One of the best things about what we do is meeting so many interesting people and making new friends from around the world. At the end of May we welcomed our first visitors from New Zealand – a couple of lovely ladies, Rosie and Susan from Christchurch.
They had planned their trip well before the tragic series of major earthquakes had struck and brought Christchurch to its knees. Both had been deeply affected by the quakes, but after taking stock, with careful consideration they courageously decided to go ahead with their holiday. These plucky ladies had organised, all by themselves, a three week whistle-stop tour of many European countries such as Holland, France, Switzerland, Greece, Italy and Malta.
Rosie contacted us as, after having read about the tiny little village of Campodimele. For several years she had had a burning desire to visit this location and see it for herself. As she and her travel companion were lacking their own transport we agreed to put them both up at “Tre Cancelle” and personally drive them to Campodimele which is not so far from Itri.
One afternoon we pootled off and ventured inland, navigating the sharp twists and turns of the road that snakes its way up into the Aurunci Mountains. First, en route, we headed up to the nearby Sanctuary of the Madonna della Civita to take a look at some of the splendid panoramic views from this point.
We then continued along the meandering mountain road which finally led us to Campodimele.
The picturesque, medieval village is perched high on a hilltop overlooking a sheltered fertile valley. It is encircled by formidable turreted walls, which were built many centuries ago to protect its citizens from attacks by marauding Saracen pirates.
A path, known by the locals as “Lover’s Lane”, winds itself around the town walls, from which there are stunning panoramic views of the surrounding verdant countryside.
In the village square stands an ancient elm tree which was planted in 1789 to commemorate the French Revolution.
As I mentioned earlier, back in New Zealand, Rosie had read of the village’s renown. This tiny little town has been awarded the European title of “The Village of Eternal Youth” as it is noted for the longevity of its citizens. It seems that they are a particularly hardy breed, who seldom have the need to visit a doctor, rarely die before the age of 85, and it is not uncommon for its citizens to attain the age of 100. The World Health Organization sent researchers to the village to try to discover its secret.
Some of the contributing factors must surely be: the clean salubrious mountain air, the locally grown fresh ingredients that make up the typical good wholesome diet, which of course includes the excellent local extra virgin olive oil. Also the fact that the elderly do not retire early, preferring to keep themselves busy and active as possible. Campodimele’s senior citizens are not left to grow old alone, they are well cared for and supported by their family and others in the close-knit community. Indeed, even here in Itri, our 89 year old neighbour seems to be living proof of this, as he is still fit enough every morning at 6 am to climb his ladder, with secateurs and pruning saw in hand, to lovingly tend his olive trees.
The locals of this area are indeed resilient people who have a strong connection with the land. The old folk have toiled relentlessly over the years and also had to overcome indescribable hardships during WW2. Thankfully they now can enjoy better stress-free times in their twilight days.
Leathery skinned, elderly residents can often be seen sitting in the town square under the shade of a tree, or on a chair outside their front door, where they watch the world go by, not that much does go by in tiny Campodimele !!!
However on the particular day of Rosie and Susan’s visit, which was a Sunday, there wasn’t even one aged inhabitant to be seen anywhere. Very strange we thought, had they all suddenly died off ???
Then we came across an announcement that had been posted on the village notice board. –
“This Sunday – A Special Coach Excursion For The town’s Senior Citizens To Visit Rome and See The Pope.”
That explained it all !!!
Find more information about Campodimele here at
Rosie and Susan, we continue to think of you all in Christchurch,
and of course all of those reeling from the earthquakes in Japan.
It was a pleasure to meet you. Keep safe girls.
We hope you will return to Campodimele and Bella Italia one day .
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott
A recent article in the Telegraph Newspaper about Campodimele: