Longitude News


For Customers, Friends and Partners of Longitude


  1. New & Noteworthy: Costa Rica, Monet, McCall Smith
  2. Favorite Places: Tuscany
  3. AMNH Presents: Race to the Pole, Birds
  4. Featured Author: An Afternoon with Hilary Bradt
  5. Post Script: Dining with Comissario Brunetti

Dear Traveler,

We're dreaming of Italy. Both Frances Mayes (Every Day in Tuscany) and Dianne Hales (La Bella Lingua) have kindly suggested a favorite places in Tuscany for the newsletter this month. We've also got a compact Costa Rica wildlife guide with exquisite color illustrations (so good, we swapped it into Essential Reading), two historical novels and Darrel's report on an outing with Hilary Bradt.

All the Best,

Daniel Kaizer and Darrel Schoeling

P.S. For fans, we've also got book plates by Mayes, Hales and Gretel Ehrlich, whose In the Empire of Ice is just out. We'll send the signed plates with your book orders, while supplies last!


The Wildlife of Costa Rica, A Field Guide (CRC77, $29.95)

Designed to take along on a walk, this compact guide includes 450 of the most common, interesting and charismatic mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and arthropods that you are likely to encounter in the field. Each gets exquisite full color illustrations by Fiona Reid (mammals), Robert Dean (birds) and friends. Reid, for example, moved to Costa Rica for two years to work on the detailed paintings for this book (she suggests a visit to Corcovado for mammals, both large and small, and Tortuga Lodge for bats). Dean, who lives in Monte Verde, also illustrated the excellent Birds of Costa Rica, another Zona Tropical book published by Cornell University Press.

In the Empire of Ice, Encounters in a Changing Landscape (ARC260, $28.00)

Gretel Ehrlich (This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland) returns to the Circumpolar North in this haunting account of the traditions, challenges and future of the people of the Arctic. With a grant from National Geographic in hand, she traveled from the Bering Strait across to Siberia and onto Arctic Canada and Greenland, collecting stories and visiting old friends. Fans take note! We've got a supply of signed book plates.

The Double Comfort Safari Club (BOT38, $24.95)

Alexander McCall Smith's beloved Precious Ramotswe and her prickly secretary Grace Makutsi stray from their usual environs in Gaborone to a lodge in the Okavango in search of a Safari Guide who has been left a large sum of money in this delightful 12th book in the series, which as usual includes plenty of local geography, lore and nature. If you are heading to Botswana, you may also want to take along Chris McIntyre's excellent Bradt Safari Guide Botswana (BOT18, $26.99).

Claude & Camille, A Novel of Monet (FRN891, $25.00)

You can practically smell the paint in Stephanie Cowell's lyrical new novel -- peopled by not just Claude Monet and the love of his life, Camille, but also by a whole circle of painters, including Renoir, Pissarro, Manet and his best friend Bazille. It would be just the thing to read before a visit to Giverny, where Monet lived for almost 43 years, or the Musee Marmottan Monet in Paris.

Island Beneath the Sea (USS464, $26.99)

Isabel Allende places the strong-willed slave and concubine Zarite at the center of a multigenerational saga, which takes us from Haiti in the tumultuous years surrounding the 1791 slave revolt to New Orleans. Marvelous descriptions of Creole life around the time of the Louisiana Purchase are among the many pleasures of this richly atmospheric new novel.


What's your favorite place in Italy? Much to our delight, both Frances Mayes and Dianne Hales responded to our inquiry -- and each chose someplace different in Tuscany. We've also got signed book plates by both authors, which we will happily include with your book, while supplies last.

Every Day in Tuscany, Seasons of an Italian Life (ITA124, $25.00)

Signed book plates. Twenty years later Frances Mayes is still besotted by Italy -- by her house (she and Ed have a new one in the woods), the tumbling geraniums, white hydrangeas, the people, food, art and culture of Tuscany -- all lovingly documented in this third delightful memoir, her best yet. With recipes throughout, notes and interludes in Portofino, Assisi and Rome, along with an appreciative chapter on Renaissance master Luca Signorelli.

