The Lady in the Palazzo
At Home in Umbria
By Marlena De Blasi
(Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Hardcover, 9781565124738, 317pp.)
Publication Date: January 2007
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Rich with history and a vivid sense of place, her memoir is by turns romantic and sensual, joyous and celebratory, as she searches for the right balance in this city on the hill, as well as the right home--which turns out to be the former ballroom of a dilapidated sixteenth-century palazzo.
De Blasi meets and makes friends with an array of colorful, memorable characters, including cooks and counts and shepherds and a lone violinist, and their stories, too, become a part of the tapestry of life that she weaves for herself in Orvieto. With a voice full of wonder, she brings to life these engagingly quirky people and the aloof, almost daunting society that exists in Umbria. Not since Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence has a writer so happily succeeded in capturing the essence of a singular place and in creating a feast for readers of all stripes.