Venice, the most touristy place in the world, is still just completely magic to me.
The longer you are in a place, the more you get under its layers.
I loved every place I lived and traveled. London, Paris, Rome, Venice. I fell hard for Central America and Mexico. In each country, I had fantasies that I could live there.
I think I went to Italy initially for the art, architecture, food and history, but I stayed there because of the people in Cortona.
I'm just fascinated by houses. In another life, I'd have probably trained as an architect. If I had enough money, I'd collect them like other people collect teapots. I don't know why I love them so much. I'm just very interested in the idea of a house as a metaphor for the way one lives.
Living in a small Italian hilltown, and having lived in a small town in south Georgia, I understand that you can recognize a family gene pool by the lift of an eyebrow, or the length of a neck, or a way of walking.
When I was twelve, I started reading Eudora Welty, Thomas Wolfe, Flannery O'Connor, James Agee, and - do we dare breathe the name - William Faulkner.
If you've got a plot the size of a car or a tiny yard in Italy, you're going to be growing tomatoes and basil and celery and carrots, and everybody is still connected to the land.
The Italians have their priorities right: They're driven, they do their work, but they really enjoy the day-to-day and they don't put off the enjoyment of the everyday for some future goal.
Going to Europe as a budding cook opened my eyes to food in a different way. When I got to Italy, the first thing I did was put my little basil plants in the ground and watch them turn into big, healthy bushes.
I find that other countries have this or this, but Italy is the only one that has it all for me. The culture, the cuisine, the people, the landscape, the history. Just everything to me comes together there.
What has impressed me the most about the Italians whose tables we've sat at is that they are traditional cooks but also outrageously innovative. These people are wild improvisers.
In America, people are just so straightforward when they dislike things.
It's kind of amazing that people will travel because of a book. I admire that.
I got the idea that to write books would be the best way to spend a life. I never thought of anything else that seemed like half as much fun, although in my next life I would like to be an architect, too, so I can have an easier time restoring houses.
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