Don’t you love locations… I see locations as characters and they play a supporting role because… every story has to take place somewhere.
In The Darkness of Dreams, the Italian villa known as the Casa Della Farfalla ( House of the Butterflies) plays an important role, both in Lexi’s past life as Gemma, and in her current romance with Christan.
The location is based on a 12th century Italian villa an hour’s drive south of Florence, then another forty-five minutes on unpaved country roads through olive groves. I spent a magical few weeks at the two-story villa. There were original frescoes on the walls and heavy shutters that closed over the windows at night (Because, yes, we were warned to close them against potential threats… not sure if that was true or to make things more exciting… but it worked. Shutters were closed at night.)
The main villa, complete with stone walls and an iron gate, sat in the middle of the working vineyard. I walked down a dirt and gravel road to the old, tiny cemetery ringed with towering cypress trees. In the evenings, we would walk up the same road to the trattoria and sit at wooden tables arranged outside beneath awnings. Fresh, crusty Italian bread with olive oil would arrive at the table, then the bottles of red wine and a rich stew made with wild boar. Everyone ate family style. The sun would set over the hills and a distant hill town would sparkle with evening lights. And the sky… I remember the lavender in that sky.
The odd thing, now that I think about it, was how much the area reminded me of Central Oregon. It was very familiar, in a slightly different way since Italy doesn’t have the volcanic characteristics, but the air, and the light felt the same. The rocky quality of the soil. I would love to go back.
I used the location as my fictional Casa Della Farfalla. The dove-cote is real (and still has the rusted gutters), as is the barrel-ceiling storage shed where Arsen checked the the security systems. I have a photograph of that shed. There was a little toy car “parked” in a drainage pipe set in the wall.
The vineyard where Lexi and Arsen checked the walls of piraeus also exists, and the actual villa makes a wonderful red wine which I wish I could purchase in the US. (They press their own olive oil, too, storing it in the same green bottles as the wine… you don’t want to mix them up.)
And yes, there is a chapel because the villa was originally built for a disgraced Bishop expelled from Florence in the 12th century.
There were also several large black and white dogs who believed the outdoor terrace and olive groves belonged to them. They were not above stealing food from the unwary. Unfortunately, they did not make it into the book since there didn’t seem an appropriate role for outlaw dogs.
But perhaps in a future story…