239 – November in Sperlonga

When friends come and visit we usually take them for a little run in the car to show them around our local area of South Lazio.

In November our friend Annette and her friend Sarah came to stay with us at Tre Cancelle for a few days.

The girls at the Cafe Centrale in Itri – Hot chocolate so thick you need a spoon.

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The weather was still calm and very mild, so we of course took them for a snack lunch to the Miramare at Sant’Agostino beach.

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Sarah and Annette

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Sarah, Paul and Annette

Then on to Sperlonga which can be very beautiful at this time of year.

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The Torre Truglia.

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The harbour.

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Sarah and Annette

View of Sperlonga’s Ponente Beach.

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View of Levante Beach.

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The Grotto of Emperor Tiberius.

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A square in the old historic centre.

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Wandering through Sperlonga’s maze of little alleyways. There is something to see around every corner.

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A wedding in Sperlonga.

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Sperlonga sunsets.

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Sunset over San Felice Circeo.

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Come Discover Beautiful Sperlonga !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#sperlonga #italy #SouthLazio #beaches #

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments Near Sperlonga and Itri

237 Visit to Assisi

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As we drove through the greenery of the Umbrian countryside we caught our first glimpse of the ancient city of Assisi perched high on a hill.  Once again the weather was being so kind to us as it was a beautiful sunny Autumn day. We drove up the winding road to the town and quickly found a place to park just outside of the historic medieval centre.

The Church and Convent of Santa Chiara.

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We walked through one of the three arched gateways and into the Piazza di Santa Chiara. Santa Chiara was one of the first followers of San Francesco of Assisi, and founded the Poor Sisters, which later became the Order of the Poor Clares.

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After her death in 1254 construction work commenced on the Basilica dedicated to her name, which was to house her remains. It is built of pink and white stone.

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The rose window.

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Detail of the Basilica facade – A carved lion.

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A wonderful lion that guards in the square in front of the cathedral.

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Some views of the town of Assisi from the square.

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We wandered downhill through the narrow streets and alleys which were lined with bars and restaurants, interspersed with interesting little shops selling ceramics, leather bags, books, tradition embroidery, books and local food delicacies. Then there were, of course, the numerous shops selling rosaries, religious trinkets and souvenirs.

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The fountain in Piazza Comune.

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In this square stands the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, which incorporates the well preserved Roman temple of Minerva, the the goddess of wisdom.

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The Town Hall.

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As we continued our way downhill there were so many things of interest to catch one’s eye.

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Eventually we found our way the Basilica of San Francesco.

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Assisi was the birthplace of St Francis in 1181, a humble man who renounced his wealth and possessions in order to devote his life to helping the needy. He also founded the Francescan Order of Friars and became the patron saint of animals, with which he had a great affinity.

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Detail of the facade of the Basilica di San Francesco.

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The construction of this basilica began two years after the death of St Francis in 1226. It is an important place of religious pilgrimage.

The interior is beautifully decorated with colourful frescoes depicting stages of the St Francis’ life. These are the work of some of the best known artists of the late 13th and early 14th centuries, such as Giotto, Cimabue, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti.

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In the crypt there is the stone sarcophagus of St. Francis.

“Pace e Bene” is a form of greeting that was used by St Francis and St Clare

meaning Peace and Goodness.

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As we walked back to the car our lovely day was blessed with a beautiful sunset.

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May peace be with you.

All photos except where indicated are by me © Louise Shapcott

 (Note: photos marked with * are in public domain)

#assisi #StFrancesOfAssisi #umbria #italy #basilica #StClare

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

 

236 – Cortona in Tuscany

As darkness fell we headed off from Pisa and on to our next Tuscan destination which was the Medieval town of Cortona in Arezzo. This was to be another long drive, this time in darkness. Finally, as we climbed the hill up to the old town of Cortona the time was approaching 10 pm and we were decidedly weary. We drove right to the top of town where the streets were so narrow and hard to negotiate with the car so we made our way back, a little down hill, to an area where we could stop the car. Lora had made a list of possible hotels, but had not made any reservations, so I headed off again on foot to see if I could find somewhere to lay our weary heads that night.

A local gentleman kindly gave me directions to the Hotel San Michele. I was relieved to find its doors open and a helpful receptionist on duty. I tentatively asked if they had a triple room available for that night. “Is it just for one night”, she enquired.  She confirmed that there was a suitable room available for that one night only and said that we were lucky as the hotel was to close for the winter from the following day. We made our reservation and were escorted to our room which was comfortable and elegantly furnished.

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Once we had stowed our luggage in the room we headed out again on foot in search of something to eat as we were absolutely ravenous. The receptionist recommended a local little restaurant in the centre of town, which we eventually located only to be told that they were just closing. So we continued our quest until we came across a little place called “Nessun Dorma”. We asked if they were still serving, and thankfully the answer was positive and the attentive waiter swiftly lead us down some steps into an old restored cantina which had been transformed into a dining room.  The room was softly lit and had a lovely warm atmosphere and we soon ordered our dishes from the menu. The food and wine were excellent and the staff were very kind and attentive.

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Feeling revived we made our way back towards the hotel. It was Halloween and there were children and youngsters running around the streets in costumes.

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Needless to say it did not take us long to get off to sleep that night.

In the morning in the hotel’s dining room we enjoyed selecting our breakfast from a huge array of delicious food items on offer at the buffet table.

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After breakfast we set off on foot to explore the town.

Cortona was the setting for the book by Frances Mayes and the famous film

“Under The Tuscan Sun”.

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The Town Hall in Piazza della Repubblica.

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The clock and bell tower of the Town Hall.

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Heraldic coats of arms.

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Piazza Luca Signorelli.

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Delicious Autumn produce.

