Today, I’m delighted to welcome a returning Siobhan Daiko to the blog with her new book, The Girl from Bologna #blogtour

I’ve tasked Siobhan Saiko with a post about the inspiration for writing her new book, The Girl from Bologna. Welcome to the blog.

Thank you for inviting me to write a guest post for your blog about what gave me the inspiration to write “The Girl from Bologna”. It’s a standalone story and part of my “Girls from the Italian Resistance” series. The liberation of Bologna is mentioned, but not fully explored in the two other books, “The Girl from Venice” and “The Girl from Portofino”. It seemed opportune to conclude the series there.

When I visited the city recently with my husband and viewed the monument to the partisans in Piazza del Nettuno, I found the photos of the young men and women who had given their lives for the freedom of the city to be deeply moving. The memorial truly is the inspiration behind the novel. I could only photograph a small section of the ceramic images placed behind glass (there are over two thousand) but seeing the faces of those who’d died brought home to me the tragic loss of life.

Image of Monument to the partisans photo taken by Siobhan Daiko

Section of the monument to the partisans in Piazza del Nettuno, Bologna, showing the number of partisans to be 14,425 of whom 2,212 were women. 2059 fallen. 945 wounded. 6543 arrested. 2350 shot in reprisals. 829 died in Nazi camps. 22 gold bravery medals. 40 silver bravery medals.

I began to research events and discovered that the German occupation of Bologna began the day after the Italian prime minister announced that Italy had switched sides in the war. Enemy tanks rolled into the city. Nazi officials hung a swastika flag from the façade of the Hotel Baglioni—the best in Bologna—and commandeered part of the first floor and a large lounge to the right of the lobby, which they converted into their administrative headquarters. Not one Italian authority turned up for a formal handover. With total political chaos there weren’t any Italian authorities at hand.

Over the next several days, the Wehrmacht put their military occupation into action. Repression and intimidation began immediately with the confiscation of vehicles, limits to bicycle transport, a curfew from 11 pm to 4 am, and restrictions on gatherings of more than three people. Worst of all, the Nazis set up transit camps for deportations and slave labour, interning deserters from the Italian army—those they hadn’t already loaded onto cattle trucks and transported to Germany for their nefarious needs. 

For the first week or so of the Nazi occupation, Bolognese fascists kept themselves out of political life. But when Hitler made Mussolini the puppet ruler of La Repubblica Sociale Italiana, i fascisti bolognesi became ardent members of the Duce’s reformed anti-monarchist Republican Fascist Party. The repubblichini, as antifascists scathingly called them, started working hand in glove with the Germans. 

Consequently, the city became a hotbed of urban guerrilla warfare. The more I researched, the more immersed I became in the events. What happened to the partisans, fighting both against the Nazi occupation and against the fascists in Bologna, was truly harrowing. They grouped in the city when it appeared that the Allies were on the cusp of breaking through German lines in the autumn of 1944 and were caught like sitting ducks when the Anglo-Americans halted their advance. Making my characters go through the terrible repercussions brought tears to my eyes. The actions perpetrated by the fascists against the partisans were so violent, they even sickened the German command. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, war returned to Europe while I was writing the story, rendering my writing particularly poignant.

Partisans in Bologna after liberation Wikimedia Commons

“The Girl from Bologna” is set during two historical time periods, however. Alongside the monument to the partisans in Piazza del Nettuno there is another monument, listing the names and ages of those killed by a terrorist bomb planted in the railway station on 2nd August 1980. The fact that Bologna had chosen, some years later, to honour the victims in the same location where so many partisans had given their lives, led me to construct the 1981 narrative around that heinous event.

Neptune’s Fountain Bologna. The memorial to the partisans is on the wall of the building to the left.

Thank you so much for sharing such fascinating insight into your inspiration. What an amazing decision, to commemorate two such atrocities.

Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb:

Bologna, Italy, 1944, and the streets are crawling with German soldiers. Nineteen-year-old Leila Venturi is shocked into joining the Resistance after her beloved best friend Rebecca, the daughter of a prominent Jewish businessman, is ruthlessly deported to a concentration camp.

In February 1981, exchange student Rhiannon Hughes arrives in Bologna to study at the university. There, she rents a room from Leila, who is now middle-aged and infirm. Leila’s nephew, Gianluca, offers to show Rhiannon around but Leila warns her off him.

Soon Rhiannon finds herself being drawn into a web of intrigue. What is Gianluca’s interest in a far-right group? And how is the nefarious head of this group connected to Leila? As dark secrets emerge from the past, Rhiannon is faced with a terrible choice. Will she take her courage into both hands and risk everything?

