Earlier this week I took a trip “back home” to coastal Georgia. I can’t stay away for long, or I become homesick for the humid, salt-tinged air; the bright quality of the sunlight; the evening songs of the marsh frogs; the moss-laden branches; and the soft, black earth under my toes. I crave it, I need it, I am lured home again and again.
One of the highlights of this trip was a chance–finally–to meet author Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun and other books, in person. Frances and I share roots in south Georgia, as well as an intense love for Italy and other locales with a strong sense of place.
Frances and I have corresponded over time, and in spite of her busy schedule, she was kind enough to take the time to read my book, The Gondola Maker, and write a few lines about it:
“I’m a big fan of Venice, so I appreciate Laura Morelli’s special knowledge of the city, the period, and the process of gondola-making. An especially compelling story.”
It was a pleasure to get the chance to sit outside on a lovely south Georgia evening and chat with Frances over a glass of wine. I loved hearing her speak of her Georgia childhood and her life in Italy with her soft southern accent.
I went home with a copy of Frances’s new book, Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir, and I’m nearly finished with it even though I have slowed down the pace of my reading in order to make the story last. Her descriptions and impressionistic memories of growing up in Georgia are so beautifully rendered. It is simply a wonderful book and I am not ready for it to end… Pick up a copy!
Tell me… Have you read any of Frances Mayes’s work? Comment below!
I am also a big fan of all of Frances Mayes’ books–her beautiful writing has opened me up to Tuscany and Italian travel beyond my own experiences–I’ve savored them again and again. Her most recent memoir “Under Magnolia” kept me up at night, turning pages–loved it!—and I understand why you are slowing down your pace to make it last…
Agreed! I loved Under Magnolia. As a native Georgian so much of it rang true for me–especially the sights, smells, and sounds she describes. Kind wishes to you! –Laura
I have read Made I’m Italy and the Gondola Maker. Loved them both.
I haven’t read any of Frances Mayers’ work, but loved hearing of your recent meeting with her. The description of ‘Under Magnolia’ you gave has convinced me to make the effort to buy her book. It always helps to have a recommendation, especially as like her you are a fellow Georgian. I love to hear Georgian choir music.
– Linda Daniel
I read Frances Mayers’ “Under the Tuscan Sun” many years ago while on holidays in Barbados and passed my copy on to a young girl working in a local Italian Coffee Shop. I hope she enjoyed the read as much as I did.
Thank you, Theresa! –Laura
Under the Tuscan Sun and Swan are the books I’ve read. I, anyway think most authors who come from the Southern part of the US are good writers and I love the food descriptions more than anything else! But also all the homilies that they spout through their characters, in their books 🙂 This one is a fave: Just like a compass points North; the finger of suspicion will always point at a woman. Guess which author wrote this?
Manali, thanks for this! I also am a huge fan of Southern fiction, but I’m biased! 🙂 –Laura
Loved Under The Tuscan Sun and her other books but that one was my favorite! Walking in Cortona was icing on the cake!
Hi Jo Ann, looking forward to getting to Cortona myself this summer. Thanks for your comment! –Laura
I love both authors ! What a wonderful evening for both of you! Will order the newest jewels asap!
Hi D.R, many thanks and happy reading! –Laura
I am a fan of Frances Mayes & met her at a cookbook signing years ago. She is a very charming lady & loved Under the Tuscan Sun & even
went to Cortona in hopes of seeing her in the piazza!
Love your writing & knowledge of Italy also.
Hi MaryRose, agreed! Frances is lovely and very humble. Thank you so much! –Laura
I loved Under the Tuscan Sun! Beautifully atmospheric, and worth all the plaudits that have come the author’s way.
Now if they could only have produced a film that did even 10% justice to the original book! *sigh*
Thanks, John, for your comment! Part of the beauty of Frances’ work is reading her words. Hard to convey that in a movie, for sure! –Laura
I’ve read all of Frances Mayes books.. I fell in love with Under the Tuscan Sun long before it was ever a movie (which disappointed me by not being the book at all). She has a great way with words and always make me feel like I am there, too. Italy is my favorite place on Earth and I cannot get there often enough. I am Southern, too. My other love is our beloved South and while I reside in NC now, in the mountains where I am working on my first book, my mother was raised in South Georgia so it is a huge part of our lives. I am looking forward to reading her new book, too. Laura, I have several of your books, too. Love them all!
