Travel Book Review: Every Day in Tuscany by Mayes

May 03, 2010

girl in pool reading book, summer reading, Every Day in Tuscany by Mayes

You already know that we at Soultravelers3 are passionate about travel and books, but now that I'm writing a book, I'm looking more deeply than ever at travel books. I thought it was amazing timing when I was recently sent a copy of Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life  by Frances Mayes to review.

Perhaps the most famous of all expats or travel writers who have escaped the rat race to discover their life's passion, Frances Mayes has started a whole cottage industry around her 1996 best-selling book Under The Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy. Over the last twenty years, she has sold everything from furniture to olive oil to calendars and  photo books about her story and  this popular region. There have been others in this travelogue memoir sub-genre like Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, or the more recent Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love and all three have been adapted to the silver screen.

Every Day in Tuscany soultravelers3 Book review

Our book has already been mostly compared to those three and recently someone wrote to us about movie rights about our story which has given me a whole different perspective on our journey. I haven't read any of them, but now they are all high on my list. I was delighted at the opportunity to sink into this one by  a brilliant writer about a country I lived in long ago and we visit regularly on our open ended world tour.

Mayes was a well known published poet and professor of creative writing before she wrote her first mega hit memoir, so it is no wonder that they call her "The Bard of Tuscany " as this is her third hit book on the topic. Her prose has a very lyrical style with detailed poetic descriptions and she is a master at personalizing her life in Italy...the shopping, eating, gardening, meal preparation and people... in a way that enchants and delights.

Tuscany wine field, Italy
A photo of Tuscany that we took this past  fall.

Library Journal says, “The woman who single-handedly started the travel-memoir craze returns with more on her life in Tuscany, including her purchase and renovation of a new house in a 13th-century village…can’t miss.”

I especially enjoyed her evocative thoughts about her home ( which reminded me of our Tuscan home in California and the hard work of creating it, our Bramasole), the timeless beauty and simple, full life of the Italian countryside and it's people  ( which reminded me in many ways of our life in Spain as well as my year in Italy) and the heartwarming passages about her grandchildren visiting her and absorbing  the new culture.I know full well how rewarding it is to expose a child to a new culture in deep ways.

"At Bramasole, I learned to iron with my hands. Fold and smooth, fold then smooth, fold,smooth;the blue top sheet, lifted from the rack, smells of warm light. Flounces on the pillowcases yield to my flat hand; my yellow nightgown softens."

stunning sunset, lion fountain

"We'd go back to the United States and see the dreary "Children's menu": Chicken tenders, hamburgers, pizza, grilled cheese, hot dogs, corn dogs, and of course fries. Fries fries, fries--the horrifying predominance of the French fry in our diet explains a lot. In moderation ,a crisp little pile, yes. But everything comes with fries. Insane!

I don't think I've ever seen a separate children's menu in Tuscany. Isn't that a profound cultural cue? Children eat like their families and their families are eating as well as anyone on earth. "

Food is definitely a dominant part of this book and it is her signature style to intersperse chapters with yummy looking Tuscan recipes. From roasted chestnuts to risotto with white truffles, there are luscious temptations for every foodie. 

"Living well in time means taking back time from the slave-masters--obligations, appointments, the dreary round of details that attach like leeches in a stagnant pond."

That is my favorite quote in the book as it reinforces my "time is wealth" motto and what I remind myself about each day.  Early on she shares the Basho quote  "Each day is a journey, and the journey itself is home" which reminds me of my own favorite quotes at the moment, "The only journey is the one  within" by Rilke and "The journey is my home" by Rukeyser.

Frances Mayes is now 69 years old, much older than I am, but I could relate to many of her themes and wisdom gained from learning "to revel in everyday life". Every Day in Tuscany celebrates her twenty years there and if you dream of a life in a new land or love travel,  food, history and art, especially in Italy, you'll adore this book. 

Why not take a little vicarious trip to Italy by picking  up all three: Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany and Every Day in Tuscany. These links will take you to our Amazon store where you can buy your own.Perfect for summer reading, escaping to a poetic life in the slow lane. 

Have you read any of them? What were your favorite parts and why?


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David Crandall

I'm sending this post to my wife right now. When I asked her where her dream destination would be, it was Tuscany...and a big part of that is due to the movie 'Under the Tuscan Sun'.

Great article!


David- Thanks, it truly is a gorgeous area. I hear the book Under the Tuscan Sun is much better than the movie, so she will probably like that too. If you are serious about Italy, you should check out the Italy expat site as it's the best for info about moving to or doing a long term stay in Italy. ;)


Greetings from Amman! Just started to follow you on twitter. This blog looks amazing... I love Italy, and adore Tuscany (specially Florence) it's such a generous region - the food is fab, the art amazing, the nature gorgeous... and the italians are so italians!


Babs- Welcome! So glad that you found us! Hard not to love Tuscany, isn't it? We plan to get to Jordan one of these days ( my bike wreck stopped our plans this past fall) so hopefully we can meet then! Thanks for joining us on Twitter & here!


Thanks for the book recommendations. I've found many treasures in our library as a result of your blog. Please keep them coming.


Jo- Thanks so much for letting me know! That is really great to hear! Little by little as I have time, I will keep them coming. So many wonderful books to recommend! ;)


I love your blog! i will be traveling to Florence for a year this fall and I just finished reading all three of Mayes novels. If you guys liked them you might also like My Life in France by Julia Child!


Kim- Thanks so much! Wow, that's so exciting!! Florence & it's surroundings are one of our fave places. Don't miss Cinque Terra too! Thanks for the tip..sounds like another great book!

Joel Stratte-McClure

Very enjoyable site and I'll link to it from my blog.
Not sure if you've read my book ("The Idiot and the Odyssey: Walking the Mediterranean") but you might want to check it out @
What's the status of your book?


Joel- Thanks, I'll do the same on my link page. I haven't read your book yet, but it looks delightful!

I'm still slugging away working on my book. Writing while traveling & raising a young child on the move is hard work! ;)

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