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3.9 out of 5 stars59
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 13 September 2008
Frances Mayes, an American professor in her late 40's, buys a derelict house near the Tuscan village of Cortona. She is recently divorced, and having spent many happy holidays in Italy before, decides to take a big risk in buying this small estate with 5 acres of land that is half way across the world. This book is about "what happens next" as she and her partner Ed begin the long process of renovating an old house that has not been lived in for over 30 years.

Due to their teaching schedules, they are able to devote an entire summer every year, plus a Christmas break, to the renovations. In between removing eco-systems of spiders and scorpions, linseed oiling the cotto floors, cleaning windows, designing the new kitchen and bathrooms, clearing the terraces of weeds, they also make trips to other parts of Tuscany where Mayes describes the food, the architecture, the people, the landscape. As the renovations progress, you get to meet the local tradespeople, some of the villagers, as well as Mayes' guests who visit from America.

I love this book and read it about once a year. Warning! By the end you will be longing to jump on the next plane to Italy, if only to find a good trattoria and sample some of the foods & recipes Mayes presents in her book. It is a quiet book, which may not appeal to those who saw the movie starring Diane Lane, but if you are looking to read something heartwarming on a cold winter's day, do read this one.
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on 15 July 2008
I found this book quite funny at the beginning. As a foreigner living in Italy for these last 12 years I laughed out loud reading those everyday life incidents and lets call them diplomatic misunderstandings that different cultures bring with them.
I could just simply relive the bizarre situations that the authors describes and in a way feeling a bit relieved I wasn't the only one having problems.
Somewhere in between the book became a bit boring and I had to plod my way through the pages. The author seems to love a lot Italian cuisine because she's always describing what she's eating in the various restaurants she's been at, in different places in Italy, especially Tuscany.
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on 1 April 2009
I saw the film first on tv and had to go and buy the book and dvd immediately, thank goodness for Amazon on line. It is a gentle romantic love story, with a lovely twist at the end about getting what you wish for, or not...The book is well written and kept my interest throughout. For me, it would be one of those books, you pick up at the airport, settle down for a gentle read whilst holidaying in the sun. It has a bit of everything, emotional, romantic, friendship, amusing, it really got to my heart strings. Definitely worth reading if you like romantic gentle novels. 5 Star rating I'd say. The dvd gives a great visual portrayal of the book - I will certainly read the book again and definitely watch the dvd again and again.
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on 9 February 2001
This is the first of now 3 books written about Mayes purchasing, renovation and living in an old villa in Tuscany. There are plenty of these sorts of books around at the moment but this is probably one of the better ones.
First of all it should be made clear that this book is about privileged expats living in Italy, it is not about life in Italy at all. Mayes does write with a lovely lyrical style, it is very poetic; strained at times, a bit forced and trite in places, but overall the writing is very pleasing to read. Mayes cleverly evokes delightful scenes and is particularly expert at bringing incredible meals wafting off the pages.
I talked about this book with my brother and he mentioned that he found Mayes too smug. I think he is right, she is smug, but oddly enough I didn't mind that at all. If I ever fulfil my dream to own a house in Italy (Umbria not Tuscany!) I think I will allow myself to be a little smug too.
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on 4 July 2012
Oh dear, what have the poor Italians, French and Spaniards ever done to deserve the influx of well-heeled foreigners who decide to settle in their midst and then proceed to patronize them with books like this?

This is the usual story of someone who loved a place located far from home, her attempts to find an affordable house there, the magical moment when she found it and her fantasies about the blissful years ahead, sharing delightful meals with friends on the terrace and admiring wonderful views - that is, once she has installed all the conveniences of modern life like running water, electricity etc.

Unfortunately, to achieve this nirvana, she has to deal with the crafty locals who are out to milk the ignorant incomer and relieve her of her savings.

After all the trials, it turns out that, despite their external appearances, each one of these local peasants, storekeepers, lawyers, builders etc. has a heart of gold and everyone lives happily ever after.

(Unless you are Dirk Bogarde, that is, whose never-ending autobiographies chronicled more of the downs than the ups and his subsequent decision to leave his idyllic place in Provence as illness, old age and encroaching urbanization destroyed his dream.)

The subject has been done to death and does not improve with repetition.

I thought this might be different as it was written by an American rather than a European but I was wrong. It is as dull as a plate of cold overcooked pasta washed down with tap water.
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VINE VOICEon 20 November 2002
My goodness - she does eat a lot! And she does go on a bit too long about the Etruscans in the middle of the book ... and (as others have commented) she is a little 'wordy'.
But apart from that, she certainly conjures up the lifestyle, the countryside & the FEEL of Italy - sorry, the feel of TUSCANY - quite unlike other parts of Italy. At times I could almost smell the air filled with the scent of hay, peaches & herbs. We have relatives there with friends who renovated an old house - she could have been describing their place, on the same hillside!
If you haven't been to Tuscany, this will make you wish to be there ... ***
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on 12 November 2014
Obsessed with food? Then you'll love this book. It starts off well enough, American woman embarks on search for Italian country property and eventually is captivated by and compelled to buy a semi-derelict relic. Unfortunately, that promising start soon withers away and the author submerges herself in endless dreary descriptions of the food she and her partner prepare and consume along the way. Dull.
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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.
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on 25 April 2013
I watched the film, it is a favourite of mine and was expecting the book to be the same - in someways it is but in other ways it is the same churned up information and recipes, I was expecting to read about her adventures in Tuscan and was bored to tears!
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on 9 June 2004
Under the Tuscan Sun is a wonderful, vibrant book which made me long to return to Tuscany. Mayes and her partner buy the ramshackel villa in the Tuscan country side. The book follows their adventures in Italy and the trials of restoration in a foriegn country. (especially when the language barriers can create such interesting misunderstandings.)
The inclusion of several recepies which uses the local and in season produce sounded so delicious that I had to try them myself. This book painted such a vivid picture of rural Italy that I can hardly wait to go back.
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