Before taking our Voyage to Italy, I wanted to research the lifestyle in the region my father was born in: Puglia. The perfect book for this task was Pan' e Pomodor - My Passage To Puglia by Ian R. McEwan ($17 on Amazon), a Scotsman who married an Italian emigrant's daughter. Together they bought and renovated not only a home on the Gargano peninsula, but their lives as well. He tells stories of the Italian bureaucracy with its convoluted ways when buying a home, a car, and getting their papers all legal just to live in Italy.
He also tells of the odd customs of nicknames in the small villages... so much so that many have no idea why one person might be called something like "The Black Penis" and why his descendants will be stuck with the moniker. He talks of slight breezes up from the sea causing the locals to bundle up and shutter their homes. He discusses the difficulty of trying to learn one of the many thousands of very localized dialects... with no written record of the language.
For me, the best parts were his struggles to purchase and then to get his villa restored into livable condition. Buying a property in Italy might mean dealing with have a dozen relatives, each owning different rights to the property... a right to the olive trees, another holding rights for the almond trees, yet another for the right to hunt, and a handful who share ownership of either the land itself or the structures (or equipment) on the property. He dealt with stolen fencing, snakes, having stone cut, fixing holes in the roof, finding plasterers, plumbers and carpenters that would actually show up when promised, and wouldn't steal things or get drunk when they did.
All in all, it's an amazing look at life in a small Pugliese village. I can't wait for his second book to find out how their life turned out...