Under the Tuscan Sun: Will the Real Bramasole Please Stand Up?

Surely, you’ve heard or read about what might be the most famous villa in Italy: Bramasole. The one that Frances Mayes wrote about in her memoir, Under the Tuscan Sun. With husband Ed, Frances transformed a forgotten ruin into a thrilling second act in life.

“The house protects the dreamer, the houses that are important to us are the ones that allow us to dream in peace,” Frances reads from her book at the beginning of the Dream of Italy: Tuscan Sun Special. 

Bramasole directly translates to “yearn for the sun,” which is the perfect way to describe her story. An experience that has inspired the bestselling book (available in 54 different languages), blockbuster movie and a worldwide phenomenon, bringing a constant stream of visitors from around the world to see Cortona and the famous villa.

Did you know however, when it came time for the movie version to be made (with Diane Lane starring as Frances) another Tuscan gem was chosen for the silver screen. Frances personally found an old villa in Cortona to play an unrenovated “Bramasole” in the film. The Hollywood-famous villa has an interesting history of its own and has since been renovated.

Original owners were descendants of the Doria family of Genoa, as in Andrea Doria and Doria Pamphilj in Rome. They are known for financing the expedition of Columbus and are traced largely across Italian history. Little did they know that their humble villa in small town Tuscany would be revived once again – once it appeared in the movie, the villa was renovated by an American couple and is now owned by an American couple who rents it out by the week.

Travel journalist Jennifer Broome writes in our latest issue how you can personally rent the villa for groups of up to 20 people for your next Tuscan vacation!  (The real Bramasole is stilled owned by Ed and Frances and remains a private home).

See the real Bramasole, and meet Frances and Ed, in our Dream of Italy: Tuscan Sun Special  which can be watched on PBS.org or Amazon Prime.

The real Bramasole is the pink villa on the top of the photo and the Hollywood rental is the bottom villa. 

— Kathy McCabe