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In October we were delighted to welcome our youngest grandson Aneurin and his mummy Emma, who came for a 2 week visit. The weather was still beautifully warm and sunny for much of their stay, which was perfect for several days out at Sant’Agostino beach, situated midway between Sperlonga and Gaeta. As you can see, we had the beach practically to ourselves.
The Riviera D’Ulisse or Costa Pontina in South Lazio – this beautiful coastline, with its golden sandy beaches, is still largely undiscovered by international tourists. It is extremely popular with Italian visitors from Rome and Naples, particularly during the month of August, or on sunny summer weekends, when they flock to the seaside to escape the city heat. However out of season this area reverts to a sleepy, peaceful setting for a relaxing Italian holiday.
The safe sandy beach was an absolute delight for a fearless energetic 2 year old !!!
Aneurin really enjoyed the freedom of the wide open spaces and olive groves around “Tre Cancelle” …
and we dug out the old train set from the loft, which went down very well !!!
We all, including Aneurin, very much enjoyed our pizzas !!!
Giancarlo has a little girl just a few months older than Aneurin.
It was so lovely to see them interacting. It was clear that Chiara had taken quite a shine to Aneurin.
Thanks to all at the Bellavista for a lovely rememberable evening !!!
(A Guest Blog Post by Diana Johnson of Bribie, Queensland, Australia)
Hearing my black Labrador dog, Cindy, barking vigorously under my bedroom window reminded me of the dawn chorus at “Tre Cancelle”. No, not the birds but the doggies of “Tre Cancelle” whose voices may be a little muted if Paul has overslept and they are still in their night kennels. By day they have free rein across a large yard and are quick to detect the slightest movement from the occupants of the downstairs unit who might just be bearing doggie delights to their yard.
A shared interest in Shapcott Genealogy gave me a virtual introduction to Paul and Louise many years ago but it is only in the last two years that I‘ve managed to visit their idyllic Italian hideaway. This September I lured my husband as well to South Lazio to meet Paul and Louise and the Woof Gang!
Well what a week! After combing the supermarket shelves in Rome for dog treats, I found it was much easier to buy them in Fondi or Itri. Of course by that time I also had to add in cat food as well for the latest additions to the “Tre Cancelle” home for waifs and strays. We wasted much time in trying to coax a very shy little kitten out into the open although her mother, named Micha, was much bolder and more forthright in her demands for sustenance. Milk and biscuits disappeared rapidly every day and cat food was gone in a flash!
Warning to anyone dispensing Dentastix to the “Woof-Gang” – be sure to keep you fingers out of range lest Lizzie mistake one for a Dentastick ….
Somewhere in between walking dogs and generally making a fuss of all the furry inhabitants of “Tre Cancelle”, we found time to do some sightseeing around the region. With Paul driving and Louise supplying the tour commentary we feasted our eyes on the beautiful fishing ports with their steep steps and narrow alleys and archways in the old parts of the towns.
We visited markets selling every kind of produce under the sun, watched a religious procession …
drove up into the mountains to see elaborate churches, villages perched on mountain tops and of course the famous Abbey of Monte Cassino.
A special bonus was afforded to us in Atina, where Louise met some of her relatives and we were invited into one of their houses in the old quarter of the town.
Listening in ignorance to the rapid flow of Italian I knew that I had to improve my knowledge of the language of this beautiful and intriguing country. It is not enough to be able to buy a bus ticket or order some meat or cheese in the deli, you really want to know what is going on…………..
No visit to Itri is complete without a visit or two to the aptly named Bellavista restaurant run by Mamma Riccardi and her charming sons. The road to the restaurant is an interesting climb if you happen to be the driver but thankfully I was not. Having made it to the top, we relaxed on the terrace in the warm evening soaking up the glorious views of Itri by night (no doubt improved by the jugs of wine that appeared regularly upon our table). The Italian wine goes well with the Bellavista pizza, which is just great, in fact I’ll find it difficult going back to Aussie pizzas after having the real thing in Italy.
