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At Least You're in Tuscany: A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Sweet Life

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  416 ratings  ·  96 reviews
At Least You’re in Tuscany: A Somewhat Diastrous Quest for the Sweet Life is Jennifer Criswell’s memoir about her first year in Montepulciano during which her dream of expat life meets the reality of everyday challenges and results in sometimes funny, often frustrating, always lesson-filled situations.

Jennifer Criswell’s move from New York City to Tuscany was not supposed
Paperback, 220 pages
Published September 28th 2012 by Gemelli Press LLC
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3.77  · 
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 ·  416 ratings  ·  96 reviews

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Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
What do you do when you want to make your dream your address, like Marcel Proust; you idolize Italian men; you imagine life on earth should be about all things Italian, and you have “Che palle!” or “Porca miseria!" or “Stronza!” down pat? And what if your mom periodically, okay at least twice a day, yelled "Vaffanculo" at your brother? Yeah, right, you declare your life as a lawyer in New York obsolete; you move to Tuscany - Montepulciano, to be exact - the lock stock and dog way. It is the pla ...more
Diana Baur
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you've ever dreamed of of packing it all in and moving to a hill town in Tuscany, take it from me: Jennifer Criswell has been there, done that and has written a fabulous book about it! You'll love following Jennifer and her sweetest of sweet dogs Cinder through the winding streets of Montepulciano as they encounter real life Tuscan-style at every turn. She brings the characters to life with charm and aplomb. Jennifer didn't make this move with a loaded bank account or monstrous job offer wait ...more
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved At Least You're in Tuscany. Loved it! I lived in Italy as a kid, a few hours south of Montepulciano. I've been back once (13 years ago as a college student) and I admit I've since had dreams of returning as an expat. Jennifer Criswell acted on her dreams. With no specific plan and no job prospects, she packed up and moved to Italy with her Weimaraner.

All of the emotions that come with those first few days in a foreign country came through - I could feel Criswell's exhaustion, pangs of ho
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
After throwing down "Under the Tuscan Sun" in utter annoyance, I went in search of an account of an English speaker living Italy that wouldn't bore and annoy me. "At Least You're in Tuscany" was what I was looking for. The author has a great knack for making you care about everyday struggles, and was endearingly self-deprecating, but not overly so. It was the kind of book that made me laugh out loud, and occasionally interrupt my husband to read him a quote. It's just a really fun read.
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Being an expat myself, I know that the dream of living in a foreign country can often differ pretty significantly from the reality. However, I've never come across a book that captures the trials and tribulations of moving to a new culture with quite the same level of laughing honesty of 'At Least You're In Tuscany'.

Criswell's dream of sipping espresso on an Italian balcony while writing best selling novels, overlooking rolling Tuscan hills, is brought crashing down to earth through a series of
Lisa Niver
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
Enjoy my review on the Huffington Post:

It starts:

In Jennifer Criswell's At Least You're In Tuscany: A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Sweet Life, she describes her first year as an expat in the small town of Montepulciano. Her mantra when things go wrong is "At least you're in Tuscany, at least you're in Tuscany." There are many "Lucy Ricardo" moments from her antics while joining the annual Sangiovese grape harvest in Tuscany, to hanging her laundry i
Naomi Foster
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Many of us have dreamed of moving to a foreign country to live the good life. Few of us do. But Jennifer Criswell took one step after another and made it happen. I loved the honesty and humor about the many difficulties along the way and the romance, the courage and strength it took. This is a perfect book for anyone who has ever thought of moving to a new country or who wants to take on a new challenge no matter how difficult. Ms Criswell shows us that little steps one after another eventually ...more
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is going to become one of my favorite books! Jennifer is living my dream right down to living in my favorite Tuscan town!
Well written and easy to read, this book quickly takes you on a wonderful (and sometimes bumpy) trip through the first year of the author's new life in Italy. You will enjoy this book!
Kathleen Duffy
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful book of perseverance! I likely would have left Tuscany after a couple of months in the conditions Criswell endured.

