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

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

We enjoyed several lovely evening meals together at …

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


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


Paul and Trevor, Paula and Brigida


Gina and Mary


Brigida, Gina and Mary


Ernesto and Mark

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


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


Trevor, Gina, Enrico, Paul


Gina and her father Enrico


Delfa and her daughter Paula


Brigida and Trevor

You can read more about “Il Vicolo” here:

Il Ristorante Il Vicolo on TripAdvisor


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

Osteria-Enoteca La Botola on TripAdvisor


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

Fontana Vecchia Website


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





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

Hotel Virginia Website


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

The Bed & Breakfast Posta Vecchia on TripAdvisor


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

Villa Fortuna Website


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

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

Any further feedback would be much appreciated.

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

“We Love Atina !!!” Facebook Group

or get in touch with me.

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

Ciao for now !!!


All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)


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

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


Trevor & Brigida Varley, Gina & Enrico Battaglia and Paul

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


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


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



There was San Marco in all his glory.


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

admiring the illuminations.





The New Fountian


Billy and Lorraine




The Cattedral of Santa Maria Assunta and Bandstand



After the church service there was the procession

throughout the streets of Bella Atina.




The festivities continue into the night

when at midnight there is a grand firework display.

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)



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


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

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



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




In the cloister is a beautiful and colourful mosaic.


This leads on to the Bramante Cloister.

In the centre there is an octagonal well.



Gina and her father Enrico


Gina and her father Enrico



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

The Monastery’s vineyard



Enrico admiring the view

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


As we entered the Abbey the monks were singing verpers.

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



There are wonderful examples of colourful intricate inlaid marble work.




Another Cloister with a fountain.



Mary larking about !!!


Enrico Battalglia

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

We Polish soldiers for our freedom and yours

Have given our souls to God

Our bodies to the soil of Italy

And our hearts to Poland”.


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

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



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







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


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

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

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)


La Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta stands in Piazza Marconi, in the centre of the historic old town.


The Church was decorated in preparation for the up and coming celebrations of the Feast Day of San Marco (1st October), Atina’s patron saint.



Some of us chose to attend Mass at the Cathedral.

Me, Louise, lighting a candle for my mother in the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, Atina.

P1290682aAfter Mass Monsignor Domenico very kindly agreed to give us a guided tour of the Cattedrale.


The church was founded in the 11th century on the site of an ancient Roman temple dedicated to the god Saturn.  At this time the church was dedicated to St John The Baptist, you can see a statue of St John on the exterior facade of the church, located in a niche flanked by the bell towers.


The remains of the martyr San Marco were deposited there.  In 1280 the church was enlarged  In 1349 the town of Atina and the church were destroyed in a devastating earthquake.  In 1405 a bell tower with four bells was erected. By the 16th century it had three chapels dedicated to SS Rosario, St John the Baptist and St Joseph and later more were added to SS Crocifisso and the Madonna of Loreto.

In 1743 the remains of the martyr San Fortunato were deposited there and in 1725 it was decided to totally renovate and expand the the structure including the construction of the dome,  the renovation works took approximately 20 years.  1746 the new church was reconsecrated and dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta and given her name, In 1798 the church was further adorned with the noble facade with two bell towers and in the first half of the 19th century the artist Teodoro Mancini of Atina painted the interior of the dome and the vault of the central nave. In 1873 the building was struck once again by an earthquake which caused the need for major reparations and further enhancements to the structure were included and then on the 3 May 1878 it was deemed to grant the church the higher status of a cathedral.

Since then the Cathedral has withstood the further serious earthquakes of 1915 and 1984.

The church we see today is decorated in an ornate Baroque style.  Monsignor Domenico Simeone showed us the beautiful altar intricately inlaid with multi-coloured pieces of marble in the Napolitan style, similar to work in the Abbey of Montecassino.






The main Altar of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta.


The painting of the Assumption above the main altar


The beautifully carved wooden Choir Stalls



The Statue of Atina’s main patron saint, San Marco, and the Altar of the Cattedrale


The Pulpit and the Confessional


The Baptismal Font –

Many of our Atina ancestors may well have been baptised here.


