking our eleven-year-old grandson to London and Paris. Then we’ll take a fast train to Zurich, rent a car and drive around in Alps, and over to home, Cortona. He is excited. We are excited. What a treat to introduce him to fabulous places. I can’t tell you how many apartment sites we’ve scoured. All the Paris ones I like are on the top floors of old buildings with no elevators. I think we’re about to reserve one of them. The coffee table is stacked with books and journals and maps, and our iPads are loaded with apps. I’m already anticipating 1000 things, not least among them the moment we pull into the driveway at Bramasole. Any city recommendations are so welcome!

La bella primavera! Wishing you long days in the light.

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98 Responses to “La Primavera! First Day of Spring!”

  1. Riki D. says:

    It is always wonderful to read about people and their gardens! Since moving to an apartment, I can no longer have my fingers in the earth to create something of great beauty. So hearing about and visiting gardens is now always a great pleasure!

    Interestingly, at least to me, one of the great gardens of the world was also created by a writer. The gardens of Iris Origo at La Foce (just south of Siena) are among the most beautiful in all of Italy. She and her husband tamed the land and created an Eden from land that should have never produced much of anything… If you are in Italy, please visit them – and be certain to check the websites for when the gardens are open – always on Wednesday afternoons and the first weekend of the month during April to November.

    I love stories about World War II that describe of how people survived the horrors of the war. Thirty years ago, I bought “War in Val D’Orcia” by Irig Origo – a diary of her war experiences. It has remains for me the one book that defines survival. It has prompted me to ask Italians what it was like to live during the war and what they did to survive. Of course, fewer and fewer are available for the discussion. As a result, I would think that Susanna Moore’s book would be a treat – describing war from the other side!

    How gardening is like writing!!! The gardener, too, is always setting the scene…

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Riki, great recommendation. La Foce is most glorious when the immense wisteria loggia blooms. Now there’s a new trattoria on the estate–so lots of reasons to visit. There’s a great book on the garden. Thanks, Frances

  2. angela says:

    Your summer trip sounds wonderful! My daughter studied in Italy one summer, and I hope that she and I can take a trip to the Amalfi Coast next year. I went to Italy the summer of 71 and haven’t been back. I hear it calling me though!

  3. Laura (Tutti Dolci) says:

    I love your vegetable garden, such a lovely space! Your trip with your grandson sounds like so much fun – you will have a wonderful time building memories with him!

  4. gereon de leeuw says:

    Dear Frances,

    I really enjoyed your post. My green fingers start to itch when I see all those pictures of veggies and gardens. My balcony in Amsterdam is longing for plants now.

    If you are visiting Switzerland this summer you might want to go to Luzern on the Vierwaldstädter lake. Just in between all te high mountains.

    And if you have time left you are always welcome to visit my hometown Amsterdam.

    Have a nice day, warmest regards Gereon

  5. Scott says:

    Good morning, Frances! It’s a gray day here in Princeton and my half-day of work (which always means a long weekend ahead of us). We are heading for an overnight getaway at the shore tonight and have just completed our European travel plans for late-November and December: five days in Rome followed by ten days in Cortona (with the Italianis, of course), and then our last five days spent in an apartment in Dublin (our first taste of Ireland). The planning is almost as much fun as the actual trip.

    Your mentioning bringing your grandson on your summer adventures is something I can relate to very well: our youngest son (who will be 24) will get his first taste of Italy (and the Italianis!) during the first ten days of our trip and I’m so anxious to have him discover the wonders that travel (and tastes of other cultures and lifestyles) will afford him. The stuff that dreams are made of, to simplify it, but an exciting prospect.

    Hope things are bright and sunny in North Carolina on this gray day. (Somehow, the thoughts of pending travels always makes the days sunny in some way, don’t you think?) With best regards: Scott

  6. Riki D. says:

    Any 12 year old or husband eager for excitement would enjoy the ride by car up the Passo della Foppa (Mortirolo) in the comune di Mazzo di Valtellina. One side is easier than the other… But it is the difficult side that makes it fun with its narrow road, about 38 hairpin curves and on-coming traffic. It is like a board game – one goes forward and one goes backward… One stops to let people pass that are coming in the opposite direction… There are many bikers. The most inspiring biker that I saw had no legs and powered his bicycle with his hands and arms… One just loved his determination to conquer that mountain!!! I had not had so much fun since I was a child in the 1940’s and my father took a wrong road in the hills near Mount Rushmore. The gravel road was one lane wide with no guardrails. When faced with a logging truck our enormous car had to back down the mountain for what seemed like an hours ride… So I suggest that that ride up Montirolo just might be that montagna russa of dreams…

  7. Ali says:

    What a nice garden. Here in Maine we just got a foot and a half of fresh snow. Planting a garden seems light years away. I love reading about all the trips that you take. Being an arm chair traveler I get to come along too.

