Under the Tuscan Sun
An enchanting and lyrical look at the life, the traditions, and the cuisine of Tuscany, in the spirit of Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence. Frances Mayes entered a wondrous new world when she began restoring an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. There were unexpected treasures at every turn: faded frescos beneath the whitewash in her dining room, a vineyard under wildly overgrown brambles in the garden, and, in the nearby hill towns, vibrant markets and delightful people. In Under the Tuscan Sun, she brings the lyrical voice of a poet, the eye of a seasoned traveler, and the discerning palate of a cook and food writer to invite readers to explore the pleasures of Italian life and to feast at her table.

Under the Tuscan Sun Details

TitleUnder the Tuscan Sun
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 2nd, 1997
PublisherBroadway Books
ISBN-139780767900386
Rating
GenreTravel, Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Cultural, Italy, Romance, Biography, Womens Fiction, Chick Lit, Food and Drink, Food, Contemporary, Biography Memoir

Under the Tuscan Sun Review

  • Ali
    January 1, 1970
    WARNING: THIS BOOK IS THE MEANDERING INCOMPLETE THOUGHTS OF A MIDDLE-AGEd WOMAN THAT EATS LIKE A ITALIAN SUMO WRESTLER AND BOUGHT A DISASTER OF A HOUSE THAT NEEDED A HUGE AMOUNT OF REPAIR. THAT'S ALL THERE IS TO THIS BOOK. Perfect if you are practicing speed reading. You could skip every other sentence and still understand that she actually enjoys fixing up this crappy house in Italy. Absolutely nothing like the movie. Disappointing.
    more
  • Tara
    January 1, 1970
    I hear a lot of crap about how this book is silly, fluffy, boring, slow, unstructured, unserious. I've had three people now (all men =p) tell me it's "chicklit." First of all, is that supposed to be an insult? Second: What? Perhaps this all has something to do with how popular the book was and continues to be. Regardless, don't let the naysayers dissuade you from giving it a try. The writing is poetically beautiful, illuminating a place that is equally so. Plenty of "place writing" does a disser I hear a lot of crap about how this book is silly, fluffy, boring, slow, unstructured, unserious. I've had three people now (all men =p) tell me it's "chicklit." First of all, is that supposed to be an insult? Second: What? Perhaps this all has something to do with how popular the book was and continues to be. Regardless, don't let the naysayers dissuade you from giving it a try. The writing is poetically beautiful, illuminating a place that is equally so. Plenty of "place writing" does a disservice to the locations it tries to praise, but Mayes isn't just in love with Tuscany, she's also an astonishingly good writer, and she's sensitive to the fact that she is an outsider and therefore writes as one who does not "know" the culture. She's constantly delighted with new discoveries, and she shares them in such a way that you can share them, too.The real genius here, though, is in the scope. It's not all sweeping vistas and Renaissance churches in this telling; Mayes transforms the details of daily life, and she considers big questions, too. Food and drink, new friends and neighbors, the non-human inhabitants of her house and land, the joys and frustrations of foreign gardening, the colors and textures and tastes daily encountered are all given their moments. The next moment, Mayes ruminates on the vagaries of renovating a house in a foreign country(this is what the book is ostensibly about), the reasons a person leaves their own homeland to find a home elsewhere, and the ways a person is changed by what they find in that elsewhere. Is it cliche to say that I was changed by the experience of reading this, and that I am again, every time I revisit the book? Too bad, then -- this book is on my top shelf. I wish I could write like Frances Mayes.
    more
  • SJ
    January 1, 1970
    I didn't finish it. And, frankly, that's not like me at all. The book is well reviewed, and well written. And yet, somehow, I just really didn't like it. The author can truly write, and the topics were of great interest to me, but I felt the entire time like she was untouchable. She was encased in her own experience and at no point did I feel welcomed or able to understand her. Her life path never really found a commonality with my own, nor did she make me love her. In the end, I did myself the I didn't finish it. And, frankly, that's not like me at all. The book is well reviewed, and well written. And yet, somehow, I just really didn't like it. The author can truly write, and the topics were of great interest to me, but I felt the entire time like she was untouchable. She was encased in her own experience and at no point did I feel welcomed or able to understand her. Her life path never really found a commonality with my own, nor did she make me love her. In the end, I did myself the favor of forgiving myself for not liking it and set it aside. It just wasn't for me.
