211 – From Tre Cancelle – A Short Break To Visit The Amalfi Coast

During our friends’ visit (the White family) the Mum and Dad, Andrew and Jenny, decided to take off for a couple of nights on their own, leaving their girls under our watchful eye. Andrew and Jenny wanted to visit the Amalfi Coast.


Jenny had planned it all out.  They booked a couple of nights stay at a Bed and Breakfast near Salerno and set off early one morning on their travels. The distance from Itri to Salerno is approximately 150 km. The B&B they had selected was Villa le Favole in Angri, slightly off the beaten track, in the countryside about 20 minutes drive from Salerno. 



It was reasonably priced, at 80 euros per night (during August) for the comfortable, clean double room. There was also a lovely swimming pool and the owners spoke English which was helpful.

That evening Andrew and Jenny drove into Salerno to have a short wander around and take in the feel of the place.  Instead of driving along the Amalfi coast road Andrew and Jenny intended to see the area from the sea. In fact it works out to be far more convenient if you travel by boat, as you do not have the worry of finding a place to park your car.

So the next morning, after a good breakfast, they headed for the Porto Turistico in Salerno, situated near the train station. Parking nearby was easy to find at a cost of 2 euros per hour.




Near to Piazza Della Concordia there is a pier with numerous booths and kiosks where you can purchase your tickets, close to the embarkation zone. (You can also buy your tickets online. Infants can travel for free and there are reduced fares for children under the age of 10.) Our friends purchased tickets to stop off at the resort towns of Positano and Amalfi.


A tip from Andrew and Jenny – Get onto the next boat as early as possible before its departure to be able to choose the best seats on the right hand side for better views of the coastline.


The trip to Positano took about 1 hour and 10 minutes giving them plenty of time to admire the spectacular vistas along the scenic coastline passing the towns of Vietri sul Mare, Cetara, Maiori, Minori, Ravello, Amalfi and Priano.








The ferry pulled in at a small landing place at the beach of Positano, allowing the passengers to disembark right in the heart of the beautiful town.

(There is also the option to stay on the boat and travel on to the Isle of Capri.)


Once in Positano, Jenny and Andrew found themselves a picnic lunch and sat and took in the ambience. They then passed a pleasant couple of hours wandering around the town and its colourful ceramic shops and boutiques.






My Shop !!!










Jenny had the foresight to take her swimming gear and even managed to fit in a quick dip in the sea.

They once again boarded the ferry and sailed back along the coast towards Amalfi, just a 20 minute journey.



Here they disembarked and wandered through the main Piazza in front of the Cathedral di San Andrea and onwards through the bustling narrow streets and alleyways of the town.








Having sampled some delicious authentic local pizzas Jenny and Andrew finally headed back to the port to catch the ferry to take them back to Salerno.

The following day Jenny and Andrew departed from the B&B and drove to Sorrento and explored the town on foot.








The port was colourful and interesting but all in all Jenny and Andrew found Sorrento itself to be rather too crowded and over-run with tourists for their liking.

They had a good journey back in the car, and were somewhat relieved to find themselves back in the peace and tranquility of Itri and especially of Tre Cancelle Farmhouse.

I (Louise) would love to go back and visit this splendid area which we visited several years ago with my parents, and if I did so I would definitely choose to explore the area using the local ferry boats, especially during the summer months.

So for any guests staying with us at Tre Cancelle, it is very possible to incorporate a short break on the Amalfi Coast into your holiday plans, and we would be happy to help you organise this.

All photos © Jenny White

More information about the Bed and Breakfast Villa Le Favole on TripAdvisor

#itri #trecancelle #italy #SouthLazio  #italy #travel



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga and Itri

210 – Itri 2015 Festa della Madonna di Civita


We are delighted to have our friends, the White family and three of their girls, staying with us once again at Tre Cancelle. You may remember that Niamh had already spent a month here in June with her elder sister Shannon.  One evening we decided to trundle down to Itri to check out this year’s summer festival. 

Here are the girls heading down the old Roman Via Appia towards the main square of Piazza Incoronazione.


Bethan, Caitlin, Niamh – “The Three Graces”


The festival is dedicated to the Madonna della Civita who is  the patron of the town of Itri  which nestles in the foothills of the Aurunci Mountains.



The main streets were decorated with brightly coloured illuminations.


A stage had been set up for the evening’s musical entertainment.


The long road of Via Farnese was lined with stall after stall of amusements and street vendors.



There were numerous food stalls selling items like roasted peanuts, lupini, multi-coloured sweets, nougat, candyfloss, guanciale, and rolls filled with porchetta.






Also for sale were every type of clothes, shoes, trainers, hats, caps, jewellery, watches,  sunglasses, trinkets, noisy children’s toys, household goods, terracotta cooking pots, handy kitchen gadgets, garden implements, artificial flowers, holy paintings, goldfish, ducklings, parakeets …  you name it there was a stall selling it !!!



On almost every available piece of pavement there were African peddlers, who could not afford to rent a stall, so they simply displayed their wares on a sheet stretched out on the ground. 

I took a peek inside La Chiesa dell’ Annunziata.


Here the resplendent silver statue of the Madonna and Child is displayed for all to see, resting on a lavishly decorated altar. 






When I stepped outside I could hear that the music had already started. 

This evening  a Jovanotti tribute band, known as “Jovanotte”, were to give a free concert in Itri. 






We were impressed by their musical ability and the energy of their performance. 

Well their music certainly got Paul’s feet tapping !!!


The following evening was the last of the festival.  Having seen all the stalls the night before, we all decided to meet up for a pizza with Pat and Melinda at the Bellavista.


Jenny and Andrew


Caitlin and Bethan


Niamh and Caitlin


Pat and Niamh

We enjoyed a cheery evening while we waited for the grand finale of the Festa della Madonna della Civita, a spectacular firework display. 

The Bellavista has a superb view of Itri and its ancient castle.   








It astounds me how a little town like Itri can put on such a magnificent firework display every year.

