Author Pens Tale of Longtime Bay Farm Family

Alameda is a charming little town. It’s the only place in California where you can live an island life, beach included, minus the island weather. Where downtown is only a short walk or bus ride away.

What gives any town its charm, though, are its inhabitants, who bring rich history and culture: the things that stay while everything else changes.

Italy, the Embracing Circle: Il Circolo, My Past, My Future, by Donna Marie Ferro, an Alameda resident, takes readers through her own journeys to Italy while helping illustrate Alameda’s historical charm.

Through a personal angle, Ferro gives us a glimpse into Alameda’s past in the early 20th century. For her Italian immigrant ancestors, Alameda was the destination in the trek from Italy. On Bay Farm Island, more specifically, awaited a close knit community of Ligurians, from a northern coastal region of Italy. They called Bay Farm Island L’Isola, or the island.

Ferro’s paternal grandparents, coming from completely different cities in Italy, would have been an unlikely match, if not for meeting on Bay Farm Island and its Ligurian community.

Many of the Italian immigrants on Bay Farm, such as Ferro’s maternal grandfather, practiced farming, just as they did back home in Italy. Ferro paints a picture of many of these Italian farmers’ homes: built on stilts atop the Bay Farm marshlands familiar to Alamedans today.

Ferro’s accounts of her many memories in Italy prove the Alameda is a small town in a small world, with more history than what first meets the eye. In Italy, she builds personal bridges to Alameda in unlikely ways; hearing stories from her family members, even chatting with a jewelry salesperson who has visited family on Park Street.

Il Circolo is a story about finding your roots. As an American young woman from the Bay Area, Ferro’s quest for identity had a rocky start when visiting her ancestors’ humble places of origin in Liguria, Italy.

With time and more travels to Italy, however, she grew to love and accept her Italian roots; humble origins and all. Sweet anecdotes about her family and her time spent in Italy give more insight into how she became a part of the embracing circle of her culture.

Fernanda Castro is an Alameda Sun intern. She can be reached via