    more
  • Leftbanker
    January 1, 1970
    I need to preface this by saying that had this book been anything less than a monster success I wouldn't trash it. But for the life of me I can't see why it's so popular. What if she had written about remodeling a house in North Dakota? Would that be interesting? Of course not, so why are the tedious details of doing the same in Italy any different? This book has about as much to do with Italy as it does with North Dakota. The movie is even worse if that is possible.I had some friends come to vi I need to preface this by saying that had this book been anything less than a monster success I wouldn't trash it. But for the life of me I can't see why it's so popular. What if she had written about remodeling a house in North Dakota? Would that be interesting? Of course not, so why are the tedious details of doing the same in Italy any different? This book has about as much to do with Italy as it does with North Dakota. The movie is even worse if that is possible.I had some friends come to visit me here in Spain and one of them was reading this book. I had read it before and thought very little of it. As I am now in the middle of editing my own travel book about Spain I practically yanked this away from them to reread. I have to say that my first impression of Under the Tuscan Sun was accurate. As I edit my book about life in Spain I am a little worried about what I feel to be a lack of structure and focus in what I have written. After rereading this book my work seems like a textbook example of structure. She just seems to comment randomly about her rather privileged life in Italy. This book should serve as how not to write. It's truly ghastly writing at every step without a hint of insight to be found anywhere.This thing is like The Da Vinci Code of travel memoirs, or whatever the hell you want to call it. She is not as clumsy a writer as Dan Brown; I refer more to the immense popularity of this book. I just don’t get it. I just don’t see why it is that we all have to be reading the same book. I suppose that this is how the publishing industry works. They would much rather force one book down our collective throats than to print and market a series of books better suited for a range of tastes. I guess they find this sort of book to be inoffensive enough to cover a wide range of readers who are looking for a book about living in Italy. A more interesting take on this subject would be a lot riskier. Just an anecdotal observation on my part but in travel memoirs when writers don’t speak the local language very well they litter their writing in English with foreign words. The only time you should use a foreign word is when there is no English equivalent and even then only sparingly. I'd wager that her Italian is pretty lousy. For me this book is "creative writing" gone bad, and isn't all "creative writing" just writing gone bad?. If you removed all of the adjectives and adverbs the book would be about ten pages long.I never felt like reading more of this no matter where I was in the narrative. As far as the premise to the book, I really couldn’t care less about some prosperous couple’s work they are doing on an Italian country estate. I don’t know why this sort of story is so appealing to American readers. All of the home improvement narrative had little or nothing to do with Italy. One of the most important things to learn about life in Europe is how their cities work; at least this is one of the most important things that I've learned in my years in Spain. A country house is more for locals who are fed up with life in the city. It will take me many more years to reach this stage of assimilation. Being isolated on your Italian country estate doesn’t have much to do with Italy. She probably went weeks without ever speaking to an Italian that wasn’t among her service employees. Every noun is propped up by a description, as if nothing is able to stand on its own. The Italians in the book come across as mere stereotypes. I’m surprised I didn’t read about Guiseppe, the old organ grinder with his monkey. For a woman who has spent a lot of time in the country she has precious few insights about what life is like in that country other than her rather untraditional versions of Italian recipes. On the back cover of the book they say that the author is a gourmet cook. The first thing that came to my mind was that she may have qualified as a gourmet cook in America back when the book was first published but among the Italians she probably rates somewhere in the bottom middle of household hash slingers. From her recipes I didn’t get the impression that she was creating any miracles in the kitchen. This isn’t trying to take anything away from her skills, it’s just that in Mediterranean countries the bar for culinary prowess has been raised rather high. Like being a distance runner in Kenya, to be considered an above average cook in this region of the world you have to be truly remarkable. Judging by the heavenly cooking smells wafting into the stairwell of my small building in Valencia it seems that really good cooks aren’t exactly a rare commodity.I suppose people are in love with the idea of moving to a country estate in Tuscany and nothing else really matters. I just couldn’t give a shit about her petty bourgeois issues with restoring a country home. For me it’s just a load of really uninteresting gibberish, like someone recounting a dream. The author revealed few truly insightful observations about Italy or Italian life. I doubt that she learned much Italian in all of her time spent there. As she is a university writing professor she writes in the clunky college professor manner that has shaped and destroyed so much American writing. This just seems like it appeals to the fanny pack wearing crowd of international travel, the folks who read those awful yuppie travel magazines, keep their cash in a money belt, and see travel as nothing more than a shopping opportunity. I'd like to set the author of this book up on a blind date with the guy who wrote the awful A Year in Provence.I just noticed that this same author has a follow-up book to Under the Tuscan Sun with the sub-heading: Journeys of a Passionate Traveler. I think I need to throw up a little bit. First of all, you can't call something a journey if you use a credit card. Secondly, what the hell is a passionate traveler? Is that like when they do a porno movie on a desert island or you have sex in the bathroom of a train? It’s like those cooking shows for people “who love to eat.” Are there people who don’t like to eat? A “passionate traveler?” I just couldn’t get past the title of this book to find out what she is talking about. I seriously doubt that she has written a single thing of interest before Under the Tuscan Sun came out even though she taught creative writing. Has anyone who teaches creative writing ever written anything interesting?
    more
  • Amanda
    January 1, 1970
    At 66 pages in, I'm throwing in the towel.Somewhere around the age of 22 or 23, I decided I was done with library books. Now, don't get me wrong, I love and appreciate libraries. I became a reader because of access to wonderful libraries. But, as an adult, I'm OCD enough not to enjoy the concept of library books. Wondering how many people read them while on the toilet, encountering books that smelled like ash trays, finding potato chip crumbs wedged between pages 32 and 33, encountering a sticky At 66 pages in, I'm throwing in the towel.Somewhere around the age of 22 or 23, I decided I was done with library books. Now, don't get me wrong, I love and appreciate libraries. I became a reader because of access to wonderful libraries. But, as an adult, I'm OCD enough not to enjoy the concept of library books. Wondering how many people read them while on the toilet, encountering books that smelled like ash trays, finding potato chip crumbs wedged between pages 32 and 33, encountering a sticky cover, or, dear God, whose hair is that?!!?--these are all things that would give me a nervous twitch for days. Add to that a county library that seemed unaware of the existence of authors other than Nicholas Sparks, Norah Roberts, James Patterson, and John Grisham, well, the choice was clear. I had to buy my own books.The thing is, I was so punchdrunk giddy with the idea of buying my own books and not being limited to what was on the library shelves that I was pretty damn bad at it in the beginning. I bought anything and everything that struck my fancy. Part of this was also because I was willing to see if I was the kind of person who would like these books that I didn't have access to previously. A book about a woman moving to sun-drenched Italy and finding herself? Why not? Maybe I'm the kind of person who could like that. My shelves are still filled with secret shames I acquired in those heady days of biblio-freedom. Let's just say that, today, I am not the kind of person who would ever pick this book up. Under the Tuscan Sun is not a bad book. It's just not a me book. As far as I can tell, here is the basic premise:1) Frances and Ed search all of Italy for the perfect summer house and have terrible trouble finding the place that's meant for them (talk about rich people problems, eh?)2) Frances and Ed buy the house that speaks to them--and apparently the house is saying, "Freeze! Gimme all your money and no one gets hurt!" Because this house needs some serious work.3) Frances and Ed perpetually need or get permits, contracts, money wires, and estimates for the bajillion and one things that need to be fixed. Every time the expense is exorbitant, but, before one can feel sorry for them, they scrape together the money needed with seemingly minimal effort. It's kind of like the movie The Money Pit with Tom Hanks and Shelly Long--only this time I was kind of rooting for the house. 4) Frances and Ed make a quaint little discovery on their property! Isn't Italy wonderful!5) Something else goes wrong with the house. (Stick it to 'em, house!)6) Frances cooks something. It's always Italian. It always has fresh ingredients. It is always fabulous.It reads like a well-written, but repetitive and ultimately uninteresting diary.Now, again, I did not finish reading the book, but skimmed through it enough to feel fairly assured that nothing new was ever going to happen. Other reviews reaffirmed this belief, so I do not feel compelled to read further. Had this been a travel article, I probably would have been intrigued but I just can't do another 240 pages of this. And so, Under the Tuscan Sun, ciao! I'm off to sunnier literary climes.Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
    more
  • Laura C.
