In Maremma: Life and a House in Southern Tuscany

David Leavitt, Author, Mark Mitchell, Joint Author Counterpoint LLC $24 (192p) ISBN 978-1-58243-061-4
Novelist Leavitt and Mitchell (co-editors of The Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories) relate their first two years restoring and inhabiting a run-down farmhouse in Maremma, the poorest and (to tourists) least-known province of Tuscany. Each short chapter describes a different aspect of their lives there, from the incredible lengths of red tape involved in obtaining a driver's license (a holdover, according to a local restaurateur, from the fascist government's inclination ""to make private life as difficult as possible, to discourage independent thinking"") to ""sheep jams"" on the roads, for which local procedure is to drive right into the middle of the herd. The authors find that, in this ""most boring of all European countries,"" ""one grows to love boredom."" Indeed, the authors can devote eons to decorating and landscaping. But they also ""profit... from such old-fashioned... diversions as reading, listening to music, gardening, painting, doing jigsaw puzzles, cooking, playing with the dog."" The character sketches generally illustrate the country's leisurely pace, e.g., their architect Domenico, when faced with a problem, suggests that they ""study"" it (""`Study,' in Italian, is synonymous with `put off'""). Although much of the book, replete with rapturous descriptions of furniture, drapes and paint, might be better suited to Elle D cor, the nuanced, sometimes funny depictions of the people of Maremma and the premium placed on quality of life are worthy of authenticity-hungry travelogue readers. (May 1)
Reviewed on: 05/01/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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