  8. Marisa Bergamasco says:

    Dear Frances,

    I am happy enjoying the beginning of spring in the North Hemisphere. Here, in the South, the autum has started many days ago, pity, because I like very very very much summertime.

    Nice both gardens, indeed! Complimenti!

    Regarding your coming splendid trip I would suggest this site to look for an appartment in Paris It was recommended to me by writer Carl Honorè, and they seem to be great in what they do. You can take a look at their site and decide by yourself.

    Enjoy spring! Il mio riscaldamento è già accesso! I don´t like cold weather at all…

    A big hug to you and your family!

    Marisa Bergamasco

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Thanks, Marisa. After scouring many sites, I found a great apartment through a friend! I will keep this info though because I hope to get to Paris often. Frances

  9. Marike says:

    Dear Frances,
    I very much recommend to you to go to the musee de montmartre. It is one of those hidden trasures and very nice for your 11 year old grandson. Last summer we were there with our boys 10 & 15 years old. It is next to the vineyard of Montmartre. Did you know there is one? that might be of interest to your husband. We had an appartment next to it and it was lovely. Everyone thinks Montmartre is so crowded, but that is only a part of it. There are many lovely places to be (early morning is extra nice!) and to eat. And this museum is one of them. Enjoy! Marike
    P.S. And don’t miss the Musee Rodin!

  10. Paige says:

    Dear Frances,

    Thank you for all of your wonderful posts. I feel such a connection to Cortona. I traveled with my father to Italy a couple of years ago. He is also a native of Fitzgerald so weI have read all of your books. I also have a connection to the Kehoe’s and wanted to visit the UGA Kehoe center there.

    Because I dream of living in Italy some day, I am always looking at real estate online. I have attached a link to a palazzo in Orte that I thought you might like to see. The entire house is covered in the original frescos done by Pietra da Cortona. It is beautiful. One can dream…


  11. Julie Mize says:

    Happy Spring! I am experiencing the return of spring joy at my hanging baskets that are filling out, the rosebuds all on the verge of explosion (“Buff Beauty” has over 250), the spirea already in full white cascades…and my own small vegetable garden, right now starting with a few tomatoes, herbs, arugula, and spinach. One of my favorite parts of this time of year is recording everything that blooms, either in photographs or illustrations. I have a blank book in which I have drawn and painted flowers from my grandparents’ and my own gardens for years. With gardening tips I have learned from them, and notes from my own successful planting schemes, it is a special book for me.

    I wish you great joy and harvests as you cultivate your own two gardens – at home and abroad.

  12. Pietros Maneos says:

    Frances – your vegetable garden and vines look lovely. You should look into planting a truffiere on the property. I am counting down until mid-April when I can return to North Carolina, but until then I will live vicariously through posts like this one, so please keep them coming! 🙂

    Best Wishes,

    Pietros Maneos

  13. Jackie says:

    Hello Frances!

    I must start by saying that I loved the movie adaptation of your book “Under the Tuscan Sun”, and have seen it many times. As a displaced New Yorker, living in Indiana for 16 years, I have had the pleasure of seeing and living in another part of the United States. My husband’s family has resided in this same area of Indiana for over 200 years, which I find wonderful and rich with history.

    A very good friend of mine recently went to Italy, and I was very interested in her stories, as I would love to vacation in Italy at some point in my life. I recently purchased your book “Under the Tuscan Sun” and was shocked to see your references of Somers, NY (something I don’t remember in the movie). I am from Somers, NY, having lived there for 25 years (Lincoldnale, specifically). I am curious to know where you lived in Somers, and based upon your description of an 18th century home, I can only guess that you lived somewhere either in town, or close to it (maybe by the cemetary?).

