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One lunchtime Kay and I we drove down towards Gaeta to Sant’Agostino beach, which is situated on the Via Flacca between Gaeta and Sperlonga. There is a simple restaurant there that overlooks the beach, the Miramare, that we often frequent. We were greatly disappointed that it was closed on this occasion, so we drove on towards Sperlonga and parked in the parking area near Levante beach. We took a lovely stroll along the golden sands in the direction of the little harbour.
The beach was practically deserted, despite the beautifully warm and sunny May weather.
Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to live near to the stunningly beautiful coastline of the Riviera Di Ulisse.
The harbour and Torre Truglia.
We found a lovely little bar on the harbourside called “Il Porticello” where we had a lovely lunch of Insalata Caprese a simple but very tasty salad, made of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and olive oil.
Another day we returned to the “Miramare” at Sant’Agostino, this time we were more lucky. Our table was outside overlooking the beach, we had a lovely lunch – Kay had another Caprese salad and I had crispy deep-fried seafood. Scrummy !!!
We then went for an afternoon stroll to help work off our lunch.
Sant’Agostino is a 2 km stretch of golden sandy beach and is very popular with Italians from Rome and Naples, especially during the month of August. Originally here there were just sand dunes but now there are various small restaurants and bars dotted along the way, and although there are some bathing establishments on the whole it is a free beach.
One end is still guarded by an ancient watch tower, one of many such fortifications built along the coastline to guard against marauding Saracen pirates.
At the opposite end you can see one of the several road tunnels that run along the coast, and the remains of the ancient Roman Via Flacca.
It was a perfect day for taking photos ….
All photos by me
© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)
One of the things Kay really likes to do here in Italy is go around all the local markets. Throughout this area of South Lazio in the various towns of the area, a lively open air market can be found each and every day of the week.
Friday is Itri’s special day, and it is transformed into a vibrant, bustling market place. Each stall holder has his regular pitch. One section is dedicated to food and eager housewives set out early to shop for the best, freshest of ingredients for a hearty family menu. Well stocked Salumeria vans offer tempting selections of: plump juicy olives, some stuffed or marinated, capers, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes and grilled vegetables preserved in oil or in vinegar, salted anchovies, “Bacala” or dried salted cod, and an array of olive oils and vinegars. Then there are the numerous types of salami and also cooked and cured meats such as: Bresaola; Mortadella, Carpaccio, Speck Pancetta, Prosciutto Crudo, Prosciutto Cotto, Guanciale etc some of which are made from cuts of meat, and animal parts, that have long ago fallen from favour in the UK.
Then there is the bank of diverse cheeses made from the milk of cows, goats, sheep and buffalos, some dolce “sweet” and some piccante “matured and strongly flavoured, some with hard rinds, some with soft, and some “sotto olio”. Crumbly Parmesan and Pecorino, smooth Asiago, Provolone, smoked knobbly Scamorza and Caciocavallo, sweet creamy ricotta, luscious balls of milky mozzarella, to name but a few.
The next “bancarella” has a fine show of silvery, glinting fish and seafood chilling on shavings of ice.
Then there’s the first of the fruit and vegetable stands, which are full to overflowing with freshly picked, irregularly shaped, local produce, artistically arranged in colourful displays. The wide choice of goods, never quite the same each week, reflects the ever changing seasons. Posies of parsley and basil, celery, carrots, beets, funghi, cabbages, cauliflowers, lush spring greens, spinach, escarole, sprouting brocoletti, asparagus spears, broad beans, garden peas, artichoke heads, chicory, radicchio, salad leaves and rocket, fennel bulbs, radishes, onions, shallots, spring onions, French beans, green runner beans, fresh Borlotti beans, aubergines, zucchini, zucchini flowers, peculiarly shaped squashes, corn-on-the-cob, peppers, and countless varieties of sun-ripened tomatoes on the vine.
Then the fruits … oranges, mandarins, clementines, lemons, wooden trays of sweet scented strawberries, nespole, soft furry apricots, peaches, nectarines, cherries, luscious plums, apples, melecotone, pears, kiwi, persimmon, succulent figs, juicy grapes, golden melons and giant thirst-quenching water melons. Often, as the market begins to pack up at the end of a session, especially if there is a seasonal glut, crates of perishable items can be snapped up for a song.
The next stall has jars of local honey, bunches of dried fragrant herbs, tresses of onions, plaits of garlic, threaded garlands of fiery pepperoncini, an assortment of sacks containing dried beans, peas and various pulses. Then there are peanuts kernels, chestnuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds and dried fruits.
