Book Review | At Least You’re in Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell

At Least You're in Tuscany Gemelli by Jennifer CriswellAs an expat in Italy, I’m drawn to memoirs by writers who have followed a similar journey of uprooting life and going in search of a new pathway in a new country. Naturally, if the book is about expat life in Italy, then it’s probably top of my “must read” list. I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of the latest release from Gemelli Press At Least You’re in Tuscany: A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Sweet Life by Jennifer Criswell.

In the case of Criswell’s memoir, you can judge a book by its cover! Just like the author, I have a weakness for those brilliant red poppies that dot the fields in Italy. Or, in my case, poke out of the cracks in the ancient stone staircases on the Amalfi Coast. I was captivated by the beautiful cover design from Gemelli Press and then laughed when I read the book’s subtitle: “A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Sweet Life.” The title At Least You’re in Tuscany evokes the spirit of Criswell’s book, which is a refreshing and often hilarious read from an author who has captured the charms as well as the challenges of expat life in Italy.

At Least You’re in Tuscany follows Criswell’s big move from New York City with her beloved Weimaraner named Cinder to a new home in an apartment in Montepulciano, a beautiful Tuscan hilltown not far from Siena. The book follows her first year as she adjusts to the ins and outs and ups and downs of life in Tuscany. From learning Italian and slowly making friends to epic delays in paperwork and bureaucratic nightmares, Criswell shares with readers more than just the pretty views and stereotypical Italian experiences. Her stories and enduring sense of humor reveal that adjusting to life in another country and planting new roots isn’t all all about wine and fields of poppies.

While reading At Least You’re in Tuscany, one Italian word kept running through my mind – grinta. While it may not have the melodious and romantic sound usually associated with Italian, its hard sound is very appropriate. While the dictionary definition comes up as “determination,” for me it’s a mix of courage, stubbornness and eternal optimism. It’s Italian for oomph! And grinta is precisely what is needed when you pack up and move to another country. Criswell has grinta in abundance, and it’s what makes her story such a compelling read that I couldn’t put it down!

Although the title hints that the book might have a negative bent, I found Criswell’s sense of humor and determination uplifting. Whether she’s describing the time her laundry froze on the line or painstaking struggles with finding work, I found her sense of humor the perfect balance to the troubles at hand. Reading At Least You’re in Tuscany reminded me of the many adventures I’ve had adjusting to life on the Amalfi Coast. Humor is absolutely required! That and a good mantra to keep positive even in the most difficult moments. Criswell’s mantra, “At least you’re in Tuscany,” carried her through that first year of changes and challenges until Montepulciano finally became home.

If you’re dreaming of making a move to Italy one day, or simply enjoy reading expat tales, I’d highly recommend At Least You’re in Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell. It’s a tale not only about life in Tuscany but also about having the determination to follow your heart’s desires – no matter what challenges life throws your way!

Now available at Amazon in Kindle version. Nook and paperback versions coming soon!

At Least You’re in Tuscany: A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Sweet Life
By Jennifer Criswell
ISBN: 978-0-09821023-7-4
Author’s website: |  Gemelli Press website:

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This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Books, Italy, Travel Inspirations.


  1. Anne October 20, 2012 at 18:09 #

    So I can say to my friends “you have lost your Grinta” Or “we need to get our Grinta back ” LOL Lol , I like that word. 🙂

    • Laura October 23, 2012 at 18:23 #

      Ciao Anne, I guess you could! 😉 Have fun!

  2. Linda October 23, 2012 at 18:53 #

    The book cover is beautiful and inviting. Goes to show you how important a book cover is as an overture to the reader. (Of course, the old saying is also true: you can’t judge a book by its cover. But at least the cover gets you to open the book.)

    • Laura October 23, 2012 at 19:08 #

      Ciao Linda! The cover artwork of a book definitely is key in getting people to pick up a book. Or … should I say download a book in this new age? 🙂

    • Ivan January 2, 2013 at 14:47 #

      So true, Lorene! Our vacation to Tuscany a few years ago was a perefct mix of art, enjoying the natural beauty of the Tuscan countryside, old castles and churches, lazy afternoons in cafes, fantastic food What an amazing country! Hope we get to go back sometime!

      • Laura January 2, 2013 at 18:51 #

        Happy you’ll be back in beautiful Tuscany soon! -Laura

  3. Canedolia October 30, 2012 at 22:05 #

    I love the word grinta too. A great new addition to my Italian vocabulary!

    • Laura November 1, 2012 at 13:53 #

      Ciao Canedolia! Glad to add a new word to your Italian vocab. I’m pleased to have clicked through to your blog Paris at my Feet, and I look forward to following! I spent a great deal of my time writing about Paris – it’s a fascinating and beautiful city!

  4. Carla Coulson November 1, 2012 at 09:45 #

    This looks like a great read Laura am sure there will be plenty to relate to having done the paperwork in Italy and now France! I adore the title Jennifer has given the book sets the tone for what I am sure will be a light hearted and heart warming read! Thank-you for the review Carla

    • Laura November 1, 2012 at 14:01 #

      Ciao Carla, Thank you for stopping by and for such a lovely comment! I’ve admired your photos in “My Amalfi Coast,” and I’ve just had to tear myself away from your website and blog. You have an amazing eye for capturing beauty! I do hope we’ll have the chance to meet up one day – in Paris or on the Amalfi Coast! Warm wishes, Laura

  5. LindyLouMac in Italy November 1, 2012 at 13:22 #

    A lovely review Laura, I am looking forward to my copy reaching the top of Mt TBR.

    • Laura November 1, 2012 at 13:55 #

      Ciao Linda! Now I think “Mt TBR” is some mountain climbing even I could get into! 🙂 My mountain is pretty high, too. But there are some great reads in there, and that anticipation of so many stories yet to be read is quite lovely!

  6. Brian Ging December 1, 2012 at 19:37 #

    Reading and loving this fun book. Thanks for the suggestion!

    • Laura December 7, 2012 at 17:08 #

      Very happy to hear you’re enjoying the book, Brian!

  7. Susanna December 22, 2012 at 02:39 #

    Thank you so much for the recommendation! I absolutely loved the book!

    • Laura December 30, 2012 at 15:42 #

      Hi Susanna, You’re so very welcome! I’m really happy you enjoyed the book and that you stopped by to comment. Thanks!

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