Dinner with "Me"

Tuscan Getaway Team - Thursday, August 01, 2019

Dinner with "Me"

Hi everyone,

Please join me Sunday August 18th, 2019 | 5:30pm-8:00pm, for an enchanting evening of fine wine, a delicious Italian gourmet sit-down dinner prepared by Chef Julien Laffargue, live music and me at Ricarda’s Toronto.

I will be chatting about how to design your next chapter and finding your vitality. There are just a few spaces left. More details for the event are here:

Click here to get your ticket for Sunday Dinner

So looking forward to meeting everyone for great chats, delicious Italian food and wine and great music.

A presto


For more information, please contact Zoe van Empel from Ricarda's Restaurant 

or contact us at info@tuscangetaway.com


Throwback to my childhood

Tuscan Getaway Team - Thursday, August 01, 2019


When I was nine years old my father built me my own house. More of a rough wooden cube but it became my beloved childhood den. My dad was an engineer, not of clever bridges or fancy buildings but of machines that made sweets. He designed and built the machines that made some of the candies we all still enjoy today. My special 'playhouse' was constructed of two gigantic wooden packing cases that would have originally contained the copper cauldrons that boiled the sugar that then hardened into sweets. They were probably only about three meters square but to me they were heaven, my very own Downton Abbey. One wooden crate was lowered into a perfectly fitting hole that he'd dug by hand. He cut a trap door in the top of the underground one and a second one then sat above. Then he made a door and window. When the bad guys came a knocking (the local boys) my best friend Zabe and I would open the secret door in the floor, slide down a rope and hide in the 'basement!' We even tried to wallpaper the walls but with the never-ending damp of the North of England we would often be woefully greeted with soggy rolls of peeling paper. I never forgot our special place and the games that occupied us in there far away from adult eyes.

I am playing house again. With a little more budget than my packing cases I have built three wooden huts around Villa Reniella in Tuscany. Two of which are used for the daily massages for our guests and the third I have commissioned for myself. It is to be my new writing office. There is no electricity, water or insulation but it has a view that is breathtaking across the valley to the famous San Biaggio, a large renaissance church built over an Etruscan site. The writing cabin sits on the edge of our oak wood surrounded by young olive trees and is far enough away from the main house that I can block out the hustle and bustle of life at the villa. I hope the quiet and the view will inspire me. You see, I am about to embark on my next book. When I wrote my previous one - Design Your Next Chapter, I was like a nomad. I was travelling a great deal and had one small suitcase crammed with notes and reading stuff. This time will be different. My deadline is painfully tight for this book, (thank you Anne - my wonderful editor at Penguin Random House) so I need to stay put in my wee house and concentrate.

a presto



Design Your Next Chapter

Tuscan Getaway Team - Monday, July 09, 2018

You probably have dreamed of a next chapter, even kept a seed of an idea, or two or three, tucked away. And I’m sure that every now and then you find yourself thinking about that idea, wondering what it would really be like to dance to a new rhythm…

I had my own dream. Mine started with a tentative conversation with my husband about buying a simple holiday home in Italy, a small place to spend a few weeks each year pretending to live like the Italians do. But then this vision of la dolce vita took an abrupt turn and led me down a lifechanging path into a world so alien to me that I regularly pinch myself to make sure I’m not still dreaming.

Instead of a little vacation place, we ended up purchasing a large rundown villa and farm in Tuscany and renovated it into a 14-bedroom hotel. Not because I wanted to run a place for travellers to visit for a few days while exploring the glories of the region, but to create a haven where we could hold retreats. Originally, I thought we’d offer the occasional week-long girls getaway while I carried on with my television career, but the retreats soon took on a life of their own. They attracted people trying to ignite their passion once again. Those who’d hit a stone wall and were trying to find ways over, around or under it. Those who were suddenly single, or whose children had left home, and knew they had to do something to move on with their own lives. Those who had reached the tip of their learning curve and craved something new. Those who simply dared to dream about a new beginning and wondered what would happen if they tried something completely different?

Story after personal story unfolded as each guest inhaled the breathtaking views and tucked into memorable meals washed down with copious amounts of local wine. An eclectic mix of guests from Canada to Australia, England to Belgium, America to South Africa gathered each evening to share their stories and dream about new possibilities. As I listened with fascination to the tales of the dreamers and the doers a thread begin to appear. It is rather like buying a new car, where suddenly you see the model you chose everywhere. I had started a new chapter in my own life and now I was drawn to the inspirational stories of others. And I wanted to share them.