A further stall sells trays of vigorous vegetable seedlings for planting in one’s own orto, as well as potted plants, shrubs and fresh cut flowers. Another familiar face is an Indian pedlar who on fine days walks around selling strings of garlic, whereas on inclement days he tends to switch to umbrellas.
A wizened old lady, wearing a head-scarf and pinny, sells fresh snails from her bucket, which she weighs on an ancient hand-held balance scale. In between sales she shares her time between chatting to the local market goers and attempting to keep all her snails under control and from escaping out of their temporary home.
The other section of market is ablaze with colour and has a fascinating array of wares on sale, rolls of fabrics, flowing organza curtains,, bed linen and household textiles and furnishings, haberdashery, silk flowers, cosmetics, jewellery, accessories, toys, hardware and kitchen miscellanea, and garments of all shapes, sizes and descriptions, ranging from teeny petite to “big fat spaghetti eating Mamma dimensions”.
There is also a wonderful range of leather goods and fashionable footwear so if you happen to have a passion for shoes this is the place for you. In China I learned the skill of bartering, the long ritual of negotiating the price, but my ability does not match that of our dear English friend who is renowned for being a “Hand-bag-aholic”, a habit which is easily fed during her visits to us during which she has spent many a happy hour browsing the local market stalls for unusual handbags and bargains.
Most of the traders are Italians however, there are a few stalls that are run by Chinese, Phillippinos, Indians and North Africans. We have befriended a young trader, from Senegal on the Ivory Coast of Africa, who specializes in selling handbags, belts and sunglasses and always offers us a good “sconto” or discount. He positively stands out in a crowd as he is remarkably tall and stately, at a height that must be approaching seven feet. Dressed in his flowing caftan, he enthusiastically rushes forward to greet us with a beaming toothy smile, a hearty handshake and a few words of English.
By mid morning the market is buzzing as shoppers jostle between the “bancarelle”. However, this is not just a place to shop but provides an ideal opportunity for the locals to mingle, catch up with each other over a caffe or a cappuccino. A gnarled mustachioed Neapolitan accordion player routinely does the rounds of all the local bars.
As lunchtime approaches the hard working stall holders exchange lively banter as they set about packing up their wares and heading off back home for a tasty filling plate of delicious pasta.
On Sundays there is a huge market in nearby Fondi as well as one in Gaeta on Wednesday Mornings and Formia on Thursdays. Here you can buy a kaleidoscope of merchandise. Kay especially loves the rummage stalls, where sometimes you can snap up a bargain.
In fact Kay now has a whole wardrobe of clothes that she leaves here when she goes back home !!!
But she can never turn down a bargain !!!
All photos by me
© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)
In April Paul needed to go back to the UK to renew his passport, and to spend a week of quality time with his Dad. So we asked our good friend Kay if she would like to come over to Italy to help and keep me company during Paul’s absence. In fact we talked Kay into coming for 2 whole months !!!
On the first Sunday of Kay’s stay we all drove down to the seaside at Gaeta, to have a look around at the Yacht Med Festival that was being held there.
Along the sea front there were many stalls promoting all things maritime and nautical. Of course there was an array of classy boats on show, with prices to match !!!
There was also a very large model of John Cabot’s sailing ship, it is believed that he was born in Gaeta, and the long road along the sea front bears his name – Lungomare di Giovanni Caboto.
From here we watched two impressive teams of fit youngsters, ten per boat, taking part in a rowing competition, all skilfully sculling in unison to power the boats along at a fair rate of knots.
There were other exhibition stalls, some dedicated to tourism, nature and the local regional parks such as the Riviera di Ulisse and the parks of the Aurunci and Ausoni Mountains.
You can see here how the beautiful Aurunci Mountains tumble down to meet the sea in the gulf of Gaeta.
Some more of the stalls …… Wildlife
Finally some music started up and several troops of young colourful majorettes performed their energetic twirling routines to the delight of the crowds.
The tiny tots were really cute !!!
All photos by me !!!
© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)
In October we were delighted to welcome our youngest grandson Aneurin and his mummy Emma, who came for a 2 week visit. The weather was still beautifully warm and sunny for much of their stay, which was perfect for several days out at Sant’Agostino beach, situated midway between Sperlonga and Gaeta. As you can see, we had the beach practically to ourselves.
The Riviera D’Ulisse or Costa Pontina in South Lazio – this beautiful coastline, with its golden sandy beaches, is still largely undiscovered by international tourists. It is extremely popular with Italian visitors from Rome and Naples, particularly during the month of August, or on sunny summer weekends, when they flock to the seaside to escape the city heat. However out of season this area reverts to a sleepy, peaceful setting for a relaxing Italian holiday.
