With the breathless anticipation that seduced her readers to fall in love with Venice and then Tuscany, Marlena de Blasi now takes us on a new journey as she moves with her husband, Fernando, to Orvieto, a large and ancient city in Italy's Umbria. Having neither an edge to a sea nor a face to a foreign land, it's a region less trampled by travelers and, in turn, less accepting of strangers. So de Blasi sets out to establish her niche in this new place and to win over her new neighbors by doing what she does best, cooking her way into their hearts. (Her recipes are included.)
Rich with history and a vivid sense of place, her memoir is by turns romantic and sensual, joyous and celebratory, as she searches for the right balance in this city on the hill, as well as the right home—which turns out to be the former ballroom of a dilapidated sixteenth-century palazzo.
De Blasi meets and makes friends with an array of colorful, memorable characters, including cooks and counts and shepherds and a lone violinist, and their stories, too, become a part of the tapestry of life that she weaves for herself in Orvieto. With a voice full of wonder, she brings to life these engagingly quirky people and the aloof, almost daunting society that exists in Umbria. Not since Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence has a writer so happily succeeded in capturing the essence of a singular place and in creating a feast for readers of all stripes.