The Land Where Lemons Grow

lemons books



This time last month I was in sunny Italy travelling the Amalfi coast and marvelling at the beautiful scenery. I adored the bright pink purple Rhododendrons that spilled from rocks and clung to roadsides and the lemon grove terraces perched precariously above them overlooking the sea.

Then, I had not been home more than a few days when I saw this book reviewed and missing all of the above as much as I did, I purchased it straight away. So glad I did! Helen Attlee’s book is a sensuous exploration of citrus fruit in Italy, a fusion of history, horticulture and travelogue that made me yearn for an immediate return.

Her writing is vivid and cheerful, elegant and charming and it is both an academic and anecdotal account of the story behind the plants we so lovingly eat, drink and smell.

From those Amalfi lemons that have been grown on those terraces since the 12th century to the blood oranges that thrive in the shadow of Mount Etna, we follow the citrus scent all over Italy and learn about the vast differences in tastes and techniques.

Perfumes, Limoncello, battle weapons, tarts – citrus can seemingly offer the lot. The fruits first arrived in Italy in AD70 in the form of citrons brought by Jews fleeing Jerusalem and settling in Calabria. Then Arabs brought sour oranges when they invaded Sicily in AD831, and particularly interesting for me was reading how in the 19th century Bergamot began to be used not just as an antiseptic but to flavour Earl Grey tea (my favourite!).

As I read each page I could feel the sun on my back (even when I wasn’t in the garden or down at the beach!), smell the oranges on the trees and taste the lemon tart (with a little glass of limoncello to serve) – bliss!

A completely gorgeous book for fans of Italian food, gardens and history.


Notes on the author – Helen Attlee:

  • Author of four books about Italian gardens
  • A fellow of the Royal Literary Fund
  • Worked in Italy for 30 years