“Every Day in Tuscany”
Lecture, 7 p.m. Tues., March 16. Free. Atlanta Botanical Garden, 1345 Piedmont Ave., N.E.
The pre-lecture reception is sold out.
By C. W. Cameron
Frances Mayes captured the imagination of America 13 years ago with the publication of “Under the Tuscan Sun,” her account of buying and restoring a three-story house called Bramasole in Cortona, Italy.
For Mayes, falling in love with Bramasole was the start of a reinvention of herself and a re-framing of her life. The most lasting legacy of the purchase? An appreciation for life’s moments.
Her third memoir on life in Italy, “Every Day in Tuscany” (Broadway Books, $25), has just been released. The book tour brings her to Atlanta on Tuesday for a reception hosted by the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
During a recent phone conversation from her home in North Carolina, Mayes talked about her roots in Georgia and what she calls the “deliciousness” of life in Tuscany.
On Atlanta: Mayes’ fans know she was born in Fitzgerald, but may not know she has extensive family in Atlanta. “I love to come to Atlanta now and get down there as much as I can. It’s such a vibrant city and there are so many marvelous things to do. I took my grandson to ‘The Nutcracker’ and the Titanic exhibit. Even if I hadn’t grown up in Georgia, I’d still like to go to Atlanta.”
On celebrity: It’s hard to imagine that Mayes could enjoy the Titanic exhibit and not be overrun with fans. “My fame is in small towns in Italy,” she said with a laugh. In America, she said, she enjoys total anonymity.
Now tied to the University of Georgia: “A lot of people in my family have gone to school at the University of Georgia and now they have asked me to donate my papers there. I was thrilled to give them to Georgia, and my husband was thrilled because it cleared out the garage!” she said. She’ll be speaking at UGA library on March 30.
On life in Italy: “I wish I had the power to convey how lovely life is in rural Italy. I’m attracted to country life, an old obsession from having grown up in South Georgia. The life we live in Italy is like life in a lot of rural places, but for me, it’s particularly wonderful in Italy.”
On the Italian take on life: “The thing that holds me to Italy is the people. They have a sense of everyday life that I have found life changing. They live in the moment, and there is a special kind of appreciation for everyday life. That’s why I wanted to write this third, and probably last, memoir. I wanted to capture some of the deliciousness of everyday life there.”
The similarities of Southern life: “In both places we appreciate eccentric people and storytelling. But overwhelmingly it is the hospitality, the sense of celebration at the table. Food is just as important to Italians as it is to Southerners. To me, the best way to learn about the culture of a place is to immediately learn how they eat, what they eat and who they have at the table.”