Ahhh, I’ve tricked you.   I don’t mean you should read this post immediately, although I guess if you don’t, you’ll never know why I chose that title.  What I’d like you to read, if you already haven’t, is Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes.

As we get ready to travel, my thoughts turn to travel books, and more often than just prior to travel, I must admit.  I’ve enjoyed all sorts of travel books, but those by Mayes combine a number of things I love:  books, writing, poetry, travel and love.  Mayes is both a poet and teaches poetry, although I’ve never found my way to any of her official poetry.  But her writing is lyrical poetry at its best.  However…do NOT go see the movie version of this book,  I implore you!  The movie has as much to do with the book as my writing has in common with Shakespeare.  I was infuriated by the movie, which bore no resemblance to the book other than having Mayes’ husband, Ed, in it (but at the end, rather than as part of the story the entire time) and finding the house.   Evidently thinking that no movie is complete without sex, they threw in a torrid and completely fictional affair with an Italian man.  I was so infuriated by the movie that I refuse to buy any paperback editions with the movie cover.  🙂  (In the interest of fairness, I should add that lots of people seem to like the movie.  The movie is beautiful, just not real.)

Want a taste of the book? ( Hopefully no copyright nazis will come after me for sharing.)  How about several small examples?

I see our olive trees, some stunted or dead from the famous freeze of 1985, others flourishing, flashing silver and green.  I count three figs with their large improbable leaves, visualizing yellow lilies beneath them.  I can rest here marveling over the hummocky hills, cypress-line roads, cerulean skies with big baroque clouds that look as if cherubs could peer from behind them, distant stone houses barely brushed in, neat (will ours ever look like that?) terraces of olive and grape.

Or, from the introduction:

My reader, I hope, is like a friend who come to visit, learns to mound flour on the thick marble counter and work in the egg, a friend who wakes to the four calls of the cuckoo in the linden and walks down the terrace paths singing to the grapes; who picks jar of plums, drives with me to hill towns of round towers and spilling geraniums, who wants to see the olives the first day they are olives.  A guest on holiday is intent of pleasure.  Feel the breeze rushing around those hot marble statues?  Like old peasants, we could sit by the fireplace, grilling slabs of bread and oil, pour a young Chianti.

Who wouldn’t want to do that?

The book tells of finding their house, Bramasole (from bramare, to yearn for and sole, sun), the process of getting the house put to rights, as well the work involved in  bringing order, beauty, water, and plants to the surrounding land, the trials that are an inevitable part of those processes, the beauty of the land and the people, and their love for both.  There are recipes:  pizza with onion confit, a sauce of porcini, wild mushroom lasagna and hazelnut gelato, to name a few.  (I love that Spellcheck wants to make “a sauce of porcini” into “a sauce of porcupine!”)

But most of all, there is peace.  This is a book that’s meant to be read slowly and savored, then re-read again and again.  This a book to dream over, to renew you when you feel overwhelmed, out of ideas, bored, as if there’s no beauty in the world.  Even I, who am a fast reader and can often not control my desire to find out what happened, read this book slowly (or as slowly as possible.)

There are other books now:  Bella Tuscany, the sequel; In Tuscany, a tabletop book with photos and more; Every Day In Tuscany, the third in the “series”; The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, and more.  But start with this.  Sit outside if you can with a cup of tea or coffee, cappuccino or wine.  Sit when you can relax for half an hour or so, although don’t be surprised if you suddenly realize much more time has flown past.  Sit.  Savor. Wallow in the beauty of the words and the pictures they evoke.


  1. rthmhlds says:

    I really want to read this book now.Sadly it isn’t available in the UK on Kindle yet! So I have asked Amazon to get it for me! I am having to curtail my collection of ‘paper’ books now as we plan retirement in 2 1/2 years time and will need to move home then!

    • Hi, Ruth. So good to hear from you. Paper books do take up room and I can understand your problem. I have boxes and boxes of books that will have to be moved once we finally sell the house but I can’t get rid of them. I also have quite a lot on my Kindle and use the library copiously. I try not to go to Half Price Books too often…lead me not into temptation!! Once you read it, let me know what you think.

      Blessings on your day,


  2. Robin in New Jersey says:

    Thank you for the recommendation, Janet. I have been looking for a good book to read and just can’t seem to find the “one.” Your review has intrigued me. I will look for it at the library today.

    • Robin, I think you’ll really enjoy it. It has that “Calgon, take me away” effect. 🙂 I’ve read it many times as it’s one of those books I like to return to when I need some peace and relaxation in my life. Let me know what you think.

      Blessings on your day!


  3. Joe Owens says:

    An interesting review so now I have to find out more. I hope your travels are exciting and safe.

  4. I saw the movie – it was not really the master piece of Audrey Wells. But the scenery was great :o)

  5. I haven’t seen the movie or read the book but it’s interesting to hear they are so completely different. Usually they’re at least similar in a few ways.

  6. vb holmes says:

    Wonderful book. Love Italy. Like you, Janet, I was disappointed in the movie.