GIVEAWAY: 3 copies of STORM by Stephanie Merritt – FRANCE
Talking Location With… author Lizzy Barber – TUSCANY
16th May 2022
#TalkingLocationWith… Lizzy Barber, author of Out of Her Depth, set in Tuscany
Italy, more specifically Florence and Tuscany, has always been somewhat a second home for me.
I have spent every Summer since I was born visiting the same town on the Tuscan coast, I studied and lived in Florence, and in 2016 I was married near Fiesole, in the hills above Florence, prompting my husband and I to revisit every year. You could say that I was always fated to write a novel set in the area, and indeed Florence’s narrow cobbled streets and Medieval history do lend themselves to a thriller, making them the perfect setting for Out of Her Depth.
The book is a psychological thriller about an unassuming girl called Rachel, who gets an amazing opportunity to work at Villa Medici in Fiesole, where she meets the glamorous Diana and Sebastian and falls into their world of privilege and power. Their exploits take them throughout the streets of Fiesole and Florence, to the coastal town of Forte dei Marmi and the heady heights of Portofino and Cinque Terre.
The Villa Medici, a luxurious pensione presided over by the Contessa Silvia, is almost a character in its own right. It is a composite of typical Renaissance villas in the area, and for inspiration I looked at a number of different hotels, including Villa La Vedetta (sadly now closed), Villa Cora and Villa San Michele.
The villa is set high in the hills, but Rachel, Diana and Sebastian often venture down into the city walls of Florence, who streets are well-trodden by many travellers. As a student, I lived first in Santa Croce and then near Santo Spirito on the Oltrarno. The city centre is so walkable that I became familiar with it fast, but you never really lose the magic of walking past the great white and green façade of the Duomo on your way to school or sipping coffee in the Piazza della Repubblica. One of my most ingrained memories is the tradition of buying a lock and attaching it to the iron railings of the Ponte Vecchio before throwing the keys into the green waters of the Arno, known as the ‘Lovers’ Locks.’ I did this both with friends as a student and again with my now husband on our first visit to the city and recreated it as a scene between Diana and Rachel. The Medieval Ponte Vecchio, the literal ‘old bridge’ is one of Florence’s most iconic locations, and I’ve taken many photos on it over the years – including when I was very pregnant with my son!
Moving out of Florence, Rachel and her new friends escape the heat of the city for a day trip to Forte dei Marmi, the town of my childhood Summers. It’s a bit of a fantasyland, with a beautiful 1950s town and a string of impossibly chic beach clubs lining the coast – the true spirit of la dolce vita!
As with the Villa Medici, the beach club is a composite of many others in the area – each one has its own characteristics and attracts the same ‘dyed in the wool’ crowd every year. I drew on my own memories of the Augustus beach club, where I spent many happy years digging holes in the sand and terrorising the more elegant guests…and now I look forward to seeing my son do the same!
As tensions rise in the final act of the book, the group travels to the Italian Riviera for a yacht trip that goes horribly wrong. They stop en route in Pietrasanta, a gorgeous, very arty town close to Forte dei Marmi which houses my family’s favourite restaurant on earth – Entocca Marcucci – which of course makes a feature in the book. The town always hosts an eye catching an art exhibition that takes over the centre, and one of my favourites was a string of multicoloured umbrellas positioned across the streets – it was so beautiful I had to mention it!
Before the final night of the trip, they also visit Cinque Terre, a string of Ligurian towns I have visited many times. The towns are joined by the Sentiero Azzurro – a coastal path I have loved walking. Parts of it are often blocked off for repair, but the bits that are open afford stunning views of the sea and the magical, pastel-painted houses that make the area famous.
I so loved revisiting this special area of Italy for Out of Her Depth, and hope you enjoyed travelling there on my memories!
We are currently running a giveaway – be in with a chance of winning a copy on this LINK. UK only. Closes 28 May 2022.
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