    January 1, 1970
    “ It’s not fair that some people get to live like this!” she said, throwing the book down on her unwashed, non- authentic linoleum floor. “ A wonderful companion that willing does chores, looks good without his shirt, never argues, likes to travel; cash to buy and then renovate a villa in Tuscany where you live every summer and at Christmas and bottle your own olive oil from your own trees; have tons of flowers, fruit trees and terraces with lounge chairs; find Etruscan stones in your back yard; “ It’s not fair that some people get to live like this!” she said, throwing the book down on her unwashed, non- authentic linoleum floor. “ A wonderful companion that willing does chores, looks good without his shirt, never argues, likes to travel; cash to buy and then renovate a villa in Tuscany where you live every summer and at Christmas and bottle your own olive oil from your own trees; have tons of flowers, fruit trees and terraces with lounge chairs; find Etruscan stones in your back yard; have a fabulous job as the head of the Humanities department at a major University in San Francisco when you are not in Tuscany; interesting and famous literary friends; still look good in a sun dress and gladiator sandals; have a movie made about your life staring Diane Ladd (which is really nothing like the book, by the way); and speak Italian with a charming southern accent! It’s not fair! It’s not fair!” Later, that night, she crawled under the table and retrieved it, determined to try one of those recipes, included in the book, for Chicken with Chickpeas, Garlic, Tomatoes, and Thyme.
    more
  • Deb
    January 1, 1970
    Wanting to learn about all things Italian was the reason I picked this book. I started it as an audio book. But even as a listen while being a prisoner on the highway, I had to stop after the first CD. Her out of touch with reality pinings about her problems encountered when buying a home in Italy (who in the world can afford this in the first place!) grated. Hearing that one of the primary joys of her Italy travels was buying shoes, was a major clue that this was not a book for me. Then when sh Wanting to learn about all things Italian was the reason I picked this book. I started it as an audio book. But even as a listen while being a prisoner on the highway, I had to stop after the first CD. Her out of touch with reality pinings about her problems encountered when buying a home in Italy (who in the world can afford this in the first place!) grated. Hearing that one of the primary joys of her Italy travels was buying shoes, was a major clue that this was not a book for me. Then when she mentions sitting out at her new home and hearing the WHIRR of an owl flying close overhead--I knew I wanted to spend no more time in her description of Italy. Owls are silent. You DO NOT hear the whirr of this bird of prey's wings. If she is making up something this simple, what else is fantasy? I was hoping to learn about Italy, not hear her interpretation of what Italy should be. So I ejected the disk and put the book away. Silence won out over a pampered, middle aged woman's whimsical ramblings.
    more
  • Connie
    January 1, 1970
    Frances Mayes bought a neglected villa in the Tuscan town of Cortona. The house was called "Bramasole", meaning "yearning for the sun", and the sunshine and warmth of Italy comes shining through Mayes' enthusiastic descriptions.One gets a sense that Mayes is being reborn. After a midlife divorce, she is in a relationship with her future husband, Ed. The two poets both have demanding jobs as the heads of creative writing departments in their California universities. Both worked hard, along with I Frances Mayes bought a neglected villa in the Tuscan town of Cortona. The house was called "Bramasole", meaning "yearning for the sun", and the sunshine and warmth of Italy comes shining through Mayes' enthusiastic descriptions.One gets a sense that Mayes is being reborn. After a midlife divorce, she is in a relationship with her future husband, Ed. The two poets both have demanding jobs as the heads of creative writing departments in their California universities. Both worked hard, along with Italian craftsmen, renovating the house in Tuscany during their summer and mid-winter breaks. They fell in love with the Italian culture, pace of life, and food.The sense of time is so different in Tuscany with their villa surrounded by fascinating things from ancient times--an Etruscan wall, a Roman road, old churches, and a nearby Medici fortress. The walls of the old villa were thick slabs covered with plaster. Various owners had added on more rooms over the years so it was always a surprise to see what was under the last coat of plaster.The Tuscan food is simple, fresh, and picked when perfectly ripe. Mayes' descriptions of the food and wine are sensuous, and she included a few recipes. Her tables are often topped with fresh flowers from the many gardens they planted.I enjoyed the book, but wished I had spread the reading out more instead of reading it over three days since there is so much description. The mood of the book is upbeat, joyous, and often humorous. The Tuscan sun has definitely warmed up Mayes' life. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 stars.
