#TalkingLocation With… author Linn B Halton.
Discovering Calabria as the perfect setting for The Secrets of Villa Rosso.
I’m fortunate enough to have visited Italy many times, including during an extensive road trip in 2012. My husband and I drove down through France, into Switzerland and on through Italy. Below is a photo taken on a trip across Lake Garda, a truly beautiful area to visit. But when it comes to choosing a setting for a story it’s rarely as simple as choosing a memorable holiday destination. And that was exactly the situation with the setting for The Secrets of Villa Rosso.
It’s a love story centred around a mystery attached to the Villa and the family who own it, who also run an olive oil refinery. Key to the telling of this story is the worst olive harvest in Italian history, in 2014. Bad weather and pests meant that many old trees were lost and the effects on producers large, and small, was devastating. Max is the manager, although he isn’t a family member, but the plight of the local farmers is something he has taken to heart. His mission is to find other ways for them to supplement their income by producing artisan goods (pottery, wooden furniture, decorative metalwork items etc) and help give them a more secure future, not totally reliant upon the results of each year’s harvest. The event had to be big enough to give Max a selfless passion – and Castrovillari was one such area affected in 2014.
Calabria is the southern-most region of Italy, the toe of the Italian boot, whereas Puglia, on the east coast is the country’s heel.
While the people, their individual stories and the villa itself are fictitious, the setting and descriptions are very real. I hope I did justice to the setting and inspire readers to want that less touristy adventure.
To the north of Calabria are the Pollino mountains which are rugged and heavily wooded, with vast wind-swept plateaus. Central Calabria is dominated by La Sila, a mountainous plateau covered with forests and dotted with lakes, interspersed with villages.
Green even on the hottest days of summer, it’s contrasted by its equally beautiful, rocky coastline. In between the jagged cliffs dotted with grottos, you will find pure white beaches. Mountains, plains and beaches – warm, Mediterranean summers and mountainous winters snows …
And you will be discovering the charm of an area that is not a mass tourist destination, so you won’t see those huge tour buses. The Calabrian experience is off-the-beaten-track; a slower pace of life, with the afternoon siesta still observed – for which you will be grateful. This is the authentic Italian experience.
Visit Pentedattilo, an ancient town built into a rocky mountainside; the ancient Greek city of Locria Epizephyrii; the Medieval town of Gerace; and its Greco-Roman theater; Palmi, a former French-ruled city; the ancient Greek city of Hippomian; Stromboli and Lipari; the resort town of Tropea; the Byzantine town of Stilo; the picturesque village of Bivongi; and the 11th century Carthusian Monastery. While the dialects can be challenging, the people are genuinely welcoming and friendly.
And if you come away with only one smell that will instantly transport you back to the area, it’s the sweet oleanders. But for me the mix of that earthy smell of the forest and the sharper fragrance of the olive groves are something I can still conjure up at will.
There is so much to see and do, on this Italian adventure, so why not make Calabria your next holiday destination!
When Ellie Maddison is sent on a business trip to Southern Italy, she’s reminded why she loves her job – set amongst rolling vineyards and rich olive groves, the beautiful Villa Rosso is the perfect escape from her life back home. But what Ellie isn’t prepared for is the instant connection she feels to the estate’s director Max Johnson, or the secrets they share that are as intertwined as the rambling vines that cover Villa Rosso.
It’s not long before Ellie finds herself entangled in the history of the place, trying to understand the undeniable effect Max is having on her. As their relationship grows, what will Ellie discover about this idyllic villa and those who have walked through its doors?
What started as a simple work trip will change Ellie’s life forever…..
Thank you so much to Linn for bringing the wonders of Calabria to life! You can follow her on Twitter and on Facebook and of course we off you the opportunity to buy The Secrets of Villa Rosso through TripFiction.
Do come and join team TripFiction on Social Media: