This is a book in one of my favourite genres - well, maybe it's not a formal genre category but Lucy and I sure think it is - the "Americans or Brits move to Tuscany or Provence, buy an old wrecked monastery, turn it into a gorgeous house and cook fabulous food" kind of book. Maybe I could work a little harder at developing a more concise-sounding category for that. Anyway, we and I suppose millions of others, have read literally dozens of these books and are always on the lookout for more, so I was delighted to find The Dolce Vita Diaries in the library. The book is written by Cathy Rogers with recipes interspersed by her husband Jason.
It is true to formula in many ways: This is a fairly well-to-do couple who had successful careers in LA and London, but who had a dream to own an olive grove in Italy. They began to go there on holidays and soon found the place they wanted in Le Marche region, about two-thirds of the way up the east side of the boot of Italy, a much less commercialized region than Tuscany. Their place had 900 old olive trees which they began to prune, eventually turning the farm into a thriving business in which you can adopt one of their trees and get your share of olive oil from that grove. People come to visit "their" tree. The business is called Nudo, which means "naked" in Italian, reflecting the purity and simplicity of their product.
There are some nice twists on the formula. Cathy Rogers is a good writer with a natural, unpretentious style and best of all, she's reflective about the pros and cons of the move they made. They miss the conveniences, sociability and liveliness of the city, and their business provided them, at least at first, with a lot more work for a lot less money than they were used to. There's a bit of tension as to whether they'll stay. The best parts of the story are about their Italian neighbours and all the unique customs, like taking two hours for lunch, and having a two-hour conversation after dinner about the pros and cons of the pizza crust you've just eaten. The recipes are great too - some super simple and a few more complicated, but they give you good ideas about how to work with herbs and olive oil and vegetables in your own kitchen. In the midst of reading this, I made myself a pizza for lunch, using a few of the tips I was reading about and it was an excellent pizza.
If you like reading about rural life in Italy, I highly recommend this book.