Synopses & Reviews
He 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 it is fate. He knows little English; and she, a divorced American chef, speaks only food-based Italian. Marlena thinks she is incapable of intimacy, that her heart has lost its capacity for romantic love. But within months of their first meeting, she has packed up her house in St. Louis to marry Fernando—“the stranger,” as she calls him—and live in that achingly lovely city in which they met.
Vibrant but vaguely baffled by this bold move, Marlena is overwhelmed by the sheer foreignness of her new home, its rituals and customs. 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.
Featuring Marlenas 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.
A Ballantine Reader's Circle Selection When Marlena de Blasi traveled to Italy, she expected to fall in love with the country, not to be swept away by a Venetian man. But only a few months after she meets Fernando, she quits her job as a chef in St. Louis, sells her house, and moves to Venice. Once there, Marlena finds herself sitting in sugar-scented pasticcerie, strolling through sixteenth-century palazzi, renovating an apartment overlooking the Adriatic Sea, and preparing to wed Fernando-a virtual stranger-in an ancient stone church. As this transplanted American learns the hard way about the peculiarities of Venetian culture, we are treated to an honest, often humorous view of how two people, both set in their ways but also set on being together, build a life. Filled with the foods and flavors of Italy, A Thousand Days in Venice is an enchanting story. Read this book and fall in love.
When Marlena de Blasi traveled to Italy, she expected to fall in love with the country, not to be swept away by a Venetian man. Filled with the foods and flavors of Italy, "A Thousand Days in Venice" is an enchanting story.
About the Author
Marlena de Blasi has been a chef, a journalist, a food and wine consultant, and a restaurant critic. She is the author of two cookbooks, Regional Foods of Northern Italy (a James Beard Foundation Award finalist) and Regional Foods of Southern Italy. She and her husband, Fernando, now direct gastronomic tours through Tuscany and Umbria.
Reading Group Guide
1. “Even as I am drawn to Venice, so I am suspicious of her.” Why did this well-traveled author deliberately shun Venice for so long? Why was she so suspicious?
2. The authors family and friends respond in many different ways to her decision to move to Venice and marry Fernando. Without the benefit of hindsight, what do you think your initial response would be to a friend or a relative planning such a drastic life change?
3. When she and Fernando first kiss, de Blasi recognizes that they “are not too old” for love. Yet her love affair inspires awkwardness, suspicion, and even embarrassment in many of those around her. Discuss the internal and external barriers to love found later in life.
4. In the midst of a quarrel with Fernando, the author wonders “why there always hovers, just an inch or two above love, some small itch for revenge.” Discuss this statement. What other emotions and reactions hover just above love?
5. Throughout the novel, de Blasi refers to her partner and then husband as “the stranger.” How well do you know those you love? Do you ever consider them strangers?
6. The author and her husband both struggle to keep their personal demons in check to make their relationship work. Do you agree with de Blasi that this can be easier to do later in life? Why or why not?
7. Why does de Blasi move to Italy as opposed to Fernando moving to the United States?
8. The author is forced to jettison most of her material possessions upon her move to Italy, which she finds liberating. Could you or would you do the same? If you could keep only what could be shipped overseas at a reasonable cost, what would you choose?
9. The authors friend Misha warns her that she will “neither understand nor be understood” in Italy. How does she navigate the cultural barriers that threaten to isolate and overwhelm her? What role does her love of food play?
10. In the end, do you think de Blasi has found a satisfactory means of communication in her new culture?
11. Discuss what places in the world inspire you the way Venice inspires de Blasi. Is there a culture different from your own you can imagine immersing yourself in? If you have done so, how does your experience compare with de Blasis?
12. The author chooses to embrace the complications involving her wedding. Discuss the expectations surrounding such special events and the potential for disaster.
13. On the impact of her life-changing decision on her adult children, de Blasi muses “that their childhood was ending and…in a strange way, my childhood was beginning.” Discuss the meaning of this statement.
14. Like Fernando, have you ever felt imprisoned by the expectations of others? Have you lost track of dreams you once had?
15. De Blasi makes her husband feel connected to the world. Who or what makes you feel connected to the world?
16. Cooking for a crowd, real or imagined, helps the author stave off the loneliness that plagues and frightens her. What staves off loneliness for you?
17. The author argues, “Too often it is we who wont let life be simple.” Do you agree or disagree?
18. Do you think “a little suffering sweetens things”?
19. How do you think this narrative would unfold if told in Fernandos voice? How might it differ and how might it remain the same?
20. How do you think Fernando would describe his wife in his own words?
21. In the final line of her acknowledgments, de Blasi hints that another memoir might be forthcoming. Would your group be interested in reading another installment of this memoir? Do you want to learn about her life in the Tuscan village of San Casciano dei Bagni?
22. Did you find this memoir to be a satisfying read? What are the benefits and drawbacks of this literary genre?
23. How would you describe this book to prospective readers?
24. If you were to write your own memoirs, what story would you tell?
25. Is your group satisfied with this selection? Why or why not? What is your next selection?
26. Have you or will you try any of the recipes found at the end of this novel?