An evocative, compelling read, “The Girl from Bologna” is a story of love lost, daring exploits, and heart wrenching redemption.

Trigger Warnings: 

War crimes against women

Buy Links:

Available on #KindleUnlimited

Universal Link: viewbook.at/TGFB

Amazon UK: Amazon US: Amazon CA: Amazon AU:

Meet the author

Siobhan Daiko is a British historical fiction author. A lover of all things Italian, she lives in the Veneto region of northern Italy with her husband, a Havanese dog and a rescued cat. After a life of romance and adventure in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK, Siobhan now spends her time indulging her love of writing and enjoying her life near Venice.

Connect with Siobhan

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Welcome to today’s stop on The Girl from Portofino by Siobhan Daiko blog tour

Your book, The Girl from Portofino , sounds fascinating. Can you share with me what the first idea was that made you decide to write this story? It might be very different from how the story ended up being, but I am curious, if you don’t mind sharing. And, if the story is very different, would you mind sharing the process by which you ended up with your current novel?

Thank you so much for inviting me as a guest on your blog. I’m thrilled to be here.

When I’d finished writing “The Girl from Venice”, I knew I wanted to write another book about a girl from the Italian Resistance. So, I started researching the areas in Italy where the Resistance was strongest and came across the bands of partisans in the northern Apennines. 

PASQUILIO, MONTIGNOSO / ITALY – JANUARY 2 2020 : American soldiers fight at the front climbing the steep green wild mountains of the Apuan Alps along the Gothic Line in camouflage uniform in the steep

I needed a well-known place in which to set the story and hit upon the idea of Portofino. I had no idea before researching what happened there during the war and cried out a resounding ‘yes’ when I discovered that it had been occupied by the German Navy as a headquarters for their coastal defences, the SS incarcerated and tortured political prisoners in a tower on the isthmus, the inhabitants of the village were forced to relocate when concrete sea defences were built, and the quaysides were mined for fear of aquatic landings. Portofino, known today as a mecca for wealthy tourists, became a target for Allied bombing after the Nazis built anti-aircraft and anti-naval batteries on the headland and the portofinesi lived in fear for their lives.

Portofino, italy, panoramic view

The series features girls from the Italian resistance. Gina, my heroine, is the daughter of a fisherman who joins the partisans to fight the Nazi-fascists in the mountains of the hinterland, leaving her twin sister, Adele, behind. When I wrote the outline of the book, I knew that Gina would read Adele’s diary, left behind during the war, and that Adele worked for the Germans. There is a secret which is revealed towards the end of the book. When I started writing, the characters of the twins leapt off the page and the more I wrote, the more the theme of the love between the two sisters developed.

Portofino, Genova, Liguria/Italy – December 9 2016: a view of Portofino at sunset

Thank you so much for sharing. Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb:

In 1970 Gina Bianchi returns to Portofino to attend her father’s funeral, accompanied by her troubled twenty-four-year-old daughter, Hope. There, Gina is beset by vivid memories of World War 2, a time when she fought with the Italian Resistance and her twin sister, Adele, worked for the Germans. 

In her childhood bedroom, Gina reads Adele’s diary, left behind during the war. As Gina learns the devastating truth about her sister, she’s compelled to face the harsh brutality of her own past. Will she finally lay her demons to rest, or will they end up destroying her and the family she loves?

A hauntingly epic read that will sweep you away to the beauty of the Italian Riviera and the rugged mountains of its hinterland. The Girl from Portofino” is a story about heart-wrenching loss and uplifting courage, love, loyalty, and secrets untold.

Trigger Warnings:

The brutality of war, death, war crimes against women.

Buy Links:

Available on KindleUnlimited.

Universal Link

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Meet the Author

Siobhan Daiko is a British historical fiction author. A lover of all things Italian, she lives in the Veneto region of northern Italy with her husband, a Havanese dog and two rescued cats. After a life of romance and adventure in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK, Siobhan now spends her time, when she isn’t writing, enjoying her life near Venice. 

Connect with Siobhan

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https://www.facebook.com/siobhan.daiko.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on The Girl from Portofino blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Girl From Venice by Siobhan Daiko

Today, I’m excited to welcome Sioban Daiko to the blog with a post about the historical research undertaken to write The Girl From Venice.

Thank you for having me on your blog. I would say that, thus far, I have a huge connection to the places I write about in my historical fiction.

My parents bought an old farmhouse near Asolo in the Veneto in the mid-sixties. From then on, it became my second home, a place where I would spend the summers as a student and, then, later, where my husband and I would take time out from our busy lives to relax. 

