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Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy Paperback – September 2, 1997


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Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy + Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy + The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (September 2, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767900383
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767900386
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 3.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (594 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In this memoir of her buying, renovating, and living in an abandoned villa in Tuscany, Frances Mayes reveals the sensual pleasure she found living in rural Italy, and the generous spirit she brought with her. She revels in the sunlight and the color, the long view of her valley, the warm homey architecture, the languor of the slow paced days, the vigor of working her garden, and the intimacy of her dealings with the locals. Cooking, gardening, tiling and painting are never chores, but skills to be learned, arts to be practiced, and above all to be enjoyed. At the same time Mayes brings a literary and intellectual mind to bear on the experience, adding depth to this account of her enticing rural idyll. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Mayes's favorite guide to Northern Italy allots seven pages to the town of Cortona, where she owns a house. But here she finds considerably more to say about it than that, all of it so enchanting that an armchair traveler will find it hard to resist jumping out of the chair and following in her footsteps. The recently divorced author is euphoric about the old house in the Tuscan hills that she and her new lover renovated and now live in during summer vacations and on holidays. A poet, food-and-travel writer, Italophile and chair of the creative writing department at San Francisco State University, Mayes is a fine wordsmith and an exemplary companion whose delight in a brick floor she has just waxed is as contagious as her pleasure in the landscape, architecture and life of the village. Not the least of the charms of her book are the recipes for delicious meals she has made. Above all, her observations about being at home in two very different cultures are sharp and wise.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Frances Mayes has always adored houses, and when she saw Bramasole, a neglected, 200-year old Tuscan farmhouse nestled in five overgrown acres, it was love at first sight. Out of that instant infatuation have come four marvelous, and hugely popular, books: the bestsellers Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany, In Tuscany, a collaborative photo-textbook with her husband, the poet Edward Mayes, and photographer Bob Krist, and Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensuous Style From the Heart of Italy, another collaborative book with Edward Mayes and photographer Steven Rothfeld. All four highly personal books are about taking chances, living in Italy, loving and renovating an old Italian villa, the pleasures of food, wine, gardens, and the "voluptuousness of Italian life." The third book in her Tuscan trilogy, Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life (due out in spring 2010), is about Tuscan seasons and Mayes' reflections on her Italian life. She was awarded the Premio Casato Prime Donne for a major contribution in the field of letters in 2009.

Her first novel, Swan, a family saga and mystery, returns Mayes to her childhood home of Georgia and was published in 2002. A film version of Under the Tuscan Sun, starring Diane Lane, was released in fall of 2003. Frances Mayes was the editor for the 2002 Best American Travel Writing. She is also the author of the travel memoir entitled A Year in the World: Journeys of A Passionate Traveller, which immediately debuted as a New York Times bestseller in 2006. Working again with Steven Rothfeld, she published Shrines: Images of Italian Worship, also in 2006.

A widely published poet and essayist, Frances Mayes has written numerous books of poetry, including Sunday in Another Country, After Such Pleasures, The Arts of Fire, Hours, The Book of Summer, and Ex Voto. Her work The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems is widely used in college poetry classes. Formerly a professor of creative writing at San Francisco State University, where she directed The Poetry Center and chaired the Department of Creative Writing, Mayes now devotes herself full time to writing, restoring an historic garden and to her "At Home in Tuscany" furniture line at Drexel Heritage. She and her husband divide their time between North Carolina and Cortona, Italy.

Biographical note from Steven Barclay Agency

"Tuscany may have found its own bard in Frances Mayes."
-- The New York Times

Customer Reviews

If you are planning on visiting Tuscany this is the book to read.
Zecon
The problem I had with this book is that it I often felt like I was reading someone's diary, something by choice I would normally avoid.
Bill Lunn
Frances Mayes has written a beautiful memoir about her home in Tuscany.
V. Marshall

