As an italian living in Tuscany, I found this book almost outrageous.
First of all, it is a really boring, endless description of THINGS - it could be a do-it-yourself book on restoring houses. From a woman that teaches creative writing, I expected something more. But what really annoyed me is that the author doesn't show the least interest in understanding and penetrating the italian lifestyle and culture. The book could be titled "A Stonehouse Somewhere In The Mediterranean Area", for all the relations it bears with Tuscany, or Italy. The interactions with the locals are limited to whatever work at the house they can do; there isn't the slightest interest in knowing them and their life. Mayes lives in her charming stonehouse immersed in the idea that her way of doing and seeing things is the only possible one; the doubt that "strange" behaviors could be explained by another history and culture never touches her. Being annoyed because people don't come to sand your ceilings in August is like wanting to send your kid to school on Thanksgiving...From what I gathered from the book, Mayes' only real interactions are with other americans, that share with her a quite distorted view of Italy. Her romantic views of the "nonna" living in the nice house in the country really made me laugh; ask any italian grandmother what it was like to live in a farmhouse 50 years ago: 20 hrs of work per day, cold, starving, meat only on Christmas and maybe Easter. And Mayes dreams about the "nonna" lovingly roasting the steaks on the fireplace!
Half of the italian words in the book are mispelled. The book might be intended for an american audience, but still the author could have taken the pain to show it to an italian "friend" before sending it to print. To me, it just shows once more how detached the author is from Tuscany, her "second home".