Book Review: Always Italy – Frances Mayes & Ondine Cohane

I thought I knew Italy pretty well and have seen most of the things I wanted to see in that country, but Always Italy definitely proved me wrong. Mayes (of Under the Tuscan Sun fame) and Cohane went to great lengths to showcase the best of Italy in this enormous tome – don’t let the weight and thickness of it put you off, everything is divided into easily digestible bite-sized chunks.

And the culinary metaphor is particularly apt, because these two ladies travelled the length and breadth of the shoe-shaped country tasting ALL the wine and sampling ALL the cheese, not to mention any other gastronomic delights each of Italy’s regions might be famous for, from prosciutto to truffles to pizza. Along the way, they also stopped at many high-end boutiques, art galleries, and wish list hotels, but very few of the usual bucket list destinations that draw people to the heart of the ancient Roman empire. If you’re tired of guidebooks pointing you towards the Vatican City, the Colosseum, the ruins of Pompeii, or any other historically significant site, then this is probably the book you’ve been waiting for.

Cohane is a contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveller, which should give you an idea of the type of traveller this book is aimed at. As one Goodreads reviewer says: “… Frances Mayes [is] in a completely different socio-economic bracket…” and it shows here through the hotels recommended, the Michelin-starred restaurants mentioned and the types of activities and excursion indulged in. This is not a guidebook for budget travellers or families with little kids.

However, Always Italy is a book for anyone dreaming of Italy.

Mayes’ deep love of the country shines through in her writing, especially when she recounts some of her own personal experiences, and the book is filled to the brim with beautiful National Geographic photos. I loved reading about familiar favourites, but was even more excited to find that, after countless trips to Italy, the country still has so much more to offer. It left me with an undeniable longing to return to Italy – to explore the places I haven’t been to yet and yes, to try some of the local cheese.

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