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A few days after Elsie’s party a couple more good friends arrived from Cardiff, Nicki and Callum, who had volunteered to help out for a week in the “Tre Cancelle” olive groves.  This was their second visit to Itri. 

Sadly this year once again we had no olives.  It is not just us, though, it is the same in many of the olive groves in Itri, because there were strong winds back in early May when the trees are in bloom and the flowers failed to set. 

We have recently got some workers in to help with some pruning in the lower section of the grove, and they had left behind piles of branches and twigs that littered the ground. 

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The job in hand was then to chomp out and separate the chunky branches from the smaller twiggy ones, called “frasche”, using pneumatically powered secateurs.

Then all the small branches have to be gathered up and burned.

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The burn ferociously because of the amount of oil in the sap.

We all got stuck in and worked our cotton socks off for several days and managed to clear several of the terraces.  In fact it became a quite a challenge as to how many terraces we could conquer.   Callum is only 14 but he worked so hard. Nicki you should be so proud of him.

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However, it wasn’t all work and no play that week.

We all went out for a special birthday meal at the “Casareccia” in Campodimele and were joined once again by our American friends from Ohio, Florisa and Patrizia.

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Once again Maria served up copious amounts of wonderful handmade delicacies.

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Callum is a keen young cook and whilst staying at Tre Cancelle he made a fabulous chocolate cake.

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You can come and stay again Callum !!!

On their last evening we took Callum, Nicki and Kay to the Bellavista.

Here Callum had a one to one lesson in art of pizza making, by the expert himself – Massimo !!!

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It’s not as easy as it looks !!!  It is all about stretching the dough.

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Callum made a special pizza for his mum ……

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10640987_10204396131097029_3836549291719371199_nNicki, Anna and Kay

Thank you Kay, Callum and Nicki

for all your support and hard work during that busy week. 

We couldn’t have done it without you !!!

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Some while ago I started a new group on Facebook, 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.  The group is called: “WE LOVE ATINA !!!” We now have reached a total of over 400 members.

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

Brigida Varley and I organised a “Get Together” of “We Love Atina” members in Bella Atina over the weekend of the 26th / 27th / 28th September 2014.

On the Friday afternoon Paul and I had the pleasure of meeting up with Mark and Jan Waldron and Mark’s cousin Peter in Ponte Melfa, in Atina Inferiore.

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On the Friday evening we met up at the bar near the Arco and the new fountain for drinks, so we could begin to get to know each other, and what a lovely bunch of people they were.

Paula Demarco, Delfa Macari, Trevor and Brigida Varley,  Mark and Jan Waldron, Gina Pollard and her father Enrico Battaglia, and me Louise

Paula Demarco, Delfa Macari, Trevor and Brigida Varley, Mark and Jan Waldron, Gina Pollard and her father Enrico Battaglia, and me Louise

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Trevor & Brigida Varley, Wark Waldron

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Gina Pollard, Mary Gilmour and Enrico Battaglia

Brigida Varley,  Mark and Jan Waldron, Gina Pollard

Brigida Varley, Mark and Jan Waldron, Gina Pollard

After some discussion we decided that we would go back down to Ponte Melfa to the Villa Fortuna, a hotel and restaurant run by a friendly couple – Marcello and Christiana.  On Friday night they do a Fish and Chip Supper which went down a treat.

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The Hotel Villa Fortuna’s Website

 

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

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During the summer months the population of Itri swells with holiday visitors and as families that emigrated abroad return to their beloved home town.  Many come to attend Itri’s July festival which is held in honour of its patron, “La Madonna della Cività”.

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The festival always culminates in a splendid firework display which emanates from the magnificent castle that dominates the old medieval quarter.

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During July and August Itri holds a whole host of events and this year we ventured to see the “Festa Medievale” which was also held up in the old historic part of town.  We arrived early, however the streets were already jammed with cars heading for the festival, and parking spaces were at a premium.  So we decided to park in the lower part of town and continue by making our way on foot.

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The old town is a warren of narrow cobble stone streets, archways, gates and stairways.  It is full of interesting nooks and crannies, there is something of interest around every corner.

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Detail of the Bell Tower of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore

 

In the main square traditional games had been set up to entertain the children.

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By the castle there was a display of falconry with live birds of prey – Such exquisite creatures.

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As we wandered through the narrow alleyways amongst the jostling crowd we came across local folk dressed in Medieval costumes, acting as feudal lords, courtiers, swordsmen, archers, flag throwers and street musicians.

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There were also stalls selling traditional gastronomic delights and arts and crafts …..

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and an exhibition of gruesome implements of torture.

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The authentic atmosphere of Itri’s historic old town was just perfect for such an event and I think an enjoyable evening was had by all.

