Most of our family and friends know that we are big fans of family history. It should be warned, however, that it’s a very addictive pastime and once you get started you can so easily get hooked !!!

I started by researching my father’s side of the family, the Richards family – Tin Miners from Cornwall, the Davies family – Coal Miners from Ammanford in South Wales and the Houghagan’s  from County Mayo / County Galway in Ireland and in Swansea.

Next we began researching Paul’s Shapcott family from Whitestone / Exeter in Devon. This got us well and truly hooked and we went on to liaise with several other Shapcott researchers, and we have put together a large database of information. Consequently, we registered our Shapcott interests with “The Guild of One-Name Studies”. We were interested to discover just how far and wide Shapcott’s are dispersed from their native homeland of Knowstone in North Devon, and to learn more about their individual stories and varied ways of life.

Shapcott Barton in Knowstone, Devon – The ancestral home of the Shapcotes

Here is our Shapcott Family Website:

And then of course there was my Italian side of the family. My maternal grandparents originated from the beautiful mountain community of  Atina, Frosinone, Italy, overlooking the River Melfa and the Meta and Mainarde mountains, on the edge the Abruzzi.



My Atina website:

However my grandparents chose to leave behind their beloved Atina to make a new life in London. In the Summer of 1911 they first set foot on English soil, and made their way to “Il Quariere Italiano” of Clerkenwell, the district known as “Little Italy” by the English and “The Hill” by the Italian residents.

They rented a dilapidated Victorian house at the lower end of Little Saffron Hill which was to be their home for many years to come.


Family Group

My mother, Tina (Concetta), was baptised in St Peter’s Italian Church in 1920 and made her First Communion there.



She married my father there in 1955.


Then I was born and was also baptised at St Peter’s and I lived in Clerkenwell until, in 1957, we moved away to the countryside of Hertfordshire, away from the smogs of old London town.  

My mother would, however, return every so often on a Sunday to attend Mass at St Peter’s. We also came at special times of the year, such as for the Italian Procession in July, which I walked in on two occasions, just as my mother had done before me.  We also enjoyed attending the Christmas Bazaar in St Peter’s School hall, Herbal Hill, where my mother had attended school.

Sadly I did not have the good fortune to get to know my maternal grandparents, as they had both died well before I came along. However, as I grew up I developed a true passion for Italy and all things Italian.  My mother (Tina) would fondly recount stories of her childhood in Clerkenwell and I decided to write them down and record them for future generations to learn from and to enjoy,  to preserve them for posterity.  I am so happy to be able to share my mother’s memories with you at my new website entitled “Clerkenwell Our Little Italy”.  

Tina’s story is about a child growing up in Little Italy

during the 1920’s and 1930’s.


In addition it includes descriptions of living in London through the Blitz during WWII, the internment of “enemy aliens” and the terrible tragedy of the Arandora Star.

The website also has a section dedicated to the history of Clerkenwell over the last few centuries and the influx of Italian immigrants to this area. There is information regarding the padrones, the organ-grinders, the street musicians, the artists’ models, the immigrants’ various crafts and trades, the terrible living conditions in the slums and, of course, the manufacture of ice cream.

Another section is devoted to St Peter’s Italian Church and the annual procession in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

During this project, I have met through the wonders of the internet, a number of interesting people who share my passion for Clerkenwell’s Little Italy and its social history, and also the history of London.  I would like to say a big thank you to everyone that has helped me.

A special thank you to those photographers who kindly gave me permission to use their wonderful images to illustrate the website.

So, here it is: Clerkenwell Our Little Italy

I have also created a Facebook Group by the name of   

Clerkenwell Our Little Italy    

Please do feel welcome to join !!!


Recently we were invited to yet another birthday celebration, by our friends Anna and Santo.  Santo is originally from Sicily and misses his birthplace greatly.  How I would like to visit Sicily one day.

These festivities were for their daughter little Isabel who was 5 years old.

(Just 55 years younger than poor old Kay and Elsie !!! but my time will come when I am 60 in a couple of years time – where does the time go !!!)

Isabel is a little “sweet heart” and very comical !!!

Here I think I will let the photos do the talking ….









Happy Birthday Isabel and may you have many, many more happy ones !!!






Thank you for inviting us to share this special day with you and your lovely family. Dear friends, my dream is that one day you will be able to meet my family too.

