Extra Virgin: A Young Woman Discovers the Italian Riviera, Where Every Month Is Enchanted

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9780060198503: Extra Virgin: A Young Woman Discovers the Italian Riviera, Where Every Month Is Enchanted

Extra Virgin introduces a major new voice in this delicious tale of two sisters who find unexpected joy in the isolated village of Diano San Pietro, Italy.

How could anyone leave such a lovely place to go to rack and ruin? It looks as if no one has ever been near it for decades, its land's untended and its olive tress unkept.  I want it every badly.  It ought to be mine.

In 1983 a pale Annie Hawes and her equally pale sister decide to leave England for the sun-drenched olive groves of a small Italian town in Liguria.  With fantasies of handsome tanned men and swimming in the sea urging them on, they sign up to graft roses-something they know nothing about, but as it is a bad year for olives, they figure they can fake a knowledge of roses for ten weeks.  What they don't count on is falling in love with Italy-and with one old farmhouse in particular.

Although they quickly realize that Liguria is not Tuscany -- it is undiscovered by tourists, and its inhabitants (none of whom appear to be handsome, and none of whom seem to be under forty) have strict ideas about what young Englishwomen should and shouldn't be doing("to go swimming in seawater outside the month of July or August is even worse for your health than drinking cappuccino after twelve noon!") they simply cannot resist the charm exuded by the little town.  Annie, who has never wanted to settle down anywhere, now doesn't want to leave.  How will she find a way to make this old derelict farmhouse her own? What will the Ligurians think about their wild new neighbor with her strange ways staying on for good?

Extra Virgin is a wonderful memoir, written with irresistible verve and humor.  Annie Hawe's adventures will captivate readers who have wondered what happens when you fall in love with a certain house, on a certain hill, near a certain village. After eighteen years living as a Ligurian, Annie tells a story that is much more realistic than nay other book on Italy, and Extra Virgin is sure to put Liguria in the minds of travelers, armchair and real alike.

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Review:

Fed up with cold, foggy London and the high cost of real estate, Annie Hawes is persuaded by her sister Lucy to travel to Italy and graft roses for the winter. The sisters arrive in rural Liguria with some formal Italian, no knowledge of rose grafting, and visions of Mediterranean men and sun. What they find is a town full of hard-working, wary olive growers smack in the middle of an olive oil depression who think these two young Englishwomen are nuts. Extra Virgin tells the story of the sisters' acclimation--theirs to Liguria and Liguria to them--and how they fell in love with a crumbling farmhouse in the hills.

Annie quickly finds that though they are only two miles from the Italian Riviera, it might as well be a hundred. Liguria is an old town full of time-honored peculiarities, especially in regard to espresso consumption (never, ever, after lunch; it will close your stomach) and swimming before summertime officially starts. "Seawater at the wrong time of year is even worse for your health than coffee at the wrong time of day, and the beach is only deserted because, as far as the citizens are concerned, if you put so much as a toe into the water before June you are certain to die within the week from exposure or pneumonia or both," says Hawes. Eventually, the sisters are accepted by the townsfolk, though they find the idea of the women buying the farmhouse and running it themselves (there are 50 olive trees on the land) fantastical.

Extra Virgin draws you in to the heart of Liguria and its inhabitants. Hawes has a knack for drawing characters and especially for describing the luscious meals that they are served--and eventually learn to cook. "Lucy and I are kindly allowed to make the tomato-and-basil salad," Hawes says, "and do our best not to be offended by being complemented on how like a proper tomato-and-basil salad it is." Pour yourself an espresso (as long as it's before lunch) or a grappa (aids the digestion), and then sit down to enjoy Extra Virgin. --Dana Van Nest

About the Author:

Anne Hawes has worked for the past fifteen years as a freelance film editor. She has lived in France and Africa as well as her native England. She now lives most contentedly in Liguria, Italy.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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