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You may recall that last year our friend Pietro brought some of his horses to graze on our land at Tre Cancelle, to help keep the grass short in the olive groves. Pietro has about 12 horses in all and has a small farm surrounded by the Aurunci mountains where he also keeps a herd of goats, some chickens and sometimes a pig.
We have taken to visiting him often as we are keen to learn about keeping livestock.
Pietro’s two teenage boys are amazing, they willingly help him with the daily chores on the farm, they are so hard working.
Each afternoon after school the boys, Mirko and Matteo, take the herd of goats out for a long walk so they can graze freely along the hedgerows.
One of our first visits was in January, while Emma and Aneurin were still here.
Aneurin was totally fearless amongst the goats.
I, however, was a little more hesitant as I can recall visiting a farm zoo as a child, and becoming most upset when one of the goats started to eat the buttons off my coat !!!
However, slowly I am becoming braver. Each one has a different character, apparently some have horns and some do not. They are very inquisitive, but they don’t really want to do you any harm.
We were surprised to see that a young puppy was living with the goats in the barn. He is a beautiful Maremma sheepdog, an ancient breed used for guarding flocks of sheep or goats. As the dog grows up with the goats a strong bond develops and they become very loyal to the flock and will protect them against danger.
Pietro told us that before long the pregnant goats would be giving birth. We returned a week or two later to see some of the babies.
When we arrived many of the mother goats were out on their constitutional walk so the babies were left bleating in the barn on their own. They were so cute !!!
This mother had only given birth a few hours earlier.
Soon we could hear the clanking of bells signalling the return of the flock and the babies bleated eagerly awaiting their mothers.
At first there seemed to be great confusion but we soon realised that the boys had already learned who belonged to who and deftly began pairing up each mother with its offspring, latching them on to their mothers’ teets. The boys then helped put fresh hay into the racks for the adult goats to eat.
We returned a few weeks later, and my how the babies had grown !!!
They skittishly ran back and forth from one end of the barn to the other.
Now they were no longer totally dependent on their mothers’ milk. Pietro said he would soon think of making some fresh Marzolino goats cheese.
Here are some of Pietro’s cockerels and chickens.
Hopefully before too long we will get around to getting some chickens of our own !!!
And I may have talked Paul into getting a few goats to graze on the hill and amongst the wood !!!
Thank you Pietro for being such a good friend and for sharing your invaluable knowledge.
All photos by me
© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)
Whilst researching for the filming at Campodimele we had the pleasure of being introduced to Maria and Fausto who run a bar and the village’s petrol station located at the foot of the ancient village. Annexed to the bar is their little trattoria called La Casareccia. We had already heard by word of mouth that this was a rather good place to eat.
To be honest, the restaurant doesn’t look much from outside, but inside past the bar it is homely and cosy. In the warmer summer months one can eat “al fresco” in the tented extension.
Maria is clearly passionate about cooking and puts her heart and soul into whatever she creates. She explained to us that she uses fresh wholesome locally sourced produce to create authentic traditional dishes of this beautiful region. It could possibly be called “cucina povera”, which literally translated means food of the poor. It is rustic Italian country cooking at its best, humble yet packed with flavour.
On this morning she was going to cook “Ciammotte” one of the village’s local delicacies (snails flavoured with mint and other herbs). She showed me the snails that she was preparing.
Maria showed us how she makes her own pasta including the typical “Laina” which is made with wheat flour, water and a pinch of salt, without the addition of eggs. The dough must be worked vigorously to obtain a uniform mass and then rolled out thinly. This is then covered with a thin layer of flour and allowed to stand for a few minutes. The it is then rolled up and then cut into uneven strips.
It is typically served with a sauce containing fagiole beans or “la Cicerchia” (the grass pea), an unusual type of chickpea / pulse widely used during Roman times.
Maria also makes her own delicious Ravioli.
We booked a table for four for the following weekend to celebrate our friend’s birthday. Maria and Fausto were very attentive and helpful. We all ordered the “Antipasti della Casareccia” which was made from typical local produce and had a delectable range of flavours and textures.
In addition we were presented with crunchy “bruschetta“, little fried dumplings ……
and the typical “Zuppa di Cicerchia”.
Then I ordered Gnocchi with Wild Asparagus and Mushrooms
while the boys chose Tagliatelli with a Pork Ragu. Absolutely delicious.
The prices are very modest and the portions are generous – so we recommend expandable waistbands !!!
The last occasion was Easter Monday or “Pasquetta” and the place was full and buzzing with people.
During the winter months the restaurant is only open on Friday and Saturday evenings, but during the summer months it is open most evenings.
Highly Recommended !!!
Bar Trattoria La Casareccia
Stazione di servizio Repsol, 04020 Campodimele, Italy
All photos by me
© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)
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 ….
Kirsten and Kyle, the mad fools, were determined to take a dip in the pool. It was somewhat nippy at this time of year !!!
Kyle and Jessica even managed to fit in a day trip to Rome on the train.
All photos above by Kyle Blannin
Thank you so much guys for all your hard work.
It was so appreciated.
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.
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.
Once again the pool came into its own ……..
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 …..
Very tasty it was too !!!
We managed to fit in a quick visit to Atina with them all ……
and a quick visit to see cousins Mario and Mara.
Sadly too soon it was time for the Whites to make their way home.
We wish you could have stayed longer !!!
Meanwhile we enjoyed some more extra special time with Aneurin and Emma.
Cheeky Monkey !!!
Thank you to everyone for making our Summer such a happy one !!!
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)
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.