And while I’m on the subject of food, how can I not mention the wonderful gelati ice creams that we downed on several occasions. Alas, it means several more hours in the gym to work those inches off the waistline but ….well…. it was worth it!
Sadly a week goes by too quickly and all too soon we were heading back to Rome for the next leg of our trip but I know we will be back one day in the not too distant future. That is providing our good friends can put up with their Aussie visitors again.
We recently took a short drive to the nearby picturesque seaside resort of Gaeta, during the Yacht Med Festival which was being held between 20th and 29th April.
Gaeta has ancient maritime traditions as it has long been an important port of trade, a key export being “Itrana” Olives, which are more commonly known as “Gaeta Olives” . The Gulf of Gaeta has a spectacular backdrop as the Aurunci Mountains tumble down to meet the sea.
This Mediterranean festival was to focus on the economy of the sea, sailing, fishing, the environment, culture and tourism. Along the long seafront boulevard there were numerous exhibition stands promoting an array of products and services related to these themes.
On show were of course many boats of all shapes, sizes and prices.
The Guardia di Finanza had opened one of their training ships to the public.
For the first time we were also to enter the premises of the Guardia di Finanza’s Scuola Nautica at the end of the peninsular known as Punta Stendardo. It was most interesting to see the beautiful old town and its cathedral from new vantage points, which gave the vistas an entirely new perspective.
Here on show were martime exhibits including a model of the John Cabot’s (or Giovanni Cabot0′s) ship the “Matthew”. It is believed that he was born in Gaeta, although other sources give his birthplace as Genoa. He became an English navigator and explorer, having settled in Bristol in the 1490′s. He set sail from Bristol in May 1497, and landed in June on what is now called Cape Breton Island. Then he sailed along the coasts of Labrador, Newfoundland, and New England, believing that he had reached north-western Asia.
Across the bay echoed the sound of strong rhythmical drumming. As we wandered back through the old town it became apparent that the reverberations were emanating from a troop of drummers and flag throwers, dressed in colourful medieval costumes.
We looked on as the sbandieratori seemingly effortlessly waved, twirled and tossed their heraldic standards into the air.
Traditionally, in times gone by, such bands of brave men would have lead their troops into battle.
Returning to matters nautical – Gaeta is the home port of the 6th Fleet Flagship USS Mount Whitney.
On the 20th May Gaeta will be in the forefront of the sailing news, as it is to be the starting point of the 2012 Rolex Volcano Race. From Gaeta the crews will race past the Pontine Islands and reach Capri to complete the first leg of the event. After the stop-over on the Isola Azzurra, the boats then race across the Tyrrhenian Sea and towards the Aeolian Islands which include Stromboli, Vulcano and Alicudi, a volcanic archipelago just north of Sicily. The long distance race of more than 400 nautical miles will finish at the beautiful Island of Capri.
We wish all the contestants fair winds and God speed.
By the way – I have recently updated my webpages about the beautiful and interesting town of Gaeta – Please do take a minute or two to take a look:
The following day the “Welsh Girls” deserved a well earned day off.
We thought that they could benefit from some retail therapy, so with it being a Wednesday, we took them to the colourful Gaeta market. Here there is an array of stalls selling almost everything under the sun.
The girls made some new friends.
This included the 7ft tall Moustapha from Senegal who runs an stall selling handbags.
We then proceeded along the coast road to Sant’ Agostino beach, midway between Gaeta and Sperlonga. and had a snack lunch at one of our favourite little haunts, the Miramare. Outside tables look directly onto the beach. It was a beautifully day and we all enjoyed the warm rays of the sun.
We then drove on to Sperlonga, where we showed them delights of this magical little town.
All in all … a very beautiful day !!!
In the seaside city of Gaeta, the festival known as “Le Vie di Gaeta”, is held over a long weekend at the beginning of October. This a popular event with people coming from near and afar to take part. It is a celebration of local ancient traditions, culture, history and gastronomy and there are informative guided tours of the town where one can learn more about Gaeta’s colourful history, art, culture and nature.
