Via Roma 17 is the gateway to a building that may be older than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and it’s a second home to Diana Armstrong of …
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Via Roma 17 is the gateway to a building that may be older than
St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and it’s a second home to Diana
Armstrong of Littleton, an award-winning writer and cooking teacher
with an international focus, who recently published “Somewhere
South of Tuscany.”
The book offers an account of her ongoing connection with a
stone house that was once the entry to a monastery in a medieval
Italian town called Lubriano, between Tuscany and Umbria. She and
her husband David bought it after vacationing repeatedly and
falling in love with lifestyle in what she calls a “four cat
As the book begins, nine years ago, she and son Richard, aided
by the suave Signor Galli, are negotiating the purchase of an
ancient home in Lubriano from a clearly questionable seller, one
An ongoing adventure commences, with a string of workers who
arrive when they feel like it, with definite opinions about how
things should be done; also with “abundance from nature all around
you… Delicious food, olive groves, vineyards, fabulous scenery and
the inspiring time-honored ways of the anziani, ancients of
Lubriano,” she writes.
The town and its surrounding countryside date back to the
The book has been seven years in the writing and many chapters
are headed with nicely-related literary quotations selected with
David’s input after the book was completed. Proceeds will help her
daughter Heather’s work with Save Our Youth, she says.
In addition to describing bits of daily life and people who
provide an ongoing support system for each other, she takes the
reader to pageants, vineyards, markets, craftsmen’s shops, parties,
pizza restaurants and more. Always, she tells us how it looks,
sounds, smells, feels. The light, the ancient stones, the trees and
flowers in her recovered garden and the fresco on the kitchen
ceiling all lend texture and color.
“The garden becomes a huge living area,” she says, adding that
they eventually bought a house next door with central heating,
which is not possible in Bracciaforte.
Repairs had to be approved by the mayor, since the property is
historic and the Italian way of thinking is “piano, piano.”
That fresco is a story in itself and illustrates the disregard
some worker had for the history and precious art: a cut for an
electric cable went right through the angel’s belly button! Another
chapter or two give and account of a well that they discovered when
accidentally breaking through the kitchen wall. That had to be
tended to before work could continue, so no one would fall in!
Armstrong and her husband are natives of South Africa, who moved
to Littleton 17 years ago. The Italian retirement home requires
fairly active oversight, but it’s obviously a joy to her. Her next
book? A compilation of food writing, she says, undoubtedly flavored
by that garlic and “excellent” olive oil. (The last third of the
book is filled with delicious-sounding recipes, tailored to
When asked which recipe to reproduce for our readers, Armstrong
“Slow Roasted Onions with Bread Crumbs —
as cooked by Lubriano’s Pierro in his cooling-down pizza oven,
but you can make this dish at home in a regular oven”.
2 pounds small white onions, peeled
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and white pepper
2 cups breadcrumbs made with stale bread
Place onions in baking dish, packing together so they are almost
touching. Pour water and olive oil over them and season liberally
with salt and white pepper.. Now sprinkle breadcrumbs onto the dish
and place in oven at 250 degrees for three to four hours, or until
a warm, toasty brown.
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