214 – An Italian Christmas


I must admit, that I have never been much of a fan of Christmas, since at the age of 9 or 10 I became very disillusioned on abruptly discovering that Father Christmas was in fact not real.  I was absolutely devastated.  How I had been duped !!!   However, my dear mother Tina always loved Christmas. She seemed to forever see Christmas through the eyes of an innocent child, even when she was in her 80’s!  I miss her so.

 I can recall, when I was quite young, that Mum used to delight in taking me on shopping trips to London to visit the large department stores with their glittering, alluring window displays.  Here I would be enticed to visit dear Olde Santa in his magical twinkling grotto.  However, so fervent was her passion, that in the period leading up to Christmas I was taken to visit Santa in several different stores. 


Even at the age of 4 or 5 I must have developed quite an enquiring mind, as I soon began to deduce that each of the Father Christmas somehow looked subtly different, ie in their stature, the colour of their boots and belts. 

Here in Italia Christmas is still largely a catholic religious festival, centred on the original meaning of the event.  Sadly, I myself am not a believer, however I feel the duty to respect and acknowledge these ancient beliefs and antique traditions.

In fact, it  is very heartening that Christmas here in Italy seems to be far less commercialised compared to in the UK and the USA.  It is not until around mid November that the shops begin to get set up for Christmas shopping, and even then it seems to be a fairly low key affair.


Outside their premises some shop keepers lay out cheery red or green felt on the pavements, and display Christmas trees decorated with ribbons and bows, and assorted dangling pasta shapes that have been gilded with gold spray paint, creating a jolly festive atmosphere.

One thing that it is not easy to find in Italy are Christmas cards.  Occasionally they are sold individually, and then choice is very limited, the quality very poor, and they are invariably very over priced. 

In the weeks leading up to Christmas traditionally shepherd pipers, known as pifferai and zampognari, would come down from the mountainous regions of the Abruzzi to herald the pending birth of the Christ child, by playing their traditional festive music.  The ciaramella is a wooden flute, and the zampogna  is a type of reed bag-pipe, the air sacks of which are traditionally made of goat or sheep skin and the flutes are commonly carved of olive wood.


They still come,  clothed in their local costumes. They sport an unusual type of foot ware, known as the ciocia, which is said to date back to Etruscan times.  This consists of a rudimentary leather sole which towards the toe curves upwards.  This is held in place by long straps which are tightly bound around the foot and calf. 



This type of footware is part of the local costume of the people of Ciociaria, who take their name from this unique type of shoe.  My mother’s family originated from this region.

Many churches erect a special Nativity tableau, called a presepe, many with figurines that have been created by traditional artisans.  Naples is well known for its artisans who hand-craft these intricate scenes. Indeed, there is a street in Naples called Via San Gregorio Armeno that is full of little shops that display such nativity scenes. There is also a museum.


In certain towns it is possible to see a “living” Nativity scene, with real people and children dressed in costumes, acting out the traditional story.  One such village near to us is Maranola (see the link below).


A Living Nativity at Maranola

Around this period many stores start stocking up with items for creating festive nativity displays. It is a Christmas tradition in most Italian families to set up a presepe in their homes, some are more elaborate and fanciful than others.  







The figurines are not just restricted to the basic Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus, the shepherds and the three kings. Indeed, there is a huge range of statuettes available such as glittering winged angels, lowly farmyard animals, and figures depicting traditional crafts, skills and pastimes.



These figures range from rather tacky mass produced plastic specimens to more tasteful hand crafted statuettes.


Some cribs incorporate pastoral village scenes with little model houses, stables, farmyards, bridges, caves, and snow capped mountains.








There are other essential accessories to further embellish one’s Christmas display, such as cork, moss, bark, straw, painted backdrops, fairy lights and even electrically driven streams, wells, water-wheels and windmills.




However, the nativity scene is not normally put out on display until after the 8th  December, which is the feast of the Immaculate Conception which is marked by a Public Holiday.  The 13th of December is the feast of Santa Lucia also known as “The Festival of Lights”.

Il bambino Gesù, is laid in the manger at midnight on Christmas Eve and not before.  The majestic Magi are added to the display on the day of the Epiphany, 6th January. 

Sometimes nativity scenes are handed down through the family, from one generation to another.

I recall one year, many moons ago, my aunty Lina sent over a parcel containing a small crib, with an integral musical box.  It played the tune to the well loved Italian Christmas carol: “Tu scendi dalle stelle, O re del Cielo, E vieni in una grotta, Al freddo e al gelo.” As a child I was transfixed by the enchanting scene and the delightful rhythmical tune.  The other day whilst rummaging in a box of Christmas decorations I came across it once again, and could not resist winding up the musical box to play the comforting music. This Nativity scene itself is now looking rather jaded and showing its age. I should really work on restoring it.

