It's the go to place. Often, things boil down to basking under the Tuscan sun, yearning for a new start, for an enlightened state, a reprieve from the buzzard or the banality of the day to day (considering the number of memoirs about moving to Italy). So I keep wondering there must be something under that piece of Northern Italy sky.
Frances Mayes subtly illustrates her summers in her Tuscan villa in delicate prose and impressions, giving us an almost normal portraiture of the little activities happening in her town, Cortona. Some things are simple like picking herbs outside her kitchen garden for her recipes and digging up potatoes while others get a bit difficult like getting official papers and dealing with house builders among others.
It feels nostalgic, as if the memoir has become distant memories sifted in the author's mind, reminiscing luminous moments from the remnants of her divorce to the time she bought the abandoned villa. From the details of her flower garden to learning olive pickings with neighbors, everything is a labor of her love.
The book was made to film with Diane Lane playing a heartbroken writer who, out of a whim, bought a 300-year old home during a gay-trip in Tuscany, living up to her wisdom of "terrible ideas". It brought the story in an altogether different take, marking it as a feel-good romantic comedy. With Lane, no doubt it would work. She was funny, sexy, vulnerable and big-hearted.
Mind you, I've seen the film more times than I can count. It was stunning, with an uplifting soundtrack (I'll never forget Lane in a white dress, with waves crashing, standing on the pier) and the rest of the characters are hilarious if not endearing (yes, even the spazz worthy Raoul). I've seen Audrey Wells' other work and liked very much her poignant portrayal of her heroines.
Though the book and the film are but a mile wide, each has its own solid ground to enjoy, to give us little pleasures, to make us stop for a while and take deep breaths, to just let the Tuscan sun warm you up.
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.
Book Title: Under the Tuscan Sun
Author: Frances Mayes
Genre: Memoir, Travel, Food
Publisher: Broadway Books
Rating: ♨♨♨♨ ( 4 cups - It reads like a sumptuous meal that leaves you in comfort and excitement on her Italian adventures.)
Film Title: Under the Tuscan Sun
Director and Screenplay: Audrey Wells
Cast: Diane Lane, Raoul Bova, Sandra Oh, Lindsay Duncan
Release Date: 2003
Rating: ♨♨♨♨ ( 4 cups - The kind of movie you keep on watching and watching, either with friends or alone.)