On the Saturday evening a wonderful Food Festival is held in the charming setting of Via Indipendenza which runs parallel with the sea front Lungomare Giovanni Caboto. Via Indipendenza is a quaint, narrow pedestrian alley, approximately half a mile in length, and is paved in dark volcanic stone, with many little adjoining alleyways known as vicoli. Here you can find many small shops selling fresh local food and an array of items, such as souvenirs, handicrafts, leather goods, clothes, jewellery etc.
The food festival is a gastronomic extravaganza of traditional local Gaetana food, recipes and where locals offer samples of their freshly prepared delicacies.
We arrived in the early evening, and watched as the locals were still in the process of setting up numerous colourful stalls along the narrow street. The participants are generally all volunteers, a great example of the locals coming together to keep alive their community and traditions, which they hold so dear.
There are small tables at strategic entry points to the Via with people selling vouchers which represent an ancient coinage of the old duchy of Gaeta known as the “Follaro”, which is valued at about 50 euro cents. With these vouchers you can then purchase samples of the various delicacies on offer.
Gaeta residents come together to offer the very best of their native ingredients and cuisine, for example Gaeta olives and freshly caught local seafood, cicinelli (tiny baby fish) octopus salads, cod or vegetable fritters, anchovy meatballs.
Then there is the renowned Tiella, which is a cross between a pizza and a calzone. Typical fillings include diced calamari with parsley, garlic, oil, hot chilli pepper and a little tomato sauce. Other fillings include escarole (a variety of endive) and baccalà (dried cod), egg and zucchini, spinach, and ham and cheese.
There was plenty of local vino on offer as well, as dolci such as Bignè made from a type of choux pastry filled with delicious crème patisserie, cakes made with honey and Struffoli, small balls of fried batter, rolled in honey.
Some of the stallholders had even taken the trouble to dress up in traditional costumes of the Gaeta area.
It seemed that everywhere along the route our tastebuds were tantalised by the deliciously temping aromas. By now Via Indipendenza was buzzing with throngs of people filling every nook and cranny of the narrow street, and forwards progress was slowed to a virtual standstill by people stopping and chatting with neighbours and friends every couple of yards.
Indeed it was an excellent evening of good food, conviviality and merriment.
Here at Tre Cancelle our Farmhouse and Olive Groves are immersed in the greenery of the Italian countryside. Just behind us stands Monte Marano, which reaches a height of 516 metres.
We are so lucky to be surrounded by abundant wildlife including many species of song birds as well as Kestrels, Hawks, Buzzards and Owls.
Our favourite is our Hoopoe who visits every year and calls out its calming, reassuring and steady “Hoop-Hoop-Hoop” from the top of our tall pine tree. He is a very fine bird, quite large in size with a long slightly curved bill, a pinkish-fawn head and breast, an impressive crest and black and white striped wings.
We also have other regular visitors such as wild boar, porcupines, foxes, hares, and stone martens.
Indeed, this area of South Lazio is so rich in Natural Beauty – It is blessed with the best of many worlds:
The nearby Coastline with its sandy beaches, rocky crags and coves, hidden caves and sheltered harbours …
Yet closeby here in Itri we have the dramatic Aurunci Mountains and their Protected Natural Park. Much of the rock is limestone, and the scenery is ever changing as the mountains spectacularly tumble down to meet the sea.
Also locally there are several more wonderful Protected Natural Reserves to explore:
Sperlonga has the Roman Ruins of the Villa and Grotto di Tiberio and Coastal Path
Fondi has the Ausoni Mountains and 3 Coastal Lakes with dunes which form a peaceful natural haven for diverse wildlife.
In Gaeta is the Parco di Monte Orlando which has dramatic rocky crags and cliffs overlooking the beautiful Gulf Of Gaeta.
