Somewhere South of Tuscany, by Diana Armstrong, is the story of an American buying a home in Lubriano— a small Italian village near Umbria; and restoring the house while being slowly integrated into the community.
Armstrong and her husband rented houses in the area for several years before deciding to take the plunge into homeownership when they found a place with a stunning view. In buying a place from a local baroness, they were surprised when she stripped the house of everything before they closed on the sale. Restoration was quite a process involving learning to understand the Italian way of doing things and making many discoveries such as finding a well inside one of their walls.
Armstrong is a chef and includes many recipes— from classics to her own creations. Though rambling at times, this book is often funny, with likeable personas who are just as concerned with having a good meal as creating a home. They seem to be practicing the art of “La Dolce Vita.”
The picture she paints of her life in the local village is where the book inspires. She visits the local butcher, markets, and wineries for the ingredients of the many recipes she showcases. From traditional peasant dishes cooked in the dying embers of a fire, to carefully explained recipes from her neighbors, to her own creations, there are plenty of recipes to keep you busy. The question remains whether the recipes could possibly taste as good outside of Italy with its emphasis on the freshness and quality of ingredients. In one exchange with a neighbor, she learns why no one seems to patronize one of the two butcher’s shops in town—because they are suspected of getting meat from a wholesaler (gasp!).
This book would be a good read for anyone planning to purchase and restore a house in Italy and offers some classic Italian recipes to boot.
Somewhere South of Tuscany, Diana Armstrong, 2010
©Christina K Bolton