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Too Much Tuscan Sun: Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guideby Dario Castagno
Synopses & Reviews
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 littlelord 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.
"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.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Recent years have seen a virtual flood of books about Tuscany—first-person accounts about Americans trying to do American things in Italy and bumping up against a centuries-old stone wall of tradition. Its only fair that we now hear a native Tuscans side of the story. Who better to provide that view than Dario Castagno, a British-born, Tuscan-raised tour guide who has spent more than a decade leading Americans into the heart of Tuscanys Chianti region. In this lively, candid memoir, Dario looks at the Americans who have stormed through his life and his homeland. Some tested his sanity, others became lifelong friends.
With wry humor and affection, Dario recalls some of his more remarkable clients—the delightful, the vain, the silly, the ignorant, the ambitious, the amorous, the condescending, the lovely, and the outright crazy. He also shares an account of his own life and times—his transformation from bohemian layabout to thriving tour guide—and offers an enchanting introduction to the charms of Tuscany over the course of a year.
Through his company, Chianti Rooster Tours, Dario Castagno guides small groups of visitors to his favorite spots in the Chianti region of Italy. He belongs to Sienas Caterpillar contrada, which in 2003 won the Palio—the wildly popular bareback horse race that takes place in Siena each summer.
Written with affection and humor, this book is a Tuscan tour guide's account of some of his more remarkable customers, from the obsessive and the oblivious to the downright lunatic.
About 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.
Table of Contents
(1) Ringraziamenti (2) Introduction: Americans through Tuscan Eyes (3) Discovering Chianti (4) January and the Athletes (5) Chianti and "Chianti" (6) February and the Honeymooners (7) Cradle of Genius (8) March and the Oenophile (9) Fosco's House (10) April and the Know-it-alls (11) Love Among the Ruins (12) May and the Collector (13) Intervallo: The Dutch (14) The Black Rooster (15) The First Excursion (16) July and the Palio (17) Us versus Them (18) August and the Lovers (19) Intervallo: The American Caterpillar (20) Playing Offense (21) September and the Timekeeper (22) Strangers in a Strange Land (23) October and the Coach Tour (24) Intervallo: Death and Life in America (25) November and the Devoted Mother (26) All About Babs (27) December with the College Student (28) The Tour That Wasn't (29) Intervallo: From the Other Side of the Van (30) Conclusion: La Macia
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