Published On: Fri, Jun 28th, 2013

Life in Italy: Tuscany

David Harrison and his partner Peri Eagleton divide their time between London and southern Tuscany…

They own a farm on the slopes of Monte Amiata, where they grow organic olives and make extra-virgin oil sold in Britain and elsewhere. The couple?s Seggiano brand, named after a nearby village, is a familiar name on fine Italian cakes, desserts, pasta, pesto and flavoured oils sold in UK delicatessens and around the world.

How did David?s connection with Italy begin?

2209457830_1480ac8aea_o?I went to visit a friend in Rome more than thirty years ago,? he explains. ?I found I could work as a farm labourer in Tuscany and do a bit of teaching and I could support myself. It was cheap to live here then, which unfortunately is no longer so, as the cost of living in Italy has escalated enormously. Utility bills are very high, and there are lots of new taxes. The popular fantasy of moving to Tuscany and living a country idyll isn?t really possible now, unless you?re independently wealthy. Peri and I have been here a long time and we?ve been lucky but I?d advise anyone thinking of relocating to Italy these days to take a realistic look at the expense of living here now.?

David and Peri have been growing olives on their three and a half acres of organic land since 1985, but the extensive olive groves were actually planted over 800 years ago. Neighbouring farmers approached them in 1987 for help promoting the excellent local oil, and so the brand began. Now they enjoy the fact that their work with food producers across the country gives them a regular opportunity to spend time in other parts of Italy. ?I especially like going down south,? David says. ?Sometimes I can find rural Tuscany a bit sleepy, and expensive. I do like the people here, though; they can be quite irreverent.?

David and Peri?s farm is a five-minute walk from Seggiano village, 450 metres up Monte Amiata. The farm has various restored stone buildings including a self-contained one-bedroom casetta that they use for holiday rentals throughout the year. The property?s views across the olive groves are wonderful, with distant country villages and hilltop towns nestled in greenery. ?We?ve been restoring and rebuilding for the last 25 years,? David says. ?When you own a home, it?s never finished. You?re always adding things. Getting permission to change anything in Tuscany is very difficult, though. Thankfully, Peri is very good at dealing with the whole Italian bureaucratic process!

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