Frances Mayes did for Tuscany what Peter Mayle did for Provence.
I was unfortunate enough to miss an airline connection in JFK, and the airline gave me a $15 voucher for lunch as an apology. I bought this book and a BIG margarita with UAL's money, sat in a booth at TGI Friday's, and nearly finished reading it before my substitute flight was called. I can vouch for this combo as a successful way to combat airport blues.
Mayes takes us with her as she, recently divorced, takes her next egg and, against the strident advice of her accountant, sinks pretty much all of it into a big old house on a large piece of property in Cortona, up in the hills of Tuscany. We watch her wrestle, as Mayle did before her, with the inevitable problems: language barriers, cultural barriers, a European worker's altered sense of time, faulty plumbing, surprises when walls are knocked down, etc. She and her lover (now her husband) weren't even there full time; they did this restoration over a period of years during school breaks and long holiday vacations.
A poet, travel writer, and creative writing professor at SF State, Frances Mayes finest creation is surely her Tuscan house and garden, but coming in a close second is her collection of books she's written on the subject. Don't miss it; it's a thoroughly delightful read, even without the killer margarita in your other hand.