This past Sunday, Pascal and I enjoyed a day of rest. I spent the entire day intermittently sleeping and reading The Lady in the Palazzo by Marlena de Blasi. It’s the third in a series of memoirs, following A Thousand Days in Venice and A Thousand Days in Tuscany. I usually devour her books in one sitting, and this day was no different. Marlena is a woman of many intense passions: passion for life; passion for food; passion for Italy; passion for beauty; passion for people; passion for romance; and thus, naturally, a passion for her Venetian husband, Fernando, a man with “blueberry eyes"
Her first book opens while she’s a middle-aged chef operating a small restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri. While visiting Venice, Marlena meets a local bank manager who falls in love with her at first sight. Just a few months later, she finds herself leaving her old life behind and moving to Venice to marry this Italian" stranger”. Marlena chronicles her new life in Venice, a subsequent sojourn in Tuscany (after her new husband surprises her by quitting his job at the bank where he had worked for 26 years), and finally, a move to a grand apartment that was formerly the ballroom of an important palazzo in Umbria. Along the way, she introduces us to an incredible cast of Italian characters while extolling the virtues of domesticity, romance, slow food, and taffeta.
Marlena’s travelogues are the kind that I cannot read fast enough because I’m so eager to discover what comes next, while simultaneously wishing that I will never reach the end. Whether writing about baking bread, changing her hair color, shopping in Florence, or setting the table for a large dinner party, Marlena’s descriptive prose keeps me completely enraptured.
But, beware: her food writing is so inspiring, I ended up making pasta with Italian-herbed chicken meatballs in a sun-dried tomato alfredo sauce for a late afternoon lunch. Later that evening, another suggestive chapter led me to pour a glass of Madeira that I sipped while savoring one of our very own Cookies ‘n Crème bon bons. It was a perfect day of rest indeed - fine food, fine wine, a good book and a comfortable bed. Best of all, I traveled to “la bella Italia” for a thousand minutes without ever leaving home.