Italy

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World

By Anthony Doerr

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"Anthony Doerr has received many awards -- from the New York Public Library, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the American Library Association. Then came the Rome Prize, one of the most prestigious awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and with it a stipend and a writing studio in Rome for a year. Doerr learned of the award the day he and his wife returned from the hospital with newborn twins.Exquisitely observed, Four Seasons in Rome describes Doerr's varied adventures in one of the most enchanting cities in the world. He reads Pliny, Dante, and Keats -- the chroniclers of Rome who came before him -- and visits the piazzas, temples, and ancient cisterns they describe. He attends the vigil of a dying Pope John Paul II and takes his twins to the Pantheon in December to wait for snow to fall through the oculus. He and his family are embraced by the butchers, grocers, and bakers of the neighborhood, whose clamor of stories and idiosyncratic child-rearing advice is as compelling as the city itself.This intimate and revelatory book is a celebration of Rome, a wondrous look at new parenthood, and a fascinating story of a writer's craft -- the process by which he transforms what he sees and experiences into sentences."

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Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home

By Susan Pohlman

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"Tired, empty, and disillusioned with married life, Susan Pohlman was ready to call it quits. As soon as she and husband Tim wrap up a business trip in Italy, she planned to end their eighteen-year marriage. During their last day as they walked along the Italian Riviera, Tim fantasizes aloud that, perhaps, they could live there. Susan initially dismisses the notion as nonsense but is inexplicably overwhelmed with a desire to give the marriage another try. Defying all logic, the couple find a school for their children and sign a lease for an apartment. Maybe a life in such a charmed setting could help them find their way back to each other. Together with their children, they trade in their breakneck Los Angeles pace for adventure and a slower, more intimate lifestyle. This is the remarkable story of an ordinary American family that inspires and offers hope that all of us who find the courage to listen to our hearts and follow our dreams can experience a new beginning."
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Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabriell

I’m going to Brooklyn to visit my daughter, and as with every excursion to the “Big Apple,” I make a list of must-see places. Usually I include a tea house, a photo gallery, and a farmer’s market. (If you’re a locavore, NYC’s markets are BEYOND compare!). But this time I’m making a reservation at Prune--Gabrielle Hamilton’s acclaimed West Village restaurant. Coincidentally, Hamilton is also the author of Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. Her book, like her food (or so I’ve heard), is exceptional!

Hamilton’s childhood in rural Pennsylvania was unconventional and idyllic. Her father was a stage designer, frequently involved with Broadway productions; her mother, French and a former dancer, spent her days aproned in front of a six-burner stove. The clan lived in a crumbling, 19th-century silk mill. They regularly hosted legendary parties—complete with spring lamb roasting on a spit and an endless variety of creative themes.

Books in My Baggage: Reading at the Beach

Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found

But not ON the beach: pages oily from suntan lotion; wind and sand. Nah, bad for paper. Watching pelicans cruise over the waves is preferred. Knowing we would hit the Beach Book Mart, a bookshop in Atlantic Shores with an interesting historical selection, I packed two books. One of those plus two of the three store-bought titles had a thread: Italy.

First down the chute is Norman Douglas’ Siren Land, a memoir of  Capri and the Sorrentine Peninsula. Two previously read authors, Paul Fussell and Elizabeth Davis, quoted and discussed Douglas, and the library owns the title. I found his prose dense, witty fairly often, even had a couple funny bits. It is more than a travelogue: it is learned and chatty. Emperor Tiberius was the first famous Roman to retire to Capri; his stay is touched on. Douglas includes stories of saints, a single thread  of the story of these siren lands. History and biology of the sirens is knocked off in the first couple of chapters, followed by a wandering over the land, a boat ride or two, and an island full of fleas...with gossip, lore, architecture, history, and memorable characters.

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-quoting Butcher in Tuscany

By Bill Buford

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"Writer Buford's memoir of his headlong plunge into the life of a professional cook. Expanding on his award-winning New Yorker article, Buford gives us a chronicle of his experience as 'slave' to Mario Batali in the kitchen of Batali's three-star New York restaurant, Babbo. He describes three frenetic years of trials and errors, disappointments and triumphs, as he worked his way up the Babbo ladder from "kitchen bitch" to line cook, his relationship with the larger-than-life Batali, whose story he learns as their friendship grows through (and sometimes despite) kitchen encounters and after-work all-nighters, and his immersion in the arts of butchery in Northern Italy, of preparing game in London, and making handmade pasta at an Italian hillside trattoria."

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The King's Fool: A Book about Medieval and Renaissance Fools

By Dana Fradon

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This book about the kings' (and queens') own comics is fun and informative. A good jumping off spot for reports.

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The Wisdom of Tuscany: Simplicity, Security & the Good Life--Making the Tuscan Lifestyle Your Own

By Ferenc Máté

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"This sun-drenched land has become synonymous with the ideal life. But it didn t happen by chance. Since the Etruscans, the independence-loving Tuscans have treated their breathtaking countryside with sagacious respect and built hamlets and hill towns in which they perfected a culture of simplicity, beauty, neighborliness, good food, and love of daily life. Ferenc M t has lived in Tuscany for twenty years. Through personal experience and anecdotal history he explores the sources of this idyllic existence, which provides continuous economic stability, physical and emotional security, and a fortifying sense of belonging. From their organic gardens to their mouthwatering cuisine, from high-quality, craftsmen-made products and family-run businesses, to the joys centered in human contact and community, Tuscans live a healthy, all-senses-satisfying, emotionally rich life."

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Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy

By Frances Mayes

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In Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes brings a poet's voice, the eye of a seasoned traveler, and the discerning palate of a cook and food writer together to create an enchanting and lyrical book about the life, the traditions, and the cuisine of Tuscany. This is definitely an example of the book far exceeding the film version; indeed, the film only bears resemblance to the book by its title.

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Tuscany

By Sonja Bullaty and Angelo Lomeo

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When their previous book, Provence, was published, reviewers marveled that the photographs looked like paintings. Equally memorable are the splendid photographs in Tuscany, which exquisitely capture the light, colors, and textures of Italy's most romantic and inspiring region.

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Rosemary and Bitter Oranges: Growing Up in a Tuscan Kitchen

By Patrizia Chen

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Featuring 25 authentic Tuscan recipes, this cookbook/memoir is by an Italian home chef who tells the story of her childhood in post-World War II Tuscany and of the beloved family cook who taught her every kitchen secret.

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