    The book is wonderful, as is your description of everything Italian. My family heritage is largely Italian, Genovese and Sicilian, so I would love to see those areas of Italy some day, as well as Cortona.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Jackie, we lived in a pre-revolutionary house very close to the center of town, which was tiny. We were three houses away from the library, though I would be surprised if it still were the library–it was a small, old house then. Loved the elephant! Thank you! Frances

  14. Barb says:

    Oh lovely, to be planning another trip and bringing your Grandson. I hope you encourage him to take more photo’s. I do enjoy his eye!

    I have just “returned” from travelling, once again, through A Year in the World. But this time, I toured with my brand new up-to-date world atlas. My old 1970’s version – although I still adore some features – is sort of outdated! It was wonderful to really add a new dimension to the book and the experiences.

    Spring came in with a nasty storm, adding more snow to what we had – but things seem to be smartening up now. Although there is still FAR too much snow, I am dreaming little spring dreams. Watching the squirrels act all twitterpated, the cardinals are singing for mates, and this afternoon I heard the Canadian Geese honking. They would be looking for open water on the Rideau River here in Ottawa. No corn leavings to be found on the fields right now!

    And now, I know it is a bit early for check-in – but would my room reservation at the Yellow Cafe happen to be ready??


  15. Judy Gingerella says:

    Ciao Frances,
    With longer days of spring in the air, la bella primavera, I am filled with anticipation of our next stay in Cortona and also busy reading and researching. This will be the third summer we are renting a house inside the wall, and we love it more each year.

    We first visited Cortona in 2007 because of Under the Tuscan Sun, but just for an hour or so between other towns. Nonetheless, we were hooked. Before our 2012 trip, I highlighted many pages in Every Day in Tuscany. So much to see and do, and we mostly ventured without agenda. Truly living our dream.

    Last year one day in June, again without agenda, we took the road from Cory’s toward Citta di Castello, a city we knew nothing about. I wrote about it in a post I titled The Road Less Travelled:
    (Although bold of me to suggest, you might enjoy reading it.)

    Last night, as I was perusing Every Day in Tuscany again, I was delighted when I found your chapter on Citta di Castello. You see, although we spent hours driving and taking pictures, we never made it all the way to Citta. So, I was excited to read your account of the town. In addition, as I read your description of driving the back roads, it brought to mind all the beauty and simplicity that we experienced on our adventure.

    I assume you still consider Citta “a prime choice for an overnight stop.” Because of your description of the town, Citta will definitely be on our list for this summer. If you have any updated recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

    Your gardens are lovely and inviting. Can’t wait to plant my own, especially basil!

    Grazie e Buona Pasqua!

  16. April says:

    Miss Frances, what a beautiful space! Years ago, I remember reading about a garden in Hillsborough (maybe in Martha Stewart Living?) that has a wonderful collection of hellebores and I have been obsessed with visiting it and with these lovely plants ever since. Winter will not end here in Asheville and we’ve just bought a cabin with a big front yard that needs gardening badly. I feel like Bramasole-yearning for the sun. Happy spring!

    • Frances Mayes says:

      April, That might have been my friend Nancy Goodwin’s garden, Montrose. She wrote a wonderful book about it. Several times a year the garden is open. Well worth the journey! Thanks, Frances

  17. Theresa Barr says:

    Hello Frances,
    First, I want to thank you for inspiring my husband and I to travel to Italy. After reading “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “Bella Tuscany”, we made our first trip to Italy in 2001. We will take our 6th trip there this coming Sept. Each trip has been a marvelous experience.
    On your trip thru the Alps, I want to recommend you visit the Lauterbrunnen Valley. We stayed in Murren last May, which is up on the cliff above the valley. We stayed at the Jungfrau Hotel. From our hotel room balcony we felt like we could “reach out and touch the Alps”. You have to take a cable car up from the valley to get to Murren, so people with a car sometimes prefer to stay in the valley itself. From Murren I would highly recommend taking the cable car up to the top of the Shilthorn where you have a 360 degree view of the Alps. There is a wealth of information on the internet about this area. I’m certain all of you would love it!
    Have a wonderful trip! Theresa

  18. Jillian giro jello says:

    I have been reading Every Day in Tuscany and decided to explore yr pictures of garden in NC. It I was such a pleasure on this cold day to think about things to do in my garden .
    My husband and i had the fun of taking our granddaughter to Cortona this winter,
    .quite an experience to be in the cemetery on All Saints Day. Mingling people, carpets of flowers, and candles covering every surface .
    Having lived in Rome and Naples in the early fifties…and being married to a first generation Italian, we go back several times a year. Luckily we have great tethers to the country because of relatives and friendships.
    Last month my eighty yr old husband was robbed in Termini in Rome. No problem panhandling from the courteous Italians. he managed to get ticket to his mot hers and fathers tiny mountain village near Formia. Closed hotel was opened for him, strangers fed him, and money given to go back to Rome airport.
    Suggestion for books for WW2. The Hare with Amber Eyes …so beautifully written. also,The Golden Lady.

