A little while back we received a somewhat unusual phone call from a young lady who was doing research for a British TV production company. They were planning to film a documentary regarding the search for the most healthy diets around the world.

The company was called Boundless Productions who we learned produce high profile documentary and factual programmes for British television including Grand Designs and Great British Railway Journeys and a BBC medical science series soon to be aired in conjunction with the Open University.

They were interested in producing a 90minute film for Channel 4, entitled the World’s Best Diet in which well-known presenter and farmer Jimmy Doherty (life long friend of Jamie Oliver) and co-presenter Kate Quilton of the TV programme Food Unwrapped, were to explore a selection of the most diverse traditional diets from around the world – examining the eating habits of different communities and uncovering what the British viewer could learn from these.

They were hoping to film in Italy regarding the Mediterranean diet and in particular filming in the small village of Campodimele in South Lazio, which is renowned for the longevity of its citizens.

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I, being very passionate about this beautiful region, did all I could assist Jenni, the Assistant Producer by sending lots of information regarding the typical local foods, diet and lifestyle of the people of Campodimele.

Campodimele’s rich fertile soil has meant that the local economy has always been based on agriculture. The village was once renowned for its production of honey (miele).

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Local produce includes “la Cicerchia”, an unusual type of chickpea. Then there are beans, sweet cornetto peppers, mushrooms, marzolinoa goats cheese, homemade bread, olives and of course wonderful extra virgin olive oil.

The film crew were interested in filming some of the still active elderly local inhabitants and talking to them about their diet and lifestyles.

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I contacted our good friend Florisa who has friends in Campodimele. We organised to go up there together to make tentative enquiries and find out if there were any old people who would be interested in being interviewed for the programme.

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We met up with Maria who with her husband Fausto runs a petrol station attached to a bar and a little restaurant called La Casareccia in the lower part of the village. I will write more about this eating place in my next Blog.

Maria kindly introduced us to an elderly couple, Natalina and Bernadino, who live nearby at the foot of the valley. They are both around 80 years old but still run their simple little small-holding in the old traditional way. They maintain a very active lifestyle. Bernardino keeps a number goats which he takes out for a long walk every day.

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He also keeps a sizeable orto or kitchen garden.

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Natalina tends the baby goats, which she told us she was fattening for Easter. Not sure why she had put them into the barells !

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She also has numerous chickens and geese, we watched her mixing up their food and then their feeding time.

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They lay lots of eggs and Natalina kindly presented us with some which were still warm to the touch. Wonderful !!!

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Their ramshackle farmyard is littered with old odds and ends, it seems nothing is thrown away in case one day it could prove useful.

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Well, finally the film crew arrived in Campodimele, and fortunately the weather was set fair.  The group were exhausted as they had just flown in direct from Seoul in South Korea, where they had also been filming. Prior to this they had filmed in the Marshall Islands, in the Pacific Ocean. They only had scheduled in two days of filming in Campodimele so it was all rather hectic.

Then Jenni sprang a surprise on us and asked whether we would consider being interviewed for the film regarding our move to this beautiful area of Italy and what we thought of the local foods available. We were a little apprehensive at first, but Paul and I decided to take the bull by the horns and agreed to do it. We were filmed with the female presenter, Kate Quilton, at Lo Stuzzichino restaurant in lower Campodimele, where we chatted whilst sampling some of the delicious local dishes. Kate and all the film crew were so friendly which put us at our ease, indeed it was a really fascinating experience for us both. Many thanks to all the team.

During the filming we remarked on the quality and freshness of the local produce, and that many families keep veggie patches of their own. Also nearby is the bustling town of Fondi, located on the ancient Appian Way, which runs as straight as a die as it crosses the expansive fertile plain. Fondi is a huge agricultural centre and its strategic position, being situated midway between Rome and Naples, has made it into one of Italy’s most important wholesale fruit and vegetable markets, namely MOF (Mercato Ortofrutticolo di Fondi), and is proud to call itself “Anti-transgienico”, that is against genetic modification, or as we would say a “GM free zone”. So many of the fruits and vegetables are grown locally.  The local produce tastes amazing, having benefited from being bathed in warm Mediterranean sunlight, for example the tomatoes and strawberries are so sweet, flavoursome and juicy.

Here produce is seasonal, which we like, we look forward to what is coming into season next. March is the time for artichokes and broad beans, then next come green beans, courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, peaches plums, and they all taste sooooo good!!!