Brava Itri !!!  We love you !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#itri #trecancelle #italy #SouthLazio #MadonnaDellaCivita #travel



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga and Itri

209 – Minturno – La Sagra delle Regne and International Folklore Festival


La Sagra delle Regne is a religious festival dedicated to the Madonna delle Grazie, the patron of the old medieval town of Minturno. It takes place every year on the second Sunday in July. 

Our American friends, Pat and Melinda, very kindly invited us to spend the afternoon and evening with them, so that we could see the festival for ourselves.  They have purchased an apartment in Minturno and have now left their old life back behind in Ohio, and begun their adventure of living in Italy. 


Melinda, Pat and Paul

Pat and Melinda had very kindly had the foresight to reserve a table at their local bar, which was located directly  in front of the event’s main stage. It proved to be an excellent viewpoint.  Of course I had my trusty camera with me !!!  I was hoping to capture some good shots of this colourful event.

The term “regne” has Latin origins, meaning bundles or sheaves of wheat.  The festival had pagan origins. Local farmers would beseech the Roman Gods of the earth to protect the wheat harvest and bless the fruits of their labours. During the Middle Ages the festival became a Christian one, in which the Madonna delle Grazie was entreated to grant local families, farmers and fishermen success in their personal endeavours.

In Minturno’s main square stands the 14th century stone church dedicated to San Francesco.  Inside there is a side altar with a beautiful fresco depicting the Madonna delle Grazie.




As the festival began to get under way we watched decorated carts being transported to the centre of the village, some were horse-drawn, others were towed by tractor.



photo © Melinda Abbott










In the evening Minturno hosted the Festivale Internationale del Folklore.

We watched an impressive performance by a band of sbandieratori or flag wavers / throwers, an ancient Medieval tradition.



Many local people, both young and old, were dressed in the typical costumes of this region.   There seems to be so much passion, diligence and pride in trying to preserve the old traditional ways.

Everyone gathers in the main square to see the wheat being threshed manually by the “vigilatori”. 














There were numerous performances by local dance groups

and musicians from Minturno.







At this year’s 2015 festival Minturno welcomed colourful dance troupes from

Mexico, Panama and Poland.


















The evening’s entertainment culminated

in the castle being seemingly set alight.

We retired back to Pat and Melinda’s apartment where we sat on their wonderful roof terrace.  Here we were able to sit and relax, and enjoy the cooler night air whilst watching the festa’s grand finale  – a colourful firework display.



Thanks to Pat and Melinda for a wonderful evening.

All photos (except were indicated) by me © Louise Shapcott

#minturno #italy #festival #festa #sagra #FolkDancing #SagraDelleRegne #WheatHarvest #tradition #culture


Just recently I have been updating my Minturno web pages.

Minturno has a fascinating history and it is so interesting to wander around the old Medieval town.

You can read more about Minturno and see more photographs here at my website:  




Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga and Itri, South Lazio

208 – Alison, Shannon and Niamh’s Summer Break at Tre Cancelle – Part 2


Recently we have had the pleasure of getting to know a lovely Italian family who live in Italy, although Santo originates from Sicily. They have a large family with two grown up sons, Ivano and Jordan, three daughters, two of them are in their teens, Miriam and Sharon, and then there is the piccolina  Ysabel who is just 5.

We thought it would be a good opportunity for Shannon and Niamh to meet Anna, Santo and their girls.  Shannon had studied Italian for a couple of years when she was at school, so has some knowledge of the language, although perhaps a little rusty.

Anna, Santo and their daughters popped in to see us one afternoon so that they could meet the Shannon, Alison and Niamh. Anna speaks English fairly well, and Miriam and Sharon are also keen students and would like to develop their language skills.


Niamh, Alison, Shannon, Anna, Santo Miriam, Ysabel, Aneurin and Max

Anna invited us to their home in Itri for “afternoon tea” which was lovely.  Anna then said she would like to teach us how to make pasta and so we organised a date, time and the venue, which was to be Tre Cancelle.  Sadly Alison wasn’t going to be able to take part in this, as her two week holiday had just about come to and end and before long she was winging her way back home.

On the designated afternoon Santo, Anna and the girls arrived and Anna was keen to get started.  Sharon and Miriam started to prepare the meatballs and the tomato sugo, in which they were to be cooked.




To make the pasta Anna used 2 kilos of Italian 00 type flour, also known as farina di grano tenero, and 12 eggs.

(I would just like to point out that this made a huge quantity, so perhaps it would be better to at least halve the quantity). 

I thought Anna would use an electric mixer to blend the pasta mixture, but no !!! Anna stated that it was better to get your hands in there, so as to be able to feel the consistency of the dough.



At first it became a sticky mess !!!


However, as they continued working the dough by kneading and stretching the mixture it gradually began to come together and eventually  form a smooth soft ball.


Then this was left to rest for a little while.  Anna had brought along her manually operated pasta machine.  I have one too, however I must admit it sits right at the back of one of my kitchen cupboards, and to my shame I have only used it once.

The dough was then divided up into small lumps.

Little Ysabel wanted to help too.



The rollers of the pasta machine had been set to the thickest setting. One by one the lumps of pasta dough were coaxed into the machine’s roller mechanism.  Then as the handle was turned it began to churn out strips of pasta.


This was just the first rolling.



The strips were then laid out on a clean surface to dry for a few minutes.


The pasta roller mechanism was then adjusted to a slightly thinner setting and the pasta strips were once again fed into the machine, which duly churned out slightly longer and thinner strips of pasta.

Once again the pasta had to be laid out on a clean surface to dry for a few minutes. We were running out of space in our kitchen !!!

The roller was adjusted once more and the pasta rolled out.




Now ….  Was the pasta thin enough? 

No, Anna thought it needed one more rolling !!!

“Che pazienza !!!”


Finally the sheets of pasta were of the right thickness.  So the next step was to feed the strips through a different set of rollers which had a cutting attachment that had been adjusted to make tagliatelle.



