Under the Tuscan Sun author donates papers

Fans were treated to a reading from Frances Mayes' newest memoir, Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life, when she spoke March 30 in recognition of her donation of her personal papers to the UGA Libraries.

Author of the best-selling memoirs Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany, Mayes is a native of Fitzgerald, Ga. She is also the author of a travel memoir, A Year in the World, the illustrated books In Tuscany and Bringing Tuscany Home; Swan, a novel; The Discovery of Poetry, a text for readers; and five books of poetry.
"I'm always slightly regretful when I come to Athens that I didn't go to school here," Mayes said on a glorious spring afternoon. "Both my sisters did so therefore I did not. It was just one of those things."

Saying she was honored to be asked to donate her papers, Mayes said, "I was having intimations of immortality and (husband) Ed was glad to get the garage cleaned out."

Under the Tuscan Sun (1996) stayed on top of the New York Times bestseller list for two years and was made into a 2003 movie. In the book, Mayes began the story of finding an abandoned house while traveling in Italy, buying it and the arduous task of restoration. Her writing focuses on making the house, Bramasole, her home and simultaneously establishing a new life.

"Many, many people have enjoyed reading of Frances' Mayes adventures in Italy and we are excited to be able to present this opportunity for the university community to hear her personally," said William Gray Potter, the university librarian and associate provost. "More so, we are thrilled that she has trusted us with preserving her papers and look forward to sharing them with her fans and scholarly researchers alike."

Her papers will join other collections held by the UGA Libraries in the Special Collections Libraries Building, now under construction, when it opens in 2012.
Mayes was introduced by UGA President Michael F. Adams, who credited the Mayes for their support of the study-abroad program in Cortona – "one of the jewels in our crown."

Calling the UGA students "a spark of life" for the town, Mayes described the sculpture program's expansion to the vicinity of a home for "old people with no home."  The students were outside, playing loud music and working with big pieces of marble.

"This is going to drive those old people mad. This is crazy," Mayes thought. "But as it turns out they loved it. They were all outside with the students, sitting there watching and really enjoying the activity. And that revealed to me something that I know about Tuscany – that there is very little hierarchy among ages. When you go to a dinner there's the 95-year-old grandmother and the six-month-old baby and everybody in between."

Additional information on Mayes is available at