The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

Displace Yourself…to Tuscany

Welcome back to another in our occasional series, “Displace Yourself,” where we look at books by expats and travelers focusing on particular countries or regions, in hopes of displacing ourselves through their experiences. (One lifetime isn’t long enough to sample it all!)

This month, a place that’s on many of our wish lists: Tuscany, Italy.

Tuscany: Facts and figures

Capital: Florence
Area: 8,878 square miles
Population: 3,750,000
Language: Standard Italian/Tuscan Dialect
Demographic: 93% Italian; immigrants from Britain, America, and China.

*  *  *

To Tuscany from England:

Down A Tuscan Alley (Fiction/memoir)
by Laura Graham
 Published June 2011

The Displaced Nation first met Laura Graham in May this year. Click here to read our interview with her.

About the author:
After the breakdown of a longterm relationship, Laura left England in search for a new life in Italy. With a distinguished acting career behind her, she now runs her own holiday property agency in Sinalunga, where the Tuscan tranquility inspires her writing.

Cyber coordinates:
Twitter: @LauraGraham7

Overview of book:
A long relationship ends. At 48, house taken by the bank, Lorri has little money. What can she do? And where can she go? Gathering her meager savings and her two beloved cats, she escapes England for a new life in a remote Italian village, never imagining the intrigue, passion and adventure she will find.

One reader’s review:
“The author’s use of dialogue enables the reader to form their own images of the characters to whom we are introduced. The reader is invited to share with [protagonist] Lorri as she develops her confidence, her new language, a knowledge of a different culture and her love for Ronaldo. The juxtaposition of romance and intrigue helps the book to flow to its end, and keeps the reader’s interest. The author brings her story to its conclusion using one of her characters to inform both the reader, and the protagonist herself.” ( reviewer)

To Tuscany from New York:

The Hills of Tuscany: A New Life in an Old Land (Autobiography)
by Ferenc Máté
Published November 1998

About the author:
Ferenc Máté  escaped Hungary after the 1956 revolution, and went with his mother to Vancouver, British Columbia. He now lives on a wine estate in Tuscany with his wife (painter and winemaker Candace Máté) and their son, Peter.

Cyber coordinates:

Overview of book:
This hilarious, international bestseller is a true-life adventure of a New York City couple moving to Tuscany.  Ferenc Máté’s enthusiastic prose is infectious. He brings to life the real Tuscany: the contadini neighbors, country life—the harvest, grape, and olive picking, wine making, mushroom hunting, woodcutting—the holidays, and of course the never-ending, mouthwatering meals. ( book description)

One reader’s review:
“As a second-generation Italian-American, I’m getting tired of the subtle patronizing attitudes that some prosperous expatriates to Italy emit via their memoirs. Reading this book, I felt that Ferenc Mate truly felt a genuine empathy with Italians. His ability to laugh at himself, and with his Italian neighbors — not at them — was a superb aspect of this work. He seemed to understand that being at home in Italy requires more than merely hobnobbing with other expatriates, and absorbing their prejudices.” ( reviewer)

To Tuscany from California:

The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian (Humor/Autobiography)
by Phil Doran
Published March 2006

About the author:
Phil Doran worked in TV production for 25 years, as writer-producer for TV shows such as Sanford and Son, as a writer for The Wonder Years, and writing episodes of The Bob Newhart Show. He divides his time between California and Tuscany.

Cyber coordinates:

Overview of book:
After twenty-five years of losing her husband to Hollywood, Doran’s wife decided it was finally time for a change—so on one of her many solo trips to Italy she surprised her husband by purchasing a broken-down 300-year-old farmhouse for them to restore. The Reluctant Tuscan is about the author’s transition from being a successful but overworked writer-producer in Hollywood to rediscovering himself and his wife while in Italy, and finding happiness in the last place he expected. ( book description)

Readers reviews:
Note: “The Reluctant Tuscan” appears to provoke a “Marmite” response from readers — they either love the book or hate it (or at least, are marginally lukewarm about it.) Here are two fairly typical reviews from both sides of the spectrum, from reviewers.

Love it:
“This is such a fresh, enjoyable book. Phil Doran is so honest & matter of fact about himself & his wife. I picked this book up to glance through & found I could not nor did I want to put it down. So I sat & read it non-stop, from cover to cover….My sides hurt from so much laughing. This is a must read book for anyone & any age….Enjoy!!!”

“The book recounts the period of time when the writer moved to a rural town in Tuscany and undertakes renovating a dilapidated farm house, mostly to appease his wife, who has bought the property without consulting him…There were some amusing bits but none that made me laugh out loud. Stereotypes and caricatures of Italians abound and there are multiple references to the Germans and WWII. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I found these annoying.”

To Tuscany from Jerusalem:

A Culinary Traveller in Tuscany: Exploring and Eating Off  the Beaten Track  (Travel guide/cookbook)
by Beth Elon
Published March 2009

About the author:
Former literary agent and her journalist husband Amos bought a neglected manor house in Tuscany in the late 1970s, long before the region became a desirable destination. Every summer, they would travel with their young family from their home in Jerusalem to spend two months in their Tuscan home, gradually renovating it as they were able. Eventually, the couple made Tuscany their permanent residence.

Overview of book:
“One might think that everything that can be written about Tuscany has been written. But here is a gem of a book in the tradition of M.F.K. Fisher that takes readers down Italian back roads and into private kitchens. There are 10 chapters that represent 10 itineraries into 10 different Tuscan regions. Included are more than 100 recipes and contact information and descriptions from private kitchens and restaurants, trattorias, gourmet shops, bakeries, wineries, and olive oil producers. Also included are days and dates when food festivals are held that celebrate chocolate, truffles, chestnuts and mushrooms. Warning: this book may contribute to an expanding waistline.” (Book Passage Bookstore review)

One reader’s review:
Beth Elton’s title isn’t just a cookbook – it takes a culinary tour of Tuscany into regions largely uncovered in other titles – and surveys the special kitchens and products of over fifty restaurants whose cooks produce original recipes revealed just for this title. All dishes have been adapted for home cooks but retain the authenticity of generations of development, so cooks seeking a blend of travelogue and new dishes to try will find delightful the blend of travel insights and easy dishes.” ( reviewer)

STAY TUNED for Monday’s travel yarn from our very first Random Nomad, Anita McKay.

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Image: MorgueFile

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