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An obelisk dedicated to Giuseppe Garibaldi in Piazza Garibaldi.

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View from Piazza Garibaldi.

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View of a misty morning looking out over the Tuscan / Umbrian countryside.

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The church of Santa Maria Nuova.

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Having walked around the town Lora and Laurie were keen to set off to our next port of call that was to be the town of Assisi. Laurie went to fetch the car so that we could load our luggage into it right next to the hotel. Laurie seemed to have been gone for some time.  Lora and I wondered what she was up to.  Eventually she came back to the hotel looking very red and flustered saying  that the car was gone.

Oh no !!! What were we going to do now. Perhaps it had been stolen? Perhaps it had been parked in the wrong place and had been towed away. What a nightmare ! We asked the receptionist at the hotel what we should do. He said we needed to go to the police station and ask if any cars had been towed away. If not we would have to report it as stolen.  So off we strode and finally succeeded in locating the police station. We buzzed the intercom and the door opened to let us in. We trudged up three flight of narrow stairs until we reached the correct floor. A helpful policeman said he would check if any cars had been towed away and after a phone call he said no. So what do we have to do to report a stolen car?  He suggested double checking as perhaps we had forgotten where we had parked the vehicle. Laurie and I set off down hill. It seems there are several steep little alleys that lead down to the lower section of Cortona. As we went through the archway there in front of us was the hire car.  Laurie had mistaken where she had parked it. We laughed and laughed in utter relief.

So onward to Assisi.

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#cortona #arezzo #tuscany #italy #Piazza #Garibaldi #UnderATuscanSun #book #film #townhall

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

235 – Flying Visit To Pisa

During their time in Italy our friends Lora and Laurie from Wisconsin had planned to hire a car and drive north into Tuscany. Laurie particularly wanted to visit Pisa to see the leaning tower. They kindly invited me to accompany them on their trip. We departed early in the morning, with Laurie as the driver. The journey took us over 5 hours to get to Pisa, I didn’t realise quite how far away it was.

We arrived around mid afternoon and were able to take a stroll around before dusk. On foot we made our way to the Piazza dei Miracoli and as the square opened up we got our first glimpse of the Leaning Tower in all its glory, beautifully illuminated in the afternoon rays of the sun.

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Work on the marble tower began in 1173 and took almost 200 years to complete. However well before its completion the tower had began to tilt, its foundations having been placed on a layer of soft subsoil that could not withstand the weight of the structure.  Over the centuries the situation continued to deteriorate until in 1990 major works were required to stabilise the building. However it still continues to lean in a rather rakish manner.

The building is in fact the freestanding bell tower of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta that stands close by. The structure is cylindrical in form and has eight stories that are decorated with elegant arches. The tower was  built of limestone and lime mortar, and its exterior was faced in white marble.

It is possible to visit the tower if you purchase a ticket, the tours run every 30 minutes. There are almost 300 slippery steps to negotiate to get to the top.  There was a long queue for tickets that afternoon, and as we were short of time we decided to give the tour a miss.

The square in which the Tower, Cathedral and Baptistery stand is named the Piazza dei Miracoli. The Cathedral is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta and its construction commenced in 1063. The exterior is beautifully decorated in white and grey marble.

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Closeby is the ornate Baptistery of San Giovanni, which dates from 1152 and took many years to complete.

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Lora sitting by the beautiful Baroque “Fontana dei Putti”or Fountain of Angels in the square.

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As time was short we began to retrace our steps to the car, however I managed to capture a few photos of interest along the way.

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Our next destination was Cortona in Tuscany.

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#tower #pisa #piazza dei miracoli #cathedral #italy #fountain

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

 

233 – Surprise Day Trip To Herculaneum

Lora and Laurie said that they would really like to go to see Naples and visit Herculaneum. So one morning we set off early and caught the train to Naples and then took the Circumvesuvia to get to the ancient Roman town. The train carriages were absolutely full to bursting. Every time we stopped at the next station more and more people tried to push and squeeze their way on board. It was really quite disconcerting. We wondered if it was always like this on the Circumvesuvia. One lady explained that because of the gale force winds that were blowing that day some of the railway’s electric cables had been brought down causing major delays and disruption to the service.

We ended up standing up all the way to Herculaneum whilst desperately trying to keep our balance. We had never felt so claustrophobic in all our lives. Therefore we were mightily relieved when we eventually arrived at our stop “Ercolano Scavi” and managed to push, elbow and squeeze our way through the other passengers and extricate ourselves onto the open platform.

From the station it was about a 15 minute walk to the excavation site of Herculaneum, so we first revived ourselves in a little cafe along the way before venturing on. The weather was clear and bright, but also really quite cold as there was a strong blustery wind blowing in off the sea. How I wished that I’d dressed in something warmer. We battled on and having purchased our entrance ticket we descended into the excavations  where we were relieved to at last be out of the worst of the wind.

Herculaneum in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.

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The settlement of Herculaneum is believed to have been founded by the Greeks in around 600 BC. It was situated about 12 miles from Pompeii. In Roman times it developed into a prosperous seaside resort and trading port in the Bay of Naples.  The Roman town had many luxurious and spacious villas, bath houses for both men and women, a large sports complex, a theater, a temple, shops and bars. It also had a seafront and beach.

For the Romans there had possibly been portent signs that all was not well, when a few years before the major eruption of Mount Vesuvius, an earthquake had occurred in the area. The legendary catastrophic eruption began on the 24th August 79 AD. A few days before the people had noticed that mysteriously the local wells had began to run dry.  The first phase of the eruption thrust molten rock, ash and fumes into the sky. A huge toxic cloud rose up above the mountain until it reached a height of approximately 20½ miles.

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This frightening spectacle was documented by