Sansepolcro by Frances Mayes (Everyday in Tuscany)

When I'm at home in Tuscany and the mood strikes for a gita, a little trip, I often say, "Let's go over to Sansepolcro." This flat and livable town was, of course, home to Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca and his work still hangs in the Museo Civico. The Resurrection of Christ is one of the most profound works of art on earth. Reason enough for a pilgrimage but the town itself is a joy. It's one of those places where you walk around and think I could live here. The openness of the piazza and the scale of the old buildings just feels right. Having seen Piero's work many times, I admit we often just head straight to Da Ventura for their savory and tender roasted meats. This is one of our favorite places to eat in Tuscany.

En route, we always stop in the enchanting village of Monterchi, just a few kilometers from Sansepolcro. The draw is the elegant small piazza and shaded trees to sit under and enjoy an espresso before going to the one-painting museum, where Piero's great Madonna del Parto, the Madonna about to give birth, still draws pregnant women who seek a blessing. It's a magnificent, stark painting -- and an homage to Piero's mother, who was from the village.

This corner of Tuscany, slightly out of the way, remains calm and intact. And then there's another favorite, nearby Anghiari... Always in Tuscany, one intriguing place inevitably leads you to another.

La Bella Lingua, My Love Affair with Italian, The World's Most Enchanting Language (ITA26, $15.00)

Signed Book Plates. Inebriated with the sounds of Italian, lovesick for its phrases and enamored of its earthy idioms, Dianne Hales, "a sensible woman of sturdy Polish stock," dives into the Italian of the piazza, literature, movies and streets in this inspiring memoir, travelogue and cultural primer. A Longitude Best of 2009, just out in paper.

Monte Argentario by Dianne Hales (La Bella Lingua)

The Monte Argentario peninsula on the west Tuscan coast offers spectacular natural scenery, with craggy cliffs soaring over the shimmering Tyrrhenian Sea. I love swimming in its azzurro-azzurro waters, walking through the shady pine forest at the Feniglia and going by boat or ferry to Giglio, an unspoiled island with great spots to swim and hike. Best of all is the most romantic hotel we've ever stayed at: Il Pellicano, just outside Porto Ercole, where we've returned every year for the last two decades.

Speak the Culture Italy, Be Fluent in Italian Life and Culture (ITA111, $24.95)

Touching on the great painters, writers, politicians, cultural heroes and sport stars, literature, food, wine and society, this lively all-in-one primer is an engaging education in Italian culture. Edited by Andrew Whittaker, it is one in a series, which also includes Spain, France and Britain.

Cadogan Guide Tuscany (ITA146, $21.95)

The just published fifth edition of Cadogan Tuscany takes in the medieval glories of Lucca and San Gimignano, Renaissance charms and Medici legacy of Florence and wine routes of Chianti. The roving authors, Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls (they wrote their first guide in 1977), settled not in Tuscany but rather Southwest France. Not a bad place either!

Village Walks Tuscany (ITA171, $14.95)

Travel colleague and book maven Brian Stacey suggested these convenient, colorful cards for exploring Tuscany, one in a series that also includes Provence, Ireland and London (with kids). Each of the cards in a deck of 50 features a suggested walk, city, site or activity on one side with a map on the reverse.

Essential Reading Tuscany

Including The Tuscan Year (TL131, $14.00), a Longitude favorite.


Race to the End: Amundsen, Scott and the Attainment of the South Pole (ANT322, $27.95)

Capturing the drama of the time, MacPhee's companion book, presented in a slip-case, includes foldout panoramic maps, never-before-seen photographs of artifacts from Scott's last camp, well-chosen archival photographs by Ponting and Hurley, and contemporary accounts of the two celebrated expeditions.

Antarctica by Ross McPhee

The Race to the End of the Earth, curated by Ross MacPhee, opens on May 29 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Timed to coincide with the centennial Amundsen and Scott's 1910-12 expeditions to the South Pole, both the exhibit and accompanying book include stunning archival photographs and rarely seen artifacts. MacPhee (pictured right at Livingston Island in Antarctica) noted in a recent e-mail that he's getting interested in some of the lesser-known expeditions that traveled in the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, where he works as a vertebrate paleontologist. Otto Nordenskjold's Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1901-1903, for example, is a great story. Like Shackleton, Nordenskjold's ship was crushed in the ice, his men forced to survive by their wits. You can still see historic huts from the expedition at Paulet Island, Hope Bay and Snow Hill Island.

