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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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For a long time we have wished to have some more animals at Tre Cancelle, you might think we have quite enough with the 10 dogs in the Woof-Gang !!!

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Our land takes a deal of looking after, and before the summer and the risk of wild fires, Paul has to spend lots of time and energy strimming the groves.  We had talked of getting some sheep  to graze our land and keep the grass and weeds down, but somehow we had never got around to organising it.  One evening we visited our friends at the Bellavista Restaurant in Itri and Giancarlo eagerly told us that they had acquired a pony to clear their small patch of land.  The horse was named Pino and was temporarily on loan from a farmer named Pietro who lived nearby.  We asked if Pietro might have any other horses that needed grazing. 

We soon got to meet Pietro who arranged to come and find us to see the lay of our land.  Pino had done a very good clearance job up at the Bellavista, in fact he had practically eaten his way out of a job.  Pietro suggested that he could bring Pino down to us  for a trial period.  First, however, Paul had to organise some more fencing to make him  an enclosure.

Finally Pino arrived and seemed to take easily to his new surroundings.  At the restaurant he had been always tethered but here at Tre Cancelle he had much more space to roam.

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Having had no experience of horses previously we didn’t know what to expect, but we soon came to realise that he had an individual character, as much as any of the dogs do. He is very friendly, very used to human contact and comes to find you when he hears you call.  He is very happy to received tasty morsels such as carob pods, apples, water melon, but his particular favourite is carrots.  Paul would go down to find him early each morning and a friendship has developed.  Pino’s appetite never seems to diminish and he eats a range of plants, grass and weeds, but does not touch the olive tree at all.

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Originally we’d incorporated the wooden posts, which had  plain wire running between them for supporting the vines, but before long we realised that three lines of plain wire did not constitute a “Pino-proof” fence and he escaped with alarming regularity to where the grass was greener and tastier on the other side.  It seemed that every day we were going to retrieve him, often from the vegetable patch where he’d polished off all the lettuces we had planted !!!  Bit by bit Paul improved the fencing and before long we had to extend his enclosure as he had done such a good clean up job.   Pietro and his children comes up regularly to see Pino and and is always available when there are problems.  He has taught Paul how to improve his technique of barb-wire fencing and also shown him how to install an electric fence.

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It became apparent that poor Pino was becoming severely bothered by flys so Paul decided to experiment with Neem oil,  a natural insect repellent, which we have used on the dogs for ticks and fleas.  On one occasion, whilst massaging Pino with the oil, without realising that they were both standing a little too close to the electric fence, Paul bent down to apply the Neem to Pino’s legs and  somehow managed to reverse himself into the electric wire giving himself a severe  jolt on the bum. 

Not to be recommended !!! 

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So Paul set off for the UK to stay for a week with his father and renew his Passport.  Paul left a long detailed list of instructions of daily tasks that needed to be undertaken in his absence.

Kay is an early morning riser, while I tend to be a bit of a night owl, and I am known for being a tad  sleepy in the mornings !!!  So Kay volunteered to do the early morning tasks – which were letting  the dogs out of their kennels.

Then there are a lot of chores concerned with the daily maintenance of the swimming pool in order to keep it in a tip-top condition for all the guests.  Overnight the pool pump circulates and filters the water taking the majority of the debris that has fallen in the pool in the course of the day. Inevitably some of the debris sinks to the bottom, so Kay carried out the early morning maintenance task of connecting a flexible hose to the pump creating a siphon to allow sunken debris to be “hoovered” from the bottom.  When the pump has switched off on the timer for the day Kay removed and cleaned the filter ready to start the cleaning cycle again in the evening.

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Then she would get the washing machine going, as here it can be a bit like a Chinese laundry with the amount of sheets etc.  We have purchased a super duper washing machine that takes loads of up to 12 kilos, and Kay had things well organised and soon had the washing hanging out on the line to dry.   

Then she would proceed to mix up the dogs food ready for their supper in the late afternoon.

Sometimes the staff that work behind the Delicatessen counter in our local supermarket kindly put aside any off-cuts of ham, cheese and salami for us to supplement the dogs dinners.  These we have to  laboriously chop up into small pieces with a pair of scissors.

By around 4 or 5 pm the dogs are normally beginning to have rumbley tummies and are keen to remind us that it is nearly feeding time.

