See You in the Piazza: New Places to Discover in Italy, by Frances Mayes (2019)


See You in the Piazza: New Places to Discover in Italy, by Frances Mayes (2019)

The woman who introduced readers to Italy with Under the Tuscan Sun more than two decades ago returns with another love letter to Italy, focusing as usual on the smaller towns. This is a travel guide, but a highly personalized one. Mayes, who also published the fictional Women in Sunlight last year, describes the smaller towns where she and her family have eaten, cycled, played and shopped. It’s presented from north to south, rather than as a chronological memoir, giving travellers a chance to delve into an area such as Piedmont, Umbria or Sardinia, among others. In my digital advance reading copy, a table of contents listed all the regions and towns, but there was no map, though I understand one is included in the print edition.

As I’m planning a trip to Italy as I read this, I browsed through the entries, focusing on the areas where I’ll be travelling. Mayes’ intention is to encourage travellers to explore Italia as the locals live it, and it’s an easy sell. It reads like a journal of each stay, with descriptions of the land, the rooms or suites where they stay, restaurant and market food, shopping, sights and activities. The book has no photos, which is a shame, though as always, Mayes’ descriptive and detailed writing evokes images. Of Campiglia, a Tuscan hill town, she notes: “That the two white arches in the piazza, the stony lanes, covered steps up between streets, the clock-tower building covered with stemmie, coats of arms of local rulers, have endured untouched always seems so preposterous to New World people.” Mmmmm … I simply can’t wait to see it for myself! For those who want to travel without leaving the kitchen, Mayes includes a few delicious-sounding recipes in this book. I’m eager to try her version of caponata, an olive-based antipasto I’ve made with great (I think!) success, though my pending visit won’t include Sicily, where it originated. Next time! An index is planned though it was not included in my review copy. In summary, this is more of a memoir than a travel book, so choose it only if you like biographies. My thanks to Crown Publishing for the advance reading copy of this book, provided digitally through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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