Brava Anna !!!



Mamma Mia !!!  Pasta Galore !!! Tante tagliatelle !!!


The tagliatelle were left to dry out a little. We had made such a large quantity that we bagged some up to put in the freezer.


A huge saucepan was put on the gas hob and filled with water.  A little salt was added. Once the water was bubbling the tagliatelle were added a little at a time.  This freshly made pasta only needed a few minutes to cook and then the pasta was drained in a colander.

The meatballs were removed from the rich tomato sugo.


 The sauce was added to the drained tagliatelle

and the pasta tossed so that all of it was evenly coated. 


The meatballs and a little extra sugo were served on top with of course

a generous sprinkling of parmeggiano.


Buon Appetito !!! Mangia !!!

We all ate “al fresco” out on the terrace.

Buonissimo !!!


Niamh, Shannon and Anna


Miriam, Sharon,

Niamh, Shannon and Anna


Miriam, Santo, Sharon,

Niamh, Shannon and Anna

Thank you to Anna, Santo and their girls for sharing this fun packed afternoon and evening with us. 

It was such a wonderful experience for us all.




Sisters !!!

Some of the other things that Shannon, Niamh and Alison achieived / enjoyed during their stay here at Tre Cancelle included:

Helping Paul to re-build a dry stone wall, helping to prepare the apartments for guests, helping me (Louise) with some jewellery making,  a trip to the beach at Sant’Agostino, wandering around the local markets of Gaeta and Fondi, sunbathing and cooling off in the swimming pool, and of course sampling ice-cream.



The girls are real animal lovers and have numerous pets at home.

They also helped out with the horses

which were proving to be ardent escapologists.


Paul has been feeding a stray cat for several months now, a big white fluffy thing and just recently, during the girls’ stay, two more cats have turned up here, The girls have named them “Starla” and “Chester” and we’ve also caught a fleeting glance of a little kitten.


Shannon and Niamh also helped to bath the dogs, and generally spoiled them by giving them lots of treats, fuss and attention ……




….. especially Max.




Sorry Paul, I just had to sneak this picture in !!!


Just to say “Thank You” girls for all your help,

your great company and for sharing with us your fun and laughter !!!

Niamh is to return to Tre Cancelle

soon with her parents and other sisters Caitlin and Bethan.


Soon after getting back to the UK,

Shannon and Alison attended their graduation ceremony

and they are both about to start their new jobs.


Well done girls and good luck with your future careers !!!



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga and Itri in South Lazio

207 – Alison, Shannon and Niamh’s Summer Break at Tre Cancelle – Part 1

Alison, Shannon, Niamh

In June we welcomed Shannon, Niamh and Alison to Tre Cancelle.  This was not to be their first visit, especially for Shannon and Niamh who have stayed with us many many times now, in fact we are practically like family.  The three girls had just completed their exams, Shannon and Alison had just taken their finals at university and Naimh her ‘A’ Levels. They now had some well deserved time off and we hoping to relax a little and unwind from the stresses and strains of the last new months. Shannon and Niamh, who are sisters, were to stay for a month with us, and Alison for 2 weeks. They very kindly volunteered to help with a few jobs around Tre Cancelle during their time with us.

Alison, Shannon, Niamh

Alison, Shannon, Niamh

The grass and weeds in the olive groves had grown almost waist high, and if left like this would become a definite fire risk during the hot and dry summer months.  Since his heart problems Paul does not have the energy to strim all the grounds, so Pietro had recently brought back some of his horses to graze under the olive trees and at the same time do a little natural fertilization !!!  This time there were 6 mares, and old Pino came back just for a few days.  Alison is a lover of horses so she was in her element.





The girls’ visit coincided with Kay and Elsie being here for a few days. Last year Kay and Elsie drove to Tre Cancelle from South Wales.

Here is Kay relaxing in the pool.


We were all invited to have lunch with our American friends, Pat and Melinda, at their apartment in the characteristic Medieval town of Minturno.  Their property has a beautiful sun terrace with a magnificent panorama of the Campania coastline and plains.



Elsie and Kay



The following day Shannon and Alison were on tenterhooks as the results of their final exams were due to be published imminently.  Suddenly we heard high pitched screaming and screeching !!! The girls were elated !!! Both Shannon and Alison had obtained first class honour degrees. 

We decided to celebrate with a bottle of bubbly to congratulate them both on their wonderful achievements.


Shannon and Alison’s visit also coincided with the arrival of our grandson Aneurin, his Mum Emma and another of our good friends, Michäel.

We all decided to celebrate being together by going for a meal at one of our favourite restaurants in Campodimele. Pat and Melinda have nicknamed it as the “Gas Station”. They decided to tag along with us too.  I have written about the “Casareccia” restaurant before,  Maria’s food there is simply divine !!!















Alison, Shannon and Niamh were inspired to do some cooking of their own.  Our amareno cherry trees had a bountiful crop this year.  The girls and Aneurin helped to de-stone them.



Some were to be used to make jam. Some were bagged ready to go into the freezer and some were set aside to make a bottle or two of cherry liqueur (see more about making liqueurs below).


This was the girls’ first attempt at jam making.




They also had a go at making some lemon marmalade.


They baked a cake or two …..


….. and then tried their hand at making scones to go with the jam.


The scones came out of the oven more like biscuits.  Shannon named them the “Scones of Death” !!!  Paul still devoured them anyway and lived to tell the tale !!!


Now moving on to Making Liqueurs. 

Melinda was keen to have a try at making some home-made liqueurs, and she started using some of our amarena cherries, and some white mulberries that had been gifted to us by Frank. I had never seen white mulberries before. Shannon was more than happy to assist Melinda.

The cherries were washed and then dropped one by one into a large wine bottle. When each of the bottles were approximately two thirds full neat alcohol was added until it covered all the fruit. The fruit in the alcohol then has to be left to steep for between 30 or 40 days.  Ideally you need to shake the bottles from time to time.