 Auguri !!!

I hope you like the photos.


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. 


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.



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.










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.





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



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




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 !!!



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


Callum made a special pizza for his mum ……








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 !!!


In November, to celebrate Elsie’s milestone birthday, Elsie, Kay and another friend Brenda decided to take a few days holiday in Sicily, a place Elsie had always longed to visit.  They rented a small apartment in the centre of Palermo and experienced first hand Sicilian life in this hectic city. On Elsie’s birthday Kay organised a sight seeing trip in a traditional horse drawn carriage, followed by a special meal.









They also managed to fit in a day trip to the seaside resort of Cefalù.

lthough it was November the weather was beautifully warm and Brenda was able to have a paddle in the sea.





Meanwhile back in Itri I was busy preparing a surprise birthday party for Elsie at the Bellavista restaurant with some live music by our friends Santo and Anna.

Elsie was really shocked as she entered the room as assembled were many of our friends from Itri and some other American friends from Minturno.




Florisa and I had baked a special cake.







The next day was to be my friend Florisa’s birthday, so after midnight we celebrated hers too.


Thanks to everyone for making it such a memorable joyous occasion.

Photos by Kay McRobbie


Well, sadly all good things must come to an end. 

All the members of the “We Love Atina !!!” Group seemed to really enjoy their long weekend in Atina.  They were a great bunch of people and everyone got on so well.  The weather was so kind to us, lovely warm sunny days, perfect for all our little trips around Atina and it environs.

We enjoyed several lovely evening meals together at …

The Villa Fortuna’s restaurant in lower Atina / Ponte Melfa.  We found it to be very friendly, the food was very good, tasty and reasonably priced.


We also used the Villa Fortuna’s bar as our meeting point and were made so welcome by Marcello and Christiane, the Italian / American owners who also share our passion for Atina and genealogy. We were also able to use their Wifi network which was very useful.  Thanks guys !!!


Paul and Trevor, Paula and Brigida


Gina and Mary


Brigida, Gina and Mary


Ernesto and Mark

The group also had a lovely meal one evening at the well known restaurant named “Il Vicolo” in Upper Atina, which was also very enjoyable. 


Brigida, Trevor, Gina, Enrico, Paul, me Louise, Mary, Delfa


Trevor, Gina, Enrico, Paul


Gina and her father Enrico


Delfa and her daughter Paula


Brigida and Trevor

You can read more about “Il Vicolo” here:

Il Ristorante Il Vicolo on TripAdvisor


One lunch time we went for a spot of lunch at “La Botola” (opposite the Museum) and had the typical Atina dish of “pasta e fagioli“.

Osteria-Enoteca La Botola on TripAdvisor


During their stay in Atina Brigida and Trevor, and Gina and Enrico chose to stay at the Fontana Vecchia, which is situated a little outside Atina, so a car would be useful.  They found the owners to be very friendly and helpful and would have no hesitation in recommending it to future visitors of Atina.

Fontana Vecchia Website


Mary stayed at the “Hotel Virginia” near the centre of Atina.  Here are some photos she took of the view from her room:





She said: “It was very clean and quite retro … A mix of old and new, the owner’s husband is a French architect and he designed it. The owner also took me to the train station in Cassino when i left and would have picked me up too if I had called her … I spent a week there and I was the only one in the hotel so a bit scarey.   It was very central for Atina, if like me, you are without transport.”

Hotel Virginia Website


The Bed & Breakfast Posta Vecchia is also well recommended.  It is situated in the heart of the old town. However it only has 2 rooms

The Bed & Breakfast Posta Vecchia on TripAdvisor


We’d also like to recommend the Hotel Villa Fortuna (who also have the bar and restaurant above) to anyone looking for accommodation in and around Atina.  This is situated in lower Atina, in Ponte Melfa.

Villa Fortuna Website


Well, we are soon  to plan next year’s “We Love Atina” Group’s next gathering in 2015.  We hope it may become an annual event. 

The date is still to be decided, however some have asked if it could be held during the summer months. 

Any further feedback would be much appreciated.

If you would like to join us, please feel free to join our

“We Love Atina !!!” Facebook Group

or get in touch with me.

We’d love to hear from you.  The more the merrier !!!

