4 out of 5 stars
The first book I read about someone buying and doing up a house in another country was A Year in Provence. I thought it was a wonderful book and I fell in love with travel writing at that moment. It has been repeated in many different ways by authors in many different countries with often predictable results. Patricia Clough, a former foreign correspondent, wanted to buy a house in Umbria, but this book is not about the delights and pitfalls of doing that, rather it is the story of the place that she has chosen to make her home.
I remember Antonio Carluccio calling it the belly button of Italy on one of his tv food programmes and it is one of those places that has recently been in the shadow of Tuscany. However, in this book, Clough wants to set the record straight about the region. She has chapters on the people the food and how sometime sit is shaken to it very core as it sits on a fault line. We are led by her through the history of the place and how the poor were ruled by the elite and church, but also how they have begun to flourish under the more liberal modern governments.
It is a place that I have been fortunate to visit and I really liked this gentle introduction to Umbria. Her writing is precise and measured as I’d expect from a journalist. But in that sparse prose, she gives a full account of living in this wonderful part of Italy. I was kind of expecting a Grand Designs with olives, but this is not a blow by blow account of her buying a house and doing it up, though it is mentioned at the end as she imparts her advice of what to look for and do should this be a burning desire. Rather this is an evocative meander through the history and people of Umbria and it bought back happy memories of visiting there.