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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Under the Tuscan Sun

'Under the Tuscan Sun' was a book written in 1997 by Frances Mayes. I have read the book, and to be honest I find it a little bit boring. The plot if there even is one, is that she and a man named Ed buy a falling-apart villa and fix it up. In the meantime she and Ed have the time and money to travel throughout Italy and go to speciality shops and buy the freshest ingredients to make the best recipes. Again, I found the book a little slow, not exactly to my taste, but it is not what I would call a bad book either. The book is more like her personal journal. She wrote about her life and her travels. If this is what happened to her. Fine.

My problem is not with this book, Mayes sequel book, 'Bella Tuscany' or the film which I have heard is not true to the book although I have not seen it. My problem, and the reason for this post is with the many Americans who have seen it and idolized life in Italy. To them it is a perfect place without problems. Idyll, serence and dreamlike. For them it is simply the best. When I tell them that I live in Tuscany they ooh and aah and think of the book and it's wonderful lifestyle and envy me. They can't understand how I would even complain about anything in Tuscany.

Frances Mayes and her husband/boyfriend/whoever he is, Ed , have tons of money. Enough to buy an old run-down house knowingly in need of repair and also own a place in San Francisco at the same time. Not only does she have the money for that, but also she has the money for traveling around Italy and buying the fruits and vegetables from the local fruttivendolo, which may be fresh, but are also usually the most costly one can find too. I, on the other hand, rent a small apartment. I can't afford to own even one little place let alone two. I work with time limited (temporary) contracts to get enough money to pay the rent on my apartment and any free time I have in between contracts is not spent going to Sicily for the fish, but in search for new contracts and new jobs so I can keep renting my one little apartment and not have to live in the streets. I do not have the money to buy the freshest produce at the local fruttivendolo, but buy whatever is on sale at the big (for Italy) Supermarket by my house. I do not sip my espresso while seated in a restaurant because I know that ordering an espresso while sitting at a table costs more than standing up by the bar and guzzling it, nor do I even go to many restaurants in the first place. For me it is a struggle to live. Life is not ideal or serene for me. Don't get me wrong, I do not hate Italy, but life is not always wonderful here. It is certainly not something to ohh and ahh about.

Italy is beautiful if you do have lots of money to spend like Ms. Mayes does. It definitely can be the 'bel paese' (beautiful country) and serene, but if you are not rolling around in money and time for leisurely activities, life is hard. As Erma Bombeck once said 'If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, then What am I doing in the Pits?' I just wish that the mass majority of people who have romanticized the book/film understand that.