In Scauri is the Parco Suburbano di Gianola e Monte di Scauri
In San Felice Circeo there’s the extensive and varied Parco Nazionale Del Circeo
There are also stretches of beautiful coastline which have been designated as Marine Natural Park, collectively known as the Oasi Blu, which is maintained by the World Wildlife Fund WWF, that ensures optimum water quality providing an ideal environment for an extensive variety of marine life. Therefore these areas are popular with scuba divers.
All of these nature reserves are an absolute paradise for nature lovers and bird watchers, providing tranquil habitats for numerous animal species, particularly a wide range of bird life ranging from birds of prey, to sea and water fowl.
All the parks have well signposted hiking trails which traverse wonderful varied terrain, providing magnificent vistas and panoramas of the mountains, coastline and nearby islands. There are also routes suitable for mountain biking. We have a selection of useful maps and local guide books.
So all in all Tre Cancelle
is an excellent base for discovering and exploring
the boundless natural beauty of South Lazio.
Perfect for True Lovers of Wildlife and Nature.
Come and see for yourself !!!
One Saturday evening, we received a phone call from one of our friends in Itri, asking: “What time our local road was going to be closed tomorrow?”. This was the first we had heard of it, but we were soon to learn that, on Sunday, our normally quiet little lane was to be transformed into a race track . Evidently the local residents had been given little or no prior warning of what was due to take place, a car rally on their doorsteps. This is Italy !!!
Come to think of it, we had noticed an increase in noisy traffic that day, presumably as some contestants had been familiarising themselves with the route.
This 3 day event over 11-12-13 of June 2010, was the very first Gaeta Rally which consisted of various trials and heats over different course routes: http://www.rallygaeta.it/home/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=3
The finishing line of the Sunday race was to be located down by Itri Cemetery.
So, not quite knowing what to expect, the following day, we braced ourselves for the off. In the morning, a marshal, dressed in a high visibility jacket arrived on the stretch of road outside our house and on the sharp bend proceeded to put up a “safety barrier” consisting of a reel of red and white striped plastic tape, tied between the olive trees up the side of the road.
A blue and white Polizia car then drove around the course with siren sounding loudly, followed by the official marshal car with its yellow light flashing.
Before very long we were to hear the screeching of tyres and the revving, roaring and intermittent loud backfiring of highly tuned internal combustion engines reverberating around the valley.
We must admit it was somewhat exciting to watch, but the dogs, poor things, were in totally awe of the proceedings.
This mayhem continued intermittently all day, with only a 45 minute pasta break at lunchtime.
By 7 pm we felt we had had quite enough excitement for one day, and we were more than glad to revert to the normal peace and quiet of the Italian countryside.
Back in June we welcomed a couple from Massachusetts in the USA, who had rented for a week, our friend’s nearby holiday villa called “Casa di Campagna”, which is a stone’s throw from us here at Tre Cancelle. You can see full details of this lovely comfortable villa by clicking here.
David and Karen’s trip to Italy was primarily to visit the seaside town of Gaeta, from where David’s ancestors, the Petricone family, had originated. David was also researching the surnames: Capobianco, Di Tucci, Miele, Spinosa and Uttaro.
David’s deceased father had visited Gaeta on a couple of occasions, however this was to be David’s very first visit. He had come armed with a bundle of papers, mainly notes that his father had made about his family, and an assortment of photographs, some of the people in which, sadly they were unable to identify. We offered to help them trace their ancestry by escorting them to the Comune, or Town Hall, in Gaeta and by acting as personal translators.
We arrived at the Comune just as it was opening up after a lunch break, and there was already a mass of people waiting to be served at the Anagrafe, the local Register office. We patiently waited our turn, having established our position in the queue by using the well trodden phrase: “Chi è l’ultimo?” We explained that David had travelled all the way from the USA to trace his family ancestors who originated from Gaeta. At first the frosty official seemed rather brusque and off-hand, saying that they were really busy that day, however he did thaw a little when he realised that one of the surnames being researched was in fact his very own. He summoned another young man from the back office, who beckoned for us to follow him.
