THOUGHTS are now turning towards the warmer months ahead. Will we be lucky enough to enjoy a glorious summer or must we endure more downpours? MELANIE WALLWORK talks to one couple who need no longer worry about the unreliable British summertime.

GEOFFREY and Judith Pearson swapped their Horwich home and Chorley Old Road physiotherapy practice for the olive groves and vineyards of central Italy last year.

And it is not just the lovely weather, with sunshine and highs of 22C in recent days, that the couple are benefiting from, but also a more relaxed pace of life, fresh food and beautiful scenery.

The couple took the plunge last year and moved more than 1,000 miles away from their friends, family, home and business of 30 years.

Mr Pearson said: “We love physiotherapy and love treating patients but the health and safety issues and the bureaucracy that is now coming in to treat patients has become more difficult.

“We looked at a variety of different countries. We looked at France, Spain, one or two of the Balearic Islands.

“In Italy, we looked at Lazio, Tuscany and finally Umbria. We just fell in love with the place.

“It’s very unspoilt, there’s not a huge amount of industry. It borders Tuscany which is very expensive to live in. Umbria is a bit cheaper.

“We wanted somewhere that had better weather than Bolton and a different lifestyle, one that doesn’t have the same constraints and the same rules and regulations that you get in the UK. If it rains, it rains for a couple of hours and then it’s sunshine again. It’s just a very pleasant way of living.

“There are events going on every week. There are food festivals, wine festivals, music, art.”

After four years searching, the property they chose is a farmhouse named Poparello, set overlooking its own farmland and with an apartment the couple rent out to holidaymakers.

It has five acres of land with about 100 olive trees and the pair pick their own olives to make olive oil to sell, which the father of three and grandfather of three says is “stunningly good”.

The couple have found themselves enjoying a much more relaxed way of living since making the move, enjoying leisurely meals instead of grabbing a quick bite in 15 minutes.

Mr Pearson, who had always lived in Bolton apart from seven years in Nottingham where he went to university, said: “The Italians don’t eat until much later in the day.

“Your mealtimes change. They will take two or three hours over a meal.

“You go into a supermarket and there are no ready-made meals.

“You can only buy fruit and veg that are in season.

“The lifestyle, they work around the heat of the sun and they have very flexible ways of living. It’s just a very laid back, a very unhurried way of doing things, although they are very efficient at what they do.”

Mr Pearson went to Italian classes in Chorley and Horwich and made numerous trips to Umbria, at different times of the year, before committing to the move.

He said: “The Italians are very happy to see us but it’s very important that you speak Italian as, if you try, they are very helpful.

“There are no UK enclaves like you get in other places. We watch TV in Italian. Slowly but surely it’s coming.”

They sold their house in Horwich in July and bought an apartment in Heaton, for when they make the trip back to the UK.

Pisa Airport is a two-hour drive from Umbria, while Rome is an hour and 40 minutes away and Perugia is 40 minutes, although flights only go from London Stansted.

Mr Pearson, who remains involved with Christ Church Players and appeared in the amateur theatre group’s sell-out production of Off the Hook in February, said: “The cheapest flight I did last year was £8.93, Pisa to Leeds-Bradford.”

The couple, who are also still involved with Rotary Club of Horwich, are also benefiting from some Italian bargains.

Mr Pearson said: “A good bottle of wine costs three or four Euros. They sell wine by the litre in a farmshop just outside the village for 1.50 Euros — it’s lovely.”