Thursday, July 14, 2016

Extra Virgin - Annie Hawes

Another blogger, I think it was Danielle, mentioned this book.  I'm a sucker for 'outsider moves to a  place populated with colorful and opinionated locals' books, especially now that I've decided travel is too stressful.  There's an interesting interview with Annie Hawes here.  She's certainly one for  adventure.

I'm not quite sure when she bought the property in San Pietro, Liguria, Italy.  The book was copyrighted in 2001 and she says or implies that she's been there about 15 years.  She and her sister  work in London for months at a time to earn money to come back and live in Italy for the rest of the year.  They gradually make improvements to the property, in Italy called 'Adjustments'.  The locals feel sorry for them because they don't have their own men to do things for them.  So the locals pitch in.

As they get to know the dialect and the people, they form friendships, hear the gossip, find out about rivalries between people and villages, and learn local traditions and superstitions.  Only do certain work on olive trees at certain times of the moon.  Many things are done because that's the way they've always been done.  When new ideas are introduced, they're often rejected as silly.  They have readily accepted motorized vehicles to travel up and down the steep hills, though.

Food plays a big part, whether it's the way the people insist on eating it (no sliced tomatoes, only chunked tomatoes!) or drinking wine, only their own wine, of course.  There's rumor that wine bought in stores isn't made with grapes!  Never drink that stuff!  If you don't eat the right food, at the right times, in the right way, your digestion will be compromised.  Annie and her sister shake their heads.

There is a drought, the well runs dry, then the well is pumped dry by someone who thinks he's bought the rights to it.  There's a forest fire.  There are dances and walks to cool pools in the summer.  The locals teach them how to forage for greens and mushrooms, although there are disagreements about which mushrooms are safe to eat.

I feel like I've been to the Italian hill villages without moving from my comfy chair.  Yes, that's the way to travel.


  1. armchair travel is certainly free from all the annoying things like security lines and tsa patdowns, jet lag, and the difficulty of finding vegan food.

    1. Yes, it is. I know people say you just can't imagine the sights, the sounds, the smells. I've travelled enough and have a really good imagination, so I think I can get the sense of a place without leaving home.

  2. This sounds the perfect way to see Italy, I've never been as I have an inkling that I might not want to go back home!
    Anyway have a look at some vegan places in Edinburgh. - easy peasy!

    1. Thanks for the link to the vegan places in Edinburgh. I know you're just trying to tempt me back now that I know you!
      I once spent a week in Venice, which was magical, and had lunch in the Italian Alps, but I've never been to the southern part. I'm sure it's beautiful, but probably not as nice as it was when that book we read about the Riviera was written, in the early 1900s!