We, like most Italians, prefer to prepare our food from scratch, there are still very few ready-made meals available in local supermarkets. Let’s hope it can remain that way for some time to come. Italians care about what they eat and I think in general would tend to spend a greater percentage of their income on their weekly food bill than the average British family, being prepared to pay a little extra for quality ingredients. Locals still habitually frequent small independent shops, perhaps where several generations of their family have shopped for many years. In the small town of Itri in which we live, which has a population of about 11,000 people, there are at least 6 butchers shops and at least the same number of green grocers and of course there is always a bustling market on Friday mornings.  You can probably see why we just love this place.

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In summary some of the contributing factors to the longevity of the citizens of Campodimele may be: the healthy mountain air, living an active life, a less stressful pace of life, the consumption of extra virgin olive oil as an integral part of a healthy “Mediterranean diet” made of good fresh wholesome local ingredients, eating less red meat and more pulses, eating home prepared meals which contain very few artificial additives.

We have been told that the film documentary should be aired on Channel 4 later this year, either in June or September. We will keep you posted.

Paul says with any luck he will be edited out and save the great viewing British public the delights of his broad West Country accent.  Well, you can take the boy out of Bristol. but you can’t take Bristol out of the boy !!!

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During January and February we were delighted to have Emma and Aneurin once again to stay here at Tre Cancelle.

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3 year old Aneurin really seems to love it here in Italy, he is very active boy and is keen to being outside.  Often he will say “I need to run!!!”  And indeed he does. !!! Fortunately here there is so much space for him to run around and let off steam.  Here he is at the top of our hill.

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A view of Tre Cancelle Farmhouse with an olive clad Monte Marano in the background.

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Another local view.

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Aneurin amongst the olive trees.

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He can get somewhat muddy however especially when playing in puddles !!!

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Aneurin has no fear of  the horses and enjoys taking them carrot treats.  Pictured here are Pino and Vinci.

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Our friend Florisa gave Emma an Italian cookery lesson – she prepared Poached Artichokes, Involtini di Tacchino, and a Ham and Potato Frittata.

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From Florisa’s house you can see in the distance the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Cività perched high on Monte Fusco.  The Madonna della Cività is the patron of Itri.

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As it was such a clear sunny day, we drove up into the mountains to show Emma the Sanctuary and it’s magnificent panoramic views. 

A view looking down on the Valle d’Itri  – you can just see the Gaeta penisula in the background.

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A beautiful view looking towards Fondi, Terracina and San Felice Circeo.

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You can read more about the Sanctuary and Itri on my  South Lazio Website

http://itri.shapcott-family.com/

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A while back I created a Group on Facebook called

“WE LOVE ATINA !!!”.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/62618687824/

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This is an English speaking Group for people who share my passion for beautiful Atina and the Val di Comino and who have family roots firmly planted in this beautiful little town in Frosinone, Italy.  We now have over 275 members.

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Brigida and I are currently organising a “Get Together” in Atina over the weekend of the 26th / 27th / 28th September 2014. 

Anyone with family connections with Atina is very welcome to take part.

For anyone who would might like to stay a few extra days – the Feast of Atina’s patron saint, San Marco, is held on 1 October.

Here are some ideas that Brigida and I have come up with

for the Get Together ….

The Friday Evening

Meet and Greet – to meet up with We Love Atina members of the group at a Bar in Atina. It would be great if we could find somewhere with a side room where we could all get to know each other, chat, show photos etc etc. and generally use as a base.

Saturday Evening:

All meet for drinks at a bar and on to Restaurant for dinner.

Sunday Morning:

Attend Mass at the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.

Some other ideas ……

A Guided Tour around Atina, discovering the different districts, houses and palaces, learning about the history of the town.

A Visit to the local Museum and Library.

A Visit to the local Graveyard.

A Visit to the ruins of the old Paper Factory

A Wine Tasting at a local Vineyard and Tasting of local delicacies

If people want to stay on for a few days they could also …….

See the Monday morning Market held in Atina

For anyone who would might like to stay on for a few extra days – the Feast of Atina’s patron saint, San Marco, is held on 1 October.

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Well these are a few ideas, perhaps you can come up

with some new or better ones.

Please feel free to get in touch if you would like

to join We Love Atina !!! on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/62618687824/

and / or if you would like to attend this event in Atina.

This is my website about Bella Atina:

http://atina.shapcott-family.com/

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I always look forward to our visits back to the UK.  I love living in Italy but sometimes I do find myself feeling a little homesick and especially missing close family and longstanding friends.  This Christmas Kay, a special friend of ours, very kindly invited us to stay with her at her home in Barry in South Wales.

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Kay and Paul

Barry Island on a cold but bright December’s day …..

