"I fell in love with Etruria one chilly evening in January. They were having a New Year's Eve festival in a little town near Campagnano, and a group of local boys dressed in Renaissance costumes were marching in a torchlight parade down the main street. As I stood there in the cold watching the flames lurching to the sky, I realized that I felt very much at home in this ancient place. If ever we should decide to move to the country, this was the kind of place I would choose". In the 1970s Joan Marble and her sculptor husband Robert Cook bought a piece of unpromising land in Lazio, the area north of Rome that was home to the ancient Etruscans, built a house and, more importantly, grew a wonderful garden. All was not plain sailing, however, as they encountered a certain blank incomprehension from the local inhabitants. "Why do you want to have a garden here?" they were asked. "There's no water, the ground is all stones, it's too cold in winter and too hot in summer, it never rains, it rains too much, the roads are impassable, the ravines are bottomless..."
But Joan and Robert's enthusiasm for the land, their ignorance of the obstacles that faced them, their downright obstinacy, the unexpected friends who helped them - all served to conquer the intransigent landscape. This is an account of a passion for a place and an obsession with a garden.