234 – Surprise 60th Birthday Celebrations

During Kay and Elsie’s stay, and also while Lora and Laurie were with us at Tre Cancelle it was Elsie’s birthday. We had booked a lunchtime meal at “La Casareccia” to celebrate. Or so I thought. We invited Lora and Laurie, and Pat and Mindy to join us.  As we entered the restaurant we were escorted to our table. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Already gathered around the table were my cousins Mario and Mara from Atina, Elena and Aldo from San Donato. Then there was Florisa, Patrizia from the pharmacy, and Darcy and Gerry from Gaeta, and of course Pat and Melinda.  I was left speechless.


It seems that Kay and Paul had been secretly organising this surprise for me. My 60th birthday isn’t actually until 19 December, however as Paul and I were unable to get back to the UK over the Christmas period, they had organised this early birthday celebration.



I was presented with some beautiful flowers,  gifts and Florisa had baked me a cake.







We all had a lovely meal. We are never disappointed at La Casareccia.










A huge thank you to all who secretly planned this wonderful surprise gathering.

It’s a memory that I will treasure.

My lovely 3D birthday card from Kay.


#surprise #birthday #meal #italy #lacasareccia #restaurant #campodimele



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments



230 – Paul’s Dad and Sister Annie Come and Visit

Paul’s sister decided to take early retirement last year from her job as Head Teacher at her school in Warrington.   She had started teaching at the school over 25 years ago and had progressively worked her way up. Anne was hoping to have more time to relax and unwind after the last stressful years of her job.  She also wanted to be able to spend some more time with Dad Shap in his later years. He still lives in Bristol, and Anne visits him whenever possible.

It was also lovely that she could organise a trip for her and Dad to visit us in Itri, since in the past he has loved to come, but at the age of 87 really finds travelling on his own too much these days. It was lovely for him to be able to catch up with us at Tre Cancelle and meet up with some of our Italian friends who he has come to know well over the years.


Paul and Dad Shap – photo by Anne Bright

During their visit we had a very pleasant lunch at a little restaurant by the beach called the Miramare, the weather being beautiful at this time of year, sunny but not overbearingly hot as it can be for northern Europeans during the summer.


Dad, Paul and Louise – photo my Anne Bright


Dad, Anne and Louise – photo by Anne Bright

Also during their visit we chose to go to one of our favourite eateries – “La Casareccia” in the nearby little town of Campodimele. You may well have read some of my previous posts about this wonderful little gem of a Taverna.

Here we organised to met up with our friends Pat and Melinda and their visitors Bobby, PJ and Luke from the USA, also Pat and David, also from the US – who like Pat and Melinda, have recently purchased a property in Minturno, and finally Karen and Stewart from Nottingham who have a holiday home in Sperlonga.  We were celebrating Melinda’s birthday and Dad and Anne’s visit.


Stewart, Pat, PJ, Luke, Bobby, Paul, Anne and Dad


Melinda and Stewart


PJ and Luke


Bobby and Anne

Once again we were not to be disappointed by the wonderful spread prepared by Maria the c0-owner and cook of the Casareccia. Plate after plate came our way of truly delectable food.






Maria, David and Pat


Stewart and Karen


Happy Birthday Melinda !!!



Very seductive pose Ms Melinda !

Here are some photos of a previous visit to “La Casareccia”.


Pat and David, Melinda and Pat


Paul, Pat, David and Melinda


Pat, his brother Mike and sister-in-law Jeanne


Pat and David





Highly Recommended !!!

Please note that during the winter months La Casareccia is only open at weekends.

A previous post about La Casareccia

Trattoria La Casareccia in Campodimele

The Casareccia reviewed on TripAdvisor

Bar Trattoria La Casareccia
Stazione di servizio Repsol, 04020 Campodimele, Italy
Tel:  07715980207

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#LaCasareccia #campodimele #italy #Traditional  #typical #ItalianFood #restaurant #trattoria #SouthLazio

Read more about Campodimele The Village of Longevity here



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

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

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

183 – Aussie Cousins Come To Visit

It was an absolute delight to have my cousins Cathy and Jeff come and stay with us during the month of June. They had left Australia to visit family in the UK and spend to some time in Wales, a place Cathy loves dearly, where her parents were both born.  Then prior to coming to us they had spent a couple of weeks on a farm in Umbria visiting old friends and helping to look after their flock of sheep.  When they arrived here at Tre Cancelle they came with a wonderful Peccorino cheese which was utterly delicious.

