Marlena de Blasi’s Memoir: “The Lady in the Palazzo: At Home in Umbria” Takes You to the Hilltop Village of Orvieto

by | Dec 4, 2020

Oriveto Italy
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Last updated on March 27th, 2024

About this Book

by Carolyn Ray 

When I read that this book was about Orvieto, my heart stopped! I visited this tiny, hilltop town just outisde Rome almost 10 years ago and it remains one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in Italy. Known for its white wine and olive oil, Orvieto is a medieval town perched on cliffs above a pastoral countryside with a white and black striped cathedral in the middle of the village.

With the breathless anticipation that seduced her readers to fall in love with Venice and then Tuscany, Marlena de Blasi now takes us on a new journey as she moves with her husband, Fernando, to Orvieto, a large and ancient city in Italy’s Umbria. Having neither an edge to a sea nor a face to a foreign land, it’s a region less trampled by travelers and, in turn, less accepting of strangers. So de Blasi sets out to establish her niche in this new place and to win over her new neighbors by doing what she does best, cooking her way into their hearts. (Her recipes are included.)

Rich with history and a vivid sense of place, her memoir is by turns romantic and sensual, joyous and celebratory, as she searches for the right balance in this city on the hill, as well as the right home, which turns out to be the former ballroom of a dilapidated sixteenth-century palazzo.

De Blasi meets and makes friends with an array of colorful, memorable characters, including cooks and counts and shepherds and a lone violinist, and their stories, too, become a part of the tapestry of life that she weaves for herself in Orvieto. With a voice full of wonder, she brings to life these engagingly quirky people and the aloof, almost daunting society that exists in Umbria. Not since Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence has a writer so happily succeeded in capturing the essence of a singular place and in creating a feast for readers of all stripes.

Our Take on this Novel 

While some found this a hard novel to get into, those that read it really enjoyed it! 

There are a lot of characters in the beginning that make this complicated, but by the third chapter, the story becomes easier to follow. 

Carolyn and Wendy, your book club hosts 

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The Lady in the Palazzo: At Home in Umbria 

by Marlena de Blasi

Recommended by Sandra 

Marlena di Blasi seduced readers to fall in love with Venice, then Tuscany, with her popular and critically acclaimed books A Thousand Days in Venice and A Thousand Days in Tuscany. Now she takes readers on a journey into the heart of Orvieto, an ancient city in the less-trodden region of Umbria. Rich with history and a vivid sense of place, her tale is by turns romantic and sensual, joyous and celebratory, as she and her husband search for a home in this city on a hill—finding one that turns out to be the former ballroom of a dilapidated sixteenth-century palazzo. Along the way, de Blasi befriends an array of colorful characters, including cooks and counts and shepherds and a lone violinist, cooking her way into the hearts of her Umbrian neighbors.

Brimming with life and kissed by romance, The Lady in the Palazzo perfectly captures the essence of a singular place and offers up a feast—and the recipes to prepare it!—for readers of all stripes.

Lady in the Palazzo


WOMAN wearing hat

Photo Source: Female First


MARLENA de BLASI is the internationally bestselling author of A Thousand Days in Venice, as well as four further bestselling memoirs and a novel, Amandine. She has been a chef, a journalist, a food and wine consultant and a restaurant critic. She is also the author of two internationally published cookbooks of Italian food. She and her Venetian husband, Fernando, live in Orvieto in Umbria, Italy.

For more about the author please read: 


To come; we’re still reading it! 


1. What is your favorite passage in the book and why?
2. Chou and Fernando continue to discover one another in the most romantic of ways, and their middle-aged love affair is probably the most attractive aspect of the book, even more attractive than the food.  Do you agree?  Can you give an example of how this is shown in the book?
3. This is a book about older people. It’s not a book about the young, barging loudly through everything; it’s a book of maturity. It’s about older people, unafraid to continue to grasp what they can of life and enjoying every handful. There’s something incredibly uplifting, reading about septuagenarians flirting like mad. What relationships did you find “budding” and or flirtatious?
4. With a voice full of wonder, de Blasi brings to life these engagingly quirky people and the aloof, almost daunting society that exists in Umbria.  Of her many quirky people, which did you find interesting and why?
5. The author is a food journalist, how did this influence the book?


Michelle Logue, Adventures in Italy 

Michelle Logue leads cultural and creative adventures in Orvieto, Italy. With a mandate to provide “travel that transforms”, Adventures in Italy gives guests an immersive experience. After more than 15 years of return trips, Orvieto has become a welcoming home base surpassing the typical Italian vacation.

Adventures in Italy operates trips in May and September, with two options: Artistic Enrichment nurtures creative expression, while Discover Orvieto invites visitors to focus on the history and culture of Orvieto and live as locals. Find out more about tours and special offers by following Adventures in Italy on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and visit

This event is free, but we use a Pay-What-You-Can model to support local organizations.  For this event, Michelle has asked that we support the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, which supports the efforts of more than 10.000 small scale farmers around the world.  Inaugurated in Florence in 2003 with contribution from the Tuscany Regional Authority, it coordinates and promotes Slow Food’s projects to protect food biodiversity across the world: Presidia, Ark of Taste, gardens in Africa, Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance and Earth Markets. Learn more about this organization here: 

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