 

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

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It was an absolute delight to have my cousins Cathy and Jeff come and stay with us during the month of June. They had left Australia to visit family in the UK and spend to some time in Wales, a place Cathy loves dearly, where her parents were both born.  Then prior to coming to us they had spent a couple of weeks on a farm in Umbria visiting old friends and helping to look after their flock of sheep.  When they arrived here at Tre Cancelle they came with a wonderful Peccorino cheese which was utterly delicious.

It had been 16  long years since we had seen Cathy.  These photos were taken on her last visit with her mother. Sadly Aunty Betty is now is in her 90’s and in a nursing home.

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Aunty Betty and Cathy on their last visit

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Cathy doing her Boadicea impression !!!

However it seemed like no time had passed at all as we all got on so well.  Their visit coincided with that of our most frequent visitors, namely Kay and Elsie who are  always good fun to be around.

My Aunty Betty and Uncle John had decided to emigrate to Australia in the 1960’s at the time when there was a scheme which encouraged the British to relocate to Australia.  They were enticed by promises of employment and housing, a more relaxed lifestyle and a better climate.  For the assisted passage adults had to pay just £10 each and children traveled for free.  Such families became known as the “ten pound poms”.   

I can remember that they came to stay with us at Woodside before the set off on their new adventure.

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Andrew, me Louise and Cathy

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Cathy, Andrew and me Louise

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Me Louise, Cathy, Andrew

What an incredible experience it must have been for my cousins travelling around the world by ship. 

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The family eventually settled in Melbourne and there they made a good life for themselves.

So, back to the present …………..

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Cathy

Cathy is a superb cook and was keen to get into the kitchen. 

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She produced the most wonderful vegetable lasagne that I have ever tasted.  “Delizioso !!!” “Squisito !!!”  “Brava!!!

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Indeed we enjoyed some wonderful meals together out on the terrace “al fresco“.

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Jeff is a very talented artist and he took me and Elsie up to the Bellavista, where there is a marvellous view of Itri and its ancient castle, to do some sketching – it was really enjoyable.

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This is Jeff’s finished sketch.  Just Beautiful !!!

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 This is another that he did of the view from our terrace.

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Cathy and Jeff, Kay and Elsie kindly helped us around the place, weeding and watering the veggie patch, even helping to bath some of the dogs.

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One day we drove down to the nearby coastline and we showed them some of the wonderous delights that  Sperlonga offers.  This is one of my favourite places and I always make sure I have my camera at the ready.

Looking down to the Grotto of Tiberius

and the Roman excavations and Museum.

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Sperlonga’s beautiful sandy Levante Beach

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We came across a newly wedded couple who were having their photos taken in the romantic setting of the old town.

Che principessa !!!

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One evening we all went out to our preferred little restaurant that is tucked away in Campodimele – The “Casareccia”. 

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Elsie and cousin “Caterina”

 

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Me, Paul and Kay

Maria’s dishes never fail to satisfy us.

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Jeff

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Bella “Caterina”

So Cathy and Jeff, please don’t leave it another 16 years before we get to see you again. 

We really hope it will be much sooner than that !!!

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

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It was a perfect Spring day and this was to be our first visit to the historic town of Sezze.   We could see, as we approached, that it was perched high on a hill overlooking the Pontine Plain.

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We could just make out a queue of slow moving cars making their tortuous way up the steep and winding hill. Clearly this was going to be a popular event. Finding a parking place was very difficult because the town, which was larger than I had imagined, was already thronged with visitors from far and wide. In the end we had to park a little out of town and make our way back to the centre on foot.

April is the season when the artichoke is in its prime, and in Sezze this vegetable has become the symbol of the cultural and culinary heritage of the area. This was the 45th edition of this gastronomic event, Sezze’s Artichoke Festival or Sagra del Carciofo.

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The artichoke, is in fact, a member of the thistle family, and it’s the large compact flower bud that is for eating – they are high in fibre and iron and interestingly are also said to possess aphrodisiac properties.

In these parts it is the non prickly “Romanesco” variety of artichoke that is grown, which produces beautiful purple tinted heads.

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They thrive in the local micro-climate of the Pontine Plain where they are sheltered from cold winters and warmed by balmy sea breezes. The plain was originally just swamp land where people were plagued by Malaria.  However, during the 1930’s, Mussolini organised thousands of workers from the north of Italy to construct networks of dikes and canals to drain the land and transform the swamps into fertile agricultural land.  Today the local economy remains largely based on agriculture.

As we neared the bustling centre of the town we began to see stall after stall of proud farmers exhibiting and promoting their wonderful seasonal produce.

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Some had created floral arrangements with the artichokes.

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These had been spray painted to look like flowers.