After this period the mixture must then be strained and filtered to remove the fruit from the liquor.  Next between 300 and 500 grams of sugar  is slowly dissolved in a pan containing a litre of warm water to make a clear syrup, Then this must be left to cool thoroughly.  The infused alcohol is then diluted with the sugar syrup using about the same amount of syrup to alcohol, however some people may elect to add a little less if they want the liqueur to pack a real punch.

Melinda and Shannon carried out the same procedure with the mulberries.

Next – Walnut Liqueur

This liqueur is traditionally made on the feast day of St John the Baptist which falls on the 24th June. So we took 24 green immature walnuts from our tree. These then needed to be cut into quarters and placed into a larger bottle with a wider neck, such a demi-john or kilner jar.  A cinnamon stick, a vanilia pod and 5 cloves were then added and enough alcohol to cover the fruit, and were then set aside to steep as above.


Next – Cedrino Liqueur

In our garden with have a cedrino or lemon verbena bush, the leaves when crushed between one’s fingers give off a wonderful lemon aroma.   We gathered 120 cedrino leaves and dropped them into a large wine bottle.



We then added the rinds of 4 lemons and topped the bottle up with a litre of alcohol and left it to steep.



Let’s wait and see how all the liqueurs come out !!!

Melinda can’t wait !!!

photos except where indicated are © me, Louise Shapcott, Shannon White and Melinda Abbott


Last year Last year Kay and Elsie drove to Tre Cancelle from South Wales:

182 – Kay and Elsie’s 2014 Mega Road Trip To Italy

A previous post about the Casareccia Restaurant:

177 – Ristorante La Casareccia In Campodimele


TCTitleTre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga and Itri in South Lazio

206 – 2 July 2015 – 75th Anniversary of the Sinking of The Arandora Star

On the 10 June 1940 at 4.45pm came the news that Italy had declared war on Britain and the Allies.  The Italian community in Great Britain were not fully aware of the drastic effect this was to have on their lives. That night, in some parts of Britain there was anti Italian rioting and many Italians had their windows smashed and business premises ransacked and looted, while generally the police stood by and did little to protect them. Italians had to endure heckling and name calling such as  “I-ties – Why don’t you go back home?”  486px-Winston_Churchill_cph.3a49758

Winston Churchill instructed the Home Secretary of  the time, Sir John Anderson, to arrest any adult male Italians, who from now on were designated as being “enemy aliens”.  The police were directed “to take steps to intern all residents of Italian origin whose activities have given grounds for the belief or reasonable suspicion that they might in time of war endanger the safety of the State or engage in activities prejudicial to the prosecution of the war.” Winston Churchill defended this policy by claiming that is was necessary to “collar the lot”.


This is my mother’s the story of her Italian family during the war years and the internment of her brother Roberto Leonardi.

In the dark early hours we suddenly awoke to hear pounding on our front door.  It was two burly policemen, who declared they had come to arrest my brother Berto.  He was taken from his bed and ordered to hurriedly bundle a few belongings into a case.  They threatened that they would be back to arrest my father, Benedetto.  

It seemed so unjust.  Berto was only 6 months old when he arrived in London so England was all he knew. At this time Berto was 29 years old, Papa was 54 and they had both lived in London for the past 29 years and had always been good law abiding citizens.  Mamma was distraught as she saw her son being lead away without explanation.

However across Britain about 4,100 Italian men aged between 17 and 60 were detained without any charges under the “Defence of the Realm Act Regulation 18b” and were to be held in detention without trial.  Even the Italian priests were arrested. The internees were first put into police cells before being transported under military escort to makeshift camps, which were inadequate for the purpose, being overcrowded and insanitary and the food rations were insufficient.

We were left shell shocked, having had our world tumultuously tipped upside down.  Loving families had been torn apart, heartbroken women had been deprived of their husbands and sons who were also their bread winners. Some women struggled to keep their family businesses running, but many were forced to close them down and relinquish their livelihoods, leaving them with no income and with no possibility of any social assistance. Some families had some of their sons on the battlefields fighting in the British Army, while their other Italian born sons were been arrested as Enemy Aliens.  These were terrible times indeed, especially for the womenfolk.  In some places Italians found themselves shunned by their neighbours and had to endure racist taunting as they walked along the streets, yet we found in general that our true friends stuck by us and remained loyal throughout.

We had no idea where Berto had been taken until we received a letter to say he was being held on the Isle of Man which had been transformed into a huge internment camp. Fortunately the policemen did not return to arrest Papà, however all through the war he found it impossible to find work.  I was the only member of our family earning any money, so I had to support my parents and sister as best I could.

Those Italians who had not been interned, were required to register with the local police.  A curfew was enforced between the hours of 8 pm and 6 am, and Italians were not allowed to venture further than a 5 mile radius of where they lived.  Any change of address or employment had to be reported to the police.  All guns, ammunition, short-wave radios, cameras and signalling devices were outlawed.  

However, the irony of it was that I, Tina, was born in London, and was therefore classified as a British Citizen.  I pluckily went to the police station and doggedly put forward my case.  Eventually they reluctantly relented and allowed me to keep a radio, but I was ordered on no account to allow my sister and parents or any other Italians to listen to it!  

Then came the terrible news about the sinking of the “ARANDORA STAR”, which had been carrying numerous Italian internees.  Desperate Italian families rushed to see if any of their family members names were recorded on the “Dead or Missing List”.  We could not find Berto’s name, but we recognised many of the names of fine honest men from our Italian community.  Their families  were left mourning for the loss of their loved ones.  Of the 734 Italians on board the ship, 486 died; of the 479 Germans, 175 were lost.  We still had no idea where Berto was, we just hoped and prayed that he was alive.  It all seemed so terribly wrong and unjust.


Berto was sent with many of his fellow prisoners to Liverpool where they embarked on a ship “The Lady of Mann” which ferried them to the Isle of Man.  