This book also helped to fuel my travel bug. Tuscany is gorgeous, as is most of Italy, and I can't wait to return one day.
A Serious Lover
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
We all dream of escaping our lives and Jennifer actually did it. A light hearted look inside the story of chucking it all and going for broke to follow your dream.
Maria Shaw
May 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My husband and I met the author (after following her blog) in 2010, so I was somewhat familiar with her experience up until then...but the book goes into so much more wonderful detail than her blog. She can really write, and takes the reader on a fun, at times painful, beautiful journey into Tuscany and into her life. She strikes the perfect balance, revealing beautiful Tuscany without over-romanticizing the place with the cliches and tired stereotypes and imagery so worn out by authors of Italy ...more
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-review, memoir, travel
As a young woman, Criswell took an extended trip to Italy and knew she had found her true home. Years and several more visits later, she finally leaves New York and moves to Montepulciano, Tuscany, with her dog Cinder. Despite careful preparation, she hits roadblocks from the start - a rude landlady, social isolation, difficulty speaking Italian, and most of all, serious financial trouble because she can't work. Her Sicilian ancestry entitles her to Italian citizenship, but of course, what was p ...more
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! I just spend two months in Tuscany and this book felt like a gift, capturing some of what I experienced there and offering a fun and honest portrayal of Criswell's Tuscan experiences. Criswell is a sharp, humorous, descriptive writer and I loved her approach to sharing her joys and sorrows of adjusting to life in Tuscany. She doesn't sugarcoat her experiences, instead she offers a nuanced narrative of the people, food, weather, and wine of Tuscany. You will laugh out loud and ...more
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
How many of us have thought about moving to Italy to live the dream. We've all seen Under the Tuscan Sun. This book tells the story of Jennifer Criswell's journey doing exactly that. And she certainly experienced her share of ups and downs, financial difficulty and frustration with bureaucracy. Sometimes you laugh at her adventures and other times you just want to cry out in frustration at her ordeals. I loved this book. I hope Ms. Criswell writes more about her journey in this beautiful country ...more
Mar 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Tuscany, one of my favorite places to visit. Great fresh food. Scenic views that take your breath away. Winding roads to get lost on. And people who treat you like family. And then there's the wine. It's a great place. Jennifer Criswell chose to move to a small town in one of the hilltowns of Italy: Montepulciano. Her antics come across breezily and with feeling.

I will enjoy writing this one up for my blog. Brings back so many memories of our trip to Tuscany.
Hope Johnson
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm a day dreamer and sometimes think about selling everything and moving someplace foreign. Reading this book has not deterred me so much as provided valuable insight. Living abroad isn't like traveling abroad. I enjoyed reading about every obstacle and every success she experienced in moving to Tuscany to become an Italian citizen.
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
After meeting the author on a wine tour in Montepulciano, I knew I had to read her book. Maybe it's because I fell in love with the town she was writing about, but I found myself wishing the book was longer and wanting more details on her adventures. Lovely tale of the expected (and unexpected) of picking up and moving to Tuscany.
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, travel, italy
I love travel memoirs in general, but I loved this a matter of fact I'm packing my bags for Tuscany as I write this review!!
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. Perfect for any Italophile who wants to be transported to Italy.
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many of us dream of packing it all in and going to live in an Italian hilltop village but not many people actually do it. The books I've read to date about it usually evolve around older couples who aren't short of a few euro renovating, cooking and drinking their way through their new lives.

Jennifer however is different, a refreshing change from the other sea change books. Her story isn't glamorous - hauling frozen duvets off the clothesline in the middle of the night is far from glamorous - bu
May 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
**my disclaimer: a complimentary, electronic version of this book was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley, but all thoughts/opinions are my own**
***further disclaimer: I’m obsessed with all things Italian, but I have tried to not let that influence my opinion***

I requested this book originally because the cover art was beautiful and the book was about Tuscany. Once I started reading it, and realized it was an actual memoir, I became a little hesitant because there are so many books
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am always attracted to stories of this nature – what would it be like to transplant your life to some exotic destination, such as Tuscany in this case? So when Criswell wrote, “not just picking up roots but planting them in the right spot”, I thought this was a good sign. Not to be.

