Frances Mayes is best known for her book, ‘Under The Tuscan Sun’ – a tale about escaping the city for the beautiful life. For an upcoming PBS special called ‘Dream of Italy’ location producer, Fabio Di Segni worked with her in Cortona. He’s shared a few thoughts with us:

 We recently filmed a DREAM OF ITALY special in Cortona with Frances Mayes, author of the hugely popular book UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN. No other book has done for Tuscany what Mayes’ book did. The story is based on her own experience of moving to Italy and buying and renovating a 200-year-old villa in Cortona, Bramasole. Her tale of escape from hectic city life in New York to an idyllic medieval hillside town where life follows the ancient rhythms of the seasons clearly struck a chord with many people. The book was on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years after it was published in 1996. Its huge appeal catapulted Cortona from obscurity onto the A list of tourist destinations. What began as a trickle of tourists to this sleepy little town after the publication of the book turned into a torrent when the film came out in 2003.

Frances Mayes for Under the Tuscan Sun interview

Arriving in Cortona for the shoot of Kathy McCabe’s PBS series DREAM OF ITALY, we found a bustling town, its medieval piazza and steep alleyways peppered with shops of luxury goods – cashmere, jewellery and DOC wines. The tourists are still mainly American who come to enjoy good wine and good food in a stunning hill-top setting overlooking Lake Trasimeno. And let’s not forget the art: Cortona is the birthplace of Fra Angelico, and several of his works are in the local museum.

Our first story was the ‘Torneo della Civetta’ a national archery competition held every year in Cortona, where the archers wear medieval costume and shoot with traditional bows. It’s a cameraman’s dream! So much colour and activity in the most gorgeous setting imaginable. And in the afternoon, Presenter Kathy McCabe was invited by Frances to take part in a grand parade, again in medieval costume, that wound its way through the town.

Frances and her husband Ed Mayes are completely integrated into the life of the town and have become local VIP’s. As we were filming, countless tourists came up to Frances for her signature! There are now tours of the location for the film UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN (which Frances very wisely organized in another house similar to her own, but not actually Bramasole).

Tuscany is so rich in locations to film, so it wasn’t difficult for us to put together a great shoot itinerary. There was the grape harvest, a cooking lesson with a top-class local chef, hand-crafted gold jewellery, and as a grand finale to celebrate Frances’ book and film, a big party at Bramasole with all the contributors to the show.

Probably the most rewarding part of my job as Location Producer here in Italy is the beauty of the country. We are surrounded by stunning locations and every little village and town has some kind of special event or local tradition. I hope more people will come to film here because there is so much to see and do, it’s a real filmmakers’ paradise!


You can contact Fabio through the site here:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s