Many of the Italian men were held on the seafront at Douglas, housed behind barbed wire in camps made up of requisitioned hotels and boarding houses.  “The Palace Camp” took its name from The Palace Hotel, which was the biggest of these hotels. Barbed wire topped fencing was used to confine the Italian prisoners, allowing them some space in which to exercise on the seafront. on what had previously been the pavement and part of the main road.

Some photos of the hotels as they look today –  courtesy of  David Subacchi



On the Island there were also UK Fascists, Germans (some of which were Jewish refugees), Austrians and some Prisoners of War were also being held.

The internees had to appear before tribunals which would examine any evidence held against them and classify them according to the risk they were judged to pose to safety of Britain and the war effort.

For some “dangerous prisoners” it was deemed that the Isle of Man was not a secure enough place to detain them, so a plan was forged by the British Government to deport these internees to the Dominions.  

On 20 June 1940 the “SS Duchess of York”, a 20,000-ton vessel which had been an ocean going liner of Canadian Pacific Ocean Services, was the first to set sail from Liverpool, bound for Canada.  It was laden with 2,112 “Class A” internees  and 535 prisoners of war, twice the ship’s normal capacity  The prisoners had no idea where they were being transported, and the voyage to Quebec took 9 days.

The next ship to depart was the Arandora Star, which had also been a luxury cruise liner in her day, and had been hastily been refitted for war.  This voyage has been well documented, due its tragic circumstances.

wp1f2566b2_05_06Arandora Star – cigcardpix – flickr

She was to transport 1,562 internees, 764 of which were Italians, along with German Jewish refugees and some German prisoners of war. All the decks of the ship and all exits were barred and barricaded off with reels of impenetrable barbed wire, and guarded by sentries bearing bayonets. The top deck was also totally encircled in barbed wire, the ship had become a floating prison camp.  In the case of an emergency there were not enough life jackets and lifeboats to cover the number of people on board.  The ship’s Captain, named Moulton, was furious about this situation and protested vehemently to the authorities.

The following excerpts are taken from the book “The Lonely Sea” by Alistair Maclean:

“You are sending men to their deaths, men who have sailed with me for many years. If anything happens to the ship, that wire will obstruct passage to the boats and rafts. We shall be drowned like rats and the Arandora Star turned into a floating death-trap.”   

His concerns were ignored.  The prisoners were crammed into the lower decks.  The ship finally left Liverpool on 30 June 1940 without a Red Cross to indicate that she was carrying civilians, and without a naval escort.  The ship had the appearance of a troop carrier having been painted a dull battleship grey.   On the second day of the voyage in the early hours of the morning, whilst positioned off  Ireland’s Mallin Head, the Arandora Star received a direct hit by a German U-boat’s torpedo.

“The torpedo struck the Arandora Star fair and square amidships, erupting in a roar of sound and towering wall of white water that cascaded down on the superstructure and upper decks, blasting its way through the unarmoured ship’s side clear into the engine room. Deep inside the ship, transverse watertight bulkheads buckled and split under the impact, and the hundreds of tons of water, rushing in through the great jagged rent torn in the ship’s side, flooded fore and aft with frightening speed as if goaded by some animistic savagery and bent on engulfing and drowning trapped men before they could fight their way clear and up to freedom…”

There was widespread panic as everyone tried to get to the lifeboats.  Some of the guards struggled in vain to hack away at the barbed wire fencing, but in their desperation to escape men found themselves entangled in the wire, unable to free themselves.  It took thirty-five minutes for the Arandora Star to sink.

“…but almost a thousand of its passengers, guards and crew … still lived, scattered in groups or singly over several square miles of the Atlantic…but the sea was bitterly cold. Before long the number of swimmers and those supported only by planks and benches became pitifully fewer and fewer… Their pathetic cries of ‘Mother’, repeated over and over again in three or four languages, grew fainter and fainter and gradually faded away altogether….”

Nine hours later the St Laurent, a Royal Canadian Navy destroyer, arrived at the scene and successfully picked up 868 survivors, but the rest of the prisoners and crew had tragically perished.  Of the 734 Italians on board 486 lost their lives on that fateful day, together with many Germans and members of the crew.  There was a public outcry regarding the great loss of life, however the British government stood steadfast and continued undeterred with its plan.

The next ship, the “Ettrick”, hurriedly set sail on 3 July 1940 with another consignment of prisoners, this vessel was accompanied by a Destroyer. We didn’t know it but Berto was one of the 407 Italians  on board.  They too were treated badly, being herded like cattle into the lower decks and kept mainly below deck in overcrowded squalid and inhumane conditions, receiving only meagre rations of food and water.  Some of the prisoners nicknamed it as “Torpedo Class”!  They suffered a wretched 10 day voyage across the Atlantic before finally docking in the city of Quebec.  Here they were met by a hostile and strongly armed guard, as Canada had been forewarned to take extra precaution as  these prisoners were of a “highly dangerous nature”.

Berto and his fellow prisoners were then put aboard a train to Montreal and from there they were bused to the  Île Sainte-Hélène, on the St Lawrence River. Many had had their belongings taken from them by some of the Canadian soldiers.


Île Sainte-Hélène, Montreal, Canada

On the island there was an old fort which became known as Interment Camp S, later renamed Camp No. 43, under the Jacques Cartier bridge which spans the river.


Jacques Cartier Bridge, Montreal, Canada

The camp was ill-prepared to take on this large number of prisoners and the first night the detainees were made to sit on the bare ground and were not given food nor water.  They were forbidden to speak and if a man did so he would be severely beaten.

The next day they were told to strip off and take a cold shower before being issued with a uniform, each one had a number on the back so the guards could easily identify the prisoners.  Even Italian Canadians had been interned, many from Montreal itself which had a large Italian population.

Conditions in the camp were harsh and the men were forced to carry out hard labour, such as farming or lumbering.  In the bitterly cold winters the men were often kept locked up in their quarters for weeks on end.  This was just one of  twenty six main camps in Canada, mainly situated in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.

A photo of  prisoners taken in the camp.

Berto is in the front row, second from the left.