Would you quit your job, pack your bags, and move to another country – alone - where you knew no one close, hardly spoke the language, understood even less, and where your paperwork entitling you to work was not wel
Jul 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: galley-arc
I enjoyed this and really want to give it 5 stars, but I feel like something is missing.

The writing is nicely done, the account of her move to Italy was great - she tackles equally the up and downsides to her decision to move. I truly expected, as I'm sure others at the time might have, that she'd end up back in NY by the end of the book. I applaud her stubbornness to stick with the dream.

I also felt like her explanations of the culture were well done. Instead of a William Sonoma spread with f
For some reason, it is an American obsession to visit Italy – live in Italy. It is the topic of several best selling books. Is it the food? The simplicity of life? The history? What draws us in. Through this book, we can live our own dream of visiting Italy vicariously through Jennifer as she gives up her life as a New York lawyer and moves to a rural area in Tuscany. It’s the stuff that books are made of!

I must admit, that the title made me think that it was going to be a semi-humorous and mad-
Gabriella Gricius
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Why Read: I’m a fan of travelogues. Enough said. If you know me, you know my tastes in books are extremely wide ranging but at the end of the day: travelogues will always be some of my favorites. Also.. Netgalley.

Review: Every once in a while, a book comes along and makes me smile without smiling, and look at myself. I didn’t think it would be this one. In fact, as the book started, I expected the opposite. I had just returned from Italy, and was not maybe in the right mood to read a travelogue
Vicki Bennion
Aug 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My husband and I have both read Jennifer's book after meeting her on a recent trip to Tuscany. We were lucky enough to have a tour at the Poliziano Winery and Jennifer was our guide. We were a group of 6, from the states, celebrating my husband's birthday. We hit it off immediately with Jennifer, and ended up buying 3 copies of her book and having dinner with her in Montepulciano. I could go on about the delightful evening and restaurant, but I will save this for another time.
I read "At Least Yo
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was such an enjoyable book and easy to read. I felt like I was sitting with a girlfriend chatting over a bottle of Pinot Grigio and hearing about her recent move to Italy.

Anyone who visits Italy probably has at the very least a fleeting thought of packing up and moving there. This is a story of someone who did just that-packed up and set down roots in a foreign country. But instead of the oh so overdone fairy tale of a young woman who moves to Italy, renovates a Tuscan villa, falls in love
Maria Elmvang
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Jennifer's experience works as a good reminder that the life of an expat isn't always an easy one. And that that which is good comes at a price.

Ever since she first traveled to Tuscany, Jennifer felt herself drawn to the people and the place. She knew she had found her "soul country" and was prepared to give up her safe life as a US lawyer to move to Tuscany and become a writer.

So far this sounds a lot like "Under the Tuscan Sun", right? But apart from the initial premise, the two books have lit
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is absolutely perfect for anyone who has ever wanted to drop everything, move out of the city, and start a brand new life in a dream-like location. Jenny has described perfectly the ups and downs of making this dream a reality. While reading her book, I was faced with many emotions: at times I was so envious of her courage and her new lifestyle...going to the local bar for an espresso and brioche, the view of the Tuscan hills from her window; and then I would immediately become empathe ...more
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much. As someone who spends most of their day dreaming of moving to Italy, I was thrilled and envious to read from someone who actually had the guts to do it. I liked that the book was not all sugar-coated and that she spent a lot of the book talking about the frustrations and confusion of being in a foreign country. Beyond my deep interest in the subject, I also found Jennifer Criswell to be an excellent writer, keeping the reader engaged and entertained. I hope she puts ou ...more
Jun 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a memoir of an American young woman's first year in her relocation to Italy - something, no doubt, that many of us have fantasized about doing but few of us actually have the stones to do. The thing I really like about this book is that Jennifer doesn't sugar coat her experiences. Sure, she expounds on the natural beauty of Tuscany; but she also is very frank about the difficulties she has in securing an apartment, making new friends (as opposed to acquaintances), and acquiring a work pe ...more
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm an American expat living in the UK with a deep love of Italy. This book really spoke to me. I can so emphasize with the struggle Criswell has had to become legal as well as to figure out where in this foreign society she fits.