My mother used to describe to me how my Italian grandfather, or Nonno, used to create their special Nativity scene.  Being a skilled carpenter he constructed a splendid wooden crib and would work for many hours, painstakingly creating the display, with mountains made of cardboard and a night sky illuminated by tiny bulbs which ran off a battery.  He would use earth for the ground, and flour for the snow.  Then he would lovingly position the plaster statuettes of Our Lady, Joseph, the shepherds, kings, angels and animals to complete the scene.  Unfortunately one Christmas the poor family cat got somewhat confused and did a “whoopsie” in the middle of the scene !!!  I am sure he would have paid for his error!   After this Nonno vowed never again to use real soil in the display.

Thus the true Italian Christmas is a celebration of religious faith, of family as well as being a special occasion for a magnificent gastronomic feast, with no expense spared.

On Christmas Eve, La Vigilia,  is the most important day in the Italian Christmas calendar, when whole families gather together in anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child.  The Catholic faith decrees that no meat is to be eaten on this special day, thus the repast is based on various types of fish and sea food.  It is sometimes referred to as the Feast of Seven fishes, so earlier in the day the fish markets and stalls will have been doing a roaring trade selling their bountiful fresh supplies.  There is a feeling of great excitement in the air, and throughout the whole day the women folk busy themselves in the kitchen, loving preparing the traditional dishes for this sagra.      

The dinner, of numerous courses, commences at around 6 in the evening, starting with various tempting antipasti such as octopus salad, mozzarella, juicy olives, roasted peppers, and picante Provalone cheese.  This is normally followed by a pasta dish such as Vermicelli con Aglio e Olio (garlic and olive oil), or perhaps Spaghetti con Vongole (clams).  Other dishes to follow may include salted cod (bacalà), anchovies, sardines, squid, octopus, mussels, shrimps and prawns or the more extravagant crabs and lobsters.  A firm favourite is capitone, a dish of fried eels and often a larger fish is baked stuffed with garlic, herbs and lemon.  In addition several side dishes may be served including artichokes and broccoli.  As you can imagine the meal continues for several hours.   Afterwards the family sometimes play a game of tombola, which is similar to bingo, until the chiming of the church bell signals it is time for everyone to head off to Midnight Mass.

In these modern times, since the Second World War, Italian children have come to believe in Father Christmas, or Babbo Natale  and look forward to receiving presents on Christmas Morning.  

Christmas Day, there is another eating extravaganza, this time served at lunchtime.  This time the meal consists mainly of meat or carne, often including some baked lasagne and some form of roast fowl or large joint of meat is served.  Italian Christmas dolci and desserts include the typical Italian Christmas cake, called  Panettone,  It is tall and round, and  is a cross between a moist sweet egg bread and a light airy cake studded with candied fruit.

Pandoro is somewhat similar, but without the addition of the fruit, and is dusted with icing sugar.  Italians seem to love these, and insist on buying each other hundreds of them.  In recent years manufacturers have created many new varieties and recipes, but you really can just have too much of them!  By the end of the Christmas season all across Italy people’s cupboards are, without fail, crammed full of the things.  One wonders what does happen to them, do they ever all get eaten?  

Other sweet delights include Torrone – a delicious type of nougat containing hazelnuts and almonds wrapped in rice paper, Panfortea dense flat cake from Siena containing dried fruits and nuts, Amaretti – biscuits made with ground almonds, Cantucci – traditional almond biscuits from the Tuscany region.  Did you know that the word biscotti, the Italian for biscuit, means “twice cooked”.

Homemade favourites are struffoli, which are tiny pieces of dough, that have been deep fried, coated in honey and liberally sprinkled with sugar or hundreds and thousands and zeppole, little fried donuts.

Boxing day is known as la Festa di Santo Stefano, and New Year’s Eve is La Festa di San Silvestro, and the arrival of the New Year, Capodanno, Italians eat lenticchie e zampone, stuffed pigs trotter and lentils. The more lentils you eat the richer you will be, the old saying goes. New Year is welcomed with optimism for the future is usually marked by the letting off of noisy fireworks.

The true Italian tradition was for the children to hang up their stockings by the fireplace or in the kitchen on the eve of the Epiphany, the 6th of  January.  On this night it is a kindly old lady, known as La Befana, who is said to bring the children presents. 