  19. Karina Maria says:

    Dearest Frances,
    Thank you for all of your novels. I leave Friday for Tuscany from New Orleans.
    I’m finishing Bella Tuscany & have listened to Under the Tuscan Sun on tape during my commutes for work. You have inspired me and taught me so much. 10 days will just scratch
    the surface, but I am grateful to you for preparing me to emmerse myself in
    the food, language & culture of Italy. Thank you for sharing Bramasole with us.
    Gratefully yours, Karina Maria. P.S. Great garden!

  20. Donna says:

    This is my first time blogging but I happened upon it while searching the Internet to see when or if you have a new book on your life in Tuscany! I long for Italy and to be able to write like you. Thank you for enriching our lives as we live vicariously through your books. I married an Italian and we just celebrated 33 years of marriage…no children but anyways he promises to take me to Italy someday. So I am beginning to learn the language. Ciao Bella!

  21. Elizabeth Cassaro says:

    Ciao Frances! Just a short note. My son who was a great devotee of
    travelling the United States with his family, finally went to Europe. I
    told him U.S. could wait- go to Europe while you can walk. He finally
    went to Germany (to buy equipment for his company) and his wife joined
    him. They went down the Romantic Highway, stayed at a castle on the
    Rhine, then down to Paris. Later, when I asked him what his best vacation
    ever was, he said the one to Europe, Mom. It was so different. Then at
    a party at his home he asked his friend when he was going to Europe and
    he said he couldn’t afford to. Bud told him “You can’t afford not to!”.
    Success! You see, I hadn’t gotten to Europe until I was forty-nine (Italy,
    of course). European travel is the norm for my family now. In fact, I
    will meet him in Venice in June along with one of my daughters and their
    respective loved ones, and my oldest daughter and her husband shall be in
    the south of Italy up to Lake Garda.

    I love Italy and love keeping up with you and your travels. Received your
    latest book (signed- thank you very much) from my oldest daughter for Christmas.

    Keep on keeping on, Frances!

  22. Christine / beingonCloud9 says:

    Hi Frances,

    I just booked tickets for a new exhibition taking place in London this summer: ‘life and death in Pompeii & Herculaneum’. I remembered you wrote
    that you will come to London this summer, and I thought I have to tell you about this fantastic expo. After all, I know you love visiting museums wherever you are (which sparked an interest for me to do the same when traveling – so many artists I learned from through your books and this wonderful blog (Signorelli, Bronzino etc.) Thank you for that. ), and this expo is about our beloved Italy!

    Tickets sell out soo quickly so if you’re interested book now 😉
    Hope you have a wonderful time in Europe with your grandson!

    All the best, Christine

  23. Tj Joyner says:

    It’s 0230 West coast and wide awake dreaming of life in Italy. Turning 50 this june and like most pondering would of’s,could of’s and should of’s. About 3 years ago I walked away from Health care and moved to Florence for a short 6 month break from life as a burned out ER nurse. I studied the breads of Italy. My tiny loft apartment, 7 flights up with no lift is to this day my paradise.
    I had been to Italy before and knew I’d live there someday, but didn’t know when or how.
    I’m now researching how I can live in Italy. I’ve lost my parents and siblings and have little to no ties here in the states.
    I so agree with you, Italy is a place of peace. At times it’s hard to articulate to those who don’t get it, but it is a place I feel connected to; my home.
    Thank you for your words and works. Maybe someday I’ll run into you in the piazza.

