The tale of Tales from Tavanti

Single mom, empty nest—what to do?

I pondered that question for months before my only child left for college. And then one night, while watching Under the Tuscan Sun for the tenth time, a voice whispered: Let’s sell the house, move to Italy, eat gelato and write a book.

The voice belonged to the writer-in-me, who herself has a cameo role in this memoir of our year-long adventure in Italy, where we lived in Florence on a lively street called Via Tavanti.

Our Under the Tuscan Sun fantasy quickly collided with the reality of living in a culture that has a formidable bureaucracy and clings to its old ways. But we soon became players in the grand comedy-drama of Italian life, surrounded by a cast of colorful characters: a maniacal Mafia princess and her no-nonsense papa from Palermo, a playboy leather merchant, the owner of Florence’s most illustrious literary café, a shop girl with a big mouth, an olive thief, and an amorous Umbrian artisan who invited us into his ancient world.

We hobbled on cobbles—in the sandal steps of Dante, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Salvatore Ferragamo—awed by the beauty and history that surrounded us. We ate tubs of gelato, wandered through sunflower fields, hung out one evening with monks in a crypt, and served up magnifico margaritas that our friends in Florence will never forget.

During our year in Italy, we overcame megavolt culture shock with resolve and a sense of humor. We dealt with trauma and heartache—the result of a family crisis that spun out of control back home. And we learned how much there is to gain in life simply by letting go.

We reflected on all of this, gazing at the swirling colors of a carousel, at our favorite Florence café, which is where this story begins…the day we met the playboy leather merchant who said, “It’s like a fantasy”—the fateful first words of Tales from Tavanti.