    more
  • Heather Vance
    January 1, 1970
    I first heard about this story when the film version was being hyped. For some reason I never bothered to view it, perhaps because it appeared amidst other seemingly trite films that did not interest me. However I found this copy in the used library bookstore and from the inside cover description I realized that it's subject matter greatly interested me. Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun, At Home in Italy is her personal account of a life shifting and settling in the landscape of the Italian c I first heard about this story when the film version was being hyped. For some reason I never bothered to view it, perhaps because it appeared amidst other seemingly trite films that did not interest me. However I found this copy in the used library bookstore and from the inside cover description I realized that it's subject matter greatly interested me. Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun, At Home in Italy is her personal account of a life shifting and settling in the landscape of the Italian countryside. But it is more than a merely picturesque recounting of her experiences, her story has many layers that together recall that sense of nostalgia that can only be found in the true sweetness of memory. The smells and sounds that create that subtle ache for the events and experiences that in remembering achieve their deepest meaning. Her life undone becomes her greatest practice of living in the now.It gives me joy to accompany her on this path through her own poetic journaling and to read beneath and in between her words the discovery of a life deconstructed along with her old farmhouse which like her is being reborn through years of neglect.May she and all of us continue to learn to live creating the lives we desire with plenty of local grown food, wine and personal harvest!
    more
  • Kay
    January 1, 1970
    The movie made her far more interesting than the book did. Movie version: her best friend is a lesbian and they send Mayes on a gay tour of Tuscany since the friend's wife doesn't want her to travel in the first trimester. The trip is to help Mayes recover from the divorce. She falls in love with the country, finding magic in unexpected places and buys a villa. In restoring it, she learns to love herself again, as she learns Italian ways of living. Book version: straight lady buys house with hus The movie made her far more interesting than the book did. Movie version: her best friend is a lesbian and they send Mayes on a gay tour of Tuscany since the friend's wife doesn't want her to travel in the first trimester. The trip is to help Mayes recover from the divorce. She falls in love with the country, finding magic in unexpected places and buys a villa. In restoring it, she learns to love herself again, as she learns Italian ways of living. Book version: straight lady buys house with husband because they can. They are utterly ignorant about restoring an old house. Hijinks ensue. They're only there in the summers. Seriously, which would you pick? There are interesting parts about local Italian history and the occasional magic moment, but mostly it's a "look at how cool my normative life is, aren't you jealous?" kinda book.Be aware that the three star rating is because Mayes is a competent writer who occasionally includes some really beautiful prose. What this rating is NOT based on is an engaging story. But I can't fault her competency in her craft.If you liked Eat Pray Love, you may also like this one. I believe the reverse is also true.
    more
  • Samantha
    January 1, 1970
    While i thoroughly enjoyed the book, i WILL say that its not what i expected since i had seen and enjoyed the movie first. most of the story is completely different than the movie.....but what bothered me is that there was no real story plot here besides the fixing up of the house over time. as she fixes the house, she fixes her life, and in the end "turns italian" and finds where she belongs (not that she seemed out of place at the beginning). I guess i was slightly disappointed in 2 things: 1) While i thoroughly enjoyed the book, i WILL say that its not what i expected since i had seen and enjoyed the movie first. most of the story is completely different than the movie.....but what bothered me is that there was no real story plot here besides the fixing up of the house over time. as she fixes the house, she fixes her life, and in the end "turns italian" and finds where she belongs (not that she seemed out of place at the beginning). I guess i was slightly disappointed in 2 things: 1) the lack of an overarching story platform to guide the reader and keep them engaged and 2) the replacement of any type of drama with details details details on everything from the varnish of the yellow outdoor table to the multiple references to various streets in cortona or her neighbor or the nuns who fix lace. while Mayes paints a vividly gorgeous picture of Tuscany, and, specifically, her house in Cortona, i was left wanting more than just her insights and detail....having delved into the writing of memoir myself, i know that the audience remains engaged when you deal with difficult aspects of yourself. they need to trust the author...and while i trusted Mayes and would love to meet her, anything personal NOT having to do with the house (her divorce, relationship to Ed, her daughter, her life OUTSIDE of the home restoration) was pretty much skipped over.maybe some of her other books gives you a better idea of her emotional state going into that project.... overall i rather enjoyed the portrait of tuscany and confess i would like to do the same thing, but i just wish i got to know the author better at the end of it.
    more
  • Donna
    January 1, 1970
    This was a re-read, and I loved it again. I know there's plenty here whodon't think much of this book, but it totally appeals to my utterly romanticnotions of running away to live in Europe someday....sigh.... ;-) Haven'tbeen to Italy yet, but this book *was* largely responsible for my subsequenttrips to France, Spain, and Turkey. And my list (TBV list - "to bevisited" - tee hee) has been growing ever since.This was also my first PalmPilot read, and I was pleasantly surprised tofind that I compl This was a re-read, and I loved it again. I know there's plenty here whodon't think much of this book, but it totally appeals to my utterly romanticnotions of running away to live in Europe someday....sigh.... ;-) Haven'tbeen to Italy yet, but this book *was* largely responsible for my subsequenttrips to France, Spain, and Turkey. And my list (TBV list - "to bevisited" - tee hee) has been growing ever since.This was also my first PalmPilot read, and I was pleasantly surprised tofind that I completely enjoyed reading on my teensy little baby computer. Iwonder if we will ever reach that vision of the paperless society that wastouted when the first home computers came out way back when. Could the PalmPilot finally represent the beginning of the end of cutting down massivetracts of forests to support our voracious appetite for the printed word. Iparticularly found the PP nice for reading in bed. Lightweight, cleareasy-to-read font, easy thumb clicks to turn the pages, and complete withits own light. Very cool. Donna's a happy PalmPilot reader. ;-)Unfortunately, my tiny little book budget will still keep me library-bound,but I look forward to the occasional e-book splurge.