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 74 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
As someone who is used to taking frequent Mediterranean vacations but was marooned stateside this past summer, I thanked my lucky stars for happening upon this book. It was just the escape I needed. As I got deeper into it, I felt myself becoming more and more enamored with Tuscany, Bramasole and its cast of characters. Mayes hits her stride with rich, textured detail of her environment after the first 50 pages or so. Before that, she gets a little too bogged down in renovation process. I really felt that I was there, right down to hearing the crickets singing in the hot summer sun. Unlike so many others who reviewed this book, I was not offended at all by her descriptions of the Tuscan locals or the lifestyle. She was very complimentary and respectful of everyone she wrote about. One thing that could have been left out - the references to Mayes childhood that screamed "I'm wealthy!" The recipe chapters were an added bonus and inspired me to get cooking. Try the mushroom lasagna with bechamel sauce in the later food chapter - it's divine. The bottom line - if you're looking for a wry, humorous account of life as an expatriate, a la Peter Mayle, this book won't do it for you. But if you want to immerse yourself in a richly written tribute to the rolling hills of a gorgeous, faraway land, Tuscan Sun is not to be missed.
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
Although this book has appeal for a very broad audience (thus its success), she's not writing for anyone -- or any particular genre. If you are looking for a practical travel guide, you will be disappointed. If you are looking for a renovation guide, ditto. If you are looking for a story about her love for Ed, you won't get it. If you want it as a cookbook, you will be bored by everything else.
However, if you pick up the book as none of those things above, simply as one woman's collection of memories -- a portrait of her summers with a focus on the land and its pleasures -- you will be enraptured. You will not regret this book if you expect it to be full of little gems of information. Instead of tedious details, look at her close description of everything she does as poetry. Immerse yourself in her unique and rich language, and the book will warm your soul.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
You enjoy it while it lasts, get a little heartburn about half way through, and you feel a little funny after you're done. And you know that it's all just empty calories...
I was debating whether or not I should do a cycling tour of Tuscany when I spotted this book. I took it as a sign from above, so I immediately purchased it in hopes of being inspired to do the tour. Well... I WAS inspired, but not as much as I would've hoped.
Much like others have said, the first third of this book is quite sweet and captivating. It does a great job of drawing a sparse, beautifully concise mental picture of the Tuscan countryside. I really enjoyed her literary 'frugality'.
However, the only frugality she exhibits appears to be in her prose... As the book drags on, it becomes more and more the transcribed diary of a spoiled little rich girl who has trouble keeping the reins on her pocketbook. I found the references to shoe-shopping addictions to be particularly shallow.
And after the umpteenth complaint about cost overruns on the house renovations - followed by inexplicable spending sprees - I began to hear the phrase, "Awwww, the poor wittle baby" going through my head more and more. If everything's so darn expensive, why do you keep buying, and buying, and buying?
But I must admit that there is the odd sprinkle of profundity throughout the text. Every twenty pages or so, there was something - perhaps only one sentence - that would strike a chord within me, and would make me put the book down, look out the window, and remark to myself, "So, so true." In particular, her description of travel and its effect on the traveller was especially meaningful to me. It put into words what I've felt in the past, many times, but was unable to explain.
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108 of 133 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
Background: I lived and worked in Italy for a year, and have since returned for a total time of about two years spent in central Italy, primarly Bologna and the Lazio region. I speak Italian well, and have very close Italian friends whom I see regularly. I passionately love the country, its traditions, language and culture, and when I picked up 'Under the Tuscan Sun', it was in the hopes of finding a kindred spirt of sorts, an American with a love for Italy and all it has to offer.
Boy, was I wrong. At one point, I threw the book across the room in disgust. I finished the book, as I wanted to discover the answer to the questions I developed early on: Did Ms. Mayes ever talk to any Italian who didn't work for her? Does she have Italian friends who aren't financially obligated to her in some way or another? Does she know any Italians that she can invite for dinner with no business goal to discuss? Has she ever really listened to what any of them have to say, or do the ubiquitous hand gestures that so fascinate her monopolize her thought processes all the time? In all the years that she has been going to Italy, has she ever made a close Italian friend? My conclusion to all of these questions by the end of the book was negative.
I have two Italian friends that read and speak English, and I gave them a copy of the book, without letting them know how I felt ahead of time. Their reactions were the same as mine: they were insulted by her condescending descriptions. It's an old story for Italians -- Americans and British expatriates long for a place missing the messiness and tedium of everyday North American/British life, and invent one in Italy. The problem is, this invented reality leaves out the day to day lives of everyday Italians.
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