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 !!!
During their stay with us Tom celebrated his 9th birthday for which we held a little party.
Tom was especiallyl impressed with his special ice-cream birthday cake from the Fiocco di Neve.
The evening before their last night our friends Pauline and Filippo kindly invited us all to have supper at their home.
Thanks to Pauline and Filippo for a lovely evening !!!
Sending our love to you all.
We miss you !!!
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)
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 !!!
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.
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.
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.
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 !!!
The Madonna della Cività is the patron of Itri. An ancient sanctuary, one of the oldest in Italy, bears her name. It is located inland, approximately 10 km from the centre of Itri, along a long winding road that leads its way through the Valle d’Itri into the Aurunci mountains, perched at a height of 670 metres on the peak of Monte Cività.
Up here the mountain air is clean and fresh, and on a clear day there are magnificent panoramic mountain views, whilst in one direction you can look down over Itri, the Gaeta peninsula and Ischia, in another you can see Fondi and its coastal lakes and the superb coastline that sweeps round and culminates in the rocky promontory of San Felice Circeo, and the Pontine archipelago.
Here there is a church decorated in a Baroque style, a quiet place of prayer and contemplation.
It houses the sacred icon, a painting of a black Madonna and Child, which is thought to have been painted by the St Luke the Evangelist, dating back to the 8th century when the Byzantine Emperor Leo III ordered religious persecutions and outlawed sacred images.
Legend has it that this work of art was lost at sea and then later found by a young mute herdsman who was searching for a missing cow on the mountainside. On discovering the painting in the branches of a holm oak tree, the boy fell to his knees and prayed, and miraculously was able to hear and speak for the first time in his life. He went back to the town of Itri to tell people what had happened and the townsfolk were amazed to witness that the boy could now communicate.
This site became a venerated shrine and a Benedictine monastery, a destination of pilgrimage. The steady stream of pilgrims grew over the years and the sanctuary and its hostels grew accordingly.
In 1527 Itri found itself struck by the devasting Black Death. On the 21 July of that year many people gathered at the Sanctuary and a procession took place through the local towns and villages with the sacred icon carried aloft. The Madonna is said to have miraculously intervened to spare many from the terrible plague.
So each year on the 21 July approximately 500,000 people make a sacred pilgrimage to the Sanctuary, some still on foot.
On the outskirts of Itri in the Raino district there is a small shrine at the start of an ancient sheep track, a winding mountain trail that pilgrims have followed to reach the Sanctuary.
In Itri near Via Farnese there is also a shrine dedicated to the
Madonna della Cività.
The annual Feast of the Madonna della Cività
is held in Itri over three consecutive days, 20th, 21st, 22nd July.
All photos by me (except where stated)
© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)
At the end of June we were invited to attend the Italian wedding of our dear friends, Raffaele and Nicole. A few years back Raffaele was one of our English students. He had a longing to travel to America and was thus keen to improve his English language skills. He went to stay with family friends in California and while there met is wife to be Nicole. Nicole’s family also orignate from Itri.
They had recently married in California but the they were to then to fly to Italy to hold a second wedding ceremony here in Itri.
The ceremony was to be held in the old medieval quarter of upper Itri, which has an ancient castle and a warren of narrow cobbled streets, stone stairways and alleys. At the top is the old 9th century church of of San Michele Arcangelo.
The wedding reception was to be held in the most splendid setting of Villa Paola near Fondi.
A huge range of delicious antipasti were served al fresco in the beautiful gazebo. This was the bride and groom’s table.
For the rest of the meal we were directed inside into the lavish banquet hall.
The delicious meal that insued was fish based and of numerous courses served at intervals during the afternoon.
In between there were pauses for those who would like a little twirl around the dance floor. The fuller everyone got the harder it was to move, let alone dance !!!
There were numerous toasts or “brindisi” wishing the happy couple happiness, good health and good fortune by family and friends alike.
Finally it was time to step outside once again for the bride and groom to cut the wedding cake.
Congratulations Raffaele and Nicole, may you have many happy years together.
Thank you both, and a special thanks also to Florisa and Franco for allowing us to share your special day.
All photos by me
© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)
On the Sunday afternoon of the Infiorata in Itri, people come from far and wide to see the beautiful carpet of flower petals created for the Feast of Corpus Domini. In this instance I think I will allow the photos to speak for themselves …….
This is the butterfly design that Kay and I helped out on ……..
We walked down the old cobble stones of the ancient Via Appia (Corso Appia Claudio) and peeked down a narrow alleyway to see yet more colourful designs.
An altar had been carefully set up along the way side. The solemn Corpus Domini Procession was on its way.
The priest walked under an ornate embroidered canopy, his shoulders covered with a silk cloak, the ends of which he used to prevent his hands from touching the sacred sacrament that was held aloft in a special holder. He paused at intervals along the way to say prayers and bless the various districts of the town.
As the procession wound its way around the town, we chose made our way back to Via della Repubblica where a podium had been set up for the culmination of the ceremony. Finally the procession arrived here lead by young children who had recently make their First Communion and the members of the town’s band..
Prayers were once again said and in due course the priest blessed the town and all its inhabitants.
At the close of the ceremony, the priest and his group of little angels proceeded to walk over the painstakingly prepared carpet of flowers back towards the parish church.
It seemed such a crying shame that the beautiful floral tapestry would be destroyed after so many hours of painstaking work by the teams of volunteers. However by the following day, all was dutifully swept away, indeed there was little to show that it had even taken place.
© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)
A previous post about the Feast of Corpus Domini