    more
  • Ryan
    January 1, 1970
    Plot: Author summers in Tuscany, buys an old farmhouse, refurbishes it, travels through Italy, and cooks constantly.Review: Open up a "Sunset" or a "National Geographic Traveler" magazine, and imagine reading a beautifully descriptive & evocative 6-page essay on what it's like to live & work & cook in Italy. Then, when you finish it, flip the pages back and start the article again. But substitute the Zuppa Toscana with Porcini Risotto. The Pesto Crostini for the Fontina Bruschetta. A Plot: Author summers in Tuscany, buys an old farmhouse, refurbishes it, travels through Italy, and cooks constantly.Review: Open up a "Sunset" or a "National Geographic Traveler" magazine, and imagine reading a beautifully descriptive & evocative 6-page essay on what it's like to live & work & cook in Italy. Then, when you finish it, flip the pages back and start the article again. But substitute the Zuppa Toscana with Porcini Risotto. The Pesto Crostini for the Fontina Bruschetta. A full-bodied Montepulciano for the earthy Sangiovese. And keep reading. Over and over again.It's hard to read a 280-page book that has no plot. It's just hard to keep opening it up on the bus everyday. Each passage is very interesting, but a travel article - which is what it is - can only sustain a reader for so long, even when done well. This book makes me want to visit Italy (Oh!, wait, as it turns out, we're going there on our upcoming honeymoon; lucky us!). It makes me want to bake a slice of bruschetta & top it with a rub of garlic, a dab of olive oil, & roasted eggplant. It makes me want to work in the garden & enjoy the sweat of manual labor before laying down for a lazy August siesta. It makes me want to say things like "Etruschi," & "Arrosto," and hang out with guys named Francesco and Primo. It makes me want to slowly sip a glass of Brunello di Montalcino in the fading evening sun. Essentially, it makes me want do something other than continue reading. It makes me want to be somewhere else: Somewhere sunnier, where the cheese is richer, the vino is bolder, the afternoons are slower, and the magic of human civilization is much much older and wiser. I have the thrill of giving this book the most unforgettable and interesting bad review I've given so far.
    more
  • Antof9
    January 1, 1970
    I saw the movie first and didn't realize it was based on a book.So first of all, this is not a novel. It's a woman's journal of the purchase and clean up of an old house in Tuscany. It includes recipes, gardening directions, weather reports, menus, etc. And if that's what you were expecting, it's actually very good. However, I unfortunately saw the movie when it came out, in complete ignorance that it was a book first.And. . . I'm still confused about how *this* book got made into *that* movie. I saw the movie first and didn't realize it was based on a book.So first of all, this is not a novel. It's a woman's journal of the purchase and clean up of an old house in Tuscany. It includes recipes, gardening directions, weather reports, menus, etc. And if that's what you were expecting, it's actually very good. However, I unfortunately saw the movie when it came out, in complete ignorance that it was a book first.And. . . I'm still confused about how *this* book got made into *that* movie. I'd already read Extra Virgin, and felt that this book was a weak imitation.Had I not known the movie or the other book, I think I'd have liked this better. And I'd strongly recommend it to anyone travelling there (or moving there). Her descriptions of food were amazing! I especially liked the way she described menus, and how they ate what was in season and accessible. It made me crave cheese and fruit!
    more
  • mossum
    January 1, 1970
    I so rarely stop reading mid-book, but I found this one to be so rambling and uninteresting and I'm at a point in life where I feel no obligation to push through such an experience, even (or especially) to please someone who thought for sure they knew what I'd like. The prospect of buying a shambles of a house, no matter where, and restoring it, is a subject that is of tremendous interest to me. Although I'm not "traveled," I can well image that the effort of obtaining a passport, packing, and f I so rarely stop reading mid-book, but I found this one to be so rambling and uninteresting and I'm at a point in life where I feel no obligation to push through such an experience, even (or especially) to please someone who thought for sure they knew what I'd like. The prospect of buying a shambles of a house, no matter where, and restoring it, is a subject that is of tremendous interest to me. Although I'm not "traveled," I can well image that the effort of obtaining a passport, packing, and flying to the other side of the globe would be well worth it if one could buy and restore a home in the hills of Tuscany. I can even appreciate the detailed imagery a good author can summon with romantic descriptions of local flora, cuisine, and ancillary characters. Unfortunately, Mayes was unable or unwilling to craft such an exciting, titillating, adventurous memoir, and instead presents the minutiae of her adventure with over-descriptive drudgery. I found her writing to be less interesting than the plant descriptions on my Sunset Garden Book.
    more
  • Tamara
    January 1, 1970
    CRAP CRAP CRAP...HATED IT!!! This is the epitome of nauseating travelogues. This woman thinks she is Italian because she renovated and lived in a small property in Tuscany??? And she is clearly so much smarter, knows better, and has more experience in everything (not JUST renovating and living in a small house in Tuscany) than anyone else on earth because she renovated and lived in a small house in Tuscany. Blech.
