Monday, July 4, 2011

Vacation Reads Challenge: Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun is probably one of my favourite movies so when I signed up for the Vacation Reads Challenge hosted by Ruby's Reads and Manga Maniac Cafe it was one of the first books that I thought of and I'm so happy that I decided to read it. I really enjoyed Frances Mayes' account of life in the small town of Cortona, Italy.

I didn't choose this book simply because I love the movie but because I would love to be able to travel to Italy. I admit, the movie may have fueled that desire and the book made me want to go even more. If that ever happens I want to make sure that I try to visit some of the smaller towns and really get a feel of the people and the culture of Italy. Mayes actually touches on this a little bit in the last part of the book when she discusses what the movie adaptation has meant to the town of Cortona and her book. The townspeople say that the tourists who come are there to see the culture and experience the history. Not to be loud and obnoxious tourists. Only problem with checking out the smaller towns? The fact that I don't know any Italian...

The book centred around Mayes buying Bramasole and the restoration and renovations of the house (done in part while they were living in California...can you imagine? Renovations are hard enough when you're at the house watching all the work being done, let alone when you're in another country trying to "oversee"!). Throughout this process we get to read about Mayes' love of cooking and her decisions on how to use some of the fresh ingredient from the area. Talk about mouthwatering! I will gladly visit Bramasole if she will cook for me.

I found that I had to keep reminding myself that the book wasn't a story - it was an actual account of Mayes' life in Italy. This leads to a discussion of the similarities and differences between the book and the movie adaptation starring Diane Lane. I'm one of those people who know that things have to be changed in order to make a successful movie.

That being said, I'm not really sure where some of the things in the movie came from. The biggest difference was that Frances is buying a house with her current partner, Ed, not on her own. Not only that, but they're planning on buying a house in Italy - it's not an impulsive purchase while on a gay tour of Tuscany. (And those of you who haven't seen the movie, I really do mean a gay tour. Frances' lesbian friends send her on the tour they were supposed to go on. Just wanted to make that clear!) Speaking of the lesbian friends - they were nowhere to be found, nor was the young female neighbour who the young Polish male falls in love with. There were, however, steaming toilets (right before hosting a wedding no less!), a lightening storm that fries a dishwasher, and a wall with "Polonia" engraved on it.

I find it interesting how Mayes notes in the last part of the book that there was an Italian lover added for the Frances character. I think it's interesting because she's essentially referring to herself as a character which shows that she knows the differences between books and films and what happens in the adaptation process. At least, I think so - maybe I'm totally off base! I'm not sure why a lot of these things were changed and/or added. Maybe these were parts of Mayes' life in Italy that just didn't make it into the book. Or maybe, like the Italian lover, these bits were added to make the story flow a bit more and to make it, well, a story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I think it's a great read for anyone looking to travel or wishing they could. Be warned - it could make you extremely jealous of any friends you have who are traveling while you're reading the book - even if they're just taking a road trip in your own country (you know who you are :) ). Remember that this is considered a travel memoir and isn't going to be a story like the movie is. Under the Tuscan Sun somewhat romanticizes the area but you can feel how much Frances and Ed really feel at home in Cortona and I loved that. This book was well worth the read. I would love to hear from any of you who have read this, or if you have any other travel memoirs to recommend.

Happy travels :):)


  1. Nice job! I've been meaning to read this too. I re-watch the movie about twice a year. Would love it if you'd read my blog, too.

  2. Great post! I've been dreaming about going to Italy for years! I am researching which region in Italy would be the best to visit and I think I've decided on renting one of the luxury villas in Tuscany and taking day trips to all of the famous cities and regions. I think I am most excited about visiting Rome, because I am a huge fan of history. do recommend any specific places to visit?


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