July 28, 2023

Unthinkably Good Things Can Happen: What I Learned from “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

I watched one of my favorite movies recently that I have seen multiple times.

It is based on a true story written by author Frances Mayes.

She is flawlessly portrayed by the talented Diane Lane as she invites us into the world of a newly divorced woman who discovered that her husband was cheating on her.

Feeling the rug pulled out from under her, she muses about divorce, “Do you know the most surprising thing about divorce? It doesn’t actually kill you. Like a bullet to the heart or a head-on car wreck. It should. When someone you’ve promised to cherish till death do you part says, “I never loved you,” it should kill you instantly.”

Frances not only didn’t die from divorce, but she took a leap across the pond to Italy on a trip offered by her pregnant lesbian friend and her friend’s partner. The twist is that the name of the tour group is “Gay and Away” and everyone except the new divorcee, identifies as gay or lesbian. They embrace her as part of their group, knowing that she plays for a different team.

Serendipity occurs and she gets off the tour bus, suitcase trailing behind her to walk through the rusted, vine-enwrapped gate of a villa called Bramasole, which translates to “yearning for the sun” in English. This after she had seen a for sale ad earlier in the day in the town where the group had stopped. Within a few hours, she finds herself the owner of what turns out to be a money pit.

While there, she meets a swoon worthy, but married character named Martini who is her realtor. He becomes a good friend who checks on her after a severe storm that electrocutes an outdoor washing machine and helps her look for a snake who snuck in a window. He utters some of my favorite lines that make me cry every time I hear it.

She ponders why she bought this house as a single person. She wistfully casts her desire for someone to cook for, a family to live there, and a wedding to occur between its walls. Those wishes come to pass in surprising and profound ways.

“Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come.”

Another character who touches her life is an eccentric actress and model named Katherine who lives out loud, indulges in ice cream and young men, and reminds Frances that sometimes it helps to simply surrender and allow what she wants to come to her. The symbol for that concept is a ladybug.

She hires a group of Polish construction workers to renovate the structure and they end up creating a home in Frances’ heart.

Before the final credits, Frances muses, “Any arbitrary turn along the way, and I would be elsewhere. I would be different. What are four walls, anyway? They are what they contain. The house protects the dreamer. Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game. It’s such a surprise.”

Why did this movie touch me so deeply that I have watched it over and over and have recommended it to friends? I catch nuances each time. As a writer, I appreciate the journey that Frances took that invited me to come along without need for passport. The way she describes the imagery, I can taste and smell the luscious dishes she prepared, feel myself figuratively jumping out of my skin in the thunderstorm that welcomed her to her new home, and feel myself tearing up at the tender scenes. I too believe in miracles that play out beyond the boundaries of daily life, as well as signs and symbols that present themselves in my day-to-day existence.

I have experienced love and loss as had Frances, shattered expectations around how I thought things “should” be, and felt gratitude for what unfolded and the people who have come into my life in different forms.

The windblown young woman who I was when this photo was taken, was full of hope and possibility. If I had the opportunity to reach back through time and tell her what awaited her, her path might have changed.

Each day, I too stand at the crossroads, wondering how to connect Vienna and Venice and bring all aspects of my life together. Each day, I lay the tracks in preparation for the train to come through. Each day, I welcome family of choice who make my life meaningful. Each day, I explore how my existence might be different had I taken an alternate path. Each day, like Frances, I celebrate the symbols and synchronicities that occur.



If you have never seen this film do your romantic, hopeful heart a favor. Ciao Bella!


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