Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Thousand Days in Venice

One day I would love to travel to places I have read about. I have read books by Mary Moody and her time in the South of France, Amish books set in Pennsylvania, and this has been another one. The idea of a city build on water intrigues.

A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance

He, “the stranger” saw her across the Piazza San Marco and fell in love from afar. When he sees her again in a Venice café a year later, he knows immediately that she is the One; it is fate. He knows little English; and she, a divorced American chef, speaks only food-based Italian. Marlena, a middle-aged Midwestern American woman who had traveled to Italy and is now traveling through Venice, thought she was satisfied with her life. She is now caught off guard and thinks she is incapable of intimacy, that her heart has lost its capacity for romantic love. This was the first meeting, then he goes to visit her in St. Louis for two weeks. But within months of their first meeting, she gives up her entire life, quits her job as a chef and partner in a cafe, kisses her two grown kids good-bye, has sold and packed up her house in St. Louis to move to Venice to marry Fernando—“the stranger,” as she calls him—and live in that achingly lovely city in which they met.

Once there, she finds herself sitting in sugar-scented pasticcerie, strolling through sixteenth-century palazzi, renovating an apartment “a bunkerlike postwar condominium” on the Lido, as he calls it, overlooking the seductive Adriatic Sea, and preparing to wed a virtual stranger in an ancient stone church. Vibrant but vaguely baffled by this bold move, Marlena is overwhelmed by the sheer foreignness of her new home, its rituals and customs. He has displeasure at her insistence on remaining a serious cook (in modern Italy "No one bakes bread or dolci or makes pasta at home," he tells her) But there are delicious moments when Venice opens up its arms to Marlena. She cooks an American feast of Mississippi caviar, cornbread, and fried onions for the locals . . . and takes the tango she learned in the Poughkeepsie middle school gym to a candlelit trattoría near the Rialto Bridge. All the while, she and Fernando, two disparate souls, build an extraordinary life of passion and possibility.

As this transplanted American learns the hard way about the peculiarities of Venetian culture, we are treated to an honest, often comic view of how two middle-aged people, both set in their ways but also set on being together, build a life – the relationship works. Featuring Marlena’s own incredible recipes, A Thousand Days in Venice is the enchanting true story of a woman who opens her heart—and falls in love with both a man and a city. It is filled with the foods and flavors of Italy and peppered with recipes and culinary observations. But the main course here is about a woman who falls in love with both a man and a city, and finally finds the home she didn't know she was missing. It's a deliciously satisfying meal.

I enjoyed this book far more than the other I had just read, perhaps because it had more of a story than just memoirs. 


  1. This looks so good. I will have to see of my library has a copy.

  2. That's where I got mine. Don't you love searching for a book and finding it at the library like you've won a prize!