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Barry has once again become a popular destination, having gained notarity from the BBC’s very successful comedy series “Gavin and Stacey” – much of which was filmed in and around Barry and Barry Island.  It’s a tale of love between an “Essex boy” and a “Welsh girl”.  If you haven’t seen it I’d highly recommend it – it’s absolutely hilarious !!!  Nowadays you can even go on an organised tour of the area to visit many of the locations where the series was filmed, such as Marco’s Cafe.

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Recently Barry has taken on a new nickname, that of “Barrybados” !!! 

Here’s Paul sporting his new Barrybados T-shirt.

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We did a fair few miles driving around the UK during our visit.  First we drove to Bristol to visit Paul’s father.

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We then travelled down to Poole to visit Paul’s brother and family to meet the latest little “twiglet” on our Shapcott family tree – little Annabel.

Congratulations to Tim and Clare !!!

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Then up to North Wales to visit Emma and our youngest grandson Aneurin, who was allowed to open his present just before Christmas.

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We then drove back down to South Wales with Aneurin, who was able to spend a couple of days over Christmas with his daddy.

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Thanks to Kay for putting on a lovely Christmas lunch.  Kay and Paul worked well together in the kitchen.

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Ummmm – I think that perhaps Kay had one too many Prosecco’s !!!

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Then Boxing Day we went to Chepstow to visit Vicki and our older two Grandsons, Jamie and Tom.  I managed to snap a photo of our three grandsons all together.

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Jamie, Tom and their crazy but loveable dog “Bob”…..

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Then to Swindon where we had organised a gathering of our Italian family who now live in the UK (with family roots in Atina)

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After all that travelling around we felt that we could do with holiday !!!

But we loved every minute of it.

A big thank you to Kay in “Barrybados” for inviting us to stay and putting up with us over Christmas and New Year.

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We really enjoyed that a certain little boy, our grandson Aneurin, was able to celebrate his 3rd birthday with us in Italy this year. 

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In the evening we drove up to see our friends at the Bellavista Restaurant in Itri for pizzas.  Aneurin met up with Chiara once again. 

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You may remember that they first met last year -

on Aneurin’s first visit to Italy

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Ice-cream Cake from the Fiocco di Neve in Itri.

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Happy Birthday Aneurin

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All photos by me  Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

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At the beginning of November our friends  Kay and Elsie arrived from Wales, they regularly come to help us out at this time of year, which is normally the beginning of the olive harvest.  

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Firstly we celebrated Elsie’s birthday with our friends at the Bellavista Restaurant in Itri

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Pietro had previously discussed with us the possibility of bring two more horses to graze at Tre Cancelle, in particular those which had been born earlier this year and were now ready to be separated from their mothers.  After a day or so’s warning Pietro arrived with horse-box in tow and the two new members of the Tre Cancelle “Neigh-Gang” !!!  Pino was well intrigued !!!

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The new arrivals were somewhat shaken up by their long bumpy ride and needed a great deal of coaxing to get them to come out of the horse-box.

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The first to emerge was black in colour – a young female, who we have named “Lola”.

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The second was a tan coloured young male, who we have named “Vinci”.

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Gradually they were introduced to Pino. 

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Aww Bless !!! They seemed to be missing their mothers so much and it gave the impression that they were trying to cuddle each other.

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Pino soon told them who was boss but after a few days they seemed to have settled down.   I think he enjoys the company.

A few days later  Emma and Aneurin, our youngest grandson, arrived also.  Emma was also champing at the bit to get back to work in the olive groves.

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Our American friends Patrick and Mindy, and along with Mindy’s Mum Donna, came over one day with her mother to help with some olive picking, however as I mentioned previously this year the harvest was not good, but we worked together to gather what olives there were by hand.

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Paul and Patrick being tall were good at reaching the high ones.

Of course Aneurin helped too.

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We were able to take advantage of the mild sunny weather by eating lunch together on the terrace. Not bad for November.

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Many of our trees still need pruning to keep them from getting too tall and leggy and thus less productive.  Our dear friends Clive and Marilyn, Brits who currently live in Gaeta,  regularly come to help Paul with pruning duties. Clive is especially enthusiastic about our special Extra Virgin olive Oil.

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Regrettably, last spring whilst pruning trees Clive lost his footing on a ladder and had a nasty tumble, falling awkwardly.  Sadly he managed to break both his ankle and shoulder, which incapacitated him for several months.  Needless to say, we felt dreadful about the accident.  It just goes to show how easily accidents can happen, and the importance of tying the ladder to the tree.  Thankfully because he is such a fit and strong individual he seems to have made a good and swift recovery.  This Autumn Clive was keen to get back to work in the groves, Marilyn however has now banned him from climbing ladders, but he is still eager to do all he can at ground level.