    more
  • Aisling
    January 1, 1970
    I think I'm being a little harsh by giving this only 4 stars...it certainly has the qualities of a 5 star book; great writing, interesting events, a plot that works. But it really was too disjointed with recipes and philosophy and personal reflections and building/buying anecdotes. Mayes style works well with the bulk of the book but there are too many wandering offs to make it a true 5 star book. It just did not hang together. I really enjoyed it, though. I just had to pick it up and put it dow I think I'm being a little harsh by giving this only 4 stars...it certainly has the qualities of a 5 star book; great writing, interesting events, a plot that works. But it really was too disjointed with recipes and philosophy and personal reflections and building/buying anecdotes. Mayes style works well with the bulk of the book but there are too many wandering offs to make it a true 5 star book. It just did not hang together. I really enjoyed it, though. I just had to pick it up and put it down when she kept shifting styles and goals. And ok it was marketed as a memoir and I generally need to avoid them. But there is much to be greatly enjoyed in this book. Just don't expect it to be anything like the 2003 movie--the movie is very, very loosely based on the book. This is a terrific read for the arm chair traveler or anyone who has wanderlust and needs a little motivation to go and do.
    more
  • Marjorie
    January 1, 1970
    Edit: I mentioned in my review that the author paid $1,000,000 for this abandoned villa because she said in the book that she wrote "milione" at the closing so many times. But Ms. Mayes sent me a tweet questioning where I got that price and that it was a fifth of that or $200,000. That was when I realized that I hadn't converted the milione that she mentioned from lire to dollars! It was her entire savings from her marriage that she put into this home. Plus they did a lot of the work themselves. Edit: I mentioned in my review that the author paid $1,000,000 for this abandoned villa because she said in the book that she wrote "milione" at the closing so many times. But Ms. Mayes sent me a tweet questioning where I got that price and that it was a fifth of that or $200,000. That was when I realized that I hadn't converted the milione that she mentioned from lire to dollars! It was her entire savings from her marriage that she put into this home. Plus they did a lot of the work themselves. Quite a difference with the conversion. So thank you, Ms. Mayes, for this clarification!I’ve long been familiar with this book but until now had never had the chance to read it. The 20th Anniversary Edition is being released so I grabbed the chance to read it all these years later. This memoir is beautifully written and pulls you right into the atmosphere that exclusively belongs to Italy. Though I’ve never visited Italy, I do enjoy reading about it and believe it’s a very unique place. Ms. Mayes and her husband had the privilege and daring to buy a run-down villa in Tuscany 20 years ago and she and her husband undertook the extensive renovation of it. I must say that it left me quite astonished to hear that they paid $1,000,000 for this villa, were still able to put so much money into the renovation and that this was only to be their summer home. I couldn’t quite relate to that but regardless of that disconnect, I very much enjoyed reading of their adventures over the years.The beginning of the book details their search for a home, their finding of Bramasole in Tuscany, their search for contractors and decisions made as to what the renovation would entail and the actual renovation. I love watching “This Old House” and other shows like it so enjoyed the first part of this section. However, I did become a bit bored with some of the renovation details.But then she goes on to talk about her exploration of the neighboring areas and her finding of little known paths, roads and churches that she finds and I was entranced. And then, since she’s apparently a gourmet cook, there are the wonderful descriptions of the food of Italy and pages of her recipes that I definitely will be trying over the winter.All in all, the author has shared her delight in Italy with her readers in a completely captivating way. Recommended.This book was given to me by the publisher through Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.
    more
  • Tarah
    January 1, 1970
    Here's the thing. I loved this book when I first read it (was I 20? maybe 22...). Because I was young, and hadn't learned how to resent those people who gallivant around the globe with too much money on their hands telling us how charmed their lives are while describing the picturesque landscape. That being said, the book is well-written and the descriptions of Tuscan life are, of course, deeply seductive. Because that's the point: a life where you worry whether your wrought-iron gate is cast in Here's the thing. I loved this book when I first read it (was I 20? maybe 22...). Because I was young, and hadn't learned how to resent those people who gallivant around the globe with too much money on their hands telling us how charmed their lives are while describing the picturesque landscape. That being said, the book is well-written and the descriptions of Tuscan life are, of course, deeply seductive. Because that's the point: a life where you worry whether your wrought-iron gate is cast in period-appropriate design, or you wonder if the grape vines cascading down your porch are wine grapes or grapes for eating *IS* a seductive life. But reading this again while wrapped in the cynicism of my 30s, I just can't get excited about it. Again, the genre of memoir is partly to blame. But more than anything, I'm just supremely uninterested in reading about how fantastic, and rustic, and beautiful your life is. I'm giving it three stars not because I like it, as I'm not sure I do at this point, but because it is beautiful. How much of that is really just the landscape, I wonder.
    more
  • Sophia
    January 1, 1970
    A chance to journey along looking over a person's shoulder as they go from summer holiday tripper in Tuscany to owning an old Tuscan farmhouse needing a vast deal of TLC was an intriguing prospect.I had seen the movie adaption of this book, but the movie is only one small facet of all that is covered in gently-paced slightly distant reflections on a years' long labor of love and life. This book reads like a blend of journal-scrapbook-ideas-memorabilia-organizer all wrapped in one. And that's pre A chance to journey along looking over a person's shoulder as they go from summer holiday tripper in Tuscany to owning an old Tuscan farmhouse needing a vast deal of TLC was an intriguing prospect.I had seen the movie adaption of this book, but the movie is only one small facet of all that is covered in gently-paced slightly distant reflections on a years' long labor of love and life. This book reads like a blend of journal-scrapbook-ideas-memorabilia-organizer all wrapped in one. And that's pretty much what the author says it is- the tidied version that is.I immersed myself in Frances and Ed's (two American university professors) summer and other holiday adventures in buying and restoring an old Tuscan farmhouse. There are details of their personal projects, the entertaining attempt and moderate success of working with Italian contractors and laborers in spite of a limited knowledge of the language. Details of acquiring their home pieces and indulging in the amazing produce and other foods of the region from growing their own, to markets, to cooking and entertaining. Social engagements of encounters with the locals, meeting for dinners around at the homes of an international community of ex-pats including a famous writer that Frances is a fan. The anguish of disappointment and humor, too, in the contractor hired to work while they are away back in America and then the hum of industry while they pull out all stops to deliver a fabulous wedding for their friends. There is so much more including a section of her Italian recipes that I was grateful to find in the center of the book after all that talk of food.I will say, that I'm probably the opposite of most readers. I got bored during her sightseeing trips in the region, reminiscing of the past during her childhood in Georgia, or her thoughts on her life and how its changing, but I was really into the restorations and projects around their home along with talks of marketing and cooking. It is slow-paced for certain and meanders a great deal. It reads better in small bites of time rather than larger consumption of pages at a time. It follows a general linear time line and offers episodes in their Tuscan summers so its not messy, but it won't read crisply or quickly either.All in all, it was a pleasant reading experience that gave me a lovely vicarious trip to Tuscany. I definitely don't think I'm up to restoring an old Tuscan farmhouse, but staying in one and shopping in the market or eating in the restaurants or going tourist on the region would definitely be a dream come true.
