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The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian

Review

The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian



"Reluctant" and "Tuscan" are two words that might seem
contradictory. After all, who wouldn't seize the chance to live in
the celebrated Italian region famous for its vineyards, lush
scenery, and charming villages? Well, Phil Doran, for one.

Doran's reluctant Tuscan odyssey begins with a phone call from his
wife, Nancy, an artist who travels frequently to Italy. "I bought a
house," she tells him as he sits in his office in their home in Los
Angeles. A television scriptwriter, Doran has no intention of
leaving Hollywood behind for life in the rural Italian village of
Cambione. But he's no match for Nancy, who is determined to save
her husband from his high-stress, workaholic lifestyle. In his
fifties, he's viewed by the entertainment industry as "a relic from
another age," yet he can't seem to let go of the job that has
defined him for twenty-five years.

Doran heads to Tuscany where he finds more drama than anything he
could have conjured up for the screen. The 300-year-old farmhouse
he now owns is ramshackle at best, a true fixer-upper that needs
extensive structural work and has neither an address nor a road
leading to it. The previous owners have decided they want to
reclaim the house, and they try all manner of ways to get the
Dorans to sell it back, including fixing them with the "evil eye."
And the whole town, it seems, knows about their plight and has an
opinion to offer. Finally, after navigating endless layers of
bureaucratic red tape, renovations on the house finally begin ---
bringing with it a whole new set of challenges.

Part memoir and part travel narrative, THE RELUCTANT TUSCAN is
about a quest to restore a house. But it's also about Doran's
journey to restore his life and reconnect in his marriage. For
armchair travelers, though, there is no shortage of exquisite
descriptions of Tuscany --- an open-air concert in a hill town
outside Florence, an olive harvest, and "some of the most serenely
beautiful wine country in all of Chianti," where "tall, spindly
cypress trees swayed in the wind, and from everywhere at once came
the smell of sun-warmed earth and budding Sangiovese grapes."

A cast of colorful characters includes the witty, charming, and
no-nonsense Nancy, who is nicknamed Rompicoglione for her
persistence in getting things done (the verb rompere means
"to break" and coglione is slang for testicles); Annamaria,
a neighbor who gives them a baby goat as a housewarming present;
Dino, their temporary landlord with a boisterous extended family
and a wayward son; and Horn Dog, a lusty canine who more than earns
his moniker.

THE RELUCTANT TUSCAN is laugh-out-loud funny. Whether it's learning
the language, buying a car, compiling a list of "Ten Things I Hate
About Tuscany," or trying to glean insight into the Italian way of
life, Doran's powers of observation are trumped only by his ability
to convey what he sees and experiences with clarity and humor. Pour
a glass of Chianti and savor this intoxicating tale. You might not
find your inner Italian, but you'll have an enjoyable time as Phil
Doran tells you how he discovered his.

Reviewed by Shannon McKenna on January 23, 2011

The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian
by Phil Doran

  • Publication Date: April 7, 2005
  • Genres: Memoir, Travel
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham
  • ISBN-10: 159240118X
  • ISBN-13: 9781592401185