Have you ever wished you could move to Tuscany or Umbria? You can experience the trials and tribulations of living in central Italy as a foreigner vicariously through these recommended books, written by people who’ve done it.
Most people are familiar with Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy, the popular book by Francis Mayes that was made into a movie about buying a house in the countryside near Cortona. Here are more good memoirs about living in Tuscany or Umbria, from the early 20th century through present times.
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The Hills of Tuscany: A New Life in an Old Land by Ferenc Máté
Ferenc relates the experiences of he and his wife as they buy an old Tuscan farm house near the hill town of Montepulciano. It starts with their search for a house and chronicles their experiences restoring and furnishing it. Filled with beautiful descriptions, the book gives a good look at Tuscany and life in the countryside. Ferenc, who has written both fiction and non-fiction books, also wrote two follow-up books about his experiences, A Vineyard in Tuscany and _The Wisdom of Tuscany.
Il Bel Centro, a Year in the Beautiful Center by Michelle Damiani
Michelle, a child psychologist, and her husband along with their 3 children leave their comfortable lives behind to live in the center of Spello, a small hill town in Umbria, where the children attend the local school and the family experiences local life. I enjoyed following the ups and downs of becoming part of the town and was sad when they left at the end of their year. Her book doesn’t involve buying or restoring a house so it gives the feeling of something a little more attainable to the average person than the others. Michelle has also written a good novel that takes place in a fictional central Italy town, Santa Lucia.
The Lady in the Palazzo: An Umbrian Love Story by Marlena di Blasi
Marlena met her Italian husband in Venice and they moved to a farm house in Tuscany before settling in Orvieto, where she tries to become part of the town. This is the story of buying and restoring an apartment in an ancient palazzo in the center of Orvieto, a hill town in Umbria, and local life in the town.
Images & Shadows: Part of a Life by Oris Origo
This is a fascinating autobiographical book by a well-to-do woman who lived with her mother in Fiesole and later bought the farm estate of La Foce in Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia prior to World War II. Along with her Italian husband, she did much to improve the life of the peasants who worked on the farm and later taking in children during the war. It’s an interesting look at the hardships of farm life in Tuscany in the first half of the 20th century. Today the gardens of La Foce are open to the public for tours with limited hours, rooms have been made into vacation rentals, and they opened a restaurant across the street.
A Tuscan Childhood by Kinta Beaver
This the autobiography of a British woman whose family bought a 16th century castle in the Lunigiana, far northern Tuscany, in the early 20th century. She relates stories of her life growing up in the castle, where they lived from the time she was five years old until the beginning of World War II. She returns later, after the war, to find out what happened to the town during and following the war. It’s an interesting look at an idlyllic childhood and Tuscany’s rural history.
At Least You’re in Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell
Jennifer chronicles the difficulties she encountered when she moved from New York City to Tuscany and tried to become an Italian citizen through her ancestors as well as find employment. It’s a humorous and more modern look at trying to fit in and adapt to her new life near Montepulciano.
The Tuscan Year: Life and Food in an Italian Valley by Elizabeth Romer
Elizabeth, a British woman, chronicles a year living on a farm in Tuscany, near the border of Umbria. She tells about the foods and farm activities during each month of the year.
Living in a Foreign Language by Michael Tucker
American actor Michael Tucker and his wife, the actress Jill Eikenberry, buy a 350 year old farm house with olive and fruit trees in the hills near Spoleto, Umbira, and make a new life there.
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