    more
  • Rob
    January 1, 1970
    I'd never heard of this book until the autumn of 1999, a few days after I arrived in Cortona, the town/subject of this book. Every time I turned around, all these baby boomers were asking me if I knew where Francis Mayes lived. I had know idea who she was. I soon learned, however, that she was the author of this very book, which was about her experience rehabbing a home on the other side of the hill from Cortona. My experience in Cortona was life changing. When I returned to the states, I was sa I'd never heard of this book until the autumn of 1999, a few days after I arrived in Cortona, the town/subject of this book. Every time I turned around, all these baby boomers were asking me if I knew where Francis Mayes lived. I had know idea who she was. I soon learned, however, that she was the author of this very book, which was about her experience rehabbing a home on the other side of the hill from Cortona. My experience in Cortona was life changing. When I returned to the states, I was sad to be away from the beautiful town, it haunted my dreams every night, I thought of nothing but returning. I decided to ease my mind by reading someone else's account of their experience there, and picked up this book. Mayes paints a bucolic picture of her affluent time spent futzing around Cortona. She obviously loves the place, but I can't help but feel like, more than anything, she's just bragging. Maybe I'm just jealous that I don't have a home of my own there (yet). Maybe I was annoyed by the herds of annoying, middle-aged American tourists jamming up the tiny streets of Tuscany's towns, making it seem less authentic, because of this book. This is not to say that my presence didn't similarly dampen the mood for others, but at least I was there to make art inspired by the natives and their surroundings, and not to see landmarks from a what is ultimately a tedious memoir.
    more
  • GoldGato
    January 1, 1970
    ...for here there is no placethat does not see you. You must change your life.- RILKEI was at an airport. I needed a book. It was the 1990s (no e-books). Another cross-country business trip.This was it.The Tuscan sun has warmed me to the marrow.I read the whole thing from cover-to-cover on that journey. Maybe it was the writing, maybe it was the locale, maybe it was because I was leaving sun and flying into snow, but I really enjoyed this book. Frances Mayes had me turning pages to discover the ...for here there is no placethat does not see you. You must change your life.- RILKEI was at an airport. I needed a book. It was the 1990s (no e-books). Another cross-country business trip.This was it.The Tuscan sun has warmed me to the marrow.I read the whole thing from cover-to-cover on that journey. Maybe it was the writing, maybe it was the locale, maybe it was because I was leaving sun and flying into snow, but I really enjoyed this book. Frances Mayes had me turning pages to discover the results of her house renovations, her travels in Tuscany, and her recipes....there's always the fear that it's not real, you're not really allowed to determine your own life. It may be pulled back at any moment.I changed my life. Book Season = Summer (lemon cake, tangerine sorbet)
    more
  • Bam
    January 1, 1970
    I am surprised by how many bad reviews this book has received here on goodreads. Yes, the movie version is very loosely based on this book, so don't come looking for that story. And yes, it is a memoir and not a novel. And yes, Mayes is a privileged woman who has the earned the ability to buy a decrepit villa in Tuscany as a second home, renovate it and furnish it. So? Who hasn't dreamed of doing just that? I thoroughly enjoyed her descriptions of the renovation process, the land, the people, th I am surprised by how many bad reviews this book has received here on goodreads. Yes, the movie version is very loosely based on this book, so don't come looking for that story. And yes, it is a memoir and not a novel. And yes, Mayes is a privileged woman who has the earned the ability to buy a decrepit villa in Tuscany as a second home, renovate it and furnish it. So? Who hasn't dreamed of doing just that? I thoroughly enjoyed her descriptions of the renovation process, the land, the people, the ancient history of the area and oh, the food! Thank goodness she has included a few recipes to try.
    more
  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    I've had this book probably since it was first published in the mid-Nineties but I never had the urge to read it until now. I've seen the movie that was ever-so-loosely based on it and I have to admit that the movie didn't fill me with enthusiasm to read the book. The other day I had this urge to read it, so I curled up in bed with it. Honestly, it was like I was there. There isn't a great deal to say about this book. It's memoir, it's travel-writing, it's lush and beautiful. There doesn't need I've had this book probably since it was first published in the mid-Nineties but I never had the urge to read it until now. I've seen the movie that was ever-so-loosely based on it and I have to admit that the movie didn't fill me with enthusiasm to read the book. The other day I had this urge to read it, so I curled up in bed with it. Honestly, it was like I was there. There isn't a great deal to say about this book. It's memoir, it's travel-writing, it's lush and beautiful. There doesn't need to be a plot, just an atmosphere.The way Mayes describes the house, the countryside, and the food is amazing. She loves it, you can feel that. I want five acres of olive and fruit trees and herb gardens. I want a house I can open to the outdoors and a big marble sink and hardwood floors. I want the sense of peace she describes having while she's there. There's one chapter where she talks about her life taking on its own rhythm, having a mid-day siesta, waking up at 3am and reading for an hour before going back to sleep, then getting up early.I'm inspired by some of her recipes. I'm planning on making some of them this week. Just a little indulgence for myself.
