Monday, 14 February 2022

Book Review: A Thousand Days In Tuscany by Marlena de Blasi

Book summary

After three years living in Venice, Marlena and her husband Fernando, move to the small village of San Casciano dei Bagni in a remote corner of southern Tuscany that borders Umbria and Lazio. San Casciano is the antithesis of Venice: a community of just 200 people living in an area surrounded by hills, hot springs and ancient olive groves; a tranquil, out-of-the-way place in the rural heart of Italy. Marlena and Fernando befriend Barlozzo, a sort of self-appointed village elder, who teaches them how to live in harmony with the land, introduces then to the culinary traditions of the region and lets them in on a secret or two. 

My thoughts about A Thousand Days In Tuscany

While in de Blasi's first book Venice takes centre stage, in  A Thousand Days In Tuscany it is the Tuscan people she befriends and the produce of the land who are the protagonists. She writes at length, and with much warmth, about both. It made my heart ache to read how the tenacious inhabitants of this region made a life out of whatever the land provided, especially in the midst of hard times like during and right after WW2. They managed to survive through sheer force of will and by finding joy in the simplest ingredients: wild garlic, chestnuts, berries. Nothing went to waste and whatever the humans could not eat was fed to the animals. A Thousand Days In Tuscany was written around twenty years ago and things may have changed a lot since then, but de Blasi was able to capture Tuscany right at the cusp of this change. It truly made me look differently at this region of Italy and made me realise what a romanticised view we have of it. Tuscany isn't just Florence, Siena and Pisa. It is also these remote towns and villages crowning hilltops or hanging precariously to the edge of mountains - places where traditions are strong and the ties of family and friends even stronger.

Sincerely Loree: Val d'Orcia and the Crete Senesi, Tuscany, Italy

I really enjoyed this slow-paced memoir that meanders through the seasons that make up a Tuscan year. It was the first book that I read this year and it was just what I needed, a book that filled me with joy but which also made me shed a tear or two. Marlena de Blasi is a food writer and this comes across very strongly in the prose. She loves to cook and to feed people, even if it's only a few pieces of humble bruschetta and, as an added bonus for the culinary-inclined, each chapter includes a recipe from the author's  private collection.

Sincerely Loree: Val d'Orcia and the Crete Senesi, Tuscany, Italy

And, yes, sometimes her language is a bit flowery and romantic and it may not be to everyone's taste but I happened to like it and I am now looking forward to reading her third memoir: The Lady In The Palazzo.

A Thousand Days In Tuscany by Marlena de Blasi

Genre: memoir

First published: 2004

Setting of narrative: San Casciano dei Bagni, Tuscany

⚠️ death of a friend

My rating: 4

Sincerely Loree: Val d'Orcia and the Crete Senesi, Tuscany, Italy
Reading about Tuscany of course makes me wish I was there again and I couldn't resist including some photos from our trip last October. I hope you enjoy these images of the Tuscan countryside in autumn.

Sincerely Loree: Val d'Orcia and the Crete Senesi, Tuscany, Italy

Images: Val d'Orcia & Crete Senesi, Tuscany, Italy
October 2021


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