Noted author and poet Frances Mayes chronicled her mid-life venture to a new country, and graceful transformation into a new life, in Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy (Broadway Books). Part travelogue and part memoir, these books are paeans to la dolce vita, and to love itself.

Bella Tuscany details her adventures in Cortona, Italy, many of them centered around the restoration of Bramasole, an 18th century villa, surrounded by Etruscan walls. Meaning “to yearn for the sun,” Bramasole links Mayes and her husband, poet Edward Kleinschmidt, to 2,600 years of Etruscan history and Mediterranean culture.

Mayes, a professor of creative writing at San Francisco State University, spent summers and sabbaticals saving the abandoned Italian home. An author of five volumes of poetry, she writes rich, sensuous portraits of the Italian countryside, local citizens, and Tuscan dining. Filled with recipes, the book is a passionate account of her continuing love affair with Italy and the occasional heartbreaks of the villa’s ongoing restoration.

Mayes is also the author of the college textbook The Discovery of Poetry. She was granted a national Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in 1988, and four of her autobiographical essays have been selected as “notable essays” by Robert Atwan, editor of Best American Essays.

Frances Mayes was interviewed at Kentucky Author Forum by Rebecca Bain, senior host/producer for WPLN, Nashville Public Radio.