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

by Annie Hawes


Harper Collins, 2001. ISBN 0060958111.
Reviewed by Carolyn Blankenship
Posted on 02/11/2003

Nonfiction: Travel/Adventure

On a wet, cold, typically gloomy day in England in 1983, Annie Hawes (broke and out of work) and her sister Lucy (bored and lusting for adventure) decide that enough is enough. Clutching a job description offering ten weeks work grafting roses on the Italian Riviera, room and board included, Lucy assures Annie that they can lie their way into the job and fake their way through it. Off they go to San Pietro, Liguria, quaint, sun-kissed village on the Mediterranean to live among the hankie-heads (men's knotted at the corners, women's tied at the nape of the neck). Although the sky and sea are blue and beautiful, the hoped-for handsome, tanned young men and wild night life of the Riviera are non-existent. It seems that their village is undiscovered by tourists, and the inhabitants have very strict ideas about proper behavior for young women and the correct way to do just about everything—"Never drink cappuccino after twelve noon. Italian is only spoken by policemen and tax collectors. Women do not speak to men in a bar, even if they are close friends. Swimming in the ocean before July will make you ill—no matter how hot it is."

Unexpectedly, Annie and Lucy fall in love with the little town and all its peculiar, lovable inhabitants. They even find a delerict old farmhouse on a lovely hillside overlooking the ocean—a real fixer-upper with no toilet or running water. They could buy it for a couple of thousand dollars, but they have no permanent job or savings. How they manage to make a home for themselves in San Pietro is a delightful tale, full of laughter, local color, and amazing information about olive trees. And in case you are so enchanted that you think perhaps you will just move there yourself, the last chapter is a helpful recent update on San Pietro.

A wonderful book written by a woman who turned her fantasy into reality with humor, determination, and a few bald-faced lies.

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