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Saint Constance is the co-patron of the mountain town of San Donato Val Di Comino which sits on the edge of the Parco Nazionale di Abruzzo. Constance was a courageous young Roman girl who was martyred for defending her faith. In 1756, the saint’s remains were brought to San Donato for safe-keeping and housed in the Cathedral of Santa Maria and San Marcello.
Her feast is held annually on the last Sunday of August, and during this ancient festival there is a night vigil and a procession in which the saint’s statue is carried through the streets by 12 young men dressed as pages in colourful 18th century costumes.
Many of the locals also dress up in traditional costumes of the Ciociaria region.
The typical type of footware – the rather strange looking sandals known as “cioce”, from which the region of Ciociaria takes its name.
Santa Costanza is the patron saint of young people and of spinsters, who in the past were traditionally nicknamed as “cipolle”- “onions”. Therefore traditional local dishes are served based on onions such as the “cipollata” made of onions, cheese and eggs.
There is also the Mercatino di Santa Costanza – a traditional market that has been held every year since the 1700’s. The custom was that children were given a clay money box to encourage them to save up their pocket money throughout the year. On the feast day the money boxes were smashed and at the market the children were able to buy whistles, small toys and items made of terracotta, together with new money boxes to save up their coins or “spiccioli” for the next year.
Mothers had the opportunity to buy such things as plaited tresses of garlic or onions, terracotta urns, pots, pans and dishes.
At the market there are also stalls selling local arts and crafts, as well as traditional food products such as the curiously shaped Caciacavallo cheese.
The festivities also include entertainment in the form of comedians, acrobats, popular games, concerts and culminate in an impressive fireworks display.
and the neighbouring towns of the Val di Comino
At the end of August we were delighted to have our younger son Ben, his “other half” Emma and “Baby Bump” to stay. They are expecting a little arrival at the end of November and were both much in need of a relaxing holiday. This was to be Emma’s first trip to Italy.
Although their stay here was all too brief, Ben and Emma managed to fit in ….. a couple of days at the beach …..
some local sight-seeing (Sperlonga) …..
and a day in Rome.
We were all kindly invited to our friends, Luca and Loredana’s home, for a special meal to celebrate Luca’s 50th Birthday. Buon Compleanno Luca !!!
By the way -such a landmark birthday is shortly looming for
Paul this October !!!
One day we were also invited to San Donato and Atina in the Val di Comino and enjoyed another delicious meal with our Italian cousins.
Emma is a very passionate and creative cook and during her stay, delighted in preparing some srumptious food for us all.
Please come back soon Emma !!!
“Papa Woods” and Emma are about to move into their new home together in Cardiff, in time to get settled before the little addition to their family arrives.
We wish them all lots of love and all the very best in their new home.
During August we had the pleasure of having a lovely French family to stay with us. We soon learned that their summer holiday was booked to coincide with a family wedding that was to take place in this beautiful area of South Lazio. The bride’s family originated from the small town of Casalvieri, which is very close to Atina, the birthplace of my Italian grandparents, in the beautiful Val di Comino. The wedding was to be held at the Abbey of Casamari in Frosinone, which is located between the towns of Frosinone and Sora, close to Isola del Liri, with its beautiful waterfall.
We expressed interest about the wedding, and asked if we could tag along to observe the celebrations.
Thus, on the day of the wedding, Paul and I drove to Casamari. We purposely arrived early so that we had plenty of time to explore the ancient abbey, which is still a functioning monastery housing approximately twenty monks.
The Cistercian monastery dates back to the 13th century and is dedicated to Santa Maria, San Giovanni and San Paolo. It is noted as being a fine example of early-Gothic architecture, similar to that found at the Abbey of Fossanova, near Priverno.
The church has an elegant nave with clean simple lines and a vaulted ceiling. Despite its simplicity there are some examples of beautiful intricately carved stonework ….
… and some wonderfully ornate bronze doors.
Interestingly many of the windows, instead of being made of stained glass, are glazed with translucent slices of agate alabaster which give the majestic building a golden amber glow.
The main altar is of an ornate Baroque style, and was beautifully decorated for the wedding with exquisite arrangements of white roses.
We also explored the outside of the Abbey, the courtyard and gardens.
The tranquil Cloister and covered walkway has an ancient well as its centrepiece and the flowerbeds were planted with stunning scarlet salvias.
Before long the wedding guests began to arrive and the ceremony to celebrate the couple’s union got underway.
What a splendid location for a fairy tale wedding.
We wish the radiant couple much love and happiness and many splendid years together.
Our special friends : La Famille Filatriau: Regis, Domenique, Solenn and Tatiana
I (Louie) have been beavering away on the old computer.
Using my own photos I have now put together 2 Video / Slideshows.
