First the good news: there are some very fine recipes. And to save valuable time (and avoid disappointment), just copy the recipes and then toss the book away.
I was lured into buying this book by a plug on the back cover, to the effect that Ms Mayes ". . . does for Tuscany what Peter Mayle and MFK Fisher have done for Provence." Well, Peter Mayle is a particular fave rave of mine, so when I opened Ms Mayes book I expected it to be a celebration of life, a witty exploration of local customs, traditions, and cuisine, delicously presented; a book of humor and joy, filled with truly unforgetable characters. Wrong. The book is completely devoid of humor. There are no unforgetable locals. Unfortunately, this book is not really about Cortona or Tuscany. It is not even about refurbishing an old stone house in another country, though much of the book is Bob Villa Goes Tuscan. It is the story of the author, starring the author, with her psyche (doubly traumatized by divorce and the unspeakable horror of growing up in the Deep South) as Best Supporting Actress. The Tuscan locals, and even friends and family members are mere cardboard cutouts; a supporting cast all clad in grey. As to Tuscany itself, it is just a big sound stage filled with flea markets and restaurants. The author's musings towards the end of the book are smug at best and offensive at worst - I'm not even RC but I was particularly offended by her mocking ramblings about Catholic saints. The book is befouled by Politically Correct and Yuppie attitudes that are sometimes amusing and silly, but more often angry and fearfull; rigidly and righteously absolutist (eg, Ohmygawd-they-wear-fur-here-how-horrible).
Anyhow, though the book dragged on and on, I was determined to finish it. When I finally did get to the end and closed it and put it down, I somehow felt unclean.