Below is a photo of a wooden maple leaf made by Berto.

There is a drawing of the fort and it bears the names of  some of the friends he made whilst his imprisonment in the camp.


Conditions in the camp were harsh and the men were forced to carry out hard labour, such as farming or lumbering.  In the bitterly cold winters the men were often kept locked up in their quarters for weeks on end.  This was just one of  twenty six main camps in Canada, mainly situated in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.  

After the “Ettrick” the next ship to carry enemy aliens  from Britain was the “SS Sobieski”, a former Polish liner, which sailed from Greenock on the 4 July 1940.

The final vessel was the “HMT Dunera” which left Liverpool on the 10th July 101940 bound for Australia, however none of the prisoners, some of which were survivors of the Arandora Star,  knew where they were heading.  It was to be a horrendous journey lasting 57 days. Firstly, on the second day of the voyage the ship was hit by a German torpedo, however miraculously it did not explode. A second torpedo was fired which narrowly missed the hull. On board the prisoners were brutally treated and kept below decks for most of the voyage. The woefully  inadequate sanitary conditions lead to many of the people contracting dysentery and other illnesses and two people died during the atrocious voyage.


Little did he know it, but Berto was one of the lucky ones that survived, unlike many of is fellow compatriates that had perished in the sinking of the Arandora Star.

You can read more about the war years in the Italian Community of Clerkenwell London at my new website: 

Clerkenwell – Our Little Italy

The majority of these poor unfortunate men had had no strong political affiliations, they were not Fifth columnists within the Fascist movement.  They were simply good honest law-abiding individuals, who had come to Britain in the hope of creating a better life for themselves and their children and grandchildren. They had chosen to make Britain their home.  They had integrated well into British society, many were highly thought of in their local communities, being friendly, loyal, hard working, harmless – not posing any threat whatsoever to British society.  

Sadly, to date, the British Government has refrained from offering any sort of apology for the great loss of life of those poor souls who drowned in the Arandora Star tragedy. No remorse has been offered for the unjust inhumane treatment these Italian “enemy aliens” had to endure during their captivity, and no regret for the extreme suffering and anxiety caused to their families.


On 2nd July 2015 commemorative events were held across the UK, in England, Wales and Scotland, and also in some Italian towns, in memory of those Italians who perished in the sinking of the Arandora Star. 

There was a special Mass at St Peter’s Italian church in Clerkenwell, London.

Mounted on a wall inside the porch of St. Peter’s is a memorial to the victims.

wpd6060923_05_06It reads:

“In Memoria dei periti nell’affondamento dell’Arandora star 2 luglio 1940

. . . . . il ricordo che é vivo nel cuore dei parenti, dei superstiti e colonia italiana
4 Novembre 1960”

English translation:
“In memory of those who perished in the sinking of the Arandora Star,

2 July 1940

. . . Their memory lives on in the hearts of their relatives, the survivors and the Italian colony.
4 November 1960”

Inside the church there is another memorial which lists all those Italians who lost their lives.



Giovanni Battista Gagliardi

Just one of those who died on that fateful day was Giovanni Battista Gagliardi, who was better known as “Bert”. He was born on the 28th February 1890 in Northern Italy. He had arrived in England and married Alma Alford of Devon during the summer of 1917. “Bert” and Alma lived in Torrens Road, Brixton, London. Bert found employment as a waiter in a posh hotel and it is said that he spoke seven languages, and was considered to be a very kind man.

When WWII erupted and Italians were interned, Bert was one of those who was given the choice to either be repatriated back to Italy or be interned in Canada.

Bert chose Canada and was on board the ill-fated Arandora Star. 

Alma and all her family were devastated when they received the terrible news.

Alma never remarried and died in 1963 in Exeter, Devon.


Thank you to Lora Beseler of Wisconsin, USA

for providing the photograph and Bert’s story.


May the victims of the Arandora Star never be forgotten

and may they rest in eternal peace.

#ArandoraStar #EnemyAliens #Italian



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga and Itri in South Lazio

205 – Aneurin’s Italian Holiday 2015


We haven’t been able to make a trip back to the UK for some time now, and I must admit that sometimes I do feel homesick, with regard to seeing our family, especially our grandchildren.  So we were delighted to hear that Emma, Michael and youngest grandson Aneurin had booked flights for a little Italian holiday. 

They spent the first few days in Firenze where they stayed in a lovely BnB called Casa Palmira which they would highly recommend.  They also greatly enjoyed taking in many of the beautiful sights of Florence.

They all then drove down to Itri.  My goodness how Aneurin has grown.  He is now 4½ years old, and quite tall for his age.

 We celebrated their arrival with a meal at the Bellavista Restaurant.

Aneurin just loves pizza !!!


And Italian chocolate ice-cream !!!


He loves having his photo taken while he is pulling funny faces !!! He has such a charming character. I could see him perhaps becoming an actor or some sort of performer in years to come.




Aneurin loved his frolicks in the pool even though it was a little on the chilly side for some !!! The weather has been quite cool so far this summer.







Chiara came to play, however her Mamma thought it was too cool for swimming in the pool. It seems that we Brits are of sturdier stock !!!



As you can see Aneurin seems to have no fear !!!




Also 5 year old Isabel and her family paid us a visit.




Alas, Aneurin’s  five days in Itri passed so quickly,

and too soon we had to say our good-byes.

We miss you and our other two fine young grandsons,

Jamie and Tommy, so much !!!

We hope we can manage to organise a trip back to the UK

perhaps in the Autumn.

Sending love and hugs to you all

Nonna and Nampi


All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#holiday #itri #italy #TreCancelle



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy

204 – Itri’s June 2015 Infiorata


Each June to celebrate the Sunday of Corpus Domini, held on the 9th Sunday after Easter, Itri stages a wonderful festival of flowers, known as The “Infiorata”. This was to be the 29th edition of this community event and people young and old gather to work on the various designs.  