Birds of North America (NAM54, $34.95)

Edited by Francois Vuilleumier, a popular AMNH curator in ornithology, and published in conjunction with the Museum, this big, beautiful birder's reference covers all the birds of North America (yes, including Mexico and Canada) with authority and style. Six hundred and fifty species get the full-page treatment, each with many terrific color photographs, a concise description, range map and notes on flight, song, nesting, feeding and voice.

Birding by Francois Vuilleumier

Vuilleumier kindly suggested to us several of his favorite birding locations: "Close to home, the first includes the stretch of southern New Jersey shore from Brigantine, southward to and including Cape May. The second is Mount Desert Island in coatal Maine. Farther afield in the USA, a third favorite birding location of mine is the part of southern Arizona that stretches south from Tucson to several points near the Mexican border, near Nogales, including Arivaca."

Barnum Brown, The Man Who Discovered Tyrannosaurus Rex (USW629, $29.95)

Drawing on AMNH archives, this lively biography of the celebrated fossil hunter by Museum paleontologists Lowell Dingus and Mark Norell takes full measure of not just Brown's colorful personality but also his extensive scientific accomplishments. Brown -- who lived fast, dressed to the teeth, gambled, drank, smoked and was known as a ladies' man -- became as legendary as the dinosaurs he discovered.


Darrel reports on a recent field trip with Hilary Bradt, the ebullient founder of Bradt guides, accompanied by Longitude rep Amy Alexander from Globe Pequot Press.

We were lucky enough recently to spend the afternoon with Hilary Bradt. After lunch in Korea Town, we went to the American Museum of Natural History, naturally, and took in the Silk Roads exhibit. Apart from discovering that she is inordinately fond of collared peccaries -- and all the Suidae. "Look at their snouts!" she explained -- we learned that she was recently awarded a MBE by the Queen for her service to travel and charity. Being Hilary Bradt, she learned to curtsey properly, bought a second-hand dress and "hired a big hat."

Hilary was especially keen that afternoon on a new series, tentatively entitled Slow, with a focus on "characterful" accommodation, walking, local food and goods. The first three books due out in July, all regional guides in Britain, include Devon, Norfolk & Suffolk and North Yorkshire. Bradt is the author of the Devon guide, where she recently moved, and all three are by local authors. They're the kind of independent, eyes-wide-open travel guides for the adventurous that are the hallmark of the 35-year-old company, founded, we were reminded, a year after Lonely Planet.

Amy toted samples of these four new guides, now in stock, including the latest addition to the excellent series of Bradt Wildlife Guides:

Bradt Pantanal Wildlife (BZL91, $25.99)

Environment, history, conservation and wildlife are all covered in this inviting slim guide to the mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates of the great wetlands of the Mato Grosso. Author James Lowen, editor of Neotropical Birding, also took many of the vivid color photographs of the wildlife.

Bradt Lake Baikal (SIB63, $25.99)

Marc Di Duca brings pluck and wit to this first-ever guide to Baikal and surrounds, which includes an overview of the five national parks in the immediate vicinity of Baikal along with chapters on Irkutsk and both the Trans-Siberian and Tran-Mongolian railways.

Bradt Abruzzo (ITA154, $21.99)

A native of Pescara, author Luciano Di Gregorio uncovers the medieval towns and churches, castles, parks, mountains and Adriatic beaches of Abruzzo, which is second only, he notes, to Umbria in the number of officially designated "Most Beautifulk Villages in Italy."

Bradt Peloponnese (GRE434, $23.99)

Not exactly untrammeled (Pausanias wrote a guide in the 2nd century AD), Andrew Bostock's compact guide nonetheless reveals the many pleasures of sophisticated Nauplion, rugged Mani (where author Patrick Leigh Fermor has made his home for decades), the astonishing amphitheatre at Epidaurus and other sites.


Brunetti's Cookbook (ITA133, $24.95)

For those of you who have savored many meals over the course of Donna Leon's 18 (and counting) Commissario Guido Brunetti novels set in Venice, we have news! Leon and her friend Roberta Pianaro have put together a cookbook. They say they ate their way through the recipes over a year. It's also got choice quotes from the novels, essays on the food and culture of Venice, and sweet watercolor illustrations by Tatjana Hauptmann.


A Question of Belief (ITA134, $24.00)

You might also be interested in Leon's just-released latest, set during an August heat wave (Brunetti's vacation plans folied). We'll have more mysteries next month.


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Have a preview of our suggestions for Father's Day!