People often ask me why I decided to write a novel about Tuscany. It’s a good question and not easy to answer. I have been very fortunate to have visited many amazing places in my life (and hope to visit many more!). Tuscany is certainly high on my list of intriguing places, but so is Provence, Ireland, the Rockies, Arizona, New York, Mexico, Paris, Japan–the list goes on and on! Maybe I’ll set a novel in each one of them, and several more besides. On the other hand, I can only live so many more years. I’m getting started on my new career as a novelist a little bit later in life than I would have liked to!
Seriously? I chose Tuscany because the very name evokes warmth and good living and beauty at the same time as it is associated with such a deliciously turbulent history. All those towers and walls and fortifications in towns such as San Gimignano and Siena and Lucca were not built back in the middle ages because life was easy. The very architecture of the Tuscan towns screams strife. At the same time, the museums and churches of Tuscany are bursting with art–much of it created between 1300 and 1600, from the Middle Ages to the dawn of the Renaissance.
Amazing art, beautiful landscapes, blood-steeped history–Tuscany has it all. In other words, Tuscany is the perfect place to set a novel.
I have visited Tuscany on several occasions over the past twenty years, starting in 1994 when Gregg and I took our daughter Julia (eight years old at the time) on a trip to Europe that included a stop in Florence, the capital of Tuscany and the world’s largest repository of Italian medieval and Renaissance art.
In 1999, we spent several days touring Tuscany, staying in Lucca, San Gimignano, Volterra, and Siena, and in 2000, Gregg mounted a solo exhibition of his paintings in a castle in the Tuscan town of Montalcino. We even made a TV documentary called A New Arcadia: The Art of Gregg Simpson that included footage of the Montalcino exhibition. On that trip, we also spent several days at the Hotel Pescille, a lovely rural hotel overlooking San Gimignano. I think the seeds of The Towers of Tuscany were planted on that trip. I enjoyed several delightful afternoons lounging in our room overlooking the towers on the opposite hill, letting my imagination run free. Every evening, we drove up to the town and spent many magical hours wandering the dark streets–almost empty following the exodus of the daily tourist hordes.
In 2001, we teamed up with some friends and rented a villa overlooking the iconic cityscape of Florence. On that trip, we explored the Chianti region of Tuscany and again visited San Gimignano. My love affair with Tuscany was well on its way to becoming an obsession. Finally, in 2009, I conjured up my memories of Tuscany and began to write The Towers of Tuscany.
My last trip to Tuscany was in 2011 to research locations and art for The Towers of Tuscany which was by that time close to completion (or at least the first draft). I took this trip on my own and spent several glorious days in San Gimignano and Siena imagining my Sofia on her journey. I solved several plot points on that trip and reveled in sensory overload. In 2012, I completed many more drafts of The Towers of Tuscany, and finally, in early 2014, had the novel ready for publication.
What a journey!
Here are some more of the pictures I took during my 2011 trip to Tuscany.