Some of the beautiful side Altars and Chapels




Painting of the Last Supper


I would just like to add that it was here in this chapel in October 2005 that my parents, Tina and Hugh, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by renewing their vows.  It was a very touching experience and a very special occasion.


Sadly they have  since both passed away.  How I miss them so.


Returning to the Cathedral – The ornate gilded dome and ceiling.



Looking towards the rear of the church and the organ.


A Fresco of St John the Baptist.


Ornate Baroque Plasterwork and Gold Leaf.


The organ which was built in 1737 by the Catarinozzi family.


An ornate sarcophagus.





During WWII and the heavy bombing of Atina by the Allies in 1943, the Cathedral was seriously damaged, the dome was destroyed and several works of art were also lost. In addition, sadly some paintings by the artist Luigi Velpi were stolen from the Cathedral in recent years.



A big thank you to Monsignor Domenico Simeone who gave us a wonderful tour of the beautiful Cathedral, in perfect English.

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)



On the Saturday morning we all met up by the new fountain in Piazza Garibaldi.


Eugenio Cannatà, born in Atina, but a resident of New York in the USA, had donated some money to create a new monument for the centre of the square, to replace the fountain that was destroyed in the bombing of Atina during WWII.  The new fountain bears the inscription “In memoria dei coniugi Guglielmo e Ofelia Cannatà”.


Piazza Garibaldi and the Porta dell’Assunta or San Rocco – an ancient gateway into the historic centre of Atina.


Mark and Jan Waldron


Paul, Sally and Ken Nardone


Trevor and Brigida Varley

We were met by Dottoressa lenia Carnevale, the Director of the Archaeological Museum of Atina, who was to give us a guided tour of the town.



The “Posterula” dates back to around the II Century and allowed access to the Roman town from the surrounding countryside. Its round arch opens into the original boundary walls.  The Visocchi family’s wine factory was founded in 1868 on the premises opposite this gate.  In 2003 the factory was turned into a museum and seat of the “Associazione Enogastronomica” named “Le Cannardizie”.  This restaurant is highly recommended in Atina. Website:


La Porta dell’ Assunta or La Porta di San Rocco.

P1290381aThe Palazzo Ducale, the Duke’s Palace


Outside the Palazzo Ducale there is a Roman statue, the head of which, it is said, was changed with the proclamation of each new Emperor.  The epigraph inscribed on the base records Marco Aurelio Antonio (161-180) who owned a holiday villa in Atina.


The entrance to the Palazzo Ducale – A Roman Memorial Epitaph  – a large block of stone or marble with a memorial inscription dedicated to a respected citizen.


Inside the Palazzo Ducale there is an ancient mosaic depicting Samnite warriors.


In the Palazzo Ducale there was a private chapel which is under restoration.  There are some beautiful frescoes.






Some frescoes were rescued from the ruined church of Santa Maria.


The following two paintings depict life at Court.



In the great hall of the Palazzo Ducale stands a large table with beautifully carved legs.


In the Palazzo Ducale there is now a room with three modern multi-media interactive units depicting Atina and the Val di Comino during the Medieval period.



Stairway inside the Courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale.


Ken & Sally Nardone, Paul Shapcott, Enrico Battaglia, Brigida Varley, Dottoressa Illenia Carnevale, Mary Gilmour, Gina Pollard, Trevor Varley, Mark Waldron & his wife Jan


Ken Nardone, Me Louise, Sally Nardone, Enrico Battaglia, Brigida Varley, Dottoressa Illenia Carnevale, Mary Gilmour, Gina Pollard, Trevor Varley, Mark & Jan Waldron

An ancient doorway


A tiny alleyway


Via Grotti, where my ancestors lived.


Next Illenia gave us a tour of  the Archaeological Museum of Atina. 

Another Roman inscription.


An ancient Cyclopean piece of stone.



Ancient sculpture of a Lion






All of us at Archaeological Museum of Atina

Thank you so much Illenia from us all !!!

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)


Some while ago I started a new group on Facebook, an English speaking Group for people who share my passion for beautiful Atina and the Val di Comino and who have family roots firmly planted in this beautiful little town in Frosinone, Italy.  The group is called: “WE LOVE ATINA !!!” We now have reached a total of over 400 members.