  24. Annette says:

    Hi, I we are doing projects on poems in my English class in high school, and I picked yours, Sister Cat. I understand it (I think) and most of it’s meaning, but I noticed that you mention your own name;
    “I saw the woman walking
    toward my house and
    I thought there’s Frances.
    Then looked in the car mirror
    To be sure.”
    And I was wondering what you meant to accomplish by doing so. Is this written from the point of view of a person other than yourself, or does this have a deeper meaning. Also, I apologize for asking here, and I understand if you don’t reply. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on the meaning of the poem and or thought process in writing the poem.
    Many Thanks,
    Annette, FL

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Annette, Thanks for writing. The “there’s Frances” is that weird kind of displacement one feels sometime. I think the poem is in first person (me), and I’m experiencing that strange flash like you see when a cat looks in the mirror and doesn’t see anything recognizable! Frances

  25. Mickie says:

    Terry and I love your books. I am reading Every Day in Tuscany as we speak as she recuperates from breast surgery. Prognosis excellent so we will be making our hopefully month long trip to Italy in September. We stayed in Paris in an apartment 4 blocks west of La Tour Eiffel and loved it. Top floor WITH an elevator and air conditioning! We used Vacation Rental By Owner but there are other sites out there that do similar things. Have a great spring! Your the best. Say Hi to Ed too.

  26. Debbie says:

    Hi Frances,
    This is probably not the right place to write this as it is not a reply to your post. However, I am sitting on the outskirts of Sydney, having just watched Under The Tuscan Sun (again)and had to write and say ‘Thanks’, for I have fallen in love with your story (and Tuscany) yet again.

  27. Judith Carr says:

    Dear Frances,
    I think I sent this partially by accident. But if not, I repeat: We just returned home from Italy on Sunday. I left my painting of Bramasole with Arnaldo, as you suggested. I hope you enjoy it. He put it by the bar at Pane e Vino, awaiting your return. We really loved our apartment at Locanda Pane e Vino, and especially Debora, who was so kind to us. Also, dinner at La Grotta was fabulous.
    We visited Lucinagno, and found it very charming. Our last two days were spent at the agriturismo, Fontanaro, outside of Paciano. Lucia Pinelli anticipated our every need; offered us her Panda to maneuver the narrow streets, arranged for us to go to the terme at San Casciano, took me to get my hair done in Chiusi, went to dinner with us at Lillo Tatini’s slow food restaurant in Panicali. Every thing was so luxurious without being too, too, expensive.
    In Paris, I think your Grandson would like the Dali Museum in Montmarte. We loved the Marais District. The flea market there, Puce Aligre, was the best!
    Two books I recommend: “Small Island” by Andrea Levy, about Jamaicans serving in their “mother country”, England, during World War II. Also “The Book of Salt” by Monique Truong, told by the chef to Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas during the 20 years they lived in France before the Second World War.
    Please keep writing!

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Judith, thank you for the recs. I just returned and will stop in at Pane & Vino–one of our favorites. Look forward to seeing your painting!! Frances

  28. Scott says:

    Dear Frances: It’s an absolutely beautiful morning here in New Jersey after a rough week on the east coast here. (Our daughter lives in the Boston area and was half-a-block from last week’s tragedy but, thankfully, was not physically hurt. It has been a tense week in too many ways, needless to say, but we are luckier than so many people in that she was unhurt.) My wife and I are dreaming of our trip back to Italy–and Cortona–in December. I am working today and am looking at my “Italian” wall in my office that is filled with pictures from Tuscany–including one I took of Bramasole–and so filled with good memories with promise for the future.)

    It’s nice to think of you back in Cortona now and of the piazza there, the heart-etched cappuccino at the Sports Bar, and what I imagine must be a kind of reawakening after the winter months. I remember all too well one particular passage in one of your books in which your husband said (to paraphrase): The taste is happiness. How nice to see it is contagious!

    Best wishes for the joys of spring: Scott

  29. Karin Therese says:

    Dear Frances, it is this time of year again and yes: I have taken out your Under the Tusan Sun Cookbook. Can’t wait to make all those lovely dishes. I understand your winebook will be out this summer!I look forward to a beautiful summer. I hope your’s will be a good one too for you and Ed. He sounds like a great man to be with. Lots of love from The Netherlands.

    • Rebecca says:

      Hi Karin Therese & Frances,

      … which wine book… is that true, Frances? A new book from you to expect this summer? I thought your next will be out next spring, the Southern memoir? You’re making me nosy, now.

      All the best from springlike England,

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Rebecca, No book this year. We’re still reeling from the cookbook! Next year, the memoir and I have a couple of other ideas perking too. Thanks! Frances

  30. Grant Baugh says:

    Whoever reads this please forward to Frances cuz it is funny and a comment on true Italian life.

