Too Much Tuscan Sun: Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guide

Too Much Tuscan Sun: Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guide

by Dario Castagno, Robert Rodi
     
 

Over the past several years, "the American in Tuscany" has become a literary subgenre. Launched by the phenomenal success of Frances Mayes's Under the Tuscan Sun, bookstores now burgeon with nimble, witty accounts of this clash in cultures-Americans trying to do American things in Italy and bumping against a brick wall of tradition.

Before this subgenre exhausts

Overview

Over the past several years, "the American in Tuscany" has become a literary subgenre. Launched by the phenomenal success of Frances Mayes's Under the Tuscan Sun, bookstores now burgeon with nimble, witty accounts of this clash in cultures-Americans trying to do American things in Italy and bumping against a brick wall of tradition.

Before this subgenre exhausts itself, it's only fair that we hear the other side of the story-that of a native Tuscan and of dozens of Americans who have stormed through his life and homeland, determined to find in it whatever they are looking for, whether quaintness or wisdom, submission or direction.

There is no one better to provide this view than Dario Castagno. A Tuscan guide whose client base is predominantly American, Dario has spent more than a decade taking individuals and small groups on customized tours through the Chianti region of Tuscany. Reared in Britain through early childhood, he speaks English fluently and is therefore capable of fully engaging his American clients and getting to know them. Too Much Tuscan Sun is Dario's account of some of his more remarkable customers, from the obsessive and the oblivious to the downright lunatic.

It is also a primer on Tuscany—its charms and its culture. Structured around a typical Tuscan year, Dario takes us through the sights, smells, and sounds of Chianti during each of the twelve months, including the festivities and pageantry that accord with the season, most notable the Palio-the bareback horse race that consumes the social energies of the people of Siena for all of July and August.

Dario also intersperses an account of his own life and times-that of a transplanted British "little lord" who learns to love the wilds of Chianti; of his discovery and adoption of abandoned peasant farmhouses; of his apprenticeship in the wine industry; and of his arduous transformation from bohemian layabout to thriving Tuscan guide.

But the bulk of the book is devoted, with humor and affection, to the Americans he has met-the vain, the silly, the ignorant, the ambitious, the horny, the condescending, the charming, and the outright pathological. Some of them have made his life hell and live in his nightmares; others became lifelong friends.

Editorial Reviews

This is the flip half of the story. Thanks to the burgeoning subgenre of books inspired by Frances Mayes, we all know about Americans learning to relax under the warm Tuscan sun. Dario Castagna sees this footloose and not always fancy-free tourists in a different light. As the veteran proprietor of Chianti Rooster Tours, he has guided small groups of visitors, mostly Americans, around the vineyard-rich Tuscan region for years. Born in England to Italian parents, Dario is thoroughly bilingual, affording him ample opportunity to mingle with his clients, who range from the blissfully oblivious to the insanely obsessive. This book's crisp descriptions and sometimes zany dialogue remind one of Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad.
Pamela Paul
Most refreshingly, his book doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is: a light, engaging jaunt into the Italian countryside, unfiltered by an outsider's prejudice and romanticism.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Unlike Under the Tuscan Sun and the flood of cookbooks touting the delights of the Tuscan table, this endearing, lightweight memoir was written by a native of the area. The author recounts the history and character of Chianti-the famous wine region at Tuscany's geographic and cultural heart-and shares his most unforgettable experiences working as a Chianti tour guide for more than 12 years. Raised in Britain, Castagno began exploring Chianti's countryside as a teenager and fell in love with its dilapidated farmhouses, abandoned in Italy's post-WWII period of industrialization; for him, their stone walls, terracotta roofs and chestnut beams formed "well nigh irresistible" windows into Tuscany's romantic past. As a guide, he shared these journeys with his clients, most of them Americans, including T.T., an overly curious businessman for whom a winery visit "was like taking a child to a chocolate factory"; and an Alabama couple who, sweetly, tried to set Castagno up with their daughter. The farmhouses were also the site of Castagno's startling encounter with a couple of teenage artists and subsequent discovery about Tonio, a local, 94-year-old love machine. Castagno delivers his life story in simple, honest, heartfelt terms, though, unfortunately for readers, there are few true surprises or insights. It's brain candy to be enjoyed with a bottle of red. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This work generates much of its humor from the clash of cultures, told from the Italian perspective at the gentle expense of Americans. Castagno, born in England of Italian parents, has lived in the Chianti region of Tuscany long enough to consider himself a chiantigiano, and his love for the history, culture, and people of the area inspired him to start his own business as a personal tour guide for small groups. He has met clients who have exasperated him; others who amused, disgusted, or even impressed; and many who have become his personal friends. Readers who travel will certainly find some of his clients familiar. The book is organized according to the months of the year, and each chapter includes a description of Tuscany at that time, little bits of history, and an amusing story of one of his tour groups. Sometimes funny, sometimes sentimental, this book will be a welcome addition to large travel collections.-Linda M. Kaufmann, Massachusetts Coll. of Liberal Arts Lib., North Adams Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780762736706
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
09/01/2004
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
537,823
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.81(d)

Meet the Author

Dario Castagno was born in England to Italian parents and moved with his family to Tuscany when he was ten. Through his company, Chianti Rooster Tours, he has guided small groups of visitors—mostly Americans—to his favorite spots in the Chianti region for more than ten years. This is his first book. Perhaps his proudest accomplishment, however, is claiming membership in Siena's Caterpillar contrada, which won the Palio in 2003.

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