Belfast Telegraph

Helen Mirren on her love affair with Italy

Actress Helen Mirren relaxes by retreating to her farm in Italy, where she enjoys tending to her 400 pomegranate trees.

Helen Mirren loves to escape to her retreat in Italy whenever her gruelling acting schedule allows.

The Calendar Girls star has renovated a house in Salento, Italy and enjoys escaping there to relax with her husband Taylor Hackford as often as possible.

"It's very relaxed," she told Britain's OK! magazine. "We were driving through the region and suddenly saw this lovely ruin in Tiggiano which we fell in love with at first sight. It's taken a lot of work to renovate it and get the farm up and running. But my husband has kept encouraging me over many years and now I'm very proud of our home there. "

The 70-year-old actress keeps busy at the farm by cultivating pomegranates, and has over 400 trees producing the ruby-coloured fruit that the couple make "delicious" juice out of. Though her juice company is in the early stages, she hopes to soon be able to sell the fruits of her labour in Italy and overseas.

"I love the people of Salento, I love Italy and I love the climate there. The first time I saw the full moon rising from the sea and shining on my pomegranates, I burst into tears," she said.

Helen added that living in Italy with Taylor, 71, has also strengthened their long-lasting marriage, and believes building a house as a couple is the ultimate test on a marriage.

"We build houses together. If anything's going to make you divorce it'll be building a house together, if you get through that, that's a huge triumph," she smiled.

Currently starring in spy thriller Eye in the Sky, Helen takes the lead as a military intelligence officer in charge of eliminating terrorists with drones, a character originally written for a man.

Starring opposite her is the late Alan Rickman, who sadly passed away in January, aged 69.

"This was his last movie," she sighed, adding, "Alan would have been incredibly proud that this is his last movie."

Eye in The Sky opens in U.K. theatres next month (Apr16).

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