    Just got a copy of Every Day in Tuscany and read your comment about people remaking about your husband driving a Fiat. It is exactly the thought I had when in 1968 I was standing in the courtyard of the Ferrari plant in Modena when Enzo Ferrari drove in in a small Fiat–I have a photo–. I then realized that most Ferrari owners have small car to drive around town.

    We are returning to Italy and a small villa near Cittadella in Chianti in September to celebrate our 50th–Love your books and Italy. keep up the good work

  31. kerrie says:

    hi there
    i recommend the san bernadino pass to go down to italy- both sides are much more scenic than the san gottardo and usually far less busy.
    when driving down from zurich take the road to chur enroute to the san bernadino and pass both lake zurich and the walensee on your way- spectacular views and the road all the way through to bellizona is the same route taken by julius caesar!
    have fun

  32. judi pope says:

    You are so lucky coming into Spring Frances. We are in full Autumn here. The trees are glorious with multi coloured leaves and wonderful to ‘crunch’ through when out walking.
    cheere, Judi from Ballarat. Australia

  33. Kiersten Snel (Soon to be Baiamonte ;) says:

    Ciao bella, how wonderful to finally meet you (sort of) although I feel as though I already know you. For some who feels physical pain when away from Italy, your book have been a blessing. I fell in love with Italy at a very young (I was 16 when I first saved enough money to travel from Seattle to Verona and that was seven years ago) and from the first time I lay in the Med facing the stars, I knew this land had some magic for me. I have since been blessed to return 3 times. The third being right now.

    About one year ago when asked what my dream was by a relative I told him that my boyfriend ( now fiance as of 12-12-12) and I wanted to own land and be self sustaining in Tuscany. It just so happened that he had been looking for land in Tuscany for some time and just needed the right people to run it. So now, here we are.

    My Fiance and I landed in Florence 2 days ago and are here for the month of May to look at properties with Olive groves and large gardens. We are wondering if you are in Italy at this time and would perhaps have time for dinner? We would so love to hear your suggestions and wisdom.

    I think you should receive my email along with this?
    I look forward to hearing from you,
    Ciao for now,
    Kiersten, and Antonio

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Kiersten, That all sounds fantastic! Thanks for the invitation but we are going back to the USA this week. Have fun–Frances

  34. Jen Johnston says:

    My dearest Frances,

    I have been pouring over your blogs with such enthusiasm, absolutely enchanted by your pictures and even dangerously (just kidding) envious of your life in Tuscany.
    To be honest, I’m actually thrilled by your generosity in sharing your life with us through so many avenues.
    I am a 41 year old single mother with two delightful boys and unfortunatley because of life circumstances we live a very humble life. That’s ok…I’m so blessed in other ways.
    My dreams of living in Tuscany, having a love affair with a piece of land and gardening and cooking with my own grown produce for the rest of life offers great comfort, even if only in my dreams.
    I have set a goal of spending my 50th in Positano, then travelling to Tuscany to see such exquisite pictures come to life.
    Perhaps, per chance i will meet you in the piazza.
    Dio vi benedica….would be honoured to hear just a hello from you.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Thanks for the note, Jen. I think #50 in Positano sounds just right! Frances

  35. Jennifer Smith says:

    The beauty of the spring makes wish I was there with you Frances. The weather here in Minnesota is crazy. It is almost as if Minnesota is a woman going through many changes.

    Jennifer Smith

    • Judith Carr says:

      Dear Frances,

      Perhaps you have already left Cortona. I guess my painting will have to wait until the next time you return. I’m sure Arnaldo and Debora will take good care of it.– Judith

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Judith- Will go there as soon as I return. Grazie mille. Frances

  36. Stacey says:

    Hi Frances,
    I just wanted to let you know that your books have such a major impact on my life! As a journalist and editor myself, I was so inspired that after reading Under The Tuscan Sun that I took a trip to Tuscany with my best friend (leaving my husband free to go to South Africa for the World Cup Soccer). After our week-long visit to Tuscany I decided to start learning Italian. That was 3 years ago.
    This week my husband and I just returned home to Israel after one month in Italy – finally fulfilling a dream of mine to spend a decent amount of time in Italy. Needless to say my Italian improved greatly after my month-long trip, but more importantly I found Tuscany such a place of peace. Living in such an area of world conflict, Italy is a refuge for me. I did visit Cortona, which I loved, along with many other Tuscan hilltop towns. This summer we are coming back, but going north to Lago D’Orta, where we hope to find a summer home, and some respite from the heat!
    Thank you so much for the gift of your writing, you, more than any other author, have given me so much. You lit the spark that sent me off on my Italian adventure and opened up a new path in my life. Whenever the pressure of war and threat to security in Israel becomes overwhelming, I take down one of your books and re-read it. In that way, I can escape to another world, one where things are peaceful and calm.
    I wish you all good things in life and just wanted to take the time to let you know how special your writing is. I look forward to reading more of your books.
    All the best,

