The area surrounding the village is lush and there are olive groves on the hills.

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Siena Cathedral

I lit candles in honour of St. Catherine and my family in the Siena Cathedral.

Give these women a first name:

a) An academic              b) A pole dancer

c) A financial expert            d) A missionary            e) A politician.

Please Answer The Following:

  1. How many different names did you use?
  2. Why did you select them?
  3. What image did each occupation invoke?
  4. What character type did you associate with each?
  5. Did you use the same name more than once?

This exercise was intended to show you that, rightly or wrongly, names often carry associations, invoke images and suggest character types.

What name would you give a woman who:

  • was born with an inheritance of loss
  • refuses to let society define her
  • yearns for a world beyond her fishing village
  • remains committed to her dreams
  • confronts obstacles that threaten to destroy her and those she loves

Who is this woman?

She is the main female character of The Inheritance. The novel is set in Calabria, southern Italy from 1897 to 1913. It chronicles her life from birth to sixteen years of age.

I named her “Caterina.”

The Inheritance is fiction inspired by my interest in family history and genealogical research to solve family mysteries. My paternal Nana, Caterina Spagnuolo Andreoli Perri, was my starting point. She was born in Mottafollone, Calabria in 1889 and immigrated to North America in 1913. The information I learned from research and visiting her birthplace helped craft this story.


Approximately 1,400 people live in Mottafollone; the mountain village where Nana Caterina was born in 1889. It has a small piazza with a bell tower and church plus a few stores, restaurants and government offices.

How the Ancient Greeks, a Christian Doctor and a Child Born out of Wedlock Convinced Me That The Inheritance was Caterina’s Story?

The Inheritance has a historical thread and all character names had to help construct an authentic sense of time and place to make the story believable to the reader.

The main female character was also an atypical woman and her name needed to carry this association as well. I favoured Caterina but did not select it for sentimental reasons because it had been my Nana’s.

I submitted it to a vetting process, an abbreviated version of which follows.

  1. A Google search informed me that “Catharine” is Greek in origin and means “pure.” Given that The Inheritance chronicles the main female character’s life from birth to young womanhood, this detail represented a match.
  2. My family was Roman Catholic and I decided to review the life of St. Catherine of Siena, one of Italy’s patron saints. Saint Catherine was born in Siena, Tuscany in 1347 and, despite family objections; she devoted her life to God. She was instrumental in convincing Pope Gregory X1 to move the Papacy back to Rome from France and appointed a Doctor of the Church in recognition of her historic role. Saint Catherine was atypical like the woman I’d imagined for my novel.
  3. Art represented a subject that my character wanted to learn about and as Leonardo da Vinci has always been my favourite artist, I read about his early life. Leonardo had been born out of wedlock in the Tuscan village of Vinci to a peasant named Caterina and Piero, a wealthy notary. From what I deduced, Piero took Leonardo from his mother and they’d had no further relationship. The mother-child situation was atypical and Leonardo had suffered an inheritance of loss similar to my fictional character.

What other name would make sense, I asked myself?

Caterina belonged to The Inheritance; I realized. It was her story and my words had simply given her voice.

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What is the story behind your name? I’d welcome your comments.

I hope you enjoy these photographs.

Piazza del Campo and Torre del Mangia in Siena, Tuscany

This is the Piazza del Campo and Torre del Mangia in Siena, Tuscany. I snapped this picture from a distance so that the people would show the size of the shell-shaped square and height of the watch tower.

Chapelle Saint-Hubert

The Chapelle Saint-Hubert is situated on the grounds of The Chateau of Amboise in France. Leonardo da Vinci’s grave is located inside the chapel and I went there to pay my respects.

The road on our way from coastal Cetraro to Mottafollone

This is the road up the mountain from coastal Cetraro to Mottafollone that we took when I went to Calabria to conduct genealogical research about Nana Caterina. The village is located within Pollino Park.