By Sharon Sanders
Jennifer Criswell had guts. She wasn’t rich. She wasn’t fluent in Italian. And, she was no longer of the age where people say things like, “Oh, she’s young. . . she’s just finding herself.”
Yet, she moved from New York City to live in Tuscany. As a local barrista quizzically asked when she told him she was living in Montepulciano: “Ma, per sempre?” (but, forever?)
Her companion was a beloved Weimaraner named Cinder who, as you might suppose, was also neither rich, fluent in Italian, nor a frisky pup.
In At Least You’re in Tuscany: A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Sweet Life, Criswell shares the transformation with candor and humor. By her own admission, “It certainly wasn’t the sensible thing to do.”
Ten years before relocating, Criswell experienced an epiphany in Pienza, the last stay on her first trip to Italy, a three-week jaunt through the peninsula. Confiding in her journal, she realized that she no longer wanted to be a lawyer. She wanted to be a writer, and, more importantly, she wanted to be a writer in Italy.
Although her resolve was firm, the move was not fast. She writes, “My dream of Tuscany inspired me to start making changes. It took nine years, a move from Miami to New York—where I survived (just) as a dog walker on the Upper West Side—loads of Italian lessons, and three more trips before I hoisted sail on my Italian odyssey. But when you’re meant to be somewhere, everything in between feels like you’re treading water, just waiting for that wave to lift you and carry you onto the shore of your new land. My new land was Italy.”