Clive brought Marilyn and old friend from the UK knick-named “Smiffy” to work up at Tre Cancelle for a couple of days – Everyone worked so hard – pruning, chomping out and cutting to size logs, and burning the debris.    Once again here in Bella Italia we could enjoy sitting outside for lunch.

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A “Big Thank You” to every one who has so kindly given us their time, energy and enthusiam to help us progress on the upkeep and maintenance of the olive groves at Tre Cancelle. xxxxxxxx

Kay and Elsie’s holiday unfortunately soon came to end, however Emma and Aneurin were staying on for a couple more weeks.

We spent a day helping our neighbour Luca and his Mum to gather his olives, he did have a few more to harvest than us.

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And of course Aneurin helped too  !!! – By turning his jacket around back-to-front and using his hood to put olives into !!!

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How lovely it is to have a like-minded neighbour who prefers to use natural methods of cultivation rather than the often over use of  chemical agricultural products. Well done Luca, we wish you well in your endeavours !!!

All photos by me  Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou) and Kirsten McRobbie

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Disappointingly Autumn this year there were very few olives.  It was not just us, but many of the local olive farmers found themselves in a similar situation.  Back in May, when the olive trees were in flower, there was a cold spell with strong wind and heavy rain, so because of this the olive flowers had not set to form their miniature little olives.

Yet there is always work to be done in the groves.  This Autumn we welcomed three more young keen volunteers to help out, Kirsten, Kay’s daughter, and two of her good friends Kyle and Jessica.  They had wanted to help with the olive harvest, but Paul soon got them to work pruning around the bases of the trees where unwanted shoots grow and making bonfires  with the debris.

Kyle took many photos of their stay.  I think they had fun !!! 

I will let his photos do the talking ….

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Kirsten and Kyle, the mad fools, were determined to take a dip in the pool. It was somewhat nippy at this time of year !!!

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Kyle and Jessica even managed to fit in a day trip to Rome on the train.

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All photos above by Kyle Blannin

 

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Thank you so much guys for all your hard work.

It was so appreciated.

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We had a  hot and busy summer, and Paul was very pleased as he managed to recruit some extra helpers to assist him with chores around Tre Cancelle.

Firstly our cousin’s son Alex volunteered to come and lend a hand for a week, and his stay coincided with a visit from our youngest grandson, Aneurin, and his Mum Emma.  Paul soon put them to work !!!

More fencing was required as Pino, our horse, was becoming a dab hand at escaping from his enclosure on a regular basis.  There was lots of wood to be collected from the groves, from the trees that had been pruned back in the Spring.  Both Emma and Alex worked like Trojans, despite the heat, and little Aneurin did his bit too by helping to fill up the wood shed.

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We were happy to welcome the return of the White family, who are regular visitors to Tre Cancelle. (You may recall that they helped us last summer when a wild fire came dangerously close to our olive grove) - http://trecancelle.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/146-fire-at-tre-cancelle-august-2012/

Sadly Andrew could not make it this time, as he was recovering from heart surgery.  Jenny and the girls, Caitlin, Niamh and Bethan thoroughly enjoyed helping to look after Aneurin and fussing over Max, who had recently become a house dog, having been bullied by one of our adoptees, ie Henry.

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Once again the pool came into its own ……..

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Many happy evenings were enjoyed whilst dining together “al fresco”.  One evening Emma gave a cookery lesson for the girls and they all made pizza …..

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Very tasty it was too !!!

We managed to fit in a quick visit to Atina with them all ……

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and a quick visit to see cousins Mario and Mara.

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Sadly too soon it was time for the Whites to make their way home.

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We wish you could have stayed longer !!!

Meanwhile we enjoyed some more extra special time with Aneurin and Emma.

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Cheeky Monkey !!!

Thank you to everyone for making our Summer such a happy one !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

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We were so happy to be able to invite our two eldest grandchildren Jamie and Tom and their Mum Vicki to come and stay during July, they had had a tough year and really needed a break.  Jamie, 11,  had just finished at primary school and was going up to senior school in the coming September.

However, the weather during their stay was extreme to say the least, hot and humid with temperatures reaching up to almost 40 deg C, totally energy zapping.

Thank goodness we had the pool for them to cool off and play in. 

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We invited up our  friends children who moved from the UK to live in Itri three years ago, and they got on so well and great fun was had !!!

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During their stay with us Tom celebrated his 9th birthday for which we held a little party. 

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Tom was especiallyl impressed with his special ice-cream birthday cake from the Fiocco di Neve.

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The evening before their last night our friends Pauline and Filippo kindly invited us all to have supper at their home. 

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Pizza by the metre !!!

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Thanks to Pauline and Filippo for a lovely evening !!!

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Sending our love to you all.

We miss you !!!

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All photos by me © Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

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