Please do take a look ………..
One is dedicated to :
The second is about this interesting region of South Lazio
that we are so lucky to now live in :
I hope this will give you an idea
of what beauty surrounds us here at
For more details about our 2 Farmhouse Holiday Apartments
and other local Holiday Villas available to rent,
please go to our Website at :
On the 1st October we decided to take a trip to Atina, which is about an hour’s drive from us at “Tre Cancelle”. This was the Feast Day of Atina’s Patron Saint, San Marco Galileo.
Saint Mark was a disciple of Saint Peter the apostle and whilst on his way to Rome Saint Peter is said to have ordained him as the first Bishop of Atina in 45 AD. San Marco was martyred in approximately 96 AD and a church was built on the site of his burial.
His statue resides in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, and his feast day is celebrated in Atina each year with a formal religious procession, brass band concerts are held in the square in front of the cathedral and the celebrations culminate in a grand firework display. For the occasion, at night the town is beautiful illuminated with impressive displays of fairy lights.
There is also a procession on San Marco’s official feast day which falls on the 28th April.
Visit our Website about
Atina, the Val di Comino and Ciociaria
Over the past couple of years we have had the pleasure of meeting a number of visitors who have come to this area of Italy to try and trace their Italian ancestry, some with relatives who came from the Val di Comino area.
My own maternal grandparents originated from the beautiful mountain community of Atina, Frosinone, overlooking the River Melfa and the Meta and Mainarde mountains.
In Italy, in the latter half of the 1800’s and during the early 1900’s, times were very hard, many people toiled in miserable conditions and experienced severe hardship and poverty due to poor wages and food shortages. Thus my grandfather Benedetto felt restless, as many Italian families departed for distant lands: to America, France, Belgium, Scotland, and England. His elder brother and sister had already moved to live in London, and Benedetto, longing for adventure was also enticed by the prospect of emigration to a new land of opportunity.
Thus in the Summer of 1911 my Italian grandparents first set foot on English soil, and made their way to the city of London, to the district of Clerkenwell, the Italian quarter know as “Little Italy”. They rented a dilapidated house close to St Peter’s Italian Church, which was to be their home for many years to come. Here my mother was born and she was brought up in the Italian community. My grandmother Maria Grazia always pined for her home town of Atina and never managed to learn to speak English.
I was born nearby in the heart of London, “within the sound of Bow Bells”, so I suppose I could be considered to be an “Italian Cockney”. I have always had a true passion for Italy and all things Italian, and felt a real need to see for myself “the land of my forefathers”, visit Atina and walk in the footsteps of my grandparents.
15 years ago my husband and I spent a memorable fortnight staying with some of my Italian cousins, in Atina. It was our first meeting but we were so warmly welcomed and received into the family fold and Atina transpired to be even more charming than I could ever have imagined.
Thus began our irresistible love affair with “La Bella Italia”, and of course the very special town of Atina, which finally inspired us to risk everything, sell up lock, stock and barrel and entirely transform our lifestyle by moving to Italy.
Since then we have got to know several people who have family who originated from the Atina area, and since the creation of my Atina / Val di Comino website we have received many enquiries from people with ancestors from this beautiful area and share my passion for it.
Aldo De Angelis and his wife June from Scotland are tracing his family roots in Atina and Belmonte Castello – family surnames: De Angelis, Delicata, Ianetta, Notarangelo.
Whilst in Atina recently we asked at the Comune and at the local library whether there was a list of the graves in Atina Cemetery, but nobody there seemed to know. The main cemetery is located near the ruined church of San Marco and the church of San Pietro.
So, Paul and I have spent many hours browsing around and looking for the graves of my relatives. Some of the graves have some wonderful statues.
If anyone wants us to go and look for graves of family members who have passed away, and who may have been laid to rest in Atina Cemetery, we are happy to go and look for them whilst we are visiting our family in the area.
Common surnames of Atina include:
Amata / Amato, Bastianelli, Bove, Caira, Coppola, Di Angelis, De Luca Delicata, Di Duca, Di Paolo, Fortunata, Mancini, Marini, Nardelli, Rossi, Sabatini, Tamburrini, Tortolani, Visocchi , Volante.
Yes we are sad family history “anoraks” !!!
Sadly we got addicted years ago, and there’s little hope for us now.
We already belong to the Guild of One Name Studies and are carrying out a “one name study” of the surname Shapcott and its variant spellings.
Also I have been considering making an application for my Italian citizenship through what is known as “jure sanguine”.
As both of my grandparents were both born and married in Atina, and they did not became naturalised British citizens during their life-time I should be entitled to Italian citizenship. Amongst the documentation required to obtain this is my grandparents’ marriage certificate and their birth certificates.