Legend has it that this magical witch was busy sweeping her floor when the “Three Wise Men” knocked on her door and asked her to accompany them to Bethlehem. She declined their offer saying she was too busy with her chores.  Next some shepherds called by and asked her to go with them to pay their respect to the newborn son of God.  Again she said no. Later she witnessed a wondrous bright star in the night sky, and she decided that perhaps she should go to find the baby after all.  So she gathered up some toys and set off to try and catch up with the Kings and Shepherds.  She searched and searched in vain to find them or the birthplace of Jesus.  It is said that each Christmas she still goes looking for baby Jesus, flying on her broomstick, wandering from door to door, but still she is unable to find him.  Instead the good witch leaves little gifts for all the children she finds. 


Children are told that if they have been good they will find goodies in their stockings, but if they have been naughty they might only receive pieces of coal.  I recall as I child, each year without fail I would find one piece of coal, wrapped in tissue paper, tucked tightly into the toe of my Christmas stocking. Now I know why!

This year we will be spending Christmas in Italy, sadly not near to our family, however safe in the knowledge that we are lucky to be surrounded by good trusty friends we have made here.

We would like to take the opportunity of wishing you, one and all,

a very joyful peaceful Christmas

and we wish you all the very best during the forthcoming year.


Love and hugs from Louie, Paul and the “Woof-Gang”.

Some more of my photos of intricate hand-crafted nativity scenes

More information about the annual Living Nativity held in Maranola


#itri #trecancelle #italy #SouthLazio  #italy #christmas #natale



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga and Itri

213 – Minturno – Art, Culture and Tradition


In December we attended a festival of Art, Culture and Tradition in the historic little town of Minturno, entitled “I Vicoli de Traetto Raccontano”, an event held over a two day period.

When we arrived in the town at about 4pm on Sunday (the time advertised on the poster) yet there appeared to be very little happening, in fact the place was virtually deserted. At first we wondered if we had mistaken the date. However, we had learned through past experience, that here in Italy any event seems to take time to start and get going, especially around siesta time. So we persevered and took time to admire the wonderful view of the coastline and one of the most stunning of sunsets.



The original name for  Minturno had once been Traetto, the town having being founded in the 9th century.  In the highest part of the town there is an impressive castle or baronial palace. Finding it open we ventured inside. The great hall is now used as an exhibition area, where there was a small display of artwork depicting ladies dressed in the traditional local costume.





We followed the central street which lead us to the ancient cathedral which was founded in the 9th century and is dedicated to San Pietro Apostolo.  A staircase leads up to the porch which has four arches. The tall brick bell tower has three rows of mullion windows.  


Some ancient remains of Roman architecture have been  incorporated into the building.


The church was beautifully decorated for the festa dell’ Immacolata Concezione, which is celebrated on the 8th of December.





As we exited the peace and quiet of  the church we made out the sound of drumming and traditional accordion music.


We took a wander through the centre of the old town which is lined with numerous little alleyways. There is something of interest to see around each and every corner.






Along the way locals had been setting up their stalls, some selling traditional food, others displaying traditional arts and crafts.










In an ex church we came across demonstrations of traditional skills such as weaving, lace-making and needlework.






We then stumbled upon the Museo Etnografico di Minturno which had many interesting exhibits of tools and paraphernalia of days gone by.





Here some charming little children belonging to a folk dancing group were getting ready for a performance.





All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

You can read more about traditional folk dancing on my previous blog regarding Minturno’s Sagra delle Regne and International Folklore Festival

Minturno on my South Lazio website


#minturno #italia #italy #SouthLazio #travel #culture #tradition



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga and Itri

212 – It’s That Olive Time of Year


At the end of October our friends Kay and Elsie from South Wales came over for a week to help us as usual with the olive harvest. They have been doing this for several years now. Elsie always celebrates her birthday with us and we usually go to the Bellavista to meet up with friends and celebrate there. This year we invited our friends Patrizia and Luca to join us for a pizza.


Last year Elsie celebrated her 60th birthday and I organised a party for her here

We were so pleased to have some olives on our trees this year, however they were sparsely spread throughout the grove which was definitely going to make gathering them a laborious task.

Pat and Melinda, have recently moved from Ohio to live permanently in nearby Minturno. Pat’s brother Mike has also bought a property there together with a small plot of land with about 20 olive trees on it. In Mike’s absence, Pat and Mindy had also decided to gather Mike’s olives as they could not bear the idea of the beautiful fruits to go to waste. Melinda, who is a keen, gathered some to put into brine to preserve them. They also wanted to make the remainder into fresh November extra virgin olive oil. In total they managed to gather five and half crates weighing 115 kilos, which they duly dropped off at Tre Cancelle.