The safe sandy beach was an absolute delight for a fearless energetic 2 year old !!!
Aneurin really enjoyed the freedom of the wide open spaces and olive groves around “Tre Cancelle” …
and we dug out the old train set from the loft, which went down very well !!!
We all, including Aneurin, very much enjoyed our pizzas !!!
Giancarlo has a little girl just a few months older than Aneurin.
It was so lovely to see them interacting. It was clear that Chiara had taken quite a shine to Aneurin.
Thanks to all at the Bellavista for a lovely rememberable evening !!!
(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.
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!
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 …
drove up into the mountains to see elaborate churches, villages perched on mountain tops and of course the famous Abbey of Monte Cassino.
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.
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.
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.
We recently took a short drive to the nearby picturesque seaside resort of Gaeta, during the Yacht Med Festival which was being held between 20th and 29th April.
Gaeta has ancient maritime traditions as it has long been an important port of trade, a key export being “Itrana” Olives, which are more commonly known as “Gaeta Olives” . The Gulf of Gaeta has a spectacular backdrop as the Aurunci Mountains tumble down to meet the sea.
This Mediterranean festival was to focus on the economy of the sea, sailing, fishing, the environment, culture and tourism. Along the long seafront boulevard there were numerous exhibition stands promoting an array of products and services related to these themes.
On show were of course many boats of all shapes, sizes and prices.
The Guardia di Finanza had opened one of their training ships to the public.
For the first time we were also to enter the premises of the Guardia di Finanza’s Scuola Nautica at the end of the peninsular known as Punta Stendardo. It was most interesting to see the beautiful old town and its cathedral from new vantage points, which gave the vistas an entirely new perspective.
Here on show were martime exhibits including a model of the John Cabot’s (or Giovanni Cabot0’s) ship the “Matthew”. It is believed that he was born in Gaeta, although other sources give his birthplace as Genoa. He became an English navigator and explorer, having settled in Bristol in the 1490’s. He set sail from Bristol in May 1497, and landed in June on what is now called Cape Breton Island. Then he sailed along the coasts of Labrador, Newfoundland, and New England, believing that he had reached north-western Asia.
Across the bay echoed the sound of strong rhythmical drumming. As we wandered back through the old town it became apparent that the reverberations were emanating from a troop of drummers and flag throwers, dressed in colourful medieval costumes.
We looked on as the sbandieratori seemingly effortlessly waved, twirled and tossed their heraldic standards into the air.
Traditionally, in times gone by, such bands of brave men would have lead their troops into battle.
Returning to matters nautical – Gaeta is the home port of the 6th Fleet Flagship USS Mount Whitney.
On the 20th May Gaeta will be in the forefront of the sailing news, as it is to be the starting point of the 2012 Rolex Volcano Race. From Gaeta the crews will race past the Pontine Islands and reach Capri to complete the first leg of the event. After the stop-over on the Isola Azzurra, the boats then race across the Tyrrhenian Sea and towards the Aeolian Islands which include Stromboli, Vulcano and Alicudi, a volcanic archipelago just north of Sicily. The long distance race of more than 400 nautical miles will finish at the beautiful Island of Capri.
We wish all the contestants fair winds and God speed.
By the way – I have recently updated my webpages about the beautiful and interesting town of Gaeta – Please do take a minute or two to take a look:
The following day the “Welsh Girls” deserved a well earned day off.
We thought that they could benefit from some retail therapy, so with it being a Wednesday, we took them to the colourful Gaeta market. Here there is an array of stalls selling almost everything under the sun.
The girls made some new friends.
This included the 7ft tall Moustapha from Senegal who runs an stall selling handbags.
We then proceeded along the coast road to Sant’ Agostino beach, midway between Gaeta and Sperlonga. and had a snack lunch at one of our favourite little haunts, the Miramare. Outside tables look directly onto the beach. It was a beautifully day and we all enjoyed the warm rays of the sun.
We then drove on to Sperlonga, where we showed them delights of this magical little town.
All in all … a very beautiful day !!!
In the seaside city of Gaeta, the festival known as “Le Vie di Gaeta”, is held over a long weekend at the beginning of October. This a popular event with people coming from near and afar to take part. It is a celebration of local ancient traditions, culture, history and gastronomy and there are informative guided tours of the town where one can learn more about Gaeta’s colourful history, art, culture and nature.
