1. The opening scene of the novel paints a very sympathetic picture of Belinda—a woman who sets out on an adventure in Tuscany after she has been humiliated by her cheating husband and so-called friend. Do you understand this scene differently after getting to know Belinda a little better?
2. After reading the novel, what do you think of the title Tuscany for Beginners? What advice would you give a friend looking to stay at a bed-and-breakfast in Tuscany?
3. Inspired by Frances Mayes’s Under the Tuscan Sun, Belinda flees England in order to pursue her dream of opening a bed-and-breakfast in Tuscany. She insists upon creating the ideal Italian retreat for herself and her guests.How well do you think she achieves this? What are some of the ways she creates this experience for them? How is her experience of Italy more about being English in Italy than about how Italians live? In what ways is Belinda more English than she might want to admit?
4. Even when her business was not doing well, Belinda still insisted on turning away guests that were not up to her high standards. What do you think about her method of guest selection? Why do you think she was so discriminating?
5. Upon first appraisal, many things are not what they appear to be in this novel. Explore how your initial impression of Belinda, Mary, Lauren, and Kyle evolved as the novel unfolded. How do you think each of the characters would describe themselves and one another? Do these descriptions differ from how you would characterize them?
6. Explore the relationship between Belinda and Mary and between Kyle and Lauren. In what ways are they different, and in what ways are they alike? Why do you think Mary and Kyle fell in love so easily? Were you surprised that Lauren and Belinda were not aware of the love affair occurring right under their noses?
7. There is no shortage of food in the novel, and it reveals a lot about the characters.What do Belinda’s recipes reveal about her cooking skills and knowledge of Italian cuisine?
8. On the surface, Belinda and Lauren are almost polar opposites, but they also have much in common. Explore the ways in which the two women are similar.Why do you think they felt so much hostility toward each other? Do you feel that one is more to blame? Why or why not?
9. How is Belinda’s life in the Tuscan countryside portrayed before Lauren’s arrival? How does this event change the way in which you think of Belinda?
10. What do you think of Belinda’s nickname,“the Contessa”? Is it well deserved?
11. What do you think of Belinda’s diary entries, her aperçus? As the story progresses, how do they add to your understanding of her character? Compare Belinda’s portrait of her life with the way she is described by the narrator.
12. Belinda and her friends in the valley have a lot of stereotypes about Americans. What are some of these? How does Lauren compare to these stereotypes? What are some of the stereotypes about the Italians, the Australians, and any other nationality that come to Belinda’s valley?
13. Next time you’re in Tuscany, where are you going to stay?