Wow, Sheri, we have lots of things in common! Thanks so much for your feedback and good luck with your book! –Laura
I just finished The Painter’s Apprentice. Loved it!!
Thanks so much, Susan! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it. –Laura
After reading Frances Mayes Under the Tuscan Sun, my husband and I made it a point to visit Cortona on our next adventure to Italy back in 2000. We loved the old hill town, the people, the food, the history of Cortona and the surrounding area. We have returned 4 times, and always stay at the same agriturisimo – last time for 6 weeks – that we found by chance on the internet. Now I feel we have an Italian family at this old stone farmhouse, and a deep love for Cortona. Using Cortona as a base, one may take wonderful day trips to Assisi, Siena, Florence, Montipulciano, Montalcino, Pienza, etc,. etc. I have traveled most of Italy, and Cortona remains my favorite.
Hi Ramona, it sounds like you found a fantastic place! Thanks for your comment. –Laura
I thought Under Magnolia was masterful. I also loved A Year in the World. The Painter’s Apprentice was a wonderful read!
Like Sheri Decker, I too have read all of Frances Mayes books. They are wonderfully entertaining!
Hi Marge, thanks for your comment. I agree! –Laura
Having gone to the University of Georgia and spent a semester in Cortona, I was especially interested in Frances’ books….so yes, I have read them. I thoroughly enjoyed Under the Tuscan Sun because I studied Interior Architecture at UGA. Going to school in Cortona made me a life-long, committed Italophile, and I go back whenever I can. I live not too far from Frances now…in Greensboro, NC, and it seems she has found a wonderful write’s enclave in Hillsborough! (I also enjoyed your book, Laura…The Painter’s Apprentice)
Hi Hilda, I also went to UGA but I chose to study abroad in France. I was a guinea pig for the first year of that program. Cortona is awesome! I am looking forward to visiting there again this summer. –Laura
I read and enjoyed Under the Tuscan Sun many years ago and loved it. I’ve also read your books ( not the new one ..yet!). I’ve loved Italy and all things Italian since my very first trip when I was 8 years old and I’m now 59 . I really feel that it’s my spiritual home. On my very first visit I saw The Last Supper in Milan and I can still remember it now. I’ve read so many books about Italy now that I really need people like you to write more please!
Thank you, Wendy! 🙂 –Laura
I’ve been lucky to meet Frances in person, at Harris Teeter grocery store in Charlotte, NC where she was promoting her Under the Tuscan Sun wines. It was the end of the day, and no one else was at the table, so I was able to chat with Frances about my 2 brief trips to the towns around Cortona. She graciously signed 6 bottles of wine with a silver sharpie, for gifts, and I also bought a mixed case. Pretty good wine! I moved to the Sandhills, 99 miles east of Charlotte and Frances came to our lovely bookstore, The Country Book Shop, to read from “Women in Sunlight.” She told us that she was taking a road trip around Italy and is writing every day. Laura, I’m reading The Gondola Maker now, and The Painter’s Apprentice is next up! I’ll never be “done” with Italy (or so many places) so keep writing and I’ll keep reading!
Thank you for taking the time to comment and to read my work. If you’ve met Frances in person, you know how lovely she is. Happy reading! –Laura
Currently reading Women in Sunlight By Ms. Mayer and I know what you mean about reading it slowly to savor every minute of it…..it has been the best summer reading! It has me daydreaming about living in a Tuscan villa and I can relate to each and every one of her characters…..highly recommend it! I also recently enjoyed your class on Etruscan Women, loved it! -Aurora from Whittier, California P.S. I also have a Pug baby who is cuddling next to me this very moment!!!
Hi Aurora, thank you for your comments! It seems we both appreciate the finer things in life–a good book, art, and the love of a pug! 🙂 . Laura
Laura, So glad to hear from you, I’ve read Frances’s books, and have started yours! Loved The Gondola Maker and Painter’s Apprentice. Love, Love, Love Italy–am lucky to have travelled from the north to the south – in 5 trips!. Keep up the beautiful stories!!