    more
  • Davis Aujourd'hui
    January 1, 1970
    This is an inspirational book written by a woman who is going through a transition in her life. While visiting Tuscany, she decides to take a leap of faith and to begin a brand new life. Even though she can't afford the home which she wants to buy, the owner realizes that how much the author values the home and that it should be hers. Consequently the owner accepts the author's modest offer. That was spiritual! I especially appreciated this aspect since I am the author of a spiritually-themed bo This is an inspirational book written by a woman who is going through a transition in her life. While visiting Tuscany, she decides to take a leap of faith and to begin a brand new life. Even though she can't afford the home which she wants to buy, the owner realizes that how much the author values the home and that it should be hers. Consequently the owner accepts the author's modest offer. That was spiritual! I especially appreciated this aspect since I am the author of a spiritually-themed book. I have never visited Tuscany though Italy has remained one of the favorite countries which I have visited. After reading this book, I wanted to move to Tuscany. The writer has a gift for describing the countryside, the people, and the culture. She also has a wonderful gift for describing mouth-watering food. At points, the book reads as if it was a cookbook.While it was interesting, the author's description of renovating her new home was a bit tedious. Even so, the book is a marvelous read. It was a delightful escape for me and the writing is very good. You will not be disappointed.Davis Aujourd'hui, author of "The Misadventures of Sister Mary Olga Fortitude"
    more
  • Kasia
    January 1, 1970
    Yawn. Half of this is recipes. Under the Tuscan Sun is fairly known and well reviewed... I didn't realize cookbook, sort of. The other half was a real estate guide, and a renovation guide, and then a tour guide of Tuscany. I mean, really? All this intertwined with sappy statments in the fashion of Eat Pray Love. Yuck. It was well written all right, and I can see the appeal for some people. For me, when I want a recipe, I'll reach for an actual cookbook, thank you. Mark Bittman, anyone? Tuscany? Yawn. Half of this is recipes. Under the Tuscan Sun is fairly known and well reviewed... I didn't realize cookbook, sort of. The other half was a real estate guide, and a renovation guide, and then a tour guide of Tuscany. I mean, really? All this intertwined with sappy statments in the fashion of Eat Pray Love. Yuck. It was well written all right, and I can see the appeal for some people. For me, when I want a recipe, I'll reach for an actual cookbook, thank you. Mark Bittman, anyone? Tuscany? Been there, done that, so tour guide is not required. And as far as real estate goes, I need a catalog with pictures and numbers, and then prefer to see the place, and have actual interest in purchasing. Otherwise, it's a moot point.I guess I should have known better than to reach for this book. Well now I know better, I guess... Sigh
    more
  • Irene
    January 1, 1970
    If you eagerly await your friend’s vacation pictures, are absorbed in every detail of their adventures, than you may find this book a sheer delight. But, if your eyes glaze over and your mind wanders after the tenth picture and the tenth story, then you may be less engrossed by this book. Frances and her husband who both teach at California colleges, purchase an old Tuscan farm house and small olive grove. Every summer and Christmas semester break they spend remodeling the house, restoring the 5 If you eagerly await your friend’s vacation pictures, are absorbed in every detail of their adventures, than you may find this book a sheer delight. But, if your eyes glaze over and your mind wanders after the tenth picture and the tenth story, then you may be less engrossed by this book. Frances and her husband who both teach at California colleges, purchase an old Tuscan farm house and small olive grove. Every summer and Christmas semester break they spend remodeling the house, restoring the 5 acre farm and exploring the local sights and culture. This book is filled with menus, renovation adventures, wine sampling and sight-seeing.
    more
  • Anne
    January 1, 1970
    Frances Mayes wrote this book based on her experience of buying and restoring a villa in Tuscany. I read it summer 2001 while I was visiting Meredith in St. Croix and left it for her to read. The descriptions of life, light, food and wine made me want to move to Italy. I remember a lot of the recipes contained pine nuts, which I didn't think I liked at the time. Frances Mayes used to teach at UGA, and John knows her. I told my brother to read this book; he told me it changed his life.The movie i Frances Mayes wrote this book based on her experience of buying and restoring a villa in Tuscany. I read it summer 2001 while I was visiting Meredith in St. Croix and left it for her to read. The descriptions of life, light, food and wine made me want to move to Italy. I remember a lot of the recipes contained pine nuts, which I didn't think I liked at the time. Frances Mayes used to teach at UGA, and John knows her. I told my brother to read this book; he told me it changed his life.The movie is nowhere as good as the book.
    more
  • ❂ Jennifer
    January 1, 1970
    I loved the parts about the house and gardens restoration, and hearing about their adjustments to living in another country. But the author lost me on a street-by-street walking tour and a side-trip into philosophy/theology that just felt weird. I'll re-read, but I'll skip right on past those parts in the future.Full review: http://jenn.booklikes.com/post/111101...
    more
  • Cinco
    January 1, 1970
    I love travel writing and was really looking forward to reading this book. Sadly for me, about a third of the way through I realized that I wasn't reading a book about Italy or travel, I was reading a very long, very dry book about home improvement that just happened to take place in Tuscany.
    more
Write a review