Writers' life in Tuscany | KATARINA WEST

Writers' life in Tuscany

I live in an old farmhouse in rural Tuscany, and that, in itself, is such a particular experience that details of our lives have seeped into my writing too. Life here is a journey back in time: each season has its events and wonders. June for example is for apricots, cherries and lavender, whose intoxicating scent pervades the entire garden. July is for sun and still more sun, and piling up the firewood for the winter. During the hot summer weeks our village goes into party mood, and streets are festooned with banners. Families sit out in the piazza till late evening, eating, talking, and listening to concerts, or watching open-air puppet theatre.

A nearby village.

September marks the beginning of the hunting season and the grape harvesting. It is the period when vineyards are swarming with people and tractors and trailers of all sizes and shapes. And on weekends local hunters in camouflage trousers and rifles on their shoulders march down to the valley at dawn. Afterwards you’ll hear such banging over and around the vineyards that if you closed your eyes you might think that you’re in a Third World war zone. Those are the only days when it isn’t silent here.

If it snows in the winter (and it does snow up here, just like it did both in Witchcraft Couture and Absolute Truth, For Beginners) we’re blocked, at times for several days. If the electricity goes off too there’s nothing else to do than to melt down snow and sit shivering close to a stove or a fireplace. A part of the house is closed during the coldest months, simply because we don’t have the money to pay stratospheric heating bills.

A winter morning routine.

Everything suggestive of technology works sporadically, the Italian way, so that the telephone goes mute when it’s raining and the rusty wrought-iron gate (in theory powered by electricity but in reality working by the grace of God) opens only if it’s in the mood for opening, which is why you might end up captive in your own home, just like in that Eagles hit song, “Hotel California”.

Or then the gate remains blocked open for the entire day, and you’ll get tourists driving in and knocking on your door: a preppy German couple with a convertible BMW perhaps, for a house as big as this must be a bed-and-breakfast, and all they’re asking for is a room with a view and a dinner for two.

All my novels have taken place in Chianti. My characters are a part of this landscape just as much as I am, and at times looking at these hills I remember not a real-life event but a scene from my novels.

Cooking. But not for German tourists.

We’ve got this. But no central heating.