We laid out all the dog bowls, 10 in all now.  The number of spoons of the doggy dinner mixture depends on the sizes of the dogs. It was a little more complicated as the vet had given them all various tablets, so we had to make sure who got what, but we soon got into a routine.  3 dogs are kept in an enclosure near our caravan, and the rest are in another fenced area behind the house.

Once the food had been delivered and eagerly consumed we spent some time giving the dogs a fuss.  Kay has really taken to Monty, Henry and Bella, and often enjoyed their cuddles and vice versa.  Kay has taught Monty to say “please” by putting up his poor.  Henry is quite partial to sharing a cup of tea and a biscuit with Kay, and Bella is just so affectionate and will launch herself on to your lap for a cuddle at the slightest provocation.

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Kay, Bella and Henry

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Kay and Bella

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Kay, Henry, Bella and Cara

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Monty

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Max

As Kay is such an early riser she tends to need an early-ish bed time, so at around 9pm we would take the doggies some bed time biscuits to encourage them to go into their appropriate cwtches. Normally  this went to plan, however one night I could hear a bit of a commotion and realised that Bella had somehow escaped  from her kennel. It turned out the catch on her kennel door had come adrift. By this time Kay was already snoring so I had to Skype Paul for advice. Fortunately he had left some screw-in eye fixings in a little plastic tub on the dresser behind the computer, so I was able to find them quickly together with a pair of pliers. I tried to screw them into the wooden door and door post whereby I could thread through a piece of wire and twist it to secure the door.  Perhaps this sounds easy, however when carrying out this operation whilst holding a torch was somewhat of a challenge, but fortunately I managed it.

The next morning Kay could not comprehend what had happened and it apparently took her ages to unwind the piece of wire, as I had wound it around so many times – I had been so determined that Bella would not be able to escape yet again !!!

One morning a fire started on Monte Marano behind Tre Cancelle, there was a strong breeze which was fanning the flames.  

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I immediately rang 115, to alert the Fire Brigade. Then two members of the Corpo Forestale arrived, it seems that they had just been in the area and were coming to investigate the cause of the fire. They informed me that in the case of a wild fire it was better to call the Corpo Forestale on 1515. They immediately summoned a fire fighting helicopter  Amazing the helicopter , which carried a large bucket slung beneath it, arrived within 10 minutes and began to douse the flames. It proceeded to carry out numerous such trips until the fire was put out. The Forestale police seemed suspicious that the fire could have been started intentionally, as it is unusual for fires to start so early in the season. They took an official statement from Kay as to what she had witnessed throughout the morning.  Let’s hope we don’t have any more fires this year in our vicinity.

We had a big fire that engulfed our wooded hillside last August. You can read more about it here.

http://trecancelle.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/146-fire-at-tre-cancelle-august-2012/

All photos by me 

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

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One lunchtime we all ate together with the builders on the terrace, Saverio’s wife had kindly prepared a delicious meal for us all.

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We explained to the lads that Elsie, Karen and Bobbie belonged to a troup of Belly-dancers, which performs regularly in South Wales.  Suddenly Karen and Bobbie rushed off only to return a few minutes later fully dressed in their dancing attire.

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The builders were transfixed by their whirls and twirls !!!

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One evening we all went out to our favourite restaurant, where the girls, this time including Elsie, put on another colourful show-stopping performance. 

Here I’ll let the photos do the talking ……..

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Well done girls (and Gian-Carlo)   Bravissimo !!!

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Bobbie, Karen and Elsie

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During Emma and Aneurin’s stay we helped our friend Filippo to make some wine. A few days earlier at “Tre Cancelle” we had harvested all the grapes from the vines that grow between the olive trees.  This year we had not given the vines the care and attention that they deserved, however there was still a reasonably bountiful crop.

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Filippo took the crates of grapes back to his house where he crushed them in a large vat. Here they remained for 5 days, Filippo took care to stir and turn the grapes both morning and night .

On the 5th day it was time to actually press the grapes.  We helped to scoop up the mashed grapes and put them into the centre of the old manual press or “torchio”.

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The press works on a square thread on a ratchet mechanism which you gradually wind down until the grapes begin to be squeezed.

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The juice runs down and is collected in buckets and transferred into 2 x 56 litre demi-johns.

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The tops are then sealed and the mixture is left to settle before being  siphoned off a week or so later. Aneurin very much enjoyed helping.

A job well done !!!

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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.

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The safe sandy beach was an absolute delight for a fearless energetic 2 year old !!!

