San Michele is on a 124-acre estate overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

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San Michele private beach

San Michele has a private beach, nine-hole golf course and swimming pool.

In The Inheritance, The Villa San Michelle Estate is the home of the privileged Marino family. Located in Cetraro, a fishing village in Calabria, southern Italy; peasants who work for them live in an enclave on the property.


The Villa San Michelle is modeled after The Grand Hotel San Michele located near Cetraro; a town on the Tyrrhenian coast. I learned about Cetraro while researching Calabria and discovered San Michele in a Fodor’s Travel Book entitled Hotels and Country Inns of Character and Charm in Italy I found in Toronto, Ontario in 1999.

Has solving family mysteries impacted your life?

The Inheritance was inspired by genealogical research to solve my Calabrian family mysteries. My Nana (grandmother) was born in 1898 in the mountain village of Mottafollone, Cosenza province, Calabria and immigrated to North America in 1913. By 1999, I’d decided to set my novel in Calabria during this period and had drafted an outline. My story would be fictitious but threaded with historical fact and I was researching southern Italy when I came across this book.

Painting in San Michele

This painting reminded me of Anna Marino in The Inheritance.

Do you believe in coincidence?

Two of the four listings for southern Italy were in Cosenza including The Grand Hotel San Michele in Cetraro, which is approximately twenty miles from Mottafollone. The coincidence surprised me and, as I’d yet to determine the specific setting of my novel, I impulsively bought the book.

Is authenticity important to you?

During the time of The Inheritance, Calabrian society was polarized, land issues unresolved and jobs scarce. Italy underwent mass migration and many from the south left. These details were intrinsic to my novel and I needed an authentic setting for my story.

The text in the book stated that The Grand Hotel San Michele was a “turn-of-the-century villa…built at the beginning of the (19th) century by the owner’s father” and “In addition to the well-decorated villa, there are several small houses on the124-acre estate you can rent.”

These words prompted me to learn more about San Michele; nevertheless, I instinctively knew I’d found a home for The Inheritance.

San Michele front entrance

I’m planning on returning to Calabria soon and hope to visit The Grand Hotel San Michele again.

A daughter’s inheritance

My novels occur in places I have visited and I traveled to Calabria in June 2004 to conduct genealogical research and establish a personal connection to the area. I stayed at San Michele while there, met the owner, Mrs. Claudia Siniscalchi and learned she’d inherited The Grand Hotel from her father.
Another atypical woman

Anna Marino, the owner of The Villa San Michelle in The Inheritance, is an atypical woman. Contrary to her husband’s wishes and prevailing social norms, she is generous to the peasants. In addition, she and Caterina, a peasant and the novel’s main female character, develop a surrogate mother-daughter relationship that contravenes family dynamics.

Claudia Siniscalchi was an atypical woman. Her father, Rosario Siniscalchi, a civil engineer from the area who’d studied at the University of Rome, had begun restoring San Michele in 1923 for its owner. The owner died before he completed the project and San Michele stood empty for forty years. Rosario purchased San Michele in the 1960’s, restored it using original plans and gave it to Claudia, an engineering professor from the University of Rome. Sadly, Mrs. Siniscalchi passed away in May 2012; San Michele, however, remains with her family.

Has a book ever changed your life?

I discovered the book that introduced me to San Michele by chance but as I learned about the place, realized it was integral to The Inheritance.

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San Michele beautiful exterior

Renowned for flowers and fruit trees, bougainvillea frames the windows and drapes the balconies of San Michele.

Did I find San Michele or did San Michele find me? I’d welcome your comments.


I hope you enjoy my photographs and encourage you to visit The Grand Hotel San Michele.

The Grand Hotel San Michele
Loc. Bosco 8/9
87022 Cetraro
Cosenza, Italy

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On site San Michele farm

An on-site farm produces food and wine. San Michele also hosts a cooking school.

Marianne and Mrs. Claudia Siniscalachi

A cherished June 2004 photograph of me and the late owner, Mrs. Claudia Siniscalachi.

Interior of San Michele

An interior view. Weddings and conferences are held at San Michele.