  37. Margery Mayes says:

    Hi Frances – The Paris Wife – story of Ernest Hemingways first wife during the years they lived in Paris – Martina Cole’s books about London crime life – great reads. Have fun in London (my old home town before moving to Canada in 1975)and who does not enjoy spending time in Paris. I have read all Iris Origo’s books – War in Val D’orcia, what a fascinating insight to the suffering of Iris, her family & farms on the La Foce estate, Chianciano Terme, Montipulciano and the Italian people during the years 1943/44 – terrible suffering. Her biography, wow, what a life and The Merchant of Prato – great stuff. Have you seen the BBC tv series “Around the World in 80 Gardens” hosted by Monty Don? – he also did a series about Italian gardens, including La Foce with an interview with Bennedeta (Iris’s daughter) Will be in Italy again next year & a trip to the war graves in France. When in London try & take your grandson for a ride on “The London Eye” – you’ll all love it.
    Driving down from Toronto to High Point NC next week and a stay at our friend’s holiday home at Smith Mountain Lake, Moneta, Virginia.

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Margery, We already have our tickets for the Eye. I will look for the BBC series–sounds very interesting. Happy travels, Frances

  38. april says:

    Miss Frances-have you been to this hotel in Abruzzo? Oh my stars! (I haven’t been, was just reading about it)

  39. Melanie says:

    Hi Frances,
    I am happy to say that my partner and I will travel to Cortona in June for the first time for 2 nights. I have read your other books, but just recently read Under the Tuscan Sun for the first time. I am very much looking forward to experiencing Cortona and hope to recognize aspects of it from your books.

    We are a couple of Canadians living in Lerici, Liguria for the past two years, and will stay for three more years for my husband’s work. It sounds as if you are back in the states now, however I hope to see Bramasole while in Cortona, if the weather is not too hot for walking 🙂
    Take care

  40. Marion says:

    Dear Frances,

    I traveled to Italy for the first time eight years ago, and nearly stayed on permanently. I’ve always regretting leaving. So many magical moments that could never happen in the States surprised me. In Rome, a wizened old man in front of the Pantheon pressed a small medallion into my hand and said “There, bella. Now when you leave Roma, you will come back again. And always think of me, eh?” I still have that medallion, and still hope that he was right.

    In Florence a young man followed me down the street attempting to sell me a rose. I ignored him at first, then told him to go away. “No, no, no, gratis, gratis!” he cried, pushing the rose into my hands. I accepted it, and he kissed me on the cheek. “Ciao, Bella!” he cried, and ten feet behind us a group of young people, probably his friends, burst into applause. I have always wondered what that was all about. The bar tender at the hotel smiled knowingly when I asked him, but wouldn’t say. I wondered if you might know?

    Now a frantic housewife, struggling to make it through each day with children and sanity intact, I travel back to my adopted homeland often through your books. It was such a pleasure to discover this blog! Thank you for the work you’ve done!

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Marion–I don’t know, other than that he liked you. Ed always buys the flowers when the sellers drift through the restaurants. Frances

  41. Mike says:

    Will be in Cortona in June. First time and very excited. From San Diego and enjoy your blog and books. Have a great day.

  42. Donn Downing says:

    Francis: You know my wife, Letitia Sanders, from the past. You and Letitia attended girls nation in Georgia together many many years ago. She has written a book – a kind of memoir involving a professional life (IBM) as it transitions to a retired life as the barn manager of an equestrian facility. It is a good book. I should know as a former correspondent for Time Magazine. She thinks you will remember her and that you could provide some valuable direction about where to go for her in publishing the book. Is there a way to get in touch by telephone for a talk. Our phone number is 415-8974822 and we live in Novato, California (Marin County). Regards. Donn

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Hi Donn, Yes, I remember, even so far back! Can you all write to me % Steven Barclay Agency, 12 Western Ave., Petaluma CA 94952 with a “Please Forward.” Send me a chapter–that might be easiest. Ciao, Frances

  43. mandy meza says:

    I wanted to tell you that you kept me from being very lonley when i moved from scotland to america to live in 2005,i watched under the tuscan sun then went on to read all your books,it was like having a friend write to me and tell me all about their day to day lives,once again thank’s, you have a unique gift of making everyone that read’s your books feel like a friend.

