The movie Under the Tuscan Sun, (loosely) based on the memoir by Frances Mayes and starring Diane Lane, is a perfect “house movie.” After divorcing her cheating husband, Frances takes a trip to Italy, falls in love with an abandoned villa, and decides to buy it. As she restores the house, her life undergoes a kind of renovation of its own.
We get a glimpse of the home she shared with her husband as she’s packing up to leave:
Frances takes nothing but some boxes of her personal things and this blue vase. She pulls the flowers out of it and dumps the water on the floor before walking out:
Her best friend Patti is played by Sandra Oh of “Grey’s Anatomy.” In the movie, she’s in a relationship with Grace, played by Kate Walsh, who starred on “Grey’s Anatomy,” too, before getting her own spin off (“Private Practice”). In the movie, they’re expecting a baby together.
Because of the pregnancy, they give Frances Patti’s ticket to Italy, hoping that a vacation is just what she needs to get her life moving again.
While she’s there, Frances looks at the real estate listings that are posted (how many of us have done this on vacations, too?). She sees one she likes, for a villa called “Bramasole:”
Later, the tour bus pulls up next to the villa. She shouts, “Stop the bus!”
She steps inside and looks around:
It needs work, but Frances sees the potential in the old house:
She buys it on the spot, despite the pigeons that are living there (and one that was particularly rude to her when flying overhead):
After signing the papers, Frances tries to come to grips with the fact that she just bought the rundown villa:
She starts cleaning things up and taking inventory of all the things left behind, like bottles of wine:
And stacks of old newspapers:
She hires a team of Polish workers who don’t speak much English:
Frances says she wishes she had somebody to cook for. Then she realizes that she does have someone she can feed: her workers!
The workers set up a makeshift table for lunch:
The meals that she cooks for them are so good, they applaud. (I wish someone would applaud one of my meals around here–just once! I usually get comments like, “Why couldn’t we order pizza?” and “Pot roast again?!” But I digress.)
Her pregnant friend Patti (Sandra Oh) appears on her doorstep one day. Her girlfriend Grace (Kate Walsh) has left her, deciding she’s not ready for motherhood (this plot point was hard for me to buy, but whatever–it was a way to bring Patti back into Frances’s life). She moves into the villa’s blue bedroom:
Frances’s writing room:
Patti points out that there is steam coming up from the toilet, which probably indicates that there is something amiss:
A view of the living room, looking into the dining room:
Patti dances with her new baby under the wisteria arbor:
The writer and director of the film, Audrey Wells, says that they didn’t actually change much of the house during filming to show the before and after. They just cleaned it up a little and “filmed it in warmer, prettier light,” she says, to make it look like the rooms had been renovated.
The front door:
Frances’s room (love her white dress):
Also love the church that Frances’s young friends get married in, so I had to snap a photo of it for you, too:
Frances hosts the wedding reception in her garden, where she meets an American writer played by David Sutcliffe (who will always be Lorelai’s ex Christopher to me, from Gilmore Girls!).
You can see how much her terrace has been transformed since she bought it:
Frances steps out onto her balcony and we get a glimpse of the side of the house:
A close-up of Frances’s desk with her finished manuscript for Under the Tuscan Sun on it:
Who wouldn’t want to buy a villa here? Gorgeous!
A reader sent me a wonderful photo of the actual villa (thanks, Joanie!). She says, “We visited Cortona a few years ago and stayed at a hotel very near to Bramasole. The picture is from the car window, as I was trying to be nonchalant!”
Diane Lane has starred in several other movies that feature beautiful homes, too such as Must Love Dogs and Nights in Rodanthe. Which of her movie houses is your favorite?
*UPDATE: Check out the real-life renovated villa used for the film!*
Visit my Movie Houses page to see more, including…
The Real-Life Inn from Nights in Rodanthe