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Book reviews

An Italian Education - Tim Parks

Extra Virgin - Annie Hawes

Memoirs of Hadrian - Marguerite Yourcenar

War in Val d'Orcia - Iris Origo



Extra Virgin - Annie Hawes

Extra-Virgin - Annie Hawes

Extra Virgin sounds at first like another of those 'moving to Italy' idylls. Several years ago, Annie Hawes and her sister bought a ruined cottage high on the Ligurian mountainside. Learning about olive- and vegetable-growing, they 'adjust' their property to make it habitable and get to know their fellow San Pietro residents.

However, Hawes is not just another good-lifer with a patronising view of 'quaint' locals. Like Tim Parks, she provides an honest and believable view of Italian life. Her Italy is not always nice, not always sunny, not always welcoming, rustic or charming. Unlike many ex-pats, Hawes begins with a knowledge of the language, and the ability and willingness to communicate and bond with the Ligurians. Her slow learning processes and errors are familiar to many of us who have begun to (or tried to) integrate ourselves into this complex and at times bizarre society.

Extra Virgin is especially good on the rules and conventions blithely ignored by so many foreigners (and by the Hawes sisters, until they learn their lesson). Living in fear of a 'colpo di freddo', appalled at the girls' unseasonal bathing, the area's residents are not entirely welcoming or understanding. So, as befits the newcomer, Hawes and her sister begin to unravel the rules governing life here. The correct order to eat their food and drink their wine (Hawes includes a funny digression on Italian alcohol intake - which is all for 'digestive' purposes, naturally). The correct dates for sunbathing on the beach. The graduations between beach and inland attire.

Hawes and her sister have other sources of income, and don't spend the whole year in Liguria; the book paints a realistic side to the 'settling in Italy and living off the land' picture. This book was recommended to us by many other foreigners residing in Italy, and even along Hawes's own stretch of Ligurian coast, as a funny antidote to the more dreamy views of Italy. Having read it until three in the morning, at times mopping our eyes with laughter, we are now taking on the mantle and recommending it to all of our Italy- and UK-based friends.

> Extra Virgin: Amongst the Olive Groves of Liguria - from Amazon.co.uk.

> Ripe for the Picking - the sequel to Extra Virgin.

> Journey to the South - taking a trip to Calabria.

> Also available as Kindle editions


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Liguria

Calabria


Our reviews

An Italian Education

Extra Virgin





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