Castello di Capadelli, the fictional setting of When the Siren Calls, is a typical Tuscan village taken over by ambitious British property developers. The exact location of the settlement is not given, but it lies between Pisa and Florence, around 10km from San Miniato. Lucca would be to the north, and Siena to the south. The resort is perched on the ridge of a hill, providing stunning views in all directions. The Apennine mountains would be visible in the far north.
Before the arrival of Jay and his compatriots, it was a quiet village whose economy depended on agriculture – the vineyards and olive groves were its lifeblood. The arrival of the property developers to take over the sprawling villa, once seat of the Pisan Visconti family, on the edge of the village, heralds an unprecedented change for Capadelli. Jobs are created for the remaining youth – from much of rural Italy, young people have been making their way steadily townwards, towards the promise of better jobs, more money and a life less ruled by tradition – and the enotecas and osterias receive an influx of outside trade.
Capadelli is developed as a timeshare property – the British investors can buy a share of an apartment or villa which they then share with other investors, each of them allowed to use it for a certain number of days or weeks per year. The properties are large and luxurious, designed for discerning clients with no detail overlooked, from the designer toiletries in the bathrooms to the
cooling bottles of prosecco in the fridges. Jay’s vision extends further, to a spa and tennis courts, riding school and numerous restaurants.
Although fictional, Capadelli is similar in concept and design to many other properties in Italy. The beautiful tranquility of the Tuscan hills has long been a favourite amongst English holidaymakers, and once-crumbling terracotta-roofed villas have been renovated and landscaped at their owners’ discretion. The warm Mediterranean climate, abundance of vineyards, olive groves and lemon trees, delicious traditional food and easy access to the numerous wonders of Tuscany and the rest of Italy will, no doubt, ensure that Lucca and its neighbours remain firm favourites amongst visitors for generations to come.
Aside from Castello di Capadelli, all Tuscan towns and cities named in the novel are real. Bookmarks deal with the cities and their landmarks in more detail, but a brief overview is given here:
Florence is the capital city of Tuscany, and the region’s most populous city with around 370,000 inhabitants. Founded by the Romans, Florence flourished as one of Europe’s principal Medieval cities – an important banking and trading centre and one of the wealthiest cities of its time. In the Middle Ages it was home to the Medici family, great patrons of the arts, and is considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci among the sons of the city. Florence is still famed for its fantastic artistic and cultural heritage: its museums and galleries are amongst the most famous in the world.
The ancient centre of Florence, with the Duomo at its heart, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and plays host to millions of visitors every year. Its well-preserved Medieval architecture, attractions such as the Ponte Vecchio, Pitti Palace and Uffizi Gallery, and pervading traditions of culture make Florence one of Italy’s most-visited and best-loved cities.
Pisa is a small city (population 88,000) on the River Arno in central Tuscany. Founded in the 5th century BC or before, Pisa is an ancient city which thrived as a maritime trading settlement due to its excellent river system and prominent position in Italy. It is one of the most famous cities in Italy due to its iconic landmark: the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This cathedral bell tower leans at an angle of 3.99 degrees due to soft foundations. Pisa is also home to numerous other historical monuments including the cathedral, palaces and around twenty churches, and is famous for being the birthplace of the physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei.
Lucca (population 84,300) is an ancient walled Tuscan city. Founded by the Etruscans, it became a Roman colony, a large independent city state, and finally part of Italy in 1847. Based on a Roman grid pattern, the historic city centre is most famous for its Renaissance walls, built to defend the city but later used as a pleasant promenade. Lucca also boasts numerous old churches, piazzas, palaces and museums, and is one of the most prominent and visited cities in Tuscany.