Hi Jane, thank you so much for your comment and for reading my work. Happy reading and happy traveling! –Laura
Love your always interesting emails! I’m retired and live in Cleveland Ohio. I’ve been to Italy once. My brother and I spent an afternoon in Venice (in 1978) wandering through the narrow streets and buying some souvenirs. Ate at a wonderful restaurant, had a wonderful time. Nice treat for you to meet the author of Under the Tuscan Sun. I liked the movie so much, I bought the DVD. Best wishes to you and happy travels.
Thank you so much, Dale! Welcome! –Laura
My dear Laura, just tried to purchase The Gondola Maker but when Got to the post ‘country’ it would not accept it and only gave me American states. No good to me of course as I am in Australia. I had bad luck too when I ordered The Painters Apprentice from Book Depository a book of that title arrived but it is by Charlotte Betts!! I should have put ‘Author’ too but didn’t. Thank you for your messages I do enjoy them. P.S have read a few of Frances Mayes.
Hi Josephine, thank you so much for reading my work! Many of my books are available at Amazon Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/s?i=digital-text&rh=p_27%3ALaura+Morelli&s=relevancerank&text=Laura+Morelli&ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1.
Hi Laura. I live in New Zealand, far, far away from either North America or Italy. But love both countries – especially Mediterranean countries. I was lucky to befriend a fellow Southerner of yours from Alabama with whom I have become great friends and who has now, also, become a well-established author. Her name is Beth Duke and she published Delaney’s People, It All Comes Back To You (New York Times’ Top 10) and just recently, Tapestry. I would highly recommend her Southern-based stories. And suspect you two would connect like a house on fire ! She has a very vivacious, bubbly, engaging personality and it emanates through the characters in her books. Would love to see you guys together and hope you get to one day connect. Am anxiously waiting for delivery of your books so I may devour them ! Blessings.
Hi Damian, thank you! I’m excited to read Beth’s books! Thanks for the recommendation. –Laura
Yes, I read 🙂
I did read UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN, saw the movie, and then with 18 close and personal friends (I had just met), I was fortunate enough to spend a week in that very house, outside Cortona, May, 2019. All things taken together, it was a dream. I am so glad I read the book 1st. Of course while we were there, we watched the movie.
Thanks for your message, Jackie! It sounds like you had a wonderful time at Bramasole! Hope you get back to Italy soon. –Laura
I only know Under the Tuscan Sun, whjich I loved. Her books are not very well kmown in Holland, so I’ll have to buy them abroad..
Hi! I love her book/movie Under The Tuscan Sun. Also
I had no idea she was born in Fitzgerald,Ga. I was born in the southern little town as well and so were my 9 siblings. My oldest sister of 10 was born the same year as Mrs. Mays
Can’t wait to read her other books!
Under the Tuscan Sun gave me the impetus to want to visit Italy, and especially Tuscany. I have done so twice and can’t wait to get back.
Your books as well are superb and I’ve loved reading them, following along on the streets I know. Thank you!
Of course being a Coastal Georgia native and an early student in the Cortona Studies Abroad Program at UGA (1977) I sometimes feel I discovered Cortona long before Francis arrived. Still having friends there from that summer! But I’ve loved all her books and was so fortunate almost 19 years ago to be married in Cortona! And I did meet Francis at a UGA building dedication there in 2000 and indeed she was as gracious as I’d imagined! Haven’t read your books yet but it’ll be soon! And see the website below of the plein air event I founded in Atlanta with fellow Cortona alumnus, Lillian Ansley.
Hi Laura, I have read several of Ms. Mayes books, Swan (one of her early works which was fantastic), Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany and In Tuscany.
I almost had the chance to meet her: my tour company EF Go Ahead Tours in Cambridge MA invited her to speak and have a meet and greet. I was invited but unfortunately I was on tour in Tuscany when she was coming.! I have been to Cortona several times and always think oh her there.
Looking forward to reading Under Magnolia.
I have to tell you Laura how much I have enjoyed all your books.