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Aneurin really enjoyed the freedom of  the wide open spaces and olive groves around “Tre Cancelle”

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and we dug out the old train set from the loft, which went down very well !!!

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One evening we went to our friends’ restaurant – the Bellavista in Itri, run by Giancarlo and Massimo. Here Massimo gave Aneurin and Emma a lesson in making pizza.

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We all, including Aneurin, very much enjoyed our pizzas !!!

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Giancarlo has a little girl just a few months older than Aneurin.

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It was so lovely to see them interacting. It was clear that Chiara had taken quite a shine to Aneurin.

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Thanks to all at the Bellavista for a lovely rememberable evening !!!

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It was with heavy hearts that in October we had to say our goodbyes to our dear friend, Loredana.  She sadly passed away, having put up a long and courageous fight against cancer.

Luca and Loredana had helped us greatly by house-sitting  “Tre Cancelle” and looking after our dogs– the infamous “Woof-Gang” during our absence 2 years ago.

Loredana and Luca much loved “Tre Cancelle” and the dogs, indeed she loved all animals and nature, and enjoyed walking in the mountains surrounding Itri.

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She much enjoyed arts and crafts and she was a keep photographer –  Luca and Loredana had run a photographic shop in Itri for many years.

We will always remember her as being fun loving, smiling and laughing.

We all shared some special times together.

We will remember her fondly and miss her greatly. May she rest in peace.

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photo *

Our hearts go out to her loving husband Luca, their son Lorenzo

and all the rest of the family.

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Loredana Persechino

1963 – 2012

* photo by photos8.com

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(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.

“The Woof-Gang”

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!

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Diana befriending Tinkerbell

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.

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We visited markets selling every kind of produce under the sun, watched a religious procession …

Feast of Saints Cosma e Damiano

drove up into the mountains to see elaborate churches, villages perched on mountain tops and of course the famous Abbey of Monte Cassino.

The Abbey of Montecassino

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.

Atina’s ancient Cathedral

An alley in Atina

Louise and Paul at Atina’s weekly market

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.

Trevor and Paul at the Bellavista

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.

Diana

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I awoke with a start when Paul burst in to say that the Vet would be here in 5 minutes. It was time for the dogs to have their annual check-ups and vaccinations.  Maurizio, who we have come to consider as a good friend, is very sympathetic to our cause and very kindly only charges for the medication and not for his time.

As we walked around to the front of the house I noticed the patio was littered with black specks of ash, and as I looked up it became clear that a fire was close-by. Columns  of grey / brown smoke were billowing from behind the hill in the Valle Staura area.  We immediately phoned 115 to alert the Fire Brigade. 

Maurizio then arrived and we tried to concentrate on the job in hand, of getting the dogs inoculated.

Meanwhile the smoke continued to rise into the sky, swirling in the light breeze.  Before long we could hear the crackling as the bush fire neared the summit.  The Polizia Forestale and the Vigili arrived and I directed them to drive up the rough track on our neighbour’s land, that leads to the top of the hill. 

One of our guests, Andrew White began to video the scene …….  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vbf-2EPMKUg

The bright orange flames soon became visible as they continued to ferociously devour all in their path. The firemen began dousing the edge of the inferno which was by now descending our flank of the rocky limestone slope, and scrubland.  This is composed of densely growing vegetation such as broom, heather, juniper, myrtle, rock roses, wild asparagus and stramma grass. The fire also took hold of many Cork Oak trees along the way. The terrain was parched as we have in the last month or so, been regularly experiencing temperatures in the mid 30’s centigrade.

I and all the members of the White family speedily ran down to the edge of the wood, which borders our olive grove.  Andrew and Paul lugged down the petrol driven pump, to where we had previously had the forethought to install a water stand pipe. Here we were able to fill up a large tub with water, to act as a reservoir, and hence deliver water through the long yellow hose that we would normally use for spraying the olive trees.

Paul and Andrew intrepidly took this hose into the woods spraying the edges of the fire that was steadily creeping through the undergrowth, while the rest of us frantically filled buckets and any containers we could find with water in an effort to dampen down the boundary of the wood  to prevent the fire from reaching our olive trees.

At last a fire fighting helicopter arrived with its first bucket of water to release over the fire, dowsing an area of the flames.

a great photo by andrew white

It then returned in the direction of Fondi Lake to refill and repeat the procedure. Indeed the helicopter to and froed many times and then a second helicopter joined in the fire-fighting effort.