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An artichoke tree !!!

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Makeshift camp kitchens and tented dining areas had been erected serving meals of several courses all based on artichokes, prepared and cooked in so many different culinary ways, such as raw, pickled, marinated, fried in batter, braised, fricasseed, barbecued, alone or in sauces and stews.  There is even an artichoke liqueur called “Cynar”.

The streets were full of music and dancers in colourful traditional costumes.

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There were street entertainers.

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Demonstrations of local handicrafts – basket making.

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Stalls selling arts and crafts.

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I would have liked to have further explored the old Medieval quarters of Sezze and taken more photos, but the town was absolutely thronged with visitors that day.

So I will just have to go back there very soon !!!   Watch this space !!!

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

Some Delicious Globe Artichoke Recipes

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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. 

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We have taken to visiting him often as we are keen to learn about keeping livestock.

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Pietro’s two teenage boys are amazing, they willingly help him with the daily chores on the farm, they are so hard working.  

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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.  

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One of our first visits was in January, while Emma and Aneurin were still here. 

Matteo, Pietro, Mirko and Aneurin

Aneurin was totally fearless amongst the goats.

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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.

 

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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.

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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 !!!

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This mother had only given birth a few hours earlier.

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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.

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We returned a few weeks later, and my how the babies had grown !!!

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They skittishly ran back and forth from one end of the barn to the other.

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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.

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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)

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The highlight of Itri’s year is the festival dedicated to its patron – La Madonna della Cività held over the span of three days – 20th, 21st, 22nd July and it іs celebrated wіth several religious processions with strong townsmen carrying the silver statue of the Madonna and Child through all the quarters of Itri.

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The silver statue is normally kept in a secure side chapel of La Chiesa dell’ Annunziata for safe keeping. 

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By night the town is adorned with multi-coloured illuminations, and people flock to take part in the celebrations. 

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During such warm balmy evenings  people enjoy leisurely “passeggiata-ing”. The full length of Via Civita Farnese is lined with food vans, numerous noisy fair booths, and cosmopolitan merchants selling an diverse array of objects and knick-knacks.  For the youngsters there is normally a fairground and amusements,  and stalls selling sweets and toys.

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Toasted Sweetcorn

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Crepes

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Guinciale (pork’s cheek)

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Guinciale (pork’s cheek)

Each night there is a musical event, this year there was a classical concert by a Police band, a Pink Floyd tribute band and on the last night a “past their best ageing pop star” !!!

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The final night culminates in a spectacular firework display held at the castle.  We drove up to the Bellavista Restaurant which overlooks the town, with a perfect view of the castle.

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All photos by me © Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

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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.

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The wedding reception was to be held in the most splendid setting of Villa Paola near Fondi.

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A huge range of delicious antipasti were served al fresco in the beautiful gazebo.  This was the bride and groom’s table.

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For the rest of the meal we were directed inside into the lavish banquet hall.

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The delicious meal that insued was fish based and of numerous courses served at intervals during the afternoon.

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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 !!!

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There were numerous toasts or “brindisi” wishing the happy couple happiness, good health and good fortune by family and friends alike.

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Finally it was time to step outside once again for the bride and groom to cut the wedding cake.

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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.

Auguri !!!

All photos by me 

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

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In April Paul needed to go back to the UK to renew his passport, and to spend a week of quality time with his Dad.  So we asked our good friend Kay if she would like to come over to Italy to help and keep me company during Paul’s absence.  In fact we talked Kay into coming for 2 whole months !!!

On the first Sunday of Kay’s stay we all drove down to the seaside at Gaeta, to have a look around at the Yacht Med Festival that was being held there.

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Along the sea front there were many stalls promoting all things maritime and nautical. Of course there was an array of classy boats on show, with prices to match !!!

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There was also a very large model of  John Cabot’s sailing ship, it is believed that he was born in Gaeta, and the long road along the sea front bears his name – Lungomare di Giovanni Caboto.

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From here we watched two impressive teams of fit youngsters, ten per boat, taking part in a rowing competition, all skilfully sculling in unison to power the boats along at a fair rate of knots.

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There were other exhibition stalls,  some dedicated to tourism, nature and the local regional parks such as the Riviera di Ulisse and the parks of the  Aurunci and Ausoni Mountains.

You can see here how the beautiful Aurunci Mountains tumble down to meet the sea in the gulf of Gaeta.

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Some more of the stalls …… Wildlife

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Colourful ceramics

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Local crafts

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Stramme work

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Finally some music started up and several troops of young colourful majorettes performed their energetic twirling routines to the delight of the crowds.

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The tiny tots were really cute !!!

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All photos by me !!!

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

You can read more about Gaeta at my South Lazio Website

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