I know that they were both born in Atina and even have details of their parents and grandparents, as I have seen their families listed on the “Stato di Famiglia” held by the Comune of Atina. So recently we visited the townhall to ask for copies of the above certificates. Sadly, the staff there were not exactly welcoming and accommodating. They said they would take the information and that we would have to come back another day. I recently heard from my cousin in Atina that the Comune had failed to find the requested documents, so I am somewhat down-hearted.
But … I will persevere !!!
This is Italy !!! Nothing is simple, especially regarding bureaucracy. I have tried to organise an opportunity to look through some of Atina’s church registers, but to no avail, it seems that they are guarded with a rod of iron by the Parish Priest.
As yet Italians just don’t seem to “get” family history, indeed it is far from the popular pass-time in the UK where within County Halls and libraries there are departments dedicated to giving the public access to the Saint Catherine’s Index of Births, Deaths and Marriages, numerous Censuses, Church Registers, old newspapers etc. etc.
Italians still fail to realise how important it is for people to be able trace one’s family roots and learn so much about local social and cultural history. If you ask Italians about their ancestors, they sometimes get quite nervous and seem guarded, perhaps suspicious that some stranger may be after some money or trying to claim back some old derelict house of piece of family land !!! There are so many family disputes regarding ownership of land in Italy.
Anyway, I will keep you posted on our progress with my goal of obtaining my Italian Citizenship.
Anyone with ancestors from the Atina / Val di Comino area –
We’d love to hear from you !!!
Having enjoyed it so much last year, on the first Sunday of August we eagerly returned to Atina to watch the Gran Premio Dell’Arco, the Go Kart racing competition. This year we took lots of photos of the event.
Just like last year, the designs of the carts were many and varied, the common theme being all “wheels” are made from “Ball Bearing Races” kindly donated by the manufacturer SKF of nearby Cassino.
Whilst not fully up to pace with all the design regulations, its seems carts can have three or four bearings and these can be either large or small, or indeed a combination of both. For months in advance the carts are lovingly crafted and tinkered with in the cellars and garages around the town, it has to be said some a little more seriously than others.
There are three driver age groups, the youngest driver age band being the Teenagers, then the 18 to 50 year olds, and finally the Seniors or over 50’s. Time trials are carried out throughout the morning of the event. Each driver gets a lone run which is meticulously timed and determines their actual starting position on the grid. Then in the afternoon, after a good plate of pasta of course, the main races follow !!!
This year in addition to the normal fixed point cameras along the course, the events were recorded by an “eye in the sky” in the form of a helicopter camera man, and the event was recorded by a local radio station c.A.c. A c.a.S.
The course runs for a length of approximately 2.5 kilometres, starting from the main archway at the entrance of the old Centro Storico in Atina Superiore, and winds its way down to Atina Inferiore / Ponte Melfa on the valley floor below.
3 members of our family were to take part: Cousin Mario and his two sons Giuseppe and Simone.
Each race began with the sound system playing a loud rousing fan-fare to fully set the scene. The commentator then began the final countdown, and soon the competitors went careering off down the hill, fronted by a squad of motor bikes noisily beeping their horns. In the square a large TV screen had been set up for the spectators to watch the rest of the race on the long winding road down to the finishing line.
Finally the ceremonial presentations of the trophies to the victors are held in the early evening. This year was more special for our family because we had a podium finish. Cousin Mario achieved second place in the over 50’s section, setting the standard for next year for his two sons to endeavour to supersede.
Bravo Mario !!!
Also this year was special because in the middle category there was a lady driver on the podium for the first time ever.
One day we drove with Ben and Keith up to Atina, to visit “la famiglia” where we were, as always warmly received. It was over 3 years since Ben’s last time in Atina.
He enjoyed wandering through the cobbled streets, taking some photos here and there of the home town of his Italian great-grandparents, Benedetto and Maria Grazia.
photos by ben woods
We very much enjoyed Dad and Esmé’s stay, even though we were somewhat preoccupied with Deefer’s snake bite and final preparations as new guests that were to arrive shortly. During his holiday with us, we belatedly celebrated Dad’s 80th Birthday by holding a little “Afternoon Tea Party” here at “Tre Cancelle”, inviting a number of our friends.
That week we were all invited to visit my cousin’s in San Donato for lunch. Dad very much enjoyed meeting Antonella, after having read about her trials and tribulations regarding the Earthquake in L’ Aquila.
Peter was keen to explain to her that he had shared a similar experience. During the war, as a lad, he had been evacuated out of London, to stay with family in Exeter. However during this time the house they were living in was bombed during one of the German Baedeker raids. Dad had taken refuge in the house’s Morrison Shelter, and somehow managed to scramble out of the ruins and debris virtually unscathed.