In between the skillful helicopter manoeuvres and drops Paul and Andrew continued to work on the edge of the fire. Yet as one area seemed to come under control another section would flare up necessitating taking up new positions along the creeping front.

Eventually the Vigili thought we had all managed to get the fire under control, and we continued to douse down stubborn little pockets. 

I chatted to the head of the Volunteer Fire-Fighting team, who informed me that the fire had started the evening before in Valle Staura, but because it was dark the helicopters were unable to fly.  I asked what he considered to be the cause to the fire, and he replied that he was pretty sure it had been started intentionally and that the suspected culprits were local herdsmen or hunters, who try to clear troublesome undergrowth to enrich pasture-land and stimulate regrowth. There had been a spate of local fires during the last few days and weeks, far too many to have been all started naturally.  Indeed, in Italy, it is said that 98% of forest fires are caused by people while only 2% by natural phenomena.  One night recently, during the Feast of the Madonna della Cività, a large fire had raged on one of the hills that encircle the town. The problem, the fireman said, is that it is difficult to catch the arsonist with such malicious intentions in the actual act.

Around mid afternoon, seemingly the job was done, the helicopters having returned to base.

We adjourned to the upstairs balcony for a most welcome cup of tea.  However, from this vantage point, and only a couple of mouthfuls of tea later, it became very obvious that under the tree canopy, in the most dense patches of parched undergrowth the fire had rekindled and ominous columns of smoke began to rise once again like the proverbial phoenix. 

So once again Paul and Andrew dashed back down, refilled the pump’s motor with petrol and set to work tackling the re-energised flames within the woods. 

After another hour or so, Paul was suffering badly from heat and exhaustion, and was forced to sit down, before Andrew drove him back to the house in our car, where Paul had to retire and take to his bed for a while.

In the meantime I joined the White family went back on the balcony to keep an eye on things.  Before long a new large plume of brown smoke appeared on the hillside ……. http://youtu.be/QBickbHENdE

I phoned 115 once again, and before long we once again heard fire trucks in the vicinity, and shortly afterward the familiar and welcome hum of the helicopter making its way in our direction.

The helicopter tackled the new region of fire.

a great atmospheric photo by andrew white

The rest of us had to start again working on small persistent pockets of fire which stubbornly held on.

At this point our Italian guests returned from the beach, and rushed down to find us. Valter asked me to find some spades. It turned out that he had had experience as a Volunteer Fire Fighter in the Torino area – what a wonderful choice of guest to have at this critical moment !!!

Paul was by now feeling a little better and he helped locate the required tools.  Valter, using his invaluable experience, began moving burning chunks of debris away from the fresh and untouched vegetation, to areas that had already been consumed by the fire, where they could burn out harmlessly.  Meanwhile Paul and Andrew continued dousing down along the front edge. 

By the end of light, we were exhausted, and had done all we could physically do, so we retired back to the house to shower off the soot and ash of the day’s toil.

Andrew and Jenny and family had very kindly prepared a meal for us to share with them all.  As we dined on the balcony we watched the glowing embers of tree trunks that had succumbed to the flames.

The next day, in the heat of the day small areas of our charred woodland began to smoke ominously, and we spotted flames in an area close to the edge of the wood. Once again we all sped into action, getting the pump working and handing out buckets of water.  Thankfully it did not take long to get these odd glowing patches extinguished.

We took a drive around to the far side of the hill to survey the damage in Valle Staura, where despite the fact that the fire had been largely extinguished, we could clearly see that some large sections of olive groves had been consumed, and there were several olive trees still burning. 

We cannot thank the White family enough for their sterling fire-fighting efforts. We don’t know how we would have managed without you.  Many thanks to Valter and family also.

The fire-fighting team ………..

Andrew, Ricky, Shannon, Caitlin, Niamh, Jenny, Bethan, Laura, Valter, Andrea, Matteo

Thank you all !!!

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An Italian Newspaper report of the fire:

http://www.h24notizie.com/news/2012/08/04/itri-due-incendi-tra-le-abitazioni-e-i-terreni-agricoli/

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Photos of last year’s fire that came close to Tre Cancelle:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2282992190947.131353.1133102162&type=3&l=4ffdc3934e

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Our first fire at Tre Cancelle in 2008:

http://trecancelle.wordpress.com/2008/10/09/fire/

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