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At Least You're in Tuscany Paperback – January 1, 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 221 customer reviews

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  • At Least You're in Tuscany
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  • AN ITALIAN JOURNEY Celebrating the Sweet Life of Tuscany
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"I absolutely fell in love with At Least You're in Tuscany, Jennifer, and most of all, her dog Cinder. Italy is a place of magnificent dreams but also of puzzling and challenging realities. Jennifer captures the dichotomy in a way few authors have. She also speaks to all of us who have had a mid-life change, willingly or unwillingly. I couldn't put this book down. You won't be able to either." - Kathy McCabe, Publisher, Dream of Italy Travel Newsletter

"If you're dreaming of making a move to Italy one day, or simply enjoy reading expat tales, I'd highly recommend At Least You're in Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell. It's a tale not only about life in Tuscany but also about having the determination to follow your heart's desires - no matter what challenges life throws your way!" - Laura Thayer, Ciao Amalfi!

"An honest, funny, and compulsively readable account of one woman's quest to live the Tuscan dream." - Signe Pike, author of Faery Tale: One Woman's Search for Enchantment in a Modern World

From the Back Cover

"I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves Italy or Tuscany or who is thinking about moving overseas." - Arlene Gibbs, author of The Rebirth Of Mrs. Tracey Higgins and co-screenwriter of the hit Hollywood film, Jumping The Broom
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Gemelli Press, LLC (January 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982102372
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982102374
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (221 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
Being an expat myself, I know that the dream of living in a foreign country can often differ pretty significantly from the reality. However, I've never come across a book that captures the trials and tribulations of moving to a new culture with quite the same level of laughing honesty of 'At Least You're In Tuscany'.

Criswell's dream of sipping espresso on an Italian balcony while writing best selling novels, overlooking rolling Tuscan hills, is brought crashing down to earth through a series of hilarious (and occasionally heartbreaking) experiences as real life intervenes. No one tells you that you may well have to wait forever to get citizenship; that you will be required to increasingly ration tinned food as a direct result of the aforementioned citizenship wait (because no one will give you a job); that doing laundry in Europe can sometimes mean risking your life; and that the allure of living in a idyllic Italian town wears off quickly when it turns out the whole town is talking about you.

Criswell recounts her tales of triumph and woe with a brutal honesty that is often hilarious - I laughed out loud on a number of occasions. She is such an endearing heroine because she tries so desperately to look on the bright side of an increasingly demoralising series of events, and it is her optimism that eventually brings her out on the other side. I cheered for her as she defiantly faced even the worst experiences with an upbeat 'well, at least you're in Tuscany'.

Yes, hitting rock bottom in Tuscany is indeed that bit better than hitting rock bottom anywhere else, and that's why I found Jennifer's story so entertaining. Even after a series of events that would have made any normal person pack their bags and get back on a plane in defeat, Criswell's Tuscan dream never dies. She adapts the dream to realities of life, makes it her own and, to her credit, is still living it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"As the barista set my espresso down, he smiled, so I decided it might be appropriate to try out one of my practiced phrases.
'Mi sono appena trasferita a Montepulciano.' I've just moved to Montepulciano, I smiled, resisting the urge to apologize for my horrible Italian.
'Perche?' he asked, looking genuinely puzzled. I'd fielded this question a lot in February when I'd said I was moving here. Locals seemed bewildered that anyone would want to come and live in their town.
'Sono scrittrice.' I told him. I'm a writer. Then I added, 'Cercavo pace.' I was looking for peace. This didn't begin to express all the reasons why I loved Italy, but it was all I could manage. I would have liked to explain that I was supposed to be here, but I didn't know exactly how to say that, which is just as well because I probably seemed kooky enough already.
'Ma per sempre?' he insisted.
Yes, I told him, I was planning to be here forever. He looked at me speculatively, then extended his hand to welcome me and introduce himself: 'Benvenuta! Sono Stefano.'"

This is an example of how Jennifer Criswell writes. She's honest, sincere, and very down to earth. Her tale of being an ex-pat isn't like those others where someone with a lot of money buys an old farm house to renovate and moans and groans about carpenters not showing up, or water heaters not heating the water, or being unable to get over the usual bureaucratic pitfalls they inevitably have. No. Jenny, as the locals come to call her, tells the reader just what it's like to hunt for an affordable apartment to rent, wait for most of her belongings to be mailed from New York City to Montepulciano, run frighteningly low on funds, worry about getting a job (any job), and has to eat canned tuna every day in order to survive.
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I enjoyed this book. It wasn't my favorite, but it was "real". Its a story of someone without buckets of money to move on whim. This woman took time and effort to plan this move out, and stuck it out with little financial help until things worked out with the slow moving Italian government process.. Much more relatable to my world than the wealthy American moves to Europe crowd, who then all write books. Not much about their lives connects with mine. Jennifer actually struggled to fulfill her dream, with many helps and hindrances along the way. I actually wondered when I got to the end, how things worked out for her and her dog. I have not wondered at all about the others. Its good to know you CAN do it without tons of money, and buying and renovating .
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Format: Paperback
A while back, I went through an obsessive phase with the American expat experience. I think I just needed to read about big adventures and different ways of life. While I've lost the urge to virtually move across the globe, I'm still very interested in expat stories, and At Least You're in Tuscany: A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Sweet Life by Jennifer Criswell is a great one.

As a young woman, Criswell took an extended trip to Italy and knew she had found her true home. Years and several more visits later, she finally leaves New York and moves to Montepulciano, Tuscany, with her dog Cinder. Despite careful preparation, she hits roadblocks from the start - a rude landlady, social isolation, difficulty speaking Italian, and most of all, serious financial trouble because she can't work. Her Sicilian ancestry entitles her to Italian citizenship, but of course, what was presented as an easy process takes much longer than anticipated. In the meantime, no one will hire her under the table. Much of this memoir is simply about looking for work in a small town, but Criswell makes it interesting. On the non-work front, she's dismayed to be dumped by old friends in the area, but eventually finds new ones in unexpected places - and has a fling with a charming, classically Italian produce vendor. :) I also loved the stories of the grape and olive harvests she participates in, although I totally believe her that the work is less romantic than it sounds.

At Least You're In Tuscany doesn't sugarcoat the challenges of moving overseas, but affirms that for those who really want to make the move, it's worth it. It's a great resource for expats, a great read for anyone interested in travel and/or Italy, and a general encouragement that hard times eventually end!
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