Eventually, after our son had left home and I retired from teaching languages in a Welsh comprehensive school, we moved here permanently and I was able to indulge my love of writing. I’d been a fan of historical fiction for years and fascinated by how past events still resonate in the present. 

The first book I published was set in the Veneto of the 16th and 20th centuries, a homage to Asolo and Venice, Lady of Venezia.  

There are many references in Asolo to the Venetian noble woman, Caterina Cornaro, who was married to the King of Cyprus. She died in Venice on 10 July 1510, a year after the Barco, her villa of delights, was damaged by a fire set by the League of Cambrai troops. It was there that she had established a court of literary and artistic distinction and where Pietro Bembo set his platonic dialogues on love, Gli Asolani.

Image of Asolo Shutterstock Standard License

Although “Lady of Venezia” is the first novel I published, it isn’t the first book I wrote. I was privileged to have grown up in Hong Kong during the post-war era, and I hope that my personal experience of a time and place which no longer exist has lent an authenticity to The Orchid Tree, my debut novel. My grandparents were interned in the Stanley Civilian Camp like the family in my story. Gran and Grandpa didn’t talk much about their harrowing time in the camp. When they were liberated, they were so thin they resembled walking skeletons, and both died relatively young due to post-starvation-related illnesses. Their lives were similar to those of the characters in The Orchid Tree, in that they lived on the Peak in a house with nine servants and shared some of the colonial attitudes of my expatriate characters, however that’s as far as the similarities go.

After writing an erotic novella, Veronica Courtesan, an imaginative take on the life of the infamous Venetian courtesan, Veronica Franco, I took a break from writing historical fiction to focus on contemporary romance, which I published as SC Daiko. It was fun for a while, but there was a tale I’d been wanting to tell for years. It needed a lot of research, but I finally got round to doing it and then wrote The Girl from Venice, my new release.

I’ll never forget my initial impression of the Avenue of Martyrs in Bassano del Grappa. The shock and the horror when I saw the trees where the Nazi-Fascists hung some of the young partisans who dared to confront them in 1944. I decided to weave those events into a story based on how many locals, such as the family of farmers next door to my parents’ place, hid Venetian Jews during the war. They inspired me to create the character of Lidia in The Girl from Venice.

Image Bassano del Grappa Shutterstock Standard License

The fictional village of Sant’Illaria is founded upon the villages at the foothills of Monte Grappa, all of which lost young men in horrific circumstances during that dark period of Italian history. I decided to create Sant’Illaria rather than use an actual place out of respect for the memory of those who lost loved ones. 

Photo of Monte Grappa

I read many books for inspiration and information, including:

Maria de Blasio Wilhelm, The Other Italy, The Italian Resistance in World War II

Luigi Meneghello, The Outlaws

Caroline Moorehead, A House in the Mountains, The Women Who Liberated Italy from Fascism

David Stafford, Mission Accomplished, SOE and Italy 1943-1945

H. W. Tilman, When Men & Mountains Meet

I only start writing once I’ve done enough research to jot down a timeline of events and thought about my characters so long and hard that I can hear their voices and they become real to me. I do a chapter-by-chapter outline so I have a clear roadmap of the story but allow myself to add or take away from it when necessary.

Thank you so much for sharing your research with us. Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb:

Lidia De Angelis has kept a low profile since Mussolini’s racial laws wrenched her from her childhood sweetheart. But when the Germans occupy Venice in 1943, she must flee the city to save her life.

Lidia joins the partisans in the Venetian mountains, where she meets David, an English soldier fighting for the same cause. As she grows closer to him, harsh Nazi reprisals and Lidia’s own ardent anti-fascist activities threaten to tear them apart.

Decades later in London, while sorting through her grandmother’s belongings after her death, Charlotte discovers a Jewish prayer book, unopened letters written in Italian, and a fading photograph of a group of young people in front of the Doge’s Palace.

Intrigued by her grandmother’s refusal to talk about her life in Italy before and during the war, Charlotte travels to Venice in search of her roots. There, she learns not only the devastating truth about her grandmother’s past, but also some surprising truths about herself.

A heart-breaking page-turner, based on actual events in Italy during World War II

Trigger Warnings: Death, Miscarriage, PTSD, Rape

Available on Kindle Unlimited.

Universal Link

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Meet the author

Siobhan Daiko is an international bestselling historical romantic fiction author. A lover of all things Italian, she lives in the Veneto region of northern Italy with her husband, a Havanese puppy and two rescue cats. After a life of romance and adventure in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK, Siobhan now spends her time, when she isn’t writing, enjoying the sweet life near Venice. 

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