Under The Tuscan Sun

Paperback | September 2, 1997

byFrances Mayes

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Frances Mayes—widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer—opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. In evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Mayes also creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes from her traditional kitchen and simple garden, all of which she includes in the book. Doing for Tuscany what M.F.K. Fisher and Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion.

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From Our Editors

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 ...

From the Publisher

A CLASSIC FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF UNDER MAGNOLIAFrances Mayes—widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer—opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. In evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Mayes also creates dozens of delicious s...

From the Jacket

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 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 bene...

FRANCES MAYES is the author of a series of Tuscany memoirs, including Every Day in Tuscany and Bella Tuscany;  the travel memoir A Year in the World; the illustrated books In Tuscany and Bringing Tuscany Home; Swan, a novel; The Discovery of Poetry, a text for readers; five books of poetry; and most recently a southern memoir, Under Magnolia.  She divides her time between homes in Italy and North Carolina.  

other books by Frances Mayes

Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy
Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy

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In Tuscany
In Tuscany

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Every Day In Tuscany: Seasons Of An Italian Life
Every Day In Tuscany: Seasons Of An Italian Life

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see all books by Frances Mayes
Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 0.8 inPublished:September 2, 1997Publisher:Crown/Archetype

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0767900383

ISBN - 13:9780767900386

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Light and Leisurely One can feel the Tuscan atmosphere such is the realistic writing of the author. A light and leisurely read for both of the sexes.
Date published: 2006-06-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Tuscan Sunset? After being a huge Peter Mayle fan and feeling as though reading each passage transported me to Provence, I was so excited to see a book on Tuscany, a place I'd dreamed of going. For the most part, this was a good book and gave some insight into the day to day life of vacationing at a villa (or in this case stone farmhouse) in Tuscany. What I found very tiring about this book was the detail discussed on the home renovations. I even checked the bibliography for a consultation with Bob Vila or This Old House. While it is interesting to read about the transformations of a run down, dilapidated farmhous into a dream vacation home, having to read all the technical details about wiring, etc. is a bit monotonous. Anyways, I am looking forward to reading more about Tuscany and what to expect when I make my trip to the land of la dolce vita...
Date published: 2001-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Under the Tuscan Sun O for La Dolce Vita! Hot suns and cool stone buildings. Magnificent views of noble Tuscan hills, softened with olive groves and vineyards. Add to this the incomparable Tuscan cuisine. Experience all this through the pen of Frances Mayes. Relive her quest to buy and completely renovate a centuries-old villa. In this timeless land, Frances becomes intimately connected to past civilizations — the very trees of the olive groves can be a century old, the churches medieval, the roads and walking paths Roman and the foundations of the walls Etruscan, pre-dating the Roman period. However, it is through food that Frances achieves her affinity with all things Tuscan. Here, one's daily labours are bestowed with a dignity so foreign to our culture. Read this book and find the good life.
Date published: 1999-09-20

Extra Content

Read from the Book

In 1990, our first summer here, I bought an oversized blank book with Florentine paper on the cover and blue leather binding.  On the first page I wrote ITALY.  The book looked as though it should have immortal poetry in it but I began with lists of wildflowers, lists of projects, new words, sketches of tile in Pompeii.  I described rooms,  trees, bird calls.  I added planting advice, "Plant sunflowers when the moon crosses Libra," although I had no clue myself as to when that might be.  I wrote about the people we met and the food we cooked.  The book became a chronicle of our first four years here.  Today it is stuffed with menus, postcards of paintings, a drawing of a floor plan of an abbey, Italian poems, and diagrams of the garden.  Because it is thick, I still have room in it for a few more summers.  Now the blue book has become Under the Tuscan Sun, a natural outgrowth of my first pleasures here.  Restoring then improving the house, transforming an overgrown jungle into its proper function as a farm for olives and grapes, exploring the layers and layers of Tuscany and Umbria, cooking in a foreign kitchen and discovering the many links between food and the culture--these intense joys frame the deeper pleasure of learning to live another kind of life.  To bury the grape tendril in such a way that it shoots out new growth I recognize easily as a metaphor for the way life must change from time to time if we are to go forward in our thinking.

Bookclub Guide

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 own.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 the house?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 household?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 form?15. Besides presenting us with wonderful descriptions of food, scenery, and people, what is the other major impetus of Under the Tuscan Sun?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?