I love to travel. And because my budget doesn’t extend to flying to foreign destinations every month, I read a lot of armchair travel books. Some of my favourites discuss setting down roots in a foreign country by renovating a house.
Part of my fascination is with the process of building or renovating a house and the stories the stones tell of previous lives lived in that house. Renovating a house also means that you’re no longer a tourist, and you begin to interact and establish relationships with the local people so there is a greater in-depth understanding of how they live.
Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes have gained an international following for their books about renovating houses and living in France and Italy. Here are some other authors who may be less familiar.
Tracy Kidder, House (This isn’t a travel book, but it provides a fascinating insight into all the different trades that are involved in building a family’s first home in the United States)
Angela Murrills, Hot Sun Cool Shadow: savouring the food, history and mystery of the Languedoc (France)
Marjorie Price, A Gift from Brittany (France)
Matthew Parris, A Castle in Spain (the renovation of a medieval house in the Pyrenees)
Martin Kirby, No Going Back: journey to mother’s garden (establishing an organic farm in Catalonia)
Annie Hawes, Extra Virgin and Ripe for the Picking (village life and people in Liguria, the Italian Riviera); Hawes has written two other books about Calabria, Italy and Morocco and Algeria that are on my reading wish list
Caroline Seller Manzo, Casa Nostra: a home in Sicily (the author and her husband and his family repair his family’s home in Sicily – descriptions of food to make your mouth water)
Ferenc Mate, The Hills of Tuscany and A Vineyard in Tuscany (the first book is about renovating a house; the second is about establishing a vineyard and producing wine)
Tony Cohan, On Mexican Time and Mexican Days (living in San Miguel de Allende and travelling through Mexico)
Tahir Shah, Caliph’s House (renovating a riad in Casablanca, Morocco), I’d also like to read In Arabian Nights about traditional Moroccan stories
Waiting to be read: A House in Fez: building a life in the ancient heart of Morocco, Suzanna Clarke