Synopsis: (From Goodreads) The realtor can only push open the massive wooden doors to the apartment and invite me to lean into the debris. Save a few skeletal boards, there is no floor. The walls are bared to medieval bricks. Where a chandelier once hung, a rusted, hand-wrought iron chain swings from an 18-foot, frescoed vault like a hangman’s rope. With a tempestuous calculation of its potential, I say to the realtor, ‘I’ll take it’ before Fernando has even climbed the stairs.
After two years in their barely comfortable stable in San Casciano, Marlena and Fernando de Blasi know it’s time to move on. They are looking for a home in which to set a sumptuous table and, in Orvieto, they find it. The town is known as La Divina, the Divine, for its abundance of treasures but it’s the friendships Marlena and Fernando make that bring richness to their lives. They learn that Orvieto offers life in its most embraceable form: love, work, food and wine – these are the most important things.
The third book in the trilogy of Marlena and Fernando’s romance, which began with A Thousand Days in Venice and Tuscan Secrets, An Umbrian Love Story continues Marlena’s passionate love affair with Fernando, with Italy, and with food, as she befriends the local aristocracy, the cooks and the artisan makers of mouth-watering breads, cheeses, wine and pastries as well as the shopkeepers, farmers and shepherds, each of whom brings a gift to the table and to the story. Each is part of the simple, sometimes chaotic, often celebratory daily life Marlena creates in Orvieto.
Review: Marlena and Fernando move on from San Casciano for a new adventure in Orvieto, Umbria. After months and months of house-hunting they fall in love with house with the ballroom on Via del Duomo. The people of Orvieto offer unique socialcultural norms and expectations and once again Marlena is known as ‘The American,’ the outsider. Her desire to create a warm social network is hindered because that is not the way things are done in Orvieto.
I love hearing about the intricacies of the Italian culture which seems to shape and change as Marlena introduces us to different towns and hence different people. The bureaucracies and shrewdness of the Italians is always entertaining if not very frustrating as Marlena goes through the motions with the hopes of having her new home restructured and restored to a liveable state. Marlena’s fieriness shines through and Fernando calms her and with a new understanding and perspective she develops an acceptance for the local ways of business. Marlena and Fernando make new friendships and rekindle old ones with the fatherly Barlozzo continuing to play a major role in their lives. When Marlena coordinates a dinner party at her new home and goes against the grain of how things are done in Orvieto she learns a big lesson in social etiquette. I did enjoy the fairy-tale ending of the successful ballroom feast and the beginning of a new life for Marlena and Fernando in Orvieto as their newest residents.
As usual, I became absorbed in Marlena’s narrative prose and sensual insights into food, culture and love. Like most of De Blasi’s work you cannot rush through this novel as that is not the purpose, instead just pick it up at leisure and delve into a snippet of her life and mouth-watering recipes. I recommend An Umbrian Love Story to anyone who wants to experience a talented writing style and you love food and travel and memoirs.
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