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  • Spend A Day In Tuscany Without Moving an Inch
    A summer read will give you insight into a whole other world
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Summer is just around the corner, which means I'm starting to work on my latest reading list. The first book I decided to finish off was A Day In Tuscany by Dario Castagno, who wrote Too Much Tuscan Sun about the mostly American, always wacky tourists he showed around Tuscany over the years. In his second book, A Day In Tuscany, Castagno returns to Tuscany after his three-month book tour in the United States to share the stories and memories of the Tuscans themselves. He goes about his first day back at home and allows his friends to drift off into stories of the past and sometimes he drifts himself.

    A quick read, the book is simply written in vignettes that take the reader from one part of Castagno's day to another. There were moments of humor. When Castagno is welcomed into a restaurant only to hear the family, who owns the joint, talking about their flatulence problems, you'll laugh out loud. There were moments of sadness. When you discover what happens to his eccentric, wealthy friend Matteo, you may cry.

    The most pleasurable part of Castagno's first two books is getting a genuine firsthand view of tourism and the life of the natives in Tuscany. Often, we're forced to swallow the clichéd images of Tuscany - the charming villas, the simple people, the food, the wine, those sunflowers. We see only sweetness - and that can't be real.

    We believe in a romantic vision of la dolce vita and forget that Tuscany - and all of Italy - is a real place with real people with real problems. The tourists get to see a beautiful side of an old world that certainly has its charms. But they don't see their own defects and humanity or that of their hosts. These books poke fun at our inability to see reality when blinded by love for such beauty. And they force us to take the good with the bad and everything in between.

    While Castagno is quite open about the foibles of tourists and natives alike, he is not as willing to look in the mirror and share himself with readers. He keeps a bit of a distance. For instance, he tells readers that his girlfriend Cristina, who was a part of his first book has left him, but he doesn't tell us why. I have to admit every time he mentioned Cristina - even though he did so in a way that indicates he is still in love with her - I was distracted while I wondered what happened that pulled these two apart.

    As an astute reader, I was reading between the lines. I wondered if maybe Castagno, who sometimes seems to act like the typical Italian man who doesn't want to grow up and still hangs out with his friends more than with his woman, sent Cristina over the edge when he jetted off for his U.S. book tour. But who am I to judge? I'd rather hear the real truth from the writer himself. Maybe there's more scoop in his third book, Too Much Tuscan Wine, which I haven't yet read but hope to do so by the end of the summer.

    Whatever the reasons Cristina and Castagno broke up after the first book, readers - at least those like me - were hoping for a happier ending for the pair. Still, the fact that there was no happy ending is simply further proof that you get the real deal from Castagno. Even if things aren't as romantic as you hoped that doesn't mean that life is without love or beauty or fair Tuscany.

    Di Meglio is the guide to Newlyweds for About.com.

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