Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Tuscany in Mind – Second Time Around

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Every Friday, one member of WANA112 posts a prompt for other WANAs to consider. Here’s today’s prompt:

Second Time Around

Tell us about a book you can read again and again without getting bored — what is it that speaks to you?

Tuscany in Mind: An Anthology edited by Alice Leccese Powers. Vintage Books (Random House), New York, 2005.

I don’t remember how this book came to be in my possession, but it has traveled to Italy and back with me. It is a collection of excerpts from thirty-eight well-known authors  (e.g., James Boswell, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles Dickens, Henry James) and lesser-known (to me) authors (e.g., Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kinta Beevor, Penelope Fitzgerald, and Bruce Chatwin).001 (14)

Why would this motley crew of writers write about Tuscany? Because they all lived there or vacationed there at one point in their lives and felt compelled to write about their experiences.

As I arrived in each town in Tuscany, I pulled out Tuscany In Mind and read who-said-what about the local area: Florence, Siena, Pisa, Volterra, Lucca, San Gimignano, Maremma, and other hill towns.

My favorite excerpt in the book, Any Four Women could Rob the Bank of Italy, by Ann Cornelisen, is set in San Felice Val Gufo (not far from Siena).

There, locked away from time, the San Felicians live in a closed society of intermarriage and inoccupation, insulated from life beyond the hills that surround them.

San Felicia is a town where the water tastes “froggy” by the end of the summer, where movies in the creaky old opera house tend to be ignored, and where neighbors watch neighbors through slatted window shutters to gather bits of local news. And don’t you dare get sick in San Felice; go to Siena. That is much wiser!

One day, Caroline, a well-bred Englishwoman, arrives in town. The men ogle. The women shun. The long-established order of things, suddenly fragile, begins to . . . . Well, you can imagine. When Caroline and her friends decide to rob the Bank of Italy in the cause of feminine rights, things get downright interesting.

The excerpt hooked me. I had to know what happened. When I returned home from Italy, I found the well-worn and yellowed book in the cellar of my local library, read it, laughing the whole way through, and then wrote and posted: Italy Reading: Any Four Women Could Rob the Bank of Italy.

Every time I pick up Tuscany in Mind: An Anthology, vivid memories of my own trip through Tuscany flood my mind. My trip was beyond compare, and this book contributed immeasurably to my enjoyment.  The writing in this book is exquisite, even poetic. The rustic Italian vocabulary slips into perfectly formed sentences that flow with energy and flavor. You can see Tuscany; you can hear it, touch it, feel it, and taste it. Read any of these excerpts, and you will start planning your next trip.

Other excerpts in the Tuscany in Mind include stories of romance, food, wine, complex relationships, history, art, architecture, gardens, and so much more. It’s hard to put Tuscany into words, but these writers have done it well and tease you into seeking out and reading their full works. Alice Leccese Powers has done an incredible job selecting and excerpting the best of the best.

Be sure to check these WANA bloggers and their second time around book choices:

Ellen Gregory: The Lions of Al-Rassan
Margaret Miller: On the Beach
Rabia Gale: Howl’s Moving Castle
Linda Adams:  The Beauty of Omniscient Viewpoint
Cora Ramos: Mistress on Synchronicity
Kim Griffin: The Hunger Games
Tami Clayton: Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter Bks, Time Traveler’s Wife, Cabin Pressure
Seth Swanson, Jedi, Elantris, Monster Hunt Intl

The Last Meow

Italians say “Ciao” for “good-bye.” Ciao sounds like chow. Is it time to eat yet?


Meow for now. Ciao!  =<^;^>=

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19 thoughts on “Tuscany in Mind – Second Time Around

  1. I will have to pick up that book. We are headed to Italy in July, and much of our time will be spent in Tuscany. Don’t you just love books that stick with you like that, and take you back?

    • Oh, I am so jealous. I so loved Tuscany and wrote a number of posts about my visit there. I hope you can find the book. You will enjoy reading sections of it on your trip. I will carry this book back with me on my next trip (as yet unplanned). Thanks for the visit.

  2. This sounds like an amazing book. I sounds like one that would be good on a trip. You’ve hooked me. That’s another one to add to my reading list.

    • I’s a great book, but not to be read from front cover to back cover. I flip through and find something that interests me at the moment. It has 367 pages, so I have a few more excerpts to go. Thanks for the visit.

  3. I remember you mentioning that story about the women robbing the bank in Italy but had forgotten what it was called. So glad you posted on it again! This anthology sounds like a great collection. I love reading about places I’ve been. Tuscany was a definite highlight on my trip to Italy.

  4. Tuscany was a favorite of mine, too. Wish I could go back soon. Alas, I have other trips on my bucket list.

  5. Pingback: WANAFriday: Books I Can Read Over and Over Again | Rabia Gale

  6. Love the idea behind this! I’m sure there’s a story in there somewhere about the book you open and read from depending on where you are… 🙂
    Is the anthology fiction, non-fiction or a mix?

    • Ellen, the book is a mix of excerpts from memoir, biography, letters, travel articles, novels, and poetry. It is a delicious book with something for every taste. Alice Leccese Powers has also edited France in Mind and Ireland in Mind There are several other authors and titles(Paris, Cuba, India) in the series. It is a great idea: literature while you travel.

  7. Ok! I’m hooked. Having Tuscany in Mind in Italy would be like being on a treasure hunt!

  8. Pingback: My re-reading book: The Lions of Al-Rassan | Ellen Gregory

  9. Pingback: WANA Friday: Reading books the second time around | Margaret Miller's Blog

  10. Hi Janice,
    I have added “Tuscany in mind” to my book wish-list. This post prompted me to look at my photographs of Tuscany again; I hope to revisit that area in 2014.

    • Definitely take the book with you when you travel to Tuscany. It has more “life” than the regular travel books that just list places to see…although one of those is useful, too.

  11. What a beautiful review of an unusual book. I love how the essays in the book intertwined with your own travels in Tuscany.

  12. Margaret on said:

    What a wonderful experience to share a holiday with writers and to see things as they did. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to Tuscany but your book makes me think I could certainly experience is vicariously.

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