  44. Linda Slater says:

    Dear Frances,

    I just returned from Italy where I spent 4 days in Cortona. I had to share with you that my traveling companion downloaded your poem from Ex Voto called The Sleeper, for me to read after our first night. We had a good laugh and slept in separate rooms the next few nights. By the way, we loved walking by Bramasole. Best to you, Linda Slater

  45. Maurizio P. says:

    Dear Frances,
    I am a young Italian writer who lives in Cortona, near the church of San Domenico, in Borgo San Domenico, you know him? I wrote a novel with Cortona in the background and I’d let you read, if you want.
    I was wondering if you could spend my manuscript to your Italian publishing house. Sorry for being so bold, but you know what they say: Audentes Fortuna iuvat!
    Thanks and look forward to your response.
    PS: On July 7, I’m getting married in the church of St. Nicholas, you know? Your help would be a great gift for me.
    Maurizio Paolucci

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Maurizio, Congratualions on your upcoming wedding–and on finishing a book! My publishers are Rizzoli and Cairo Editions, but I don’t know anyone at either publishing house. A personal contact is useful… Good luck. Frances

  46. Trudy Koch says:

    I have been wallowing in “Under the Tuscan Sun,” and can truly say the book is MUCH better than the movie! All they kept was the title, the three men, and the shrine and the Polonia. Where did Hollywood get the other characters? So, to find out I am now deep into the book about a year’s travels in the Mediterranean. Oh how I loved walking all over Rome and Florence and Venice and Greece! The first trip to Greece, when I hiked up to the Acropolis, I had on a red and white striped dress, low white heels, and felt so overwhelmed at the sheer beauty of the graceful columns that I burst into tears. Not too good for the other tourists. God (s) it was beautiful. And no one warned me that the marble stones were slippery from so many tourists climbing up up into the polluted Greek sky! As a teacher I got to do my tours of Italy and Greece and Turkey in the spring break or the summertime. Eventually I too got off the beaten track. I took my students into the Ghetto in Venice to see the bas relief of the last roundup of the poor Jews, and the guide was flabbergasted that Americans knew about it. Piad our respects. Travel is so wonderful. I’m glad I mde the 17 trips on a budget when I did because now there are just the memories, and they are all good. You are a wonderful writer. I shall read everything you write. Thank you for the books. Trudy Koch who lives on the teeming shores of the Rappahannock River in the Northern neck of Vir-geen-ya where Time stands still. may 26

  47. Lynn Bertin says:

    Dear Frances,

    If you would like to have a little chuckle please read my posting about Bramasole in my blog

    This was my 4th time in Cortona and I only got the nerve to take the trek to your house on this trip. I have to be honest in saying that I felt a little like a stalker and relieved to know that you weren’t there:)I’ve never stood at someone’s gate before to take pictures of their house. Lovely by the way and I love reading your beautiful blog!


    • Frances Mayes says:

      Lynn- What a grand group of photos on your blog. Great trip I can tell. Next time, take Toby! Thanks–Frances

  48. Lilian Alves Nogueira says:

    Adoro seu livro, suas histórias faz com que viajemos até a Itália, pois esse é um sonho de consumo. Quem sabe um dia terei a chance de realizá-lo.

  49. Michal (Prague CZ) says:

    Dear Frances,

    last year i got your first book as a present. I loved it. To make the story short i just say that today we arrived in Cortona from Florence and we plan to visit all the places around, get filled with olive oil and wine of course. Im such a fan of yours (im 33 and i did not read many books in my life, trust me, but yours i could read without a break). I love to cook and plant flowers and some vegetables also in my garden outside Prague.
    I wonder if you visit Prague. Its a beautiful city to visit with a very rich history. best time is the summer time..
    i sometimes have dreams of Bramasole…thank you..Michal

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Michal–I almost made it to Prague last year! Hope to go soon. It’s at the top of my list! Frances

  50. Margery Mayes says:

    Frances, are you still on Facebook – don’t get your posts anymore?

    • Frances Mayes says:

      Margery, Yes, I am still on Facebook–just have been taking a break from it because of much work and travel! Later! And thanks–Frances

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