Our American friends Pat and Melinda were keen to take part, so a day or so before the actual event we turned up in Itri, in a side alley off Via Della Repubblica,  each armed with a pair of scissors.

We were warmly greeted and allocated some chairs and we set to work. There were bucketfuls and bucketfuls of carnations of various colours. 


The first task was to snap off the flower heads from their stems and collect them into crates. All the remainder of the greenery was set aside to later be put through a shredder machine.


Pat and Melinda



These lovely French ladies travel to Itri every year just to take part in the Infiorata.






When all the flower heads were detached, the next job was to snip off the petals just above the green base of the flower. The fresh confetti of petals were collected into crates, the bases were thrown into another basket for later use.  Nothing of the flowers is put to waste.

There were people of all ages and walks of life helping with the preparation of the flower petals. There were children with their mothers, grandmothers with their grandchildren, pensioners, school children, teenagers, all were happy to lend a helping hand.









PM10440722_10207085063068434_8798950205324739827_nOn the Sunday morning we travelled down to Itri to see people working on the creations.  Each design measures 4 x 7 metres.  This  is at truly amazing type of street art, a Floral carpet flower petals that only lasts for one single day.  Some of the designs are very elaborate. This year they followed a modern theme.


K11427188_10152958666998963_5690021273640806369_nIn the afternoon, after Sunday lunch,

people flock to admire the completed designs.













The ceremonial altar and a design of La Madonna della Civitá –

the Patron of Itri.


K11407153_10152958667023963_6732031142755339241_nAfter the religious procession has wound its way through all of the districts of the town, the Priest, carrying the holy sacraments walks over the tapestry of flowers.


It was very satisfying to know that we had played a small part in this wonderful community event.

Photos by me – Louise, Kay McRobbie, and Patrick and Melinda Abbott

#itri #infiorata #SouthLazio #italy #flower #festival #CorpusDomini


You might also like to take a look at some of my past posts relating to the Itri Infiorata:

162 – Preparations For Itri’s June 2013 Infiorata

163 – The Completed Designs of Itri’s June 2013 Infiorata



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy

203 – A New Arrival in Itri


From time to time we pay a morning call to our favourite bar in Itri for an espresso or a cappuccino. It is known as Bix Café or Bix Bar and has become very popular since it opened a couple of years ago. Bix Café


On this occasion Paul and Kay had organised to meet up there with our friends Pauline and Filippo.

Whilst they were all chatting away in English a man seated at a nearby table said “Hello” in an American accent and introduced himself as Frank Agresti from California, USA.

Frank said that he had only been in Italy for a few weeks and went on to explain the reason why he was in Itri. It seems that his grandparents had originated from this town, but had emigrated to New York, where Frank was also born in the Bronx.


Frank had always been interested in finding his Italian roots and had found a Facebook group dedicated to the Agresti surname: Agresti Facebook Group.

Here he came across an Agresti couple who currently live in Florida. They were lamenting the fact that with heavy hearts they were considering putting the old family olive grove in Itri up for sale. It had been left more or less abandoned for several years.

Just off the cuff Frank sent a message asking if by chance they needed a caretaker to look after their land. “Yes !!!” was their reply.

Incredibly, Frank was an excellent candidate for this job as he had worked many years as an arborist in the States. Frank realised that this could be a unique opportunity for him to see the town of his grandfather’s birth and perhaps start a new adventure of living in Italy. No time was wasted as within six weeks all was organised and Frank found himself in Bella Itri. He spoke no Italian but had some knowledge of Spanish which helped a little. He had managed to find somewhere temporary to stay.

Through contacts Frank was able to make friends with a couple of members of the Agresti family (there are just one or two Agresti’s in Itri !!!). They took him for a drive up to look around the old olive farm. Frank loved the place from day one and dreamed of reviving the olive trees which he was told were between 100 and 200 years old.

On the Sunday before Kay’s departure back to Wales, Frank invited us to take a look at the orchard, as he called it. The plot of land, measuring about 5 acres is situated a few kilometres out of the centre of Itri in the Campetelle district.



Set high on a hill, the grove consisted of 400 olive trees, together with numerous fruit trees.







There was a rustic little house or “casetta” that looked as if it had seen better days.



We had a peep inside, there was just one main room with an old fireplace. The walls were covered in mould and there was an abundance of dust and cobwebs. There was a simple kitchen and a basic bathroom. Frank thought that it had potential and with a little bit of elbow grease that it could be made habitable.



We established that the property had a water supply, however the electricity appeared to have been disconnected.


After a tour around the grove we offered to take Frank for a ride down to the coast to Sperlonga. We had a pleasant afternoon wandering through the old town.





We then drove along the coast road to Sant’Agostino beach where we called in at one of our favourite beachside bars “Il Miramare” for refreshments.

Then we suggested that we should all round off the day with a pizza at the Bellavista restaurant.

Frank explained that as an American he only had been able to obtain a tourist visa with a 90 day duration. Frank had done his homework and had discovered that if he could prove that his family originated from Itri that he was entitled to apply for Italian citizenship. “Jure Sanguinis” translates as the right of blood – the right to reclaim citizenship by proving that your ancestors were of Italian blood.

Frank had a little information to make a start with. He had his grandfather’s passport which gave his date of birth, 1891 and it stated he was born in Itri, Gaeta. Frank also knew his grandmother’s name was Romilda Maggiacomo.

We agreed to accompany him to the Anagrafe office in the Comune to help with translating and to try to investigate his family heritage. Meanwhile I did a bit of research on the internet and I found the following Ellis Island point of entry information:

Arrived Ellis Island 1914

  • First Name : Alfredo
    • Last Name : Agresti
    • Nationality : Italy, Italian South
    • Last Place of Residence : Itri, Italy
    • Date of Arrival : May 7th, 1914
    • Age at Arrival : 28y
    • Gender : Male
    • Marital Status : Married
    • Ship of Travel : Patria
    • Port of Departure : Naples

Arrived Ellis Island 1914
• First Name : Emilda
• Last Name : Agresti
• Nationality : Italy, Italian South
• Last Place of Residence : Itri, Italy
• Date of Arrival : May 7th, 1914
• Age at Arrival : 28y
• Gender : Female
• Marital Status : Married
• Ship of Travel : Patria
• Port of Departure : Naples

It seems that the officials at Ellis Island had made a mistake with Romilda’s name.