It had been 16  long years since we had seen Cathy.  These photos were taken on her last visit with her mother. Sadly Aunty Betty is now is in her 90’s and in a nursing home.


Aunty Betty and Cathy on their last visit


Cathy doing her Boadicea impression !!!

However it seemed like no time had passed at all as we all got on so well.  Their visit coincided with that of our most frequent visitors, namely Kay and Elsie who are  always good fun to be around.

My Aunty Betty and Uncle John had decided to emigrate to Australia in the 1960’s at the time when there was a scheme which encouraged the British to relocate to Australia.  They were enticed by promises of employment and housing, a more relaxed lifestyle and a better climate.  For the assisted passage adults had to pay just £10 each and children traveled for free.  Such families became known as the “ten pound poms”.   

I can remember that they came to stay with us at Woodside before the set off on their new adventure.


Andrew, me Louise and Cathy


Cathy, Andrew and me Louise


Me Louise, Cathy, Andrew

What an incredible experience it must have been for my cousins travelling around the world by ship. 

ten pound poms emigration to australia

ten pound poms emigration to australia

The family eventually settled in Melbourne and there they made a good life for themselves.

So, back to the present …………..



Cathy is a superb cook and was keen to get into the kitchen. 

Italian Chargrilled vegetables

She produced the most wonderful vegetable lasagne that I have ever tasted.  “Delizioso !!!” “Squisito !!!”  “Brava!!!”

Vegetable Lasagna

Indeed we enjoyed some wonderful meals together out on the terrace “al fresco”.

Tre Cancelle meals

Tre Cancelle meals

Jeff is a very talented artist and he took me and Elsie up to the Bellavista, where there is a marvellous view of Itri and its ancient castle, to do some sketching – it was really enjoyable.

Itri Castle Latina South Lazio Italy

This is Jeff’s finished sketch.  Just Beautiful !!!

Sketch of Itri Castle Latina South Lazio Italy

Artist at Tre Cancelle

 This is another that he did of the view from our terrace.

Sketch of Olive Groves Tre Cancelle Italy

Cathy and Jeff, Kay and Elsie kindly helped us around the place, weeding and watering the veggie patch, even helping to bath some of the dogs.

Bathing dogs at Tre Cancelle Italy

One day we drove down to the nearby coastline and we showed them some of the wonderous delights that  Sperlonga offers.  This is one of my favourite places and I always make sure I have my camera at the ready.

Looking down to the Grotto of Tiberius

and the Roman excavations and Museum.

Grotto di Tiberio Spenlonga Italy

Sperlonga Blue sea

Sperlonga’s beautiful sandy Levante Beach

Sperlonga Levante Beach Latina South Lazio Italy

Sperlonga Levante Beach Latina South Lazio Italy

Sperlonga Levante Beach Latina South Lazio Italy

We came across a newly wedded couple who were having their photos taken in the romantic setting of the old town.

“Che principessa !!!”

Sperlonga Wedding Italy

Sperlonga Wedding Italy

Old Sperlonga in Latina South Lazio Italy

Sperlonga Latina South Lazio Italy

Window in Sperlonga Latina South Lazio Italy

Bicycle in Sperlonga Latina South Lazio Italy


One evening we all went out to our preferred little restaurant that is tucked away in Campodimele – The “Casareccia”. 

La Casareccia Campodimele Latina South Lazio Italy

Elsie and cousin “Caterina”


Me, Paul and Kay

Maria’s dishes never fail to satisfy us.

La Casareccia Campodimele Latina South Lazio Italy

La Casareccia Campodimele Latina South Lazio Italy

La Casareccia Campodimele Chocolate Dessert

La Casareccia Campodimele Fresh Fruit Salad




Bella “Caterina”

So Cathy and Jeff, please don’t leave it another 16 years before we get to see you again. 

We really hope it will be much sooner than that !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#emigration #australia #TenPoundPoms #casareccia #campodimele



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

177 – Trattoria La Casareccia in Campodimele

Whilst researching for the filming at Campodimele we had the pleasure of being introduced to Maria and Fausto who run a bar and the village’s petrol station located at the foot of the ancient village.  Annexed to the bar is their little trattoria called La Casareccia. We had already heard by word of mouth that this was a rather good place to eat.

To be honest, the restaurant doesn’t look much from outside, but inside past the bar it is homely and cosy. In the warmer summer months one can eat “al fresco” in the tented extension.

Trattoria La Casareccia in Taverna Campodimele Italy

Trattoria La Casareccia in Taverna Campodimele Italy
Maria and Fausto were very friendly.  