Ciao for now !!!


All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)


Some members of the “We Love Atina Group” stayed on for a couple more days to see for themselves the Feast of San Marco, the patron saint of Atina. Marco Galileo is said to have been an apostle of St Peter and was persecuted and martyred for his Christian faith in Atina, during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian.

Once again we  met up at the café next to the Arco in Piazza Garibaldi.


Trevor & Brigida Varley, Gina & Enrico Battaglia and Paul

On this occasion we had the pleasure of meeting Lorraine Tambourine and her husband Billy, who are both from Scotland. They are frequent visitors of Atina.


Festivities were just starting to get underway. There was a brass band playing across the square by the Convent of San Francesco.


I went up to the church and peaked inside where the ceremony was still taking place.



There was San Marco in all his glory.


By this time darkness had fallen and I wandered through the streets

admiring the illuminations.





The New Fountian


Billy and Lorraine




The Cattedral of Santa Maria Assunta and Bandstand



After the church service there was the procession

throughout the streets of Bella Atina.




The festivities continue into the night

when at midnight there is a grand firework display.

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)



We took some of the group to Montecassino Abbey, which is just a short drive away from Atina.  Mary Gilmour, Gina Polard and her father Enrico Battaglia had not had the opportunity to visit the abbey before.


Saint Benedict of Norcia founded the ancient Monastery of Montecassino in 529 AD and the order of  the Benedictines.  The Abbey was built on the ancient ruins of a Roman fortification, and became renowned through the ages as a place of great holiness, culture and art.

During World War II Cassino was a stronghold of the German Gustav line and the abbey was almost completely destroyed by the Allied forces who carpet bombed Cassino and the Abbey, the decimation of this holy bastion gave rise to a massive public outcry. After the war the Abbey was eventually rebuilt according to its original design, and brought back to its former glory.



As you enter the Abbey you first come to a peaceful cloister, and standing in the centre of the garden is a bronze statue depicting Saint Benedict as he is dying, being comforted and supported by two of his Benedictine brothers.




In the cloister is a beautiful and colourful mosaic.


This leads on to the Bramante Cloister.

In the centre there is an octagonal well.



Gina and her father Enrico


Gina and her father Enrico



From the balcony on the lower section there is a stunning panoramic view of the Liri Valley.  P1290843a

The Monastery’s vineyard



Enrico admiring the view

Steps lead up to a higher cloistered area and the facade of the grand Basilica, which has three bronze doors.


As we entered the Abbey the monks were singing verpers.

The inside of the Basilica is incredibly ornate and lavishly decorated.



There are wonderful examples of colourful intricate inlaid marble work.




Another Cloister with a fountain.



Mary larking about !!!


Enrico Battalglia

More than 30,000 soldiers lost their lives at Cassino and many are buried in the relevant British, French, Polish, German and Italian Military Cemeteries.  The Polish Cemetery is positioned on a hillside overlooking the Abbey, a footpath leads down to the entrance which is guarded by two stone eagles.  1,052 Polish soldiers are interred here, each grave is marked by a cross and the graves are laid out on a terraced area. Above the terrace is a hedge, clipped and shaped to form a hollow cross. An inscription, which translated from Polish reads:

We Polish soldiers for our freedom and yours

Have given our souls to God

Our bodies to the soil of Italy

And our hearts to Poland”.


You can read  more about Montecassino and Cassino here at my website:

We then headed for the British Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Cassino, here the individual gravestones stand upright in the landscaped grounds which are meticulously tended in memory of the fallen soldiers.  Here in this tranquil sanctuary more than 4,200 brave young Commonwealth servicemen now slumber in eternal peace, overlooked by the abbey from aloft.



I always feel so sad and emotional when I visit these cemeteries. We have another such cemetery not far from here, in Minturno with contains yet another 2,049 Commonwealth graves.  So many fine young lives lost – and what for I ask? Paul, my husband, said to me – “Imagine seeing instead of gravestones all these soldiers standing up proud in their uniforms, ready to defend their country / commonwealth. How splendid they would have looked.” We must never forget that each one was a wonderful person, courageous, loving, with a family behind them, who would miss them forever.  The same applies to all British soldiers who fought for their country so bravely in wars across the world  but didn’t make it back home.  We must also remember all those injured and maimed.







