Armchair travelers will delight in this mesmerizing account of
restoring an old farmhouse in the idyllic Tuscan countryside. In
Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy,
Frances Mayes brings a poets voice, the eye of a
seasoned traveler and the discerning palate of a cook and food
writer together to create an enchanting and lyrical book about the
life, traditions and cuisine of this stunning region of Italy. With
its mouth-watering recipes, evocative descriptions and insight into
the Italian spirit, you won't want to miss Under the
Now in paperback, the #1 "San Francisco Chronicle bestseller that
is 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
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
1. "What are you growing here?" is the first line of Under the
Tuscan Sun. In what ways does that question symbolize how the book
came about? What does it say about Frances Mayes''s life in Italy,
and about her life in general?
2. Mayes writes of the traumatic experience of selling one house
and purchasing another on various occasions in the United States.
Why is the purchase of her house in Italy so qualitatively
different from her other experiences with home ownership?
3. "The house is a metaphor for the self," Frances Mayes writes.
Discuss some examples of this, both in her life and in your
4. What makes Mayes''s writing style effective? How does her
particular voice make her descriptions come alive? What images did
you find to be particularly striking?
5. What are some of the qualities of Italian life that contrast
most sharply with American culture? Which aspects of Italian life
did Frances and Ed find it important to incorporate into their own
lives? Which aspects would you have been drawn to?
6. How does the experience of purchasing and renovating
Bramasole impact Frances and Ed''s relationship, and how does their
interaction affect their shared experience of buying, owning, and
living in Bramasole?
7. How does the author change as the book progresses? How are
her changes reflected in her tone and in her writing?
8. Mayes''s house is called "Bramasole," which literally means
"yearning for the sun." However, soon after she purchases the
house, Mayes dreams that its real name is "Centi Angeli," or "one
hundred angels." Discuss the ways in which this proves to be a
premonitory dream. What are some of the other discoveries made
throughout Bramasole and its grounds that lend a magical feeling to
9. What role does food play, both metaphorically and literally,
in the sense of delight that deepens Mayes''s relationship to
Tuscany and the house itself?
10. Mayes often portrays life in Cortona as timeless. How does
she also convey that the timelessness is in many ways just an
illusion? How does the "sense of endless time" affect her
11. What is Mayes''s philosophy about the friend who speaks
disparagingly of contemporary Italy and says it''s "getting to be
just like everywhere else--homogenized and Americanized" (p. 110)?
How does Mayes''s response address globalization in general?
12. Mayes''s loving descriptions of food, her recipes, and her
gardening tips add sensuality to the book, but what are some of
their other functions in Under the Tuscan Sun?
13. What is Mayes''s advice to readers who have "the desire to
surprise your own life" (p. 191)? How would you respond to this
impulse? What are some of the benefits and drawbacks to the time of
life Mayes chose for embarking on a major change? Discuss some of
your own turning points and "forks in the road."
14. Although Under the Tuscan Sun isn''t a novel, would you say
that in many ways it reads like one? If so, what is the spring, the
inner tension, that propels the book forward and shapes its
15. Besides presenting us with wonderful descriptions of food,
scenery, and people, what is the other major impetus of Under the
16. As the book draws to a close, Mayes asks rhetorically,
"Doesn''t everything reduce in the end to a poetic image--one that
encapsulates an entire experience in one stroke?" (p. 256). In your
opinion, which image or scene best "encapsulates the entire
experience" of Mayes''s time in Italy?