Maria e Fausto Trattoria La Casareccia in Campodimele Italy

Maria is clearly passionate about cooking and puts her heart and soul into whatever she creates. She explained to us that she uses fresh wholesome locally sourced produce to create authentic traditional dishes of this beautiful region. It could possibly be called “cucina povera”, which literally translated means food of the poor. It is rustic Italian country cooking at its best, humble yet packed with flavour.

On this morning she was going to cook “Ciammotte” one of the village’s local delicacies (snails flavoured with mint and other herbs). She showed me the snails that she was preparing.

Snails Trattoria La Casareccia in Campodimele Italy

Snails Trattoria La Casareccia in Campodimele Italy

Snails Trattoria La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

Snails Trattoria La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

Maria showed us how she makes her own pasta including the typical “Laina” which is made with wheat flour, water and a pinch of salt, without the addition of eggs. The dough must be worked vigorously to obtain a uniform mass and then rolled out thinly. This is then covered with a thin layer of flour and allowed to stand for a few minutes. The it is then rolled up and then cut into uneven strips.

Laina Trattoria La CasarecciaCampodimele Italy

It is typically served with a sauce containing fagiole beans or “la Cicerchia” (the grass pea), an unusual type of chickpea / pulse widely used during Roman times. 

Cicerchia e Laina La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

Maria also makes her own delicious Ravioli.

We booked a table for four for the following weekend to celebrate our friend’s birthday.  Maria and Fausto were very attentive and helpful.   We all ordered the “Antipasti della Casareccia” which was made from typical local produce and had a delectable range of flavours and textures.

Antipasti La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

In addition we were presented with crunchy “bruschetta”, little fried dumplings ……

Vegetable and Herb Fritters La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

and the typical Zuppa di Cicerchia”.

Zuppa di Cicerchia La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

Then I ordered Gnocchi with Wild Asparagus and Mushrooms

Gnocchi with Wild Asparagus and Mushrooms La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

while the boys chose Tagliatelli with a Pork Ragu. Absolutely delicious.

Tagliatelli with a Pork Ragu La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

The prices are very modest and the portions are generous – so we recommend expandable waistbands !!!

Paccheri La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

La Casareccia Campodimele Italy
We have eaten here 4 times in the last two months and on every occasion we were very impressed by Maria’s dishes. It is soooo good – we just can’t wait to go back again !!!

La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

The last occasion was Easter Monday or “Pasquetta” and the place was full and buzzing with people.

During the winter months the restaurant is only open on Friday and Saturday evenings, but during the summer months it is open most evenings.

Highly Recommended !!!

The Casareccia reviewed on TripAdvisor

Bar Trattoria La Casareccia
Stazione di servizio Repsol, 04020 Campodimele, Italy
Tel:  07715980207

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#LaCasareccia #campodimele #italy #ciammotte #cicerchia

Read more about Campodimele The Village of Longevity here



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

176 – Filming A Documentary In The Village of Eternal Youth – Campodimele

A little while back we received a somewhat unusual phone call from a young lady who was doing research for a British TV production company. They were planning to film a documentary regarding the search for the most healthy diets around the world.

The company was called Boundless Productions who we learned produce high profile documentary and factual programmes for British television including Grand Designs and Great British Railway Journeys and a BBC medical science series soon to be aired in conjunction with the Open University.

They were interested in producing a 90minute film for Channel 4, entitled the World’s Best Diet in which well-known presenter and farmer Jimmy Doherty (life long friend of Jamie Oliver) and co-presenter Kate Quilton of the TV programme Food Unwrapped, were to explore a selection of the most diverse traditional diets from around the world – examining the eating habits of different communities and uncovering what the British viewer could learn from these.

They were hoping to film in Italy regarding the Mediterranean diet and in particular filming in the small village of Campodimele in South Lazio, which is renowned for the longevity of its citizens.

Campodimele Italy The Village of Longevity and Eternal Youth

I, being very passionate about this beautiful region, did all I could assist Jenni, the Assistant Producer by sending lots of information regarding the typical local foods, diet and lifestyle of the people of Campodimele.

Campodimele’s rich fertile soil has meant that the local economy has always been based on agriculture. The village was once renowned for its production of honey (miele).

Campodimele Italy Agriculture

Local produce includes “la Cicerchia”, an unusual type of chickpea. Then there are beans, sweet cornetto peppers, mushrooms, marzolinoa goats cheese, homemade bread, olives and of course wonderful extra virgin olive oil.