I laughed and I cried along with Criswell. Sometimes I was just grateful that I'd emigrated to a less bureaucratic country. I loved the way Criswell added the Italian language to the book. I felt like I was learning along side her. In fact, due to this book I've signed
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love these types of books: the ones where someone moves to a different country and the ones where someone tries something new for a year or longer.

I find these types of book very interesting and inspiring. I always learn something new, and am inspired to try new things for myself.

This book doesn't disappoint. There's no sugar coating. Jennifer had the dream of moving to Tuscany and with some stars in her eyes she takes the leap. Well...turns out life isn't always a fairy tale and she has her s
Italo Italophiles
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
The full title of this books is At Least You're in Tuscany, A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Sweet Life. The book is a memoirs about one year in the life of an Italian-American woman who attempts to emigrate to Tuscany, Italy, at the age of thirty-eight-going-on-eighteen, with her elderly dog.

To be honest, I found that the litany of bad decisions by the author made me wonder about her sanity. I suspect much of the fun people find in reading this account of a search for the good-life in Italy,
Wendy Hinzman
Feb 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book, "At Least You're In Tuscany" is wonderful, hysterically funny and very "relatable", even if you've never BEEN to Tuscany! I haven't laughed out loud so many times reading a book in a very long time. This is a feel-good, honest adventure story that really explains the Italian people of Tuscany, their daily lives, their ways, and how a determined American with "every woman" flaws, makes the small town of Montepulciano her home. Brava!
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My Amazon review of this book
By jillipen (Emilia Romagna Italy) - See all my reviews

This review is from: At Least You're in Tuscany (Kindle Edition)
I loved this story, This lady can write, and as an expat in Italy I can really relate to this book. Whilst Jennifer's story is totally different to my own, there are so many times I found myself nodding and understanding what she was dealing with. I also learnt a few things I didn't know about italy, a great book and I now need a follow-up to know w
Stacy Sabala
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: interesting
Book Review- At Least You’re in Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell

Criswell recounts her tales of fulfilling her dream of moving to the Tuscan hills. She explains to the reader quite quickly how her idea of what life would be of sipping espresso on an Italian balcony while writing best selling novels and what reality actually was. She had no clue that you may well have to wait forever to get citizenship. As a result no one will hire you and you will be required to ration food from a tin can. The fact t
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book was an entertaining look at a woman adjusting to life in Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy. The humor is self -deprecating as well as realistic. Instead of stereotyping the people of the town, Jennifer looked at her own shortcomings. She wrote of her need to adjust to the town and the slow ways of Italian life. She struggled to find work and to improve her use of the Italian language, as well as the process of establishing citizenship. While she did acknowledge cultural differences, she di ...more
Sandy Hall
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was given this as an early read via net galley and was happy as I really enjoy these sort of stories, regular people who find themselves living in a foreign country either unexpectedly or as part of a long term plan. I felt this was well written and I enjoyed the insight into what it's like to live someplace that most of us view as a dream location. This may be required reading for anyone thinking of moving to a foreign country where they don't speak the language in any true sense, don't have ...more
Karen Korb
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My Thoughts On The Book: I thoroughly enjoyed the true story of someone who really wants to fit in and seem like a local in another country. Having traveled a good bit I have often wondered what it would be like to just pick up and move to another country. I think this book is the answer to my ever present question. In order to live in another country you have to learn the language, adapt to the culture and keep on keeping on. The book also shows that it does not take a ton of money to do this. ...more
Lizzie Andrews
Nov 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book is like sitting down to have coffee with your best friend. Honest, sometimes sad and humorous, I believe she gave an incredible retelling of that first year in Italy. Given some of her experiences, I may have just packed up and headed home.

