Have you heard of Marlena de Blasi? She is an American chef who upsticked and moved to Italy following a holiday romance. The Lady in the Palazzo is the first book of hers I have read, but the third book in her memoir series. In her first, A Thousand Days in Venice, she tells how she met her husband, Fernando (a Peter Sellers lookalike), her second recounts her life in Tuscany, and then in this volume she describes moving to Orvieto in Umbria, where she finds the perfect home.
This is such a lovely, cosy travel read; it makes you ache to visit the place it features. Who wouldn’t want to go to Italy? But more that that, who wouldn’t want to go to Orvieto after reading this book? We travelled to Umbria not long after I had read it, making sure we had a day out in Orvieto. It was a long, steep, bendy drive to the city, and it was totally worth it. I recall turning the corner at the end of a little narrow street, and seeing the striped cathedral looming before me. It was a ‘bang’ moment – it took my breath away. I could see why Marlena had fallen in love with this place.
She has a great voice and a great writing style. Her books also include her regional recipes, a wonderful addition to her words. I did once attempt one of them – it sounded so simple and delicious when she described making and serving it at a dinner party, but my version was just as foul as it was offensive. Mind you, it did include parsnips and vodka and not much else, so in hindsight it probably wasn’t just me (!)
Give her a go if you’re a fan of a bit of artistic licence and all things Italian.