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A Taste Of Tuscany In Hillsborough: Meet Frances Mayes

a photo of Frances Mayes
Will Garin

Frances Mayes’ travels and triumphs are chronicled in her memoir “Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy.” On a whim, she finds herself in Italy and purchases a villa that she must restore. Her tales were immortalized in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun,” a loose interpretation of the memoir which earned actress Diane Lane a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Mayes.

To call this turn in her career unexpected is an understatement. Mayes was a professor who had released a few poetry books without any fanfare. She was mid-life in a society telling her that her best days were behind her. Instead, Mayes life and career exploded with more successful novels, cookbooks, and merchandise. But her story begins in a small southern town in Georgia as a little girl obsessed with reading. Mayes joins host Frank Stasio to share stories of her life, love, career and show why it is never too late for new beginnings. Mayes will read excerpts from recent novel “Women In Sunlight” (Broadway Books/2018) just released in paperback. She also will also share some of the hidden gems revealed in her new travel guide “See You In the Piazza: New Places to Discover in Italy”(Crown/2019). Look for Mayes in an upcoming episode of the PBS series "Dream of Italy"




On the history of her hometown of Fitzgerald, Georgia:

It’s a wonderful town, because it was settled by the Union and Confederate soldiers after the War Between the States. And they banded together to make a monument to peace ... It’s one of the few towns in America that had a really beautiful plan to begin with.  


On how reading led her to write:

I thought everybody who had written books was dead. I didn’t know you could be alive and be a writer. Soon as I figured that out, I thought: I can’t think of anything that would be more fun than being a writer. And it would never run out on you. And that’s proven to be true. I just remember scrunching down in bed at night [while it was] raining outside and thinking: This is a pleasure I can have for my whole life.


On how the movie differs from the book:

Movies and books are never the same. My book is kind of a quiet book, and they had to have something dramatic happening on the big screen, so they had Diane Lane meet the gorgeous Italian lover …  And Ed was kind of relegated to the end as the person she meets at the end of the movie, but he feels ok about that. He thinks he really saved the day.


On a chance meeting that turned her book into a movie:

It’s odd how the movie came about. I met by chance someone at a wine store in Pienza. My agent had tried to sell the book as a movie … But this man I met in the wine store he said: Where are you staying? … We just started chatting. When I told him I lived in Cortona, he said: Oh, there’s a book about Cortona. And my husband said: Yeah, she wrote it. And he turned out to be the producer of “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”


On her roots in North Carolina:

My grandfather, the tyrant I was talking about before, his father had the cotton mill in Cramerton, North Carolina. It was called Maysworth at the time. My father was born in Maysworth … I never knew that part of the story because my grandfather and his father had a big falling out.


Under the Tuscan Sun Trailer


Dana is an award-winning producer who began as a personality at Rock 92. Once she started creating content for morning shows, she developed a love for producing. Dana has written and produced for local and syndicated commercial radio for over a decade. WUNC is her debut into public radio and she’s excited to tell deeper, richer stories.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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