We went through to an inner sanctum where hundreds of volumes of hand written registers dating back to the early 1800’s are kept, and where a young archivist started to try and help us with our search. Some of David’s dates were very vague, so the young man was seemingly struggling, despite his best efforts, to make that all important initial find. Then another more senior gentleman, the head archivist, who had been sitting quietly working away in the background, began to offer useful pointers to his younger colleague. Thus, before the end of the afternoon session, not only had David found the ancestors he had been looking for, confirming his grand-parents and their siblings, but they had also managed to trace back a further 2 generations to a Carlo Petricone born circa 1814, who was David’s great-great grandfather. Of course, David and Karen were absolutely delighted by these findings.
Since the Comune was just about to close, we decided to show David and Karen Gaeta’s charming ancient street of Via Independenza.
This colourful and lively shopping area runs parallel with the sea front. It is a quaint, narrow pedestrian street, approximately half a mile in length, and is paved in dark volcanic stone, with many little adjoining alleyways known as vicoli.
Here you can find many small shops selling fresh, local food such as Mozzarella di Bufala, Olive di Gaeta, fresh pasta and tiella- a type of local pizza pie. Also dotted about the place are colourful and beautifully displayed fruit and vegetable stands. There are also many shops selling an array of items, such as souvenirs, handicrafts, leather goods, clothes, jewellery etc.
Eventually we headed back to the car. Embarrassingly, during this period, our car had been intermittently refusing to start, as the battery seemed to be failing to hold its charge. Paul, known for being conscious of saving a few pennies here and there wherever possible, insisted that with regular top ups from our battery charger, our battery wasn’t considered to be ready for replacement just yet !!! Hmmmmmmm !!!
Consequently having got back to the car, we once again found that it wouldn’t start. “Managia la Miseria” !!! So, we then all had to bail out, push the car out of its parking space into the middle of the car park, open up the bonnet, attach some jump leads and stand looking hopeful ……..
Thankfully soon a good Samaritan offered to help give us a jump start.
The following day David and Karen spent further exploring Gaeta, and also visited the Cemetery in search of family gravestones. Unfortunately, they were so engrossed in their search that they were unaware of the warning bell which was to alert people that the cemetery was about to close for lunchtime. Consequently they found themselves locked in, and were only able to make their escape by climbing over one of the high cemetery walls, much to the amusement of the flower shop owner opposite, and I am sure an experience they too will recall and laugh about for many years to come !!!
To say thank you for our help, David and Karen insisted on taking us out for a couple of lovely meals and also, either out of kindness or perhaps pity for me, bought us a new car battery, so that I, Louise, wouldn’t have to push the car anymore !!!
Mille Grazie David and Karen !!!
We have a favourite little Restaurant / Pizzeria in Itri that we tend to frequent quite regularly. It goes by the name of the “Bellavista”. It is perched on a hill-side overlooking the town and the view of Itri is truly magnificent, both by day and by night.
We like the restaurant because it is a well run, small family business, it is unpretentious but it serves good food and good wine at reasonable prices. We have become good friends with the owners.
From the menu you can choose from a good selection of pizzas which are prepared to order and baked in their own wood-fired oven.
Alternatively, if you would like a traditional Italian meal then you can choose from the following courses:
Primo Piatti (a selection of traditional pasta dishes)
Secondo Piatti (main courses of meat, fish or sea-food)
and Contorni (side dishes of vegetables or salad)
For Dessert they offer a selection of cheeses, fresh fruit salad or a variety of ice-creams.
Unlike some local restaurants, if you do not wish to have a huge Italian meal of numerous courses, you can choose to order just one or two. The staff here do not make you feel pressurised to order more than you really want.
The atmosphere is informal and relaxed and it is open from 7.30 pm each and every evening.
We would highly recommend it.
Ristorante Pizzeria “Bellavista”
Via Mezzabrino, Itri (LT)
Tel: 0771 729 698 Mobile: 392.8686006
For More Information about Itri and the surrounding area please take a look at our South Lazio Website