Meanwhile we set to work, spreading the nets under our trees to hopefully catch the olives that Paul rattled off with the mechanical rake which is powered by compressed air.



However it was frustratingly slow going. The first day we only managed to gather two crates of olives.


Yet we did not let this dishearten us too much as over the next day or two we found an area of the grove where the trees were more abundant with olives. One morning Pat and Mindy and two of their American friends also came to our aid and with the extra hands available we finally managed to gather a total of six and a half crates.

So between us we had gathered a total of 266 kg. This was just perfect, because at our local olive mill there is a minimum batch size of approximately 250 kg, to ensure that there is no mixing with other producers’ olives. This is important to us because we, by choice, do not use any pesticides or herbicides in the maintenance of our trees and groves, trying to be as natural as possible.

Here are the olives ready to be transported to the olive mill in Itri.

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Paul, Melinda, Pat and Max

Kay and Elsie’s visit to Itri seemed to fly by, and before it came to an end we decided to have a spot of lunch at another of our favourite haunts, the Miramare down by Sant’Agostino beach.




Before long we welcomed another couple of volunteers, our friends from South Africa, Adrian and Gerda.


This was to be their second visit to Tre Cancelle and their first experience of harvesting olives. They soon realised what they had let themselves in for.






Once again, over the next day or so, it was a hard slog although we did adopt a slightly different method, by lopping off the tops of the over-tall trees and retrieving the olives at ground level.




One morning we were also lucky to welcome two new American volunteers, more friends of Pat and Melinda, namely Pat and David, who kindly came to lend an extra two pairs of hands. Dave proved to be a dab hand at using the mechanical rake. They really seemed to enjoy the experience and we certainly enjoyed their company.


Pat and David


Our neighbour and good friend Michele then arrived with 40 kilos of olives that he had gathered on his own property to add to our haul. However we were still struggling to get a sufficient number of cases to make up a full batch of olives. Then at the very last minute, we remembered that there were a couple of trees close to the house, which had a fair few olives on them.

Despite our fatigue, and with the additional incentive of the thought of a late lunch at the Miramare, we found a new surge of energy for a final push. These remaining olives were quickly gathered. Hurrah !!!



Here we are enjoying a well earned late lunch once again at the Miramare and witnessing a magnificent sunset.



We then headed back home to Tre Cancelle and loaded the full crates of olives into our car.


When we unloaded them at the mill, which was buzzing with activity, the crates of olives were weighed.  We were delighted that we had jointly gathered a total of 233kg of olives, again a sufficient quantity to be processed in one batch. We were told the oil would be ready to collect the following day.

The next evening we returned to the upper part of the olive mill where the olives are processed by being washed, then milled to produce a pulp, and then passed through a centrifuge to extract the oil.




We were incredibly lucky to get there just as “our oil” was being processed.  The grassy aroma of the freshly pressed olives is just wonderful.




The pulp which is left after the extra virgin olive oil has been extracted is transported away  and it is heat processed to extract oil of a lesser quality. The remaining pulp gets compressed to form briquettes or pellets for burning on a wood fire.


We then showed Adrian and Gerda another section of the mill, where olive fruit is graded and sorted for size and quality, destined to be preserved in brine for approximately six months and later to be sold as table olives.








When we got back home we couldn’t wait to try our newly pressed extra virgin olive oil.



It was absolutely delicious, having a aromatic scent of freshly mown grass, with a slight peppery taste, and a wonderful green hue.  Nothing added or taken away, just the wonderfully natural product that mother nature intended it to be, and so unlike the majority of olive oil on sale in the UK.

On the final night of Adrian and Gerda’s stay we went to the Bellavista to celebrate an excellent week’s work. It seemed that all this hard work and exercise had caused Adrian to built up a substantial appetite as he managed to eat three whole pizzas !


Mamma Mia Adrian !!!

Sincere thanks to all our crazy volunteers for their hard work during this year’s olive harvest.  How blessed we are to have such wonderful friends.

To all of you out there reading this, perhaps your appetites have been whetted, and if so you would be most welcome to  come and join in the fun and games of the next Tre Cancelle harvest.

Photos by me, Melinda Abbott, Gerda Volschenk and Kay McRobbie.

#itri #oliveharvest #olives #itrana #oliveoil #italy



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments near Sperlonga and Itri

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