In Maremma: Life and a House in Southern Tuscany

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9781582437774: In Maremma: Life and a House in Southern Tuscany

Now with stunning illustrations and color photographs, this newly expanded edition of In Maremma recounts David Leavitt and Mark Mitchell’s restoration of a dilapidated 1950s farmhouse in southern Tuscany. Beautifully written, witty, and concise, it recounts the process by which they became initiated into a part of Italian life foreigners rarely see. The pleasures of the olive harvest and picking wild asparagus are juxtaposed with the vagaries of political corruption and self-perpetuating bureaucracy. Landscape and weather provide the stuff of reverie, as do the benefits of boredom and the longing for peanut butter. A celebration and exploration of a little-known part of Italy, In Maremma is a fond if sometimes critical corrective to other more rapturous portrayals of Tuscany.

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Review:

Thanks to authors like Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes, a whole subset of travel memoirs is now devoted to the theme of restoring old houses in Europe. While most authors use the home as a vehicle to examine the surrounding culture, David Leavitt and Mark Mitchell tilt their measure decidedly on the side of home decor. "Nothing tells you more about a people than their houses," Leavitt and Mitchell write, as they set out to "construct a past based on our own private notions of comfort, upon which we could glance with pleasure in some hypothetical future." While initially daunted by the task of restoring a country house in bureaucracy-plagued Italy, the two dive in with gusto when they find Podere Fiume (River Farm) in Maremma, a little known part of Tuscany. Unlived in for more than 20 years, the farmhouse's downstairs is composed entirely of animal stalls, complete with stone troughs, while its two acres are lined with olive and fruit trees and a small creek. The authors tell of tapping into the Italian tradition of craftsmanship, taking on iron-fitters, lamp and lampshade makers, wood carvers, and furniture restorers. They design their own couch, reconstruct an 1803 fireplace, and commission a copy of an 18th-century Venetian bookcase with secret doors for CDs. They even recount the paint colors and fabric designs they consider. Needless to say, the density of detail they devote to their decor will mostly be of interest to those who pour over design magazines like House and Garden and World of Interiors, as the authors do. Fortunately, they also devote some of their short but precise chapters to humorous and telling bits about Italy--the habits, feuds, and "poetry and madness" of Italian bureaucracy--as well as to portraits of some of their more interesting neighbors, such as Pepe the iron-fitter and Pina the restaurateur. Written from the point of view of expatriates who live among but are not of, In Maremma offers an interesting, sometimes overdone and other times right-on-target portrait of a less glamorous if no less interesting part of Tuscany than Frances Mayes's. --Lesley Reed

About the Author:

David Leavitt is the author of several novels and story collections, most recently Martin Bauman; or, A Sure Thing. Mark Mitchell is the author of Virtuosi: A Defense and a (Sometimes Erotic) Celebration of Great Pianists. Together they edited The Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories and Selected Stories of E. M. Forster. Both authors live in Gainesville, Florida, and in Maremma.

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Book Description Counterpoint LLC, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 221 x 119 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Now with stunning illustrations and color photographs, this newly expanded edition ofIn Maremma recounts David Leavitt and Mark Mitchell’s restoration of a dilapidated 1950s farmhouse in southern Tuscany. Beautifully written, witty, and concise, it recounts the process by which they became initiated into a part of Italian life foreigners rarely see. The pleasures of the olive harvest and picking wild asparagus are juxtaposed with the vagaries of political corruption and self-perpetuating bureaucracy. Landscape and weather provide the stuff of reverie, as do the benefits of boredom and the longing for peanut butter. A celebration and exploration of a little-known part of Italy,In Maremma is a fond if sometimes critical corrective to other more rapturous portrayals of Tuscany. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9781582437774

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Book Description Counterpoint LLC, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 221 x 119 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Now with stunning illustrations and color photographs, this newly expanded edition ofIn Maremma recounts David Leavitt and Mark Mitchell’s restoration of a dilapidated 1950s farmhouse in southern Tuscany. Beautifully written, witty, and concise, it recounts the process by which they became initiated into a part of Italian life foreigners rarely see. The pleasures of the olive harvest and picking wild asparagus are juxtaposed with the vagaries of political corruption and self-perpetuating bureaucracy. Landscape and weather provide the stuff of reverie, as do the benefits of boredom and the longing for peanut butter. A celebration and exploration of a little-known part of Italy,In Maremma is a fond if sometimes critical corrective to other more rapturous portrayals of Tuscany. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9781582437774

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