Brigida Varley and I organised a “Get Together” of “We Love Atina” members in Bella Atina over the weekend of the 26th / 27th / 28th September 2014.

On the Friday afternoon Paul and I had the pleasure of meeting up with Mark and Jan Waldron and Mark’s cousin Peter in Ponte Melfa, in Atina Inferiore.


On the Friday evening we met up at the bar near the Arco and the new fountain for drinks, so we could begin to get to know each other, and what a lovely bunch of people they were.

Paula Demarco, Delfa Macari, Trevor and Brigida Varley,  Mark and Jan Waldron, Gina Pollard and her father Enrico Battaglia, and me Louise

Paula Demarco, Delfa Macari, Trevor and Brigida Varley, Mark and Jan Waldron, Gina Pollard and her father Enrico Battaglia, and me Louise


Trevor & Brigida Varley, Wark Waldron


Gina Pollard, Mary Gilmour and Enrico Battaglia

Brigida Varley,  Mark and Jan Waldron, Gina Pollard

Brigida Varley, Mark and Jan Waldron, Gina Pollard

After some discussion we decided that we would go back down to Ponte Melfa to the Villa Fortuna, a hotel and restaurant run by a friendly couple – Marcello and Christiana.  On Friday night they do a Fish and Chip Supper which went down a treat.




The Hotel Villa Fortuna’s Website


All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)



A while back I created a Group on Facebook called



This is an English speaking Group for people who share my passion for beautiful Atina and the Val di Comino and who have family roots firmly planted in this beautiful little town in Frosinone, Italy.  We now have over 275 members.


Brigida and I are currently organising a “Get Together” in Atina over the weekend of the 26th / 27th / 28th September 2014. 

Anyone with family connections with Atina is very welcome to take part.

For anyone who would might like to stay a few extra days – the Feast of Atina’s patron saint, San Marco, is held on 1 October.

Here are some ideas that Brigida and I have come up with

for the Get Together ….

The Friday Evening

Meet and Greet – to meet up with We Love Atina members of the group at a Bar in Atina. It would be great if we could find somewhere with a side room where we could all get to know each other, chat, show photos etc etc. and generally use as a base.

Saturday Evening:

All meet for drinks at a bar and on to Restaurant for dinner.

Sunday Morning:

Attend Mass at the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.

Some other ideas ……

A Guided Tour around Atina, discovering the different districts, houses and palaces, learning about the history of the town.

A Visit to the local Museum and Library.

A Visit to the local Graveyard.

A Visit to the ruins of the old Paper Factory

A Wine Tasting at a local Vineyard and Tasting of local delicacies

If people want to stay on for a few days they could also …….

See the Monday morning Market held in Atina

For anyone who would might like to stay on for a few extra days – the Feast of Atina’s patron saint, San Marco, is held on 1 October.


Well these are a few ideas, perhaps you can come up

with some new or better ones.

Please feel free to get in touch if you would like

to join We Love Atina !!! on Facebook

and / or if you would like to attend this event in Atina.

This is my website about Bella Atina:


(A Guest Blog Post by Diana Johnson of Bribie, Queensland, Australia)

Hearing my black Labrador dog, Cindy, barking vigorously under my bedroom window reminded me of the dawn chorus at “Tre Cancelle”. No, not the birds but the doggies of “Tre Cancelle” whose voices may be a little muted if Paul has overslept and they are still in their night kennels. By day they have free rein across a large yard and are quick to detect the slightest movement from the occupants of the downstairs unit who might just be bearing doggie delights to their yard.

“The Woof-Gang”

A shared interest in Shapcott Genealogy gave me a virtual introduction to Paul and Louise many years ago but it is only in the last two years that I‘ve managed to visit their idyllic Italian hideaway. This September I lured my husband as well to South Lazio to meet Paul and Louise and the Woof Gang!

Well what a week! After combing the supermarket shelves in Rome for dog treats, I found it was much easier to buy them in Fondi or Itri. Of course by that time I also had to add in cat food as well for the latest additions to the “Tre Cancelle” home for waifs and strays. We wasted much time in trying to coax a very shy little kitten out into the open although her mother, named Micha, was much bolder and more forthright in her demands for sustenance. Milk and biscuits disappeared rapidly every day and cat food was gone in a flash!