However this was not Alfredo’s first time arriving at Ellis Island. I discovered another record:

Arrived Ellis Island 1908
• First Name : Alfredo
• Last Name : Agresti
• Nationality : Italy, Italian South
• Last Place of Residence : Caserta, Itri, Italy
• Date of Arrival : Oct 22th, 1914
• Age at Arrival : 17y
• Gender : Male
• Marital Status : Single

• Occupation : Shoemaker

• Nearest Relative or Friend in Country Whence Alien Came  : Uncle Pasquale Di Pinto, of Itri.

• Ship of Travel : Duca di Genova

• Port of Departure : Naples

A few days later we all arrived at the Anagrafe office. We spoke to Anna Lucia who is the Registrar there, and we found her to be very kind and helpful. She explained that she was happy to help Frank, but she did not have time to go through the registrars with us as they were short staffed and somewhat overworked. However she said we were welcome to go down to the archives and have a look ourselves. We accompanied her down to the basement to a set of two rooms with shelves that were stacked from floor to ceiling with bulging folders and folios.

Anna Lucia suggested that we looked through a set of indices which were in alphabetic order and were stored in some curious wooden bound folders.


Also there was a huge stack of papers tied together with ribbons labelled as surnames beginning with A. There was little space in the archive room to go through this paperwork so Anna Lucia suggested that we took the folders back upstairs.


Paul and Frank began patiently searching through the records and folios one by one to see if they could find any information relating to Frank’s grandparents. There were lots of Agresti’s but nothing relating directly to Frank’s grandfather.


However soon it was time for the Register Office to close for lunch. Anna Lucia said we were welcome to return that afternoon.

In the afternoon I decided to try a different approach. I asked Anna Lucia if I could take a look at some Registers, as we knew Alfredo’s date of birth and approximate date of marriage. Anna Lucia accompanied me down to the basement where in the second room the registers were stored.

Before very long we had found Alfredo’s birth and marriage records.

Alfredo Agresti was born 23 February 1891.


These also gave us some information of the next generation back, about his great-grandparents who were Francesco Agresti and Maria Giuseppa di Pinto.

He married Olimpia Romilda Maggiacomo on 15th April 1914 in Itri.

The pieces of the jigsaw were beginning to fit together. Alfredo, as a young man had travelled to America. However he had returned to Itri to marry his sweet-heart Romilda when they were aged 23, before whisking her off to New York to start a new life there.


Grazie Anna Lucia x

Frank was ecstatic. We and Anna Lucia were so very pleased for him.

Frank could now start the process of obtaining his Italian Citizenship and fortunately kind hearted Anna Lucia was able to help him with this. He required this Citizenship because as an American he would not be entitled to access free health care in Italy and that generally it would make things easier for him.

Frank had found a temporary place to live, renting a little studio flat in an alleyway just off the old Via Appia, in Lo Stratcio district, which by curious coincidence was were his great-grandparents had lived many years ago.

Frank was keen to start work on cleaning up the rustic abandoned little house in the Agresti olive grove, but it was difficult as it was out of town and he had no transport.

In Italy nothing is easy !!! Frank was presented with a series of bureaucratic hurdles to overcome, which came with a generous helping of Culture Shock, especially as Frank speaks very little Italian.

Firstly he needed to get a Codice Fiscale, a tax code from the Agenzia dell’Entrate in Formia. Then he had to apply for Residency in Itri, which was not so simple as he had no permanent address. Once again thankfully Anna Lucia was available to assist and get the application underway.

Paul helped Frank through the tricky task of opening an Italian bank account. Then we directed him to our friends who own a garage in Itri, to help with the process of buying, insuring and registering a car. For this however he first needed to have his Residency.

Most recently he has managed to file his request for a Permesso di Soggiorno, with our help and the kind help of our American friends Pat and Mindy. His 90 day tourist visa was about to expire.

Everything in Italy takes time, nothing is straight forward, nothing can be rushed !!! To get anything done takes a great deal of patience as several visits to the relevant office are required before you can take a step forward in the direction of what you need to achieve.

At times it seemed so difficult and Frank has had his patience tested to the full, however slowly he has begun to battle his way through.

Frank is a very friendly and gregarious chappie with a “larger than life” character, and has already made many friends during his short time in Itri. With the help of some of these he has managed to clean and fix up the rustic little house and start to make it habitable and homely. He has managed to find a few sticks of furniture, the refrigerator doesn’t work and only 2 rings on the cooker are in working order. However he still has not managed to get the electricity reconnected !!! This is Italy !!! Therefore, we are currently lending him a petrol generator to tide him over. So he doesn’t have a TV but has managed to sort out some sort of connection to the internet. He says he spends much of his evenings by candlelight. Frank has also had some work carried out on the olive trees and is thoroughly enjoying taming the abandoned olive grove.



We hope that Frank will have several happy years tending the Agresti olive grove and that the owners, Francesco and Helga, will feel content in the knowledge that he is taking care of their beloved family property.



Bravo !!! Well done Frank !!! We wish you well !!!

photos by me Louise and Frank Agresti

You can read more about Franks adventures in Itri at his Blog –

The Italian Chronicles

#ItalianCitizenship #JureSanguinis #agresti #itri #italy


You can read about some of the battles with Italian Bureaucracy that Paul and I had to work our way through when we first came to Italy at my

Avanti Sempre Avanti Blog:

14 – First Dose of Culture Shock

15 – Codice Fiscale Blunder

16 – La Cancelleria

19 – Getting To Grips With The Bank

25 – Acquiring a Permesso di Soggiorno

26 – Next Bureaucratic Challenge – The Italian Health System


Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy