When I move to a different country, I almost always read books by other foreigners about what it was like for them. For me, this follows a cycle: 1) I gobble them up, 2) begin to tire of them as I find life for me, as interesting as my own experience is, just isn't what it was for them, and then 3) burn out on them for the rest of my stay.
When we moved to Italy, I vowed to read only a few this time. Well, I started with this one and reached my third stage immediately! The country that Mayes portrays is one of ever-lasting beauty and courtesy in spite of all the hassles of disorganization and dishonesty, which she experienced in spades when trying to renovate a Tuscan house. She soaks in the sun, always seems to fine the best food, and unearths antiques buried on her property with just about every footstep, or so it seemed to me. Her time in Tuscany, for it is only during the summer and Christmas break that she goes there, always seems a kind of timeless ecstacy. It appears as a kind a never-never land that is the oppositie of the mundaneness of her California life.
Well, I am sorry to report that I know of no one in Italy who believes in anything near her idealised version of our chosen home. It is an extraordinary hassle to get the simplest things done there, people can be as obtuse and rude as they are anywhere (if not more), and the weather isn't always nice! The Italians have a talent for beauty, but NOT for organization. THe proportion of difficult fools, I must add, seems rather high. And getting paid for what you have done in accordance with a contract! Now I won't even begin to go into that...
While she does explain some of this negative side in her house adventure, I suspect that the limitations of her medium - the travel book - made her need to emphasize the sunny side WAY OUT OF PROPORTION. OK, she is not a reporter, but people are going to read of her ecstacies and make real decisions. As such, her rave review of Italy is misleading and a disservice. For anyone who is contemplating buying a house here, I suggest trying to live her year-round first, to see what it is really like.
Don't get me wrong, there are wonderful things about living there. We wouldn't have stay there otherwise. It just needs to be balanced better against reality.