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From the hundreds of books and movies about Tuscany, we’ve culled just a few that to us represent the essence of Tuscany. Reading the books or watching the movies will get you ready for the beauty and culture of Tuscany and give you some reference points for many of the places you’ll see and the experiences you’ll have on an Abbondanza Toscana course or tour.

Books:

Under the Tuscan SunUnder the Tuscan Sun, a lyrical memoir by Frances Mayes, a woman of many talents: professor, poet, writer (memoir, fiction, travel, cooking, culture and wine) and gourmet cook. Falling in love with an abondoned villa just outside the village of Cortona, she uncovers its unique appeal and brings it back to life, while meeting the inevitable restructuring challenges and bureaucracy with her own charm. The house became a home with the name Bramasole (a yearning for the sun), and Ms. Mayes' efforts and approach were rewarded with a warm and lasting relationship with the Cortona community. The book's bonus is the inclusion of Ms. Mayes' delicious regional recipes generously sprinkled throughout the book. "The rest of the story" is told in her follow-up book, Bella Tuscany, and the many books on Tuscan culture that come after.

The Miracle of St AnnaThe Miracle of St. Anna by James McBride. The setting of The Miracle of St. Anna is the stunning Garfagnana mountain area north of Lucca that became the Gothic Line and the site of some of the worst battle scenes as the Allies fought their way north through Italy during World War II. It explores the relationships of the Buffalo Soldiers, the black regiments led by white officers, with the Italian people of this remote region. It centers on the massacre of 570 women and children by Nazis in the village of St. Anna and the relationship of the small boy who miraculously survived and one of the Buffalo Soldiers, his "chocolate soldier."

The Reluctant TuscanThe Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran. A multi-layered story beginning with the reluctant arrival of an award-winning television producer/writer to view the ramshackle house his Italophile wife, an award-winning sculptress, has bought in Tuscany. The story continues with their challenges in dealing with the bureaucracy of restoration, wherein the wife's indomitable charm prevails, and their growing relationship with the "locals." More important is the renaissance their marriage undergoes as they work together and the epiphany he experiences about his career.

A Tuscan ChildhoodA Tuscan Childhood, an autobiography by Kinta Beevor, the daughter of artistic parents who chose to live in a remote castle in the Garfagnana mountains north of Lucca. The story is of an idyllic childhood between the Wars, followed by a return after the last war to recount the story of the Tuscan people rebuilding their shattered existence.



Images and ShadowsImages and Shadows, by Iris Origo, also a fascinating autobiography of an initially shy girl overshadowed by an eccentric mother who lived in the Villa Medici near Fiesole. The book takes you through World War II and again to the rebuilding of the peasant existence after the War.



A Garden in LuccaA Garden in Lucca, by Paul Gervais, follows the author and his partner through the purchase of a rundown hunting lodge and garden, and his growing obsession turning into a passion to re-build and add innovations to the garden over twenty years.



Movies:

Much Ado About Nothing, the William Shakespeare play faithfully reproduced by Kenneth Branagh, also starring Emma Thompson and Denzel Washington. Its cinematography of Tuscany is stunning. One of its settings, a post-Renaissance villa and excellent winery, is a favorite stop for our groups who visit Chianti.

Under the Tuscan Sun, a screen adaptation of Frances Mayes' fascinating story that adds captivating cinematography.

Stealing Beauty, the story of a young woman "coming of age" almost eclipsed by the beautiful Tuscan scenery.

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