Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun

A Italian Memoire by Frances Mayes

If you’ve seen the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, you’ll know that recently divorced, middle-aged Frances Mayes meets Marcello, a handsome Italian who takes her to Positano, Italy. They eat with his family on the beach, drink homemade limoncello, and have a short-lived love affair.

Under the Tuscan SunHaving seen the movie many times–it’s one of my favorites–of course I had to make a pilgrimage to Positano while visiting Italy. (I also made the trip to Cortona, where Frances bought a villa; more on that later.) As I walked the beach and listened to the Tyrrhenian Sea roar, I imagined the scene where Frances and Marcello walked along together, flirting with the future. Later, navigating the winding streets of Positano, each with stunning views of mountains and sea, I kept an eye on the balconies above for a handsome Italian man to call down to me… No such luck, but I remained enchanted.

Avid literary fan that I am, I decided to read the book that inspired the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun by (the real) Frances Mayes. I was surprised to find it was very different from the movie I so loved! Once I got past that little disappointment, I enjoyed romantic descriptions of the Tuscan countryside and the true life story of Frances Mayes’ journey. I understood how descriptions of Tuscany and some quirky characters could inspire the movie. But, it is truly a horse of different color. Nonetheless, I found the setting, culture, and characters delightful. Mayes’ is a master at articulating the richness of the Italian countryside; No doubt, you will feel as though you are in Italy while reading.


An Embarrassment of Mangoes

A Caribbean Interlude

I enjoyed being an invisible stowaway on this couple’s two-year sailboat adventure from Canada down to the Caribbean. I learned a lot about sailing (of which I knew nothing), US waterways, procedures, risks, weather, islands’ culture and people.

I also loved the food, fishing and recipe elements covered in the book. The notion of this couple leaving daily responsibilities behind for a two year adventure was very appealing to me, especially as Jim and I are also freelancers. No doubt we would choose very similar off-the-beaten paths toward getting to know the “real” island life.

These two made it happen and reaped big-time personal growth (and no doubt, creative) benefits. Kudos! Reading this book was an excellent getaway from the daily grind, and I am so happy this couple successfully achieved one of their dreams and captured it so well. Thank you for sharing a most interesting and entertaining story. Very inspiring, indeed!

Other books by Ann Vanderhoof:



Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams

An Artistic Memoire

If you’ve ever been to Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, you know it’s a very special place. Being from Massachusetts myself and only about an hour’s drive from the ferry, I’ve dreamed about making a permanent move. Well, that’s just what author Susan Branch considered in her book, Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams.

This unique book offers so much to absorb! First, it is well-written autobiography of an independent Creative (Susan Branch) who left a failing marriage in California to return to her New England roots. On a whim, she bought an old cottage on Martha’s Vineyard and spent the months ahead making it her own as she simultaneously carved out a new life for herself on the island. I mean, what’s not to love?

Second, the book itself appears as though it’s hand-written throughout, making it all the more personal. It’s as though it were penned by the artist’s own hand — no Times New Roman here. One glance through the pages, and you will recognize this is a totally different type of book.

Finally, each page spread is full of the author’s beautiful watercolor illustrations, recipes, photos, and hand-lettered sayings. It almost reads a bit like a scrapbook. It definitely took me longer to get through it because each page was truly a feast to the eyes and I wanted to absorb every detail. I never knew what the next page would offer, creatively. And, therein lies the beauty.

What I loved most was the author’s free-thinking nature, unorthodox projects, and her outside-the-box approach to just about everything she did. This book perfectly encapsulates those qualities. In a world of cookie-cutter products and formula stories, I cheered her every, unconventional success! Yeah!

There’s More to Love!

Susan Branch has many books and gifts on the market from which to choose. They all share her signature style. I particularly like these two, especially with the holidays approaching:

Susan Branch To My Daughter