On the Saturday evening a wonderful Food Festival is held in the charming setting of Via Indipendenza which runs parallel with the sea front Lungomare Giovanni Caboto. Via Indipendenza is a quaint, narrow pedestrian alley, approximately half a mile in length, and is paved in dark volcanic stone, with many little adjoining alleyways known as vicoli. Here you can find many small shops selling fresh local food and an array of items, such as souvenirs, handicrafts, leather goods, clothes, jewellery etc.
The food festival is a gastronomic extravaganza of traditional local Gaetana food, recipes and where locals offer samples of their freshly prepared delicacies.
We arrived in the early evening, and watched as the locals were still in the process of setting up numerous colourful stalls along the narrow street. The participants are generally all volunteers, a great example of the locals coming together to keep alive their community and traditions, which they hold so dear.
There are small tables at strategic entry points to the Via with people selling vouchers which represent an ancient coinage of the old duchy of Gaeta known as the “Follaro”, which is valued at about 50 euro cents. With these vouchers you can then purchase samples of the various delicacies on offer.
Gaeta residents come together to offer the very best of their native ingredients and cuisine, for example Gaeta olives and freshly caught local seafood, cicinelli (tiny baby fish) octopus salads, cod or vegetable fritters, anchovy meatballs.
Then there is the renowned Tiella, which is a cross between a pizza and a calzone. Typical fillings include diced calamari with parsley, garlic, oil, hot chilli pepper and a little tomato sauce. Other fillings include escarole (a variety of endive) and baccalà (dried cod), egg and zucchini, spinach, and ham and cheese.
There was plenty of local vino on offer as well, as dolci such as Bignè made from a type of choux pastry filled with delicious crème patisserie, cakes made with honey and Struffoli, small balls of fried batter, rolled in honey.
Some of the stallholders had even taken the trouble to dress up in traditional costumes of the Gaeta area.
It seemed that everywhere along the route our tastebuds were tantalised by the deliciously temping aromas. By now Via Indipendenza was buzzing with throngs of people filling every nook and cranny of the narrow street, and forwards progress was slowed to a virtual standstill by people stopping and chatting with neighbours and friends every couple of yards.
Indeed it was an excellent evening of good food, conviviality and merriment.
Here at Tre Cancelle our Farmhouse and Olive Groves are immersed in the greenery of the Italian countryside. Just behind us stands Monte Marano, which reaches a height of 516 metres.
We are so lucky to be surrounded by abundant wildlife including many species of song birds as well as Kestrels, Hawks, Buzzards and Owls.
Our favourite is our Hoopoe who visits every year and calls out its calming, reassuring and steady “Hoop-Hoop-Hoop” from the top of our tall pine tree. He is a very fine bird, quite large in size with a long slightly curved bill, a pinkish-fawn head and breast, an impressive crest and black and white striped wings.
We also have other regular visitors such as wild boar, porcupines, foxes, hares, and stone martens.
Indeed, this area of South Lazio is so rich in Natural Beauty – It is blessed with the best of many worlds:
The nearby Coastline with its sandy beaches, rocky crags and coves, hidden caves and sheltered harbours …
Yet closeby here in Itri we have the dramatic Aurunci Mountains and their Protected Natural Park. Much of the rock is limestone, and the scenery is ever changing as the mountains spectacularly tumble down to meet the sea.
Also locally there are several more wonderful Protected Natural Reserves to explore:
Sperlonga has the Roman Ruins of the Villa and Grotto di Tiberio and Coastal Path
Fondi has the Ausoni Mountains and 3 Coastal Lakes with dunes which form a peaceful natural haven for diverse wildlife.
In Gaeta is the Parco di Monte Orlando which has dramatic rocky crags and cliffs overlooking the beautiful Gulf Of Gaeta.
In Scauri is the Parco Suburbano di Gianola e Monte di Scauri
In San Felice Circeo there’s the extensive and varied Parco Nazionale Del Circeo
There are also stretches of beautiful coastline which have been designated as Marine Natural Park, collectively known as the Oasi Blu, which is maintained by the World Wildlife Fund WWF, that ensures optimum water quality providing an ideal environment for an extensive variety of marine life. Therefore these areas are popular with scuba divers.
All of these nature reserves are an absolute paradise for nature lovers and bird watchers, providing tranquil habitats for numerous animal species, particularly a wide range of bird life ranging from birds of prey, to sea and water fowl.
All the parks have well signposted hiking trails which traverse wonderful varied terrain, providing magnificent vistas and panoramas of the mountains, coastline and nearby islands. There are also routes suitable for mountain biking. We have a selection of useful maps and local guide books.
So all in all Tre Cancelle
is an excellent base for discovering and exploring
the boundless natural beauty of South Lazio.
Perfect for True Lovers of Wildlife and Nature.
Come and see for yourself !!!