In 2003, Under the Tuscan starring Diane Lane and Sandra Oh dazzled moviegoers. The film tells the story of a recently divorced writer, played by Lane, who buys a villa in Cortona in Tuscany. The movie is based on the 1996 memoir of the same name written by Frances Mayes. The book was on the New York Times Bestseller List for over two years and launched Mayes’ career. As of 2016, Under the Tuscan Sun has been translated into 54 languages.
Frances Mayes was born on March 23, 1940, in Fitzgerald, a small city in south central Georgia. Originally enrolled at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia, Mayes graduated with a BA from the University of Florida. She earned her MA from San Francisco State University, where she then became Professor of Creative Writing and director of the Poetry Center. While the defining book of her career has been Under the Tuscan Sun, Mayes has written several other works focused on Italy, including The Tuscan Sun Cookbook (2012), See You in the Piazza (2019), and Pasta Veloce (2023), her latest recipe book. Mayes has also written several books inspired by the South, including Swan (2003), a family saga and mystery, and Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir (2014). She has also written six books of poetry.
Mayes is still a full-time writer, in addition to producing Bramasole Olive Oil in Cortona, Italy. She and her husband Edward Kleinschmidt Mayes, who is a poet, split their time between their homes in North Carolina and Cortona, Italy.