Diana befriending Tinkerbell

Warning to anyone dispensing Dentastix to the “Woof-Gang” – be sure to keep you fingers out of range lest Lizzie mistake one for a Dentastick ….

Somewhere in between walking dogs and generally making a fuss of all the furry inhabitants of “Tre Cancelle”, we found time to do some sightseeing around the region. With Paul driving and Louise supplying the tour commentary we feasted our eyes on the beautiful fishing ports with their steep steps and narrow alleys and archways in the old parts of the towns.


We visited markets selling every kind of produce under the sun, watched a religious procession …

Feast of Saints Cosma e Damiano

drove up into the mountains to see elaborate churches, villages perched on mountain tops and of course the famous Abbey of Monte Cassino.

The Abbey of Montecassino

A special bonus was afforded to us in Atina, where Louise met some of her relatives and we were invited into one of their houses in the old quarter of the town.

Atina’s ancient Cathedral

An alley in Atina

Louise and Paul at Atina’s weekly market

Listening in ignorance to the rapid flow of Italian I knew that I had to improve my knowledge of the language of this beautiful and intriguing country. It is not enough to be able to buy a bus ticket or order some meat or cheese in the deli, you really want to know what is going on…………..

No visit to Itri is complete without a visit or two to the aptly named Bellavista restaurant run by Mamma Riccardi and her charming sons. The road to the restaurant is an interesting climb if you happen to be the driver but thankfully I was not.  Having made it to the top, we relaxed on the terrace in the warm evening soaking up the glorious views of Itri by night (no doubt improved by the jugs of wine that appeared regularly upon our table). The Italian wine goes well with the Bellavista pizza, which is just great, in fact I’ll find it difficult going back to Aussie pizzas after having the real thing in Italy.

Trevor and Paul at the Bellavista

And while I’m on the subject of food, how can I not mention the wonderful gelati ice creams that we downed on several occasions. Alas, it means several more hours in the gym to work those inches off the waistline but ….well…. it was worth it!

Sadly a week goes by too quickly and all too soon we were heading back to Rome for the next leg of our trip but I know we will be back one day in the not too distant future. That is providing our good friends can put up with their Aussie visitors again.



Following our son’s accident back in February, I decided to stay on in the UK for a month or two to help out, as and when required, during his convalescence.  Our dear friend Kay very kindly offered me board and lodging at her house in Cardiff.

I have come to love the city of Cardiff,   I suppose it is because as well as being part Italian, I also have Welsh blood running through my veins – from my father’s side of the family.  Well, my maiden name Davies couldn’t really be more Welsh !!!

Cardiff became great during the grand age of Coal, when the Marquis of Bute built a large port and docks for the export of coal hewn from the Welsh Valleys.  Sadly a hundred years or so further down the line, the need for coal sharply diminished, causing the dockland areas of Cardiff to fall into a deep decline.

However a few decades ago an ambitious plan was drawn up to regenerate and transform the derelict areas which included the construction of a Barrage across the mouth of Cardiff Bay and the creation of a new waterfront area.  This area is now known as Mermaid Quay and has an array of inviting restaurants, cafés and bars.

This is the Pierhead Building ……

Nearby is the Wales Millennium Centre …..

The centre of the capital is bustling with several modern shopping centres. 

This is the new Library building.

More of Cardiff’s notable landmarks include  …… 

The City Hall and Museum

Cardiff Castle

Yet within the city there are many parks and green spaces such as Bute Park, Cathays Park and Roath Park with its Boating Lake.

All in all there is so much to explore in the vibrant, multicultural city of Cardiff.

During March was the 2012 6 Nations Rugby Tournament and I had the pleasure of being in Wales when the Welsh Team Won !!!

Bravo Wales !!!

My Rugby Mad Welsh “Daft Daffy” friends in their suitable attire !!!

This summer the Cardiff Millennium Stadium will yet again be in the forefront as it is hosting 11 Olympic football matches.

Cardiff, Wales – “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” – “The Land of My Fathers”

Hope you enjoyed my photos, you can see more of them on Flickr:


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