Tales from the Hamlet: Memories of Italy by Cassandra Campbell-Kemp #TuesdayBookBlog

At the age of 61, Cassandra, a single and peripatetic Brit, was asked to pack up her house and move to Italy to take up the offer of a much-needed job. 15 months later she was made redundant, leaving her unnerved, broke and unable to return home. Her dream of a new life was rapidly turning into a nightmare and, saddled with all her belongings, her antique furniture, over 800 books and her aged Siamese cat she had nowhere to go.

A kind friend offered them sanctuary in a tiny converted former barn in his family’s ‘Borgo’, a cluster of rustic properties grouped around a late-Medieval manor House in the mountains; the beautiful and mysterious Emilian Apennines of northern Italy. There she was befriended and watched over by the owner; an eccentric octogenarian, his household ghosts and 14 semi feral cats.

The experience proved to be challenging yet deeply transformative as she struggled to recover her equilibrium and rebuild her life.

My Review

Cassandra Campbell-Kemp’s memoir of her time in Italy, when she found herself unemployed and without sufficient funds to return to England with her beloved cat and all her belongings, is an amazing account of a courageous woman whose warmth attracts loyal friends and who is prepared to work hard using her fluent Italian and her wide experience of people’s needs when looking for holiday property, to build a successful business.

Grateful to find a delightful, converted barn in the countryside amongst friends and helpful neighbours, she and her frail old cat, Geisha are cherished and nurtured in the Hamlet. A confident and, according to her Italian friends, fast driver she is happy to use her right-hand drive car on the mountain roads exploring the awesome beauty of the Emilian Apennines. Her descriptive passages are detailed and inspiring and the flowing prose also encompasses the delicious meals she is given by friends and in restaurants. Her accounts of the local history are fascinating and her intense interest in the stories is clear.

Despite mobility issues Cassandra battles Italian bureaucracy, worsening as a result of Brexit, plunges into local social life, including amazing local concerts, and she is widely accepted by the community. As winter approaches, Cass decides that she needs to decamp to the UK, but she keeps on her barn rental intending to return in the following summer. This is where the book ends and I am looking forward to her follow up volume.

Tales from the Hamlet on Amazon UK

A stunning collection of Cassandra’s photographs of the area can be seen at www.cassandracampbell-kemp.com


Published by lizannelloyd

Love history, reading, researching and writing. Articles published in My Family History and other genealogy magazines.

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