249 – Christmas and the Living Nativity of the Village of Maranola

Maranola is a small medieval village overlooking the town of Formia on the South Lazio coast. Each Christmas-time the village puts on a wonderful “Living Nativity” known as the “Presepe Vivente“.  Many of the local people take part in this project, and ground floor rooms and cellars undergo a transformation. Here living scenes are created depicting the every day life of days gone by.  Some re-enact former occupations, ancient skills and crafts.










Many of the townsfolk are dressed in the traditional costmes of the ancient region of Ciociaria. This area takes its name from the word “ciocie“, which is an ancient form of footware, thought to date back to Etruscan times. It was a type of sandal, with a curiously curved toe, that was bound to the calf with leather laces. It was typically worn by the local shepherds and peasants of the area.



There are also scenes depicting the preparation of typical local produce.








Over the festive Christmas period Maranola has three editions of this event. These are normally held on the 26th December, New Years Day and on the day of the Epiphany, the 6th January.  Last year we attended the last event.

The sound of the pipes of the zampognieri heralded the arrival of the Three Kings bearing their gifts.


They all made their way to the stable when the charming Nativity scene was taking place. A local couple with a young baby played the roles of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.



We really are hoping to visit Maranola again this Christmas. This is a very special local event – not to be missed.


Well may we take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and Peace and Goodwill to all.

We also wish you all the very best in the coming New Year.

Love from us all at Tre Cancelle

Louie and Paul, the Tre Cancelle “Woof-gang” and our growing menagerie


All photos by me © Louise Shapcott



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga’s Beaches and Historic Itri

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248 – Autumn Visitors and the 2017 Olive Harvest

Over the Autumn we have had a string of friends and family members come and visit us at Tre Cancelle which kept us busy. First we welcomed our friends: Clive and Marilyn who used to live in Gaeta. For several years Clive used to help Paul a great deal in the olive grove before their move back to the UK. They treated us to a lovely meal at a restaurant in Gaeta named the Masaniello.


Clive and Paul



My cousins Cathy and Jeff from Australia came to stay for a a week and also Paul’s sister and her friend Linda. They also helped Paul to celebrate his birthday.


Cathy and Jeff


Annie and Paul


Annie, Paul, Cathy, Jeff and Linda


The Birthday Boy – Paul


A hand-drawn birthday card by Jeff of “San Paolo”

They also have us an amazing hand in clearing and preparing the olive groves for the harvest. Thank you all for you wonderful efforts !!!

No sooner had this party departed another arrived in the form of came our friend Kay and also friends Gerda and Adrian from South Africa who had recently got married.  The couple had been doing a 30 day whistle-stop tour of Europe visiting 5 countries, 22 towns and villages in Holland, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy.  And they still managed to fit in a few day’s visit to see us at Tre Cancelle. Amazing guys !!!


Adrian and Gerda from South Africa

We also welcomed two of Kay’s friends, Nicky and Simon. All had come to help with the olive harvest.  Our American friends from Minturno and  Nandi, Davide and their three children from Itri, Tomaso, Dante and Giada, also volutuneered to help for a couple of days which was fantastic to have some extra pairs of hands.

This year we had a decent crop much to Paul’s delight . Over a couple of weeks with our team of volunteer workers we managed to harvest 1000 kilos of olives which were turned into about 180 litres of November harvest extra virgin olive oil which was really good news. At the same time we also managed to prune some of the trees that were growing too far too tall.

















Our sincere thanks to all those who took part and helped to make it such fun. It was an outstanding team effort.





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247 – Minturno Festival of the Wheat Harvest and International Folklore Festival

Each summer at the beginning of July  the town of Minturno comes together to celebrate the Festa delle Regne or the Wheat Harvest Festival. This year marked the 63rd edition. The main feast day celebrations are held on the second Sunday of July when thanks are offered to the patron of the town, the Madonna delle Grazie.  Historically monks of the Franciscan order used to bake bread that was then distributed to the poor.

There is a procession throughout the old town where the statue of the Madonna and child is carried on a rustic cart decorated with wheat sheaves, and pulled by a pair of strong oxen.