For Design Your Next Chapter, a book unlike any I’ve ever done, I interviewed souls from around the world that I’d met or read about. They had all reached a crossroads in life and had bravely turned away from the safety of the known and took an unfamiliar path. Then I intertwined these motivational stories of others with my own challenges and triumphs in Tuscany, plus oodles of advice and tools, to create a book I hope helps and inspires anyone contemplating or searching for a new act.

Grab yourself a chilled gin and tonic (just a splash of the later) with loads of ice and some slices of cucumber and curl up and have a read of this wee excerpt of my new book. Let me know what you think.

How to Realize Your Dreams and Reinvent Your Life 

An excerpt
Follow Your Dreams. They Know the Way

Dreams cost nothing, they have no calories, and they are wonderfully private. All of us dream. Babies dream, animals dream. Is there anything sweeter than watching a dog, flaked out by the fire, running free in its dreams or a baby smiling in her sleep? We can dream anywhere, and not just at night. We can daydream or indulge in wishful thinking, playing with a million ideas that most of us will never act on.

“What would it be like if one day I had my own little store, or went to work in an exotic country, or opened a rustic beach bar on a sundrenched island?”

Your mind chatters as you lie at the end of a yoga class in a savasana pose: “What if I took yoga more seriously and opened up my own studio one day?”

“Imagine if I could sell home-cooked meals to overworked mothers,” you wonder as your family eats your famous homemade stew, and tells you, “You should market this Mom—it’s amazing.” Maybe you should, you think to yourself.

Your mind wanders in the boardroom as you silently debate starting your own accounting firm. After all, you can do this job in your sleep. What if these people were your personal clients and you could work your own hours? Even from home?

Stuck in an endless meeting, you fantasize about being your own boss. That sweet bed and breakfast you walk past each day seems to be doing a roaring business. You can make a decent bed and are known for your delicious breakfasts. Turn the family cottage into your own B and B, what if.

Then that ugly, unsupportive inner voice rises up.

“You could never afford to open your own business. What about your steady paycheque and taking care of the family?”

Then there are the worse thoughts:
“I don’t have what it takes to pull this off.”
“I’m not clever enough, pretty enough or thin enough.”
“Where would I find clients and, even if I did, why would they want to hire me?”
“I don’t have the confidence, the contacts or the guts to do my own thing.”
“I will fail.”

That voice of disapproval and doubt has a point. The kids do still need you, your bank account is pathetic and the mortgage is a stone around your neck. Maybe you will fail, and your peers might enjoy witnessing that. People who are stuck in their own ruts do like to judge. After all, “Who does she think she is?”

But all these doubts are mostly excuses to stay put. And I’m here to tell you that the most successful entrepreneurs have had countless conversations like these in their heads. I certainly have.

Learn more about Debbie's book by clicking here

Pre-order link for Canadian readers

Pre-order link for American readers



A Fashionable Throw Back Thursday

Tuscan Getaway Team - Thursday, March 01, 2018

As spring approaches, the fashion news is shouting out the new trends. Oh, what to wear this spring? This year I am thrilled to say that I am 18 years ahead of everyone. I have had several sarcastic comments already, mostly from my kids. “Look mum, you are finally in vogue!” Yes, the onesy, boiler suit, jump suit, dungaree, all-in-one, whatever you call that one-piece that was my signature dress for my first television series, The Painted House.

We began that show in the mid-nineties, as the DIY era was on the verge of explosion. In fact, The Painted House was pretty much the very first decorating show in North America. We had the tiniest budget, about $10,000 an episode, about what we’d spend on lunches years later on my bigger-budgeted shows with much, much larger crews. There was no money left for wardrobe and since I was constantly covered in paint, I was obviously not going to be wearing Dior! 

I had a pair of dungarees that I wore in the garden and my hubby, who was directing me in those early years (not pretty), thought they were cute, so I wore them for the first episode. They were so practical, not just because of the mess but also for continuity, a big part of television production. I had different coloured t-shirts underneath and could change quickly if we had to redo a previous sequence. The fans loved them too and so I started to brighten them up with different shapes and patterns and numerous colours. I was lucky that the Victoria’s Secret catalogue suddenly started selling them in numerous colours.

