Friday, August 21, 2009

A Thousand Days in Venice

A Thousand Days in Venice
by Marlena De Blasi
Random House Ballantine Publishing Group, 2002
270 pages

Summary from Library Journal:
Venice is almost synonymous with romance, and in this charming account de Blasi spares no detail in telling us how she fell under its spell. A journalist, restaurant critic, and food consultant, de Blasi left her home, her grown children, and her job as a chef in St. Louis to marry Fernando, a Venetian she barely knew. In defiance of the cynics who think true love in middle age is crazy, her marriage flourished, as these two strangers made a life together. Food comforted the newlyweds when their conflicting cultures almost divided them, and in the end marital harmony reigns. Is this book a romance, a food guide, or an exhortation for us to come to Venice and experience the magic? Ultimately, it is all three, and there is even an appendix that includes recipes for dishes described in the text.

My thoughts:

The Italian adventure continues. After loving every moment of The Enchanted April, leaving was impossible. My trip was lengthened with this nonfiction excursion to Venice. Again I was treated to the sights, sounds, smells and even tastes (recipes are included!) of Italy.

De Blasi writes of seeing Venice for the first time:
"Shimmering water glints from the canal below. I don't know where to put my eyes. The Venice of myth is real, rolled out before me. In straw hats and striped shirts, the gondolieri are sculptures of themselves fixed on the sterns of glossy black boats under a round yellow sun. The Bridge of the Barefoot is off to the left and the sweet facade of the church San Simeone Piccolo hails from across the water. All of Venice is tattered, resewn, achingly lovely, and like an enchantress, she disarms me, makes off with the very breath of me." (page 2)

In middle age, Marlena De Blasi left her grown children, beautiful home, and job as chef, to move to Venice and take a chance on love with a "stranger". This book chronicles her Venetian journey. We observe how Venice, after one thousand days, becomes her city, too. Along the way De Blasi must deal with church bureaucracy (to get married), Italian tradesman (to remodel their apartment), cultural differences, and a slight language barrier as she forges a new life with her husband.

Her relationship with 'the stranger' grows, with her knowledge of Venice:
"Perhaps no one ever gets to know Venice as much as they remember her, recall her from an episode in some other dream. Venice is all our fantasies. Water, light, color, perfume, escape, disguise, license are gold spun and stitched into the skirts she trails across her stones by day and spreads out over her lagoon in the never-quite-blackness of her nights. I follow where Venice leads me. I learn which benches stay shady, where waits the most potent espresso ice, when the afternoon bake is ready at at which panificio, which churches are always open, and which bells can be pulled to summon a shuffling sacristan from his pisolino, nap." (page 128)

No book has ever given me such a sense of place. I feel like I've been to Venice. It was a joy to follow De Blasi's voyage, both of her heart and through the Italian countryside. She has gone on to write three more Italian memoirs, A Thousand Days in Tuscany, The Lady in the Palazzo: An Umbrian Love Story, and That Summer in Sicily. I will surely seek these out when the need for further Italian adventure calls.



20 comments:

  1. If you didn't have me before, this statement of yours: "No book has ever given me such a sense of place." did it! I'm off to tbr this. Thx, Care

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  2. I think it was the "recipes included" that sold me :P I love Italian food far too much for my own good.

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  3. Sounds breathtaking JoAnn! Has there been an increase in the pasta dishes served at your house lately?

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  4. Hi Care - Thanks for visiting! This is a quick, easy read...just steeped in atmosphere.

    Nymeth - I didn't try any of the recipes, but they sure look good! We grill a lot in the summer, but I'll be back to trying new recipes in the fall. I love Italian food, too!

    Darlene - Not a big increase in pasta consumption ...mostly because it's summer. It'll be another story in a month or so!

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  5. I love Venice and must get this immediately! It'll be cheaper than having my husband take me back there :)

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  6. Stacybuckeye - No doubt about that! This was the cheapest vacation I've ever taken - lol!

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  7. Ooh! I'll be looking for this one! It is sure to be the only way I will ever get to Venice ;)

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  8. I've got Enchanted April after reading your review. Now this one, a conglomerate of love story, travel, and food would be a nice book to pair up with Enchanted April. I have in fact marked your other suggestions to ease the Italian longing!

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  9. ds - This may be my only trip to Venice, too, but I hope not. After reading the last couple of books, I'm saving for a trip!

    Matt - This book is perfect to pair with The Enchanted April! Together, they've provided me with the best 'literary vacation' ever!

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  10. As soon as I read the summary of this one, I wanted to get my hands on it and dig in. It has been my DREAM for as long as I remember to go to Italy and live there for a few years - long enough to grow accustomed to the Italian way of life and let Italy really sink into my skin and become a part of me. This book sounds like a delightful read that I hoe I'll be able to read sometime soon. A little mini trip to Italy through the power of the written word sounds like a lovely way to end my summer.

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  11. I cannot wait to read Enchanted April, which I have ordered and is on the way. I have dreamed of going to Italy but in the mean time the book would satisfy my desire to be in beautiful Venice.

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  12. Justicejenniferreads- A little virtual trip to Italy would be a perfect end to summer! I'd love to live in Italy for a few years, but right now I'd be happy just to visit.

    Matt - If you deicide to read this, I bet you'll feel like you've been to Venice!

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  13. This has been sitting on my TBR shelf for a couple of years. Now I really want to read it.

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  14. I came across this book at a garage sale in a free pile so I snatched it up. I had never read a review of it until I read your. Thanks for the insight to the book. I love books/movies about Italy and sound like this one will be wonderful.

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  15. Rose City Reader - This would be the perfect book to pull out next time you feel in need a change of scenery. Hope you enjoy it!

    Heather - In a free pile?? What a find! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks for stopping by.

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  16. Beautiful... I'm interested in reading this. Thanks for the lovely post JoAnn :)

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  17. Mark David - Reading this was almost as good as a trip to Venice, but I'm saving for a real visit in a year or two! Hope you enjoy it if you get the chance to read it too.

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  18. Wow venice must be a lovely place to visit :)

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  19. Excellent review! I also would love to go to Venice someday, so any books that take me there in my mind are for me. Thanks :)

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  20. Jenny Girl - If you're already dreaming of Venice, then you would love this!

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