There is also a parade of decorated carts and trailers, representing the harvest, that have been submitted by various neighbourhood groups. These are towed up to the main square of Minturno and a prize is generally awarded for the best design. The designs are incredibly intricate and detailed.











There is a long and colourful parade made up of various groups, these include characters dressed in elegant medieval costumes, sbandieratori or flag throwers and musicians.





The Associazione Folklorica di Minturno was formed in 1989 to strive to promote and keep alive the town’s popular traditions, culture and musical heritage. From a young age local children are encouraged to learn about their traditional heritage. There are dance classes organised to suit all ages and troupes of dancers are put together.


Throughout the year the skilled dressmakers of Minturno busy themselves by sewing fine costumes that are typical of this area.


photo by Melinda Abbott


photo by Melinda Abbott

The most famous Minturnese costume is called “la Pacchiana”.  This has the characteristic elaborate head-dress made of a starched and folded white linen or muslin cloth, which is edged in lace. There is a white blouse with full puffed sleeves, made of a finely pleated material, which are gathered just above the elbow. The laced bodice is richly embroidered in gold thread, and over this a cream-coloured shawl is worn over the shoulders, once again decorated with gold embroidery.




The skirt is long and black. At the front a black silk apron is worn, while at the back there is the addition of a special fold of red material known as a “pagnuccia”. The costume wearer is also adorned with abundant gold jewellery and large earrings.  Historically, these ornate costumes would have only been worn on special feast days or at weddings. Often the beautiful treasured costume would be passed down in families from mother to daughter. The men’s clothing typically consists of a black jacket, a white frilled shirt with wide sleeves, knee length trousers, a wide red band tied around the hips, black shoes and bright red stockings.



At the festival the groups perform numerous traditional dances such as the tarantella and the saltarella.

On the same Sunday evening as the Feast of the Wheat Harvest,  Minturno also hosts an acclaimed International Folklore Festival. This welcomes other dance troupes from around the world to share their cultural heritage and traditions. This year there were colourful performances by groups from Chile, Mexico, Macedonia and Maldova.




















In this cultural exchange dancers, singers and musicians from all around the world can meet up and share their traditional cultural heritage and ethnicity in an atmosphere of warmth, friendship, peace and harmony.

All photos are by me © Louise Shapcott (except those by Melinda Abbott above)



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246 – A Visit to the Local Buffalo Farm

The Fattoria Santa Lucia is a modern farm complex located near to Minturno and Sessa Aurunca, along the ancient Roman thoroughfare of the Appian Way, not far from the River Garigliano which divides the regions of Lazio and Campania.

Buffalo have been farmed on these plains for many centuries, yet the buffalo, bubalus bubalis‘, is not an animal indigenous to Italy, in fact it originates from  the of East India. There is some debate as to how and when the buffalo were introduced into Italy. Some historians believe they were brought here by the Saracens while others think it was down to the Lombards. However it is known that there have been buffalo farmed on the plains of this area of southern Italy for many many centuries.

The Fattoria Santa Lucia has a large herd of buffalo and it welcomes visitors to its premises.  It also welcomes school parties and offers educational tours. You can observe the buffalo in various areas of the farm.



It soon became apparent to me that there is nothing a water buffalo likes more on a blisteringly hot day in Italy than to wallow and roll in a pool of mud, to help protect itself from the heat.



Dotted around the farm there are interesting educational panels regarding the breeding of the livestock and how the animals are fed and cared for.



There is another section with the mothers and their young calves. The babies are so adorable.


A lactating mother can produce 7 litres of milk a day which is high in protein content and essential vitamins especially vitamin B, K, and J.  Following the milking process the milk must be quickly chilled to a temperature of 4 to 6 degrees C.


Rennet is then added to the milk to form the curds which are then heated in the whey to form strings which give the mozzarella its elastic consistency.  The strings of curd are then cut – The term mozzarella is derived from this procedure called mozzare which means “cutting by hand”. The curd is then formed into the characteristic balls of soft milky cheese.



The smaller sized balls are known as boccancini. The cheese can also be formed into plaits.

Mozzarella produced in this area has the certification of Mozzarella di bufala campana DOP. On the farm is a small shop where you can buy the freshly produced Mozzarella and other delicious locally produced products.  The cheese is best preserved in some of its whey and should ideally be consumed within a day or two of purchase.

We love it served sliced or quartered together with sun ripened tomatoes, chopped basil and a generous drizzle of our own Tre Cancelle November Harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Delicious – there’s nothing quite like it !!!


The farm also has an agriturismo, a restaurant where you can sample the local produce and traditional dishes.

The Fattoria Santa Lucia website

* photo Luigi VersaggiCC BY-SA 2.0

All other photos by me © Louise Shapcott



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Near Sperlonga’s Beaches and Historic Itri in South Lazio

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245 – My New Website about Atina and the Val di Comino.

I am really passionate about this little hidden gem of a town that has panoramic views over the valley of the Val di Comino – an area of outstanding natural beauty. My maternal grandparents originated from this beautiful mountain community, so it is part of my ancestral heritage and my roots.


However, I used to find it somewhat frustrating that I couldn’t manage to find much information in English about this area, so I came up with the idea of creating a website in English all about Atina and the Val di Comino.  For over a year now I have been working on setting up a new site about the town of my Italian ancestral heritage – Atina.


Atina is situated in the province of Frosinone in the region of Lazio Italy, conveniently situated approximately midway between Rome and Naples. It is also only a short drive from the Abbey of Montecassino and the beautiful coastline of South Lazio.

Over the centuries Atina has experienced such an interesting history.  It was an important town even back in the times of the Romans and Samnites and it has been destroyed by earthquakes and rebuilt several times over the centuries.


Within the historic centre there are many places to explore such as the medieval fortified palace of the Cantelmo family, the beautiful cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the nearby Palazzo Prepositurale.



Atina also has several other churches of interest,  archaeological sites to visit and local museums.




During the summer months there are many popular events held in the area such as the Feast of Santa Maria Assunta, the Atina Jazz Festival, the International Folklore Festival and the CantinAtina wine festival to name but a few.



photo © Mirko Macari


There are many interesting local products to sample, notably the Cannellini beans of Atina and the local wine Atina Cabernet Doc and as well as other traditional gastronomic delights.


It is also a great region for exploring the great outdoors and partaking in various sport activities such as treking, mountain biking, horse riding, climbing, canoeing and paragliding. Indeed this area has so much to offer.


I am hoping to translate the website into Italian and French and to add a blog which could be a supply interesting articles and publicise local facilities, festivals and events. I hope that my website may encourage more people, with connections with Atina and the Val di Comino in Ciociaria to come and discover more about this wonderful area.  

My new Atina website:  Atina Italy

I have also created a Facebook Group named “We Love Atina”. It is a great meeting place for people who have family with origins from this town, and who share my interest and passion. If you have a connection with Atina please do feel welcome to come and join us.

Facebook Group We Love Atina

All photos except where stated by me © Louise Shapcott




Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

Near Sperlonga’s Beaches and Historic Itri in South Lazio


244 – Atina Feast of Corpus Domini

The feast of Corpus Domini falls on the 9th Sunday following Easter. This festival is a real cultural community event where local people come together to create colourful decorative carpets to adorn the streets and squares of Atina. These designs are made using brightly coloured wood chippings and flowers.

A metal template is used to form the designs.







Piazza Marconi, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Bishops Palace.







Several special altars are set up in various neighbourhood along the route of the planned procession, the main one being sited in the doorway of the old cathedral.











Also, along the way, apartment dwellers drape silk banners and beautiful lace trimmed linens from their windows and balconies.

For the solemn religious procession of the blessed sacrament, the parish priest wears an ornately embroidered wrap around  his shoulders. This he then uses this to hold the “monstrance” displaying the holy consecrated sacrament of the host which represents the blessed body of Christ.  Four proud staff bearers support a decorative canopy aloft, flanked by several dignitaries and cassocked youths carrying a crucifix and lanterns. The town band follows behind and many townsfolk join in the religious parade along the way. The procession slowly winds its way through various quarters of Atina.  At each of the special altars the priest offers prayers and blesses each of the districts.





When the procession arrives back to the piazza in front of the old cathedral, more prayers are offered and then the cathedral bells begin to joyfully ring out.  Finally a Benediction takes place in the cathedral to conclude the day’s celebrations.

All photos are by me © Louise Shapcott



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243 – The Lake of Posta Fibreno

During our grandson’s April visit to Italy we took time to explore the Lake of Posta Fibreno, which is located in the beautiful area of the Val di Comino in Italy. The village, of the same name, is perched on on a rocky ledge and has a splendid view of the valley and lake below.


The lake is in the shape of an elongated curve. It is a protected Nature Reserve measuring about 400 hectares.



The lake is fed by thawing snow and rainwater that has flowed down from the slopes of the mountains of the Abruzzi. As the rock is limestone much of the rainwater is channeled underground.  Where a pool of water collects the water becomes dispersed through springs into the lake.  Thus the water in the lake is icy cold and crystal clear, and remains at a constant temperature all year round.  Scuba divers enjoy exploring the lake due to crystal clearness of the water.



The lake has a curious “floating island” known as “la Rota” which has developed over the course of thousands of years due to an accumulation of peat, rhizomes, tree roots, plants and algae.  The thick mat of vegetation is not rooted to the bottom of the lake, so it drifts according the undercurrents  and the strength of the wind.  


Local fishermen use flat-bottomed boats, known as “nàue”, traditionally made of oak and propelled by the use of a pole or an oar.  It is thought that this type of boat was designed and first utilised thousands of years ago by the Samnite people. The lake contains an abundance of fish such as trout, carp, eels and freshwater crayfish. The lake is lined by weeping willow trees, by rushes and reeds and other aquatic plants.

It is a popular haunt of nature lovers and bird watchers.  Several nature trails have been created through the park and there is also restored watermill and a museum of local culture and tradition to visit. 


On the shoreline there are several bars and restaurants set beside the lake. There are also lovely spots to have a family picnic. It is a favourite place to visit on a Sunday afternoon by the locals.




We hired a pedal boat to further explore the lake. 





We saw numerous birds such as coots, ducks and herons. There were also some eager beavers who were busily collecting sticks to build their dams. Together with its unique natural beauty and eco-system the lake provides an ideal environment for many species of flora and fauna. 


All photos by me © Louise Shapcott



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

Near Sperlonga’s Beaches and Historic Itri

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242 – Aneurin’s April Visit to Italy

Back in the Spring of 2017 Aneurin, and his mum came to visit for a week. Every time we see our youngest grandson he seems to have grown another two inches.


Aneurin in our garden at Tre Cancelle

Aneurin loves Italy, he talks about it all the time and has told his friends and teachers at school that this is where he comes from. It is so lovely that he has such a connection with his family roots. My mother, Tina, would have been so happy to see this. I hope she is watching over us from above. As some of you know she was born in Little Italy in London’s Clerkenwell, and her parents were of Italian heritage from the mountain town of Atina in the Val di Comino.



Aneurin impressed by the size of strawberries in Italy

Aneurin loves being outdoors and likes to be kept busy. He was more than happy to get stuck in and help out with some gardening chores at Tre Cancelle.





One day during his stay we headed to Montecassino and visited the museum named the Museo Historiale di Cassino which commemorates the horrific Battle of Montecassino during World War II and the destruction of the beautiful monastery.





Aneurin at the Museo Historiale di Cassino

We also made a visit to the beautiful lake of Posta Fibreno in the Val di Comino – please take a look at our next post – 243 – The Lake of Posta Fibreno.

* public domain image

All other photos by me © Louise Shapcott



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

Near Sperlonga’s Beaches and Historic Itri in South Lazio

241 – Christmas Greetings 2016

Well as you can see we have had a busy full-on year here at Tre Cancelle.

We have welcomed guests from all around the world and have had many happy guests, and we’ve received some kind reviews on TripAdvisor

We’ve had the pleasure of meeting some really lovely people, sharing special times with family, friends and visitors, visiting some really beautiful places and enjoying the peace and tranquility of Tre Cancelle.

We are so lucky and we have so much to be grateful for.

Here are some photos of the Christmas decorations in the nearby seaside town of Gaeta.








Wishing you, one and all, Peace and Joy this Christmas

and also wishing you all the very best during the year ahead.

Ciao for now !!!

Louise and Paul