The second thing that bugs me about those books is that Tuscany is portrayed as a back-drop for the deep soul-searching finding yourself narrative that people would sneer at had it occurred in a kitchen in Jersey. They describe quaint old Italian men who were put on the earth with the sole purpose of smiling wistfully and respectfully while some bored, wealthy housewife "finds herself" near the vinyard he works in. But let me tell you, that quaint old man is more likely to interrupt your run by trying to offer you wine and if you did actually stop he'd probably grab your boob.
The Tuscans I know don't think Americans are so cool anyway. The WWII generation was completely besotted with all things American after our studly performance trouncing the Nazis. Let's be real. Nazis suck and we kicked their Hinterteile. My friend Luisa remembers eating cat (maaaoooo interjects Blicky), and her brother, a partigiano, died in the resistance. They were probably so grateful that their children rebelled and embraced communism with a vengeance. Most dinner tables seem idyllic to the tourist in Italy, especially if you don't speak the language. We imagine them discussing things like "oh isn't family so important?" and "I'm really so happy I spent all morning making your homemade pasta because I don't want a job." But if you're part of the discussion, chances are good that you'll have to answer for electing George Bush, whether we let people die if they don't have health care, why we let children have guns, or why we condone the death penalty. Many people you meet have known hunger and violence of war and they don't understand how we can undertake it so lightly.
Is Tuscany a good place for self discovery? Yes, and some rhapsodizing has it's place when you're admiring the cathedrals in Lucca, the Uffizi in Florence or the view from Fiesole. But there's also some real opportunity for self reflection beyond your traditional garden-variety type. We as a country have a lot to learn about what matters in life and what matters in a society.