I was an exchange student for a year and let's face it, after a year you are still trying to get your foothold somewhere. The first year can be bad, frankly my first seven months abroad I was homesick. Challenges are abundant in a different c
Viktoria Jean
Read my full review here:

"It was this trip, during which I learned to say "yes" to every adventure, during which I'd felt romance and trusted my instincts, that convinced me that if I could muster up a little courage, I could chuck my legal briefs and follow my heart. To write. And to write in Italy."

Taking the first step in solo travel takes a hell lot of guts...especially so if you're starting over in an entirely new place, with no friends, bad grasp of
Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
It takes a great deal of courage to uproot yourself from the cosmopolitan New York and, accompanied only by an elderly dog, attempt to settle in a Tuscan village and become an Italian. With only a very limited knowledge of the language, but guts in abundance, and some inherited Italian genes, Jennifer is determined to settle in Tuscany and write a best selling novel.
Her trials and tribulations with lack of money, the difficulty in finding paid emplo
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In "At Least You're in Tuscany," expat Jennifer Criswell calls herself an Italian in Training. I am an Expat in Training, and I loved reading her story. Against daunting odds, Jennifer never gives up on following her bliss. As much as I laughed at some of her adventures and adaptations to her Italian life, so many of which I can relate to, I also cried with her when she reached seeming dead ends and walls and felt like she might have to return to the States. But she never surrendered, and ultima ...more
Feb 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book had its moments, but it really bogged down for me particularly in the second half, and I began to lose interest.

Full review here: http://greatreadsandtealeaves.blogspo...
Pam M
Oct 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I had the pleasure of meeting this author who gave us a tour and tasting at Poliziano winery. She was a fabulous tour guide, and I'm pleased to say also a very entertaining writer. I downloaded her book before we flew home, and it made my 10 hour flight very enjoyable (well, as enjoyable as a 10-hour transatlantic flight can be). Having just been to most of the locales she writes about made her book come alive for me, but even if you haven't been there, you will still have a blast reading all ab ...more
Patty Mccormick
Apr 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well I certainly didn’t know that it would be so difficult to move to another country and establish oneself! Jennifer had a really tough time making a go of it. She shows us how frustrating it was to wait on the arrival of the proper paperwork and getting through the red tape. We follow her on her adventures as she follows her dream to live in Tuscany. I thought that this was a very relaxing read. You don’t have to think much with this one, just follow along. What is life in Tuscany like? Read t ...more
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-worthy
If you’ve ever wanted to run away to a life in the Tuscan hills pick up a copy of “At Least You’re in Tuscany.” Jennifer Criswell shares the joys and tribulations of her first year establishing residency in Montepulciano with insightful and honest reporting.

After ten years of Tuscan holidays, Ianguage lessons and dreams Criswell leaves New York for a permanent life in Italy. She arrives with bravado, optimism, plans to become a writer and her beloved Weimaraner, Cinder. As the dreams turned to
May 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I think that many of us have thought of just leaving everything and moving to Tuscany.The difference between dreaming about it and actually doing it is the basis of this memoir. Jennifer takes us on her journey, her trials and her joys, during her first year as an expat in Italy . A year of making new friends, becoming fluent in a new language, finding a job, understanding the people and culture of her new country. None of these were as easy to accomplish as she dreamed them to be yet still she ...more
Overall impression of the writing was good. Jennifer Criswell wrote this with a nice descriptive style but sadly the main character was just too unlikable for me to engage with her. In all honesty I wanted to smack her so bad for all the whinging she did when every trouble she had was her own fault and I just couldn't get past it. I wanted to like this, I really did but seriously, who moves to a country that has a completely different language with only the barest grasp of the language! And I am ...more
Jun 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Jennifer Criswell takes you by the hand as her closest confident, telling you the harrowing story of her first year and some months as an ex-pat in Montepulciano, Tuscany. Criswell leaves her job as a lawyer to become a dog walker in NYC and then moves as a writer with her dog to Italy. Living in a small Tuscan hill town, she struggles with learning a new language, making friends, waiting for work papers, and having a romance, only to find the sting of town gossip. But her story has a happy endi ...more
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“It certainly wasn't the sensible thing to do. [Referring to her move to Italy.]” 0 likes
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