The film crew were interested in filming some of the still active elderly local inhabitants and talking to them about their diet and lifestyles.

Campodimele Italy The Village of Longevity

I contacted our good friend Florisa who has friends in Campodimele. We organised to go up there together to make tentative enquiries and find out if there were any old people who would be interested in being interviewed for the programme.


We met up with Maria who with her husband Fausto runs a petrol station attached to a bar and a little restaurant called La Casareccia in the lower part of the village. I will write more about this eating place in my next Blog.

Maria kindly introduced us to an elderly couple, Natalina and Bernadino, who live nearby at the foot of the valley. They are both around 80 years old but still run their simple little small-holding in the old traditional way. They maintain a very active lifestyle. Bernardino keeps a number goats which he takes out for a long walk every day.

Goats Campodimele Latina Italy

He also keeps a sizeable orto or kitchen garden.

Vegetable Plot or Orto Campodimele Italy

Natalina tends the baby goats, which she told us she was fattening for Easter. Not sure why she had put them into the barells !

Baby Goats Campodimele Italy

Baby Goats Campodimele Italy

She also has numerous chickens and geese, we watched her mixing up their food and then their feeding time.

Campodimele Italy The Village of Longevity and Eternal Youth

Campodimele Italy The Village of Longevity and Eternal Youth

Chickens and Geese in Campodimele Italy

Chickens and Geese in Campodimele Italy

Cockerell in Campodimele Italy

They lay lots of eggs and Natalina kindly presented us with some which were still warm to the touch. Wonderful !!!

Fresh Eggs in Campodimele Italy

Their ramshackle farmyard is littered with old odds and ends, it seems nothing is thrown away in case one day it could prove useful.

Farmyard in Campodimele Italy

Well, finally the film crew arrived in Campodimele, and fortunately the weather was set fair.  The group were exhausted as they had just flown in direct from Seoul in South Korea, where they had also been filming. Prior to this they had filmed in the Marshall Islands, in the Pacific Ocean. They only had scheduled in two days of filming in Campodimele so it was all rather hectic.

W met with the film crew who were all very friendly.  We remarked on the quality and freshness of the local produce, and that many families keep veggie patches of their own. Also nearby is the bustling town of Fondi, located on the ancient Appian Way, which runs as straight as a die as it crosses the expansive fertile plain. Fondi is a huge agricultural centre and its strategic position, being situated midway between Rome and Naples, has made it into one of Italy’s most important wholesale fruit and vegetable markets, namely MOF (Mercato Ortofrutticolo di Fondi), and is proud to call itself “Anti-transgienico”, that is against genetic modification, or as we would say a “GM free zone”. So many of the fruits and vegetables are grown locally.  The local produce tastes amazing, having benefited from being bathed in warm Mediterranean sunlight, for example the tomatoes and strawberries are so sweet, flavoursome and juicy.

Here produce is seasonal, which we like, we look forward to what is coming into season next. March is the time for artichokes and broad beans, then next come green beans, courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, peaches plums, and they all taste sooooo good!!!

We, like most Italians, prefer to prepare our food from scratch, there are still very few ready-made meals available in local supermarkets. Let’s hope it can remain that way for some time to come. Italians care about what they eat and I think in general would tend to spend a greater percentage of their income on their weekly food bill than the average British family, being prepared to pay a little extra for quality ingredients. Locals still habitually frequent small independent shops, perhaps where several generations of their family have shopped for many years. In the small town of Itri in which we live, which has a population of about 11,000 people, there are at least 6 butchers shops and at least the same number of green grocers and of course there is always a bustling market on Friday mornings.  You can probably see why we just love this place.

Vegetables Fondi Sunday Market Near Campodimele Italy

In summary some of the contributing factors to the longevity of the citizens of Campodimele may be: the healthy mountain air, living an active life, a less stressful pace of life, the consumption of extra virgin olive oil as an integral part of a healthy “Mediterranean diet” made of good fresh wholesome local ingredients, eating less red meat and more pulses, eating home prepared meals which contain very few artificial additives.

The film documentary was aired on Channel 4 in June 2014.

In fact when we saw the programme I was a little disappointed with the finished product as in the film there was hardly anything substantial about Campodimele, even though it confirmed that the Italian Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world.

All photos by me (except for the one in black and white which belongs to the Aurunci Natural Park)

© Louise Shapcott

#campodimele #italy #VillageOfEternalYouth #VillageOfLongevity #longevity #MediteraneanDiet #health



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