In fact, the craziest thing happened. In those years, the government kept a very close eye on the Television Production Industry, and a tax auditor was a constant feature at many production offices, including ours. One spring, a particularly bad tempered government auditor was ensconced in the small office we had allocated to her, desperately trying to catch us out on some kind of tax cheat, when she leapt from the room waving some bills. She told us that I was putting my sexy Victoria Secret underwear on the company accounts, waving the receipts hysterically at us. We explained, as one would to a petulant child, that this is where I bought the clothes for the show – jump suits. She did not believe us, so hubby was sent home to produce the evidence. He returned to the office with boxes full of paint splattered overalls, Victoria’s Secrets labels still attached, to the delight of our office staff and to the dismay of the defeated looking auditor.

After 7 years of shooting The Painted House collected hundreds of these overalls – where did they end up? I remember an astute member of the Facelift team, my next series that had a bigger budget and a better wardrobe, asking me if he could have the old pieces. I was never going to wear them again, so I filled the trunk of his car with piles of these colourful overalls. He put them on eBay. If only I’d kept them - I would have been so in vogue this spring.


Happy Spring everyone

~ Debbie


Summer is officially here!

Tuscan Getaway Team - Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer is officially here!

The summer solstice has us all celebrating as we embrace the onset of summer. Mind you, in Tuscany, the summer heat this year has been with us for months - one of the hottest Junes on record according to the local farmers here in Italy. The much-needed spring rain was just a trickle, then departed. The near-drought conditions soon bleached the vibrant green fields of newly sprouted, waving and undulating wheat that surround our property to a shimmering golden yellow. Even our hardy olive trees seemed to be gasping for a drink under the relentless sun.

I have always loved the heat. The long hot summer days of my childhood in the north of England were blissful. Memories of blue skies and no rain, absolutely no rain. This is doubtful in one of the wettest area of Europe, but in my mind those summers were perfection. Thin cotton dresses, best friends and lazy school holidays that seemed to go on forever. Lying on our stomachs listening to Mungo Jerry (google him and smile) on a portable radio whilst licking fluorescent ice lollies and giggling about some boy at the other end of the football pitch. The only miserable moments occurred as the summer sun set and I was called inside each evening by my hateful mother. She would scream into the street to leave my soccer game or rounders (a kind of British version of Baseball.) “Bed!" she would yell. “So not fair, everyone else gets to stay up." I would wail back as I was dragged inside. Of course, I wasn't the only kid to be bathed and put to bed before the village street lights came on announcing grown-up people’s bedtime! The next morning, the sun always rose, cereal was laid out by my lovely mum and another glorious day of freedom blossomed before me.

Jump forward forty odd years and unbelievably to me, I am in another country, Italy. I am still lapping up the summer with the same relish and joy of that seven-year-old. Now I get to share the great outdoors in this foreign land with others who visit our Tuscan Getaways. On their first day of this weekly retreat I guide them along the pathways that snake amongst the olive groves. We wander along the rows of vines that stand to attention in our vineyard and explore the dense chestnut woods. I marvel at their delight as wafts of mint floats up from under foot followed by wild oregano and garlic. The sheer pleasure of sharing my plot of summer paradise with complete strangers is reminiscent of ‘schools out.’

These women, who visit our annual retreats from around the world, are luxuriating in being far away from their daily responsibilities, work and even family. They shake off their woes, lose the endless noise in their heads as they abandon their everyday lives, albeit for only a week. I watch them blossom with happiness and childlike enthusiasm. They come to my getaways for a variety of reasons. Many to tick off something from their bucket list or to experience everything that spectacular Tuscany has to offer and always to revel in the comradery of new friends. They bring their often weary souls to mend and change. I would love to think it is my lovingly decorated property, or our chef’s delicious Tuscan food or even the copious amount of local wine, but I am convinced it is the sunshine and the sense of summer school holidays. The bombardment of vitamin D, the relaxation of tight winter muscles and the smiles that soften faces as the Tuscan sun guides us through each breathtaking day.

For years I had a vision of what my endless summer days would be like in Italy, in fact I began buying floaty dresses years before I'd even decided on the furnishings. I often envisioned my new life as I dragged myself through airports and meetings. I pictured myself, basket swinging on my arm as I gathered the delights from my vegetable garden, sipped wine in the hammock in one of those flowery dresses and chatted to neighbors with names such as Luigi or Giovanni. And I pulled it off. I now look forward to the endless summer months in this baked land as I welcome my guests, family and friends. Summers in Tuscany are perfection. Enjoy yours, wherever you may be.

~ Debbie


Tuscan Getaway Team - Friday, March 18, 2016



La Dolce Debbie, the documentary series about my journey renovating an ancient property in Tuscany comes to an end this week. I have to say my heart is full. The response has been overwhelming. I’ve received thousands of emails from viewers who have shared their dreams, their joys and pain and their hopes for tomorrow. This documentary has hit a chord with so many of you. You have told me that you have laughed and cried in your own living rooms. You have watched with your husbands, children and some have even made Tuesday night at 8pm ‘girls' Tuscan night’ in your own homes.


This is my 5th television series. My TV career has very much been a journey through lifestyle programming. I began with a ‘how-to’ paint video which begat 200 episodes of a ‘DIY’ show, followed by 5 years of ‘reality’ and design. Next came a ‘challenge’ series and then the big mega, over the top ‘network’ design show. All were fun and thrilling to produce and host, but this little 3-hour documentary has been different. I actually began my career in television in England, working on docs. Truthfully, they were intensely boring, especially for a girl in her twenties. Talking heads chatting away about desperately serious subjects. They were always aired at strange hours until they eventually disappeared to be replaced by the infomercial. Happily, we are beginning to enjoy the new type of documentary – the docu/soap, especially since reality TV has become more and more staged and our senses have grown dulled.


At first I wasn’t enthused to make La Dolce Debbie. I was in my own world in Tuscany, knee deep in the renovation and the mud of my construction site. Did I really need a camera crew following me around? Then my thoughts changed. It was the magic and often the hilarity of the day-to-day events that I shared with friends that made me realize I should attempt to capture this sweet life. There I was camping inside the stonewalls of this ancient property. Half the roof was missing, I had no internal doors and a one-burner stove to both cook on and to keep me warm. What plumbing there was I shared with the numerous tradesmen working on the property. Now, I could have made an epic on just these guys and their array of wild personalities or the nightmare of working with the ‘Comune’ or city hall where I begged for permits weekly. The stories extended to the everyday life in my village. Here for example, is one of the many stories that I realized I just had to share…


One morning, I started my busy day with my usual long list or ‘to-dos.’ I headed for the post office and stood in line with what seemed like most of the village. No one cared that the queue was crawling at a snail’s pace – a geriatric snail. Alberto, one of my elderly builders, also waiting, chatted away to me in such a fast Italian that I couldn’t decipher a single word. As you know, my Italian is way below basic but he didn’t really care. He was telling me a fascinating tale about god-knows-what while he was waiting to buy a stamp, one stamp! As we crawled out of there hours later I somehow ended up in his little truck hurtling down a dirt road, through a gate and into his vineyard – everyone seems to have their own vineyard in Tuscany. After smiling appreciatively at his juicy grapes, I was invited into his home for coffee. His wife Silvia, resembled a succulent plum in her patterned apron that every ‘nonna’ seems to wear around the house. An hour later as I was trying to work up an excuse to leave, she proudly whipped up the most delicious lunch of countless dishes and of course several bottles of vino, actually quite superb homemade wine. I mean you can’t be rude so I tucked in. All meals must then be washed down with a wee digestivo followed by a quick nap on his white plastic chairs on the loggia (a kind of balcony.) Two hours later I was gently woken by Alberto. Wiping the drool from chin I climbed back into his truck to be dropped off with exhuberant hugs at my car still sitting outside the post office. By the time I returned to my construction site, the sun was setting and the builders were long gone. Another day in paradise, another ’to-do’ list barely touched.


I realized that these daily experiences that were so enchanting, so Tuscan, should be shared. So I agreed to a small crew following me around my little world in the heart of Tuscany. I was never really confident that the viewers at home would embrace my journey, but they have, with open arms. Not only did they watch, but I have been so touched by so many personal, emotional stories sent to me as they dream of their own next chapters. I have loved every minute of this epic renovation – and thank you for letting me into your homes so that we could all dream together.


Debbie Travis




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Debbie’s newsletter is a peek into her life between London, Tuscany and Toronto – running her television company, Tuscan Retreats and living life to the fullest.