May they rest in peace but remain in our hearts and prayers.


“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

From Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen, written in September 1914

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)


Francesco Massa also organised for us to visit a local museum by the name of Casa Museo Académie Vitti.  We did not know of its existence prior to this, and from the outside it just looked like an ordinary house, but once inside what a treasure trove it proved to be.


The museum is dedicated to the Academie Vitti, a private art school, founded by Cesare Vitti in the Boulevard de Montparnasse, Paris in 1894. During this period the Montparnasse quartier was a centre of art and bohemian culture which attracted artists from all over the world.


Casa Museo Académie Vitti, Atina *


There were three beautiful Caira sisters, namely Maria, Anna and Jacinta, who worked as professional models posing for artists, sculptors and photographers. They came from Gallinaro, a small town in the centre of the Val di Comino, quite near to Atina. On display are many nude sketches in pencil, charcoal and chalk and paintings and drawings by Jacinta Caira.


Anna Caira * Casa Museo Académie Vitti


Giacinta Caira * Casa Museo Académie Vitti


There are also many postcards and photographs of models in costume taken by the greatest photographers of the time, such as Nadar and Naudet.




Maria Caira married Cesare Vitti.


Maria Caira * Casa Museo Académie Vitti





The Academie Vitti became one of the most respected schools of Art in Paris and operated without interruption for about 25 years, until the beginning of the First Word War in 1914 when the Vitti’s and Caira’s decided to return to Italy.  They lived in the very same house where the Museum is now situated.


Cesare Erario is a direct descendant of the family and decided to open a museum to exhibit the family’s treasured private collection of authentic works and memorabilia.


Thank you to Cesare and Francesco Massa

for organising this really interesting visit.

* cc photos -Wikipedia

All other photos

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)


Our Visit to the Winery of La Ferraria. 

La Ferriera is an establishment run by a family that has a long tradition in the production of wine, specializing in the production of quality red wines with the designation of origin ‘Atina Cabernet DOC’.  It is located in the Rosanisco district of Atina and is housed in the buildings of an old Iron Foundry.



The Iron works were founded by the Bourbon king Ferdinand II  in 1858 to extract iron from the ore mined in the nearby area of Monte Meta.  There have been mines situated here since Samnite / Roman times, and it was this that historically gave Atina much of its wealth and accordingly the name of “Atina Potens”.

The plant had a huge blast furnace with a large air pump or bellows to ventilated it.  Today it is draped with a curtain of vines and creepers.



There is a spacious courtyard surrounded with other buildings which were utilised as warehouses in which to store the raw materials, workshops, administrative offices and accommodation for the some of the workers.  Unfortunately the life of the Ironworks was to be short lived as it shut down in 1860 and was left abandoned.


In the centre of the courtyard stands an ancient poplar tree.

Below – Lucio Mancini giving us the guided tour.


Some of the old building are now used for the production of wine. The Cabernet and Syrah varieties of grape are cultivated in the vineyards of the estate of Colle Alto in lower Atina, in the beautiful Val di Comino. 


Modern equipment has been installed for the production of wine with controlled temperature and inert atmosphere in order to obtain a good extraction.


The wine is aged in barrels make of French Oak, with maturing on the lees and finally in the bottle. 


La Ferriera specializes in the production of quality red wines with the designation of origin’ Atina Cabernet DOC ‘.

The Realmagona DOC, is produced with Cabernet and Syrah grapes, We also tasted the Dorato derived from Pinot Bianco and Malvasia varieties.

Below Lucio Mancini  overlooking the wine tasting.


Lucio Mancini  overlooking the wine tasting


On the left – Francesco Massa

We were also kindly invited to taste of some other local delicacies.



Mary and Jan Waldron


Brigida Varley and Paul


Mary Gilmour, Trevor and Brigida Varley and Paul

 Delicious !!!

Thank you to Lucio Mancini – Sales Executive of La Ferriera and Francesco Massa – Consigliere Comunale of Atina for organising this interesting tour for us.

Thank you very much to Mary (shown on the left)

for treating us to a lovely bottle of

La Ferriera’s Realmagona Atina Cabernet.

So very kind of you !!!

La Ferriera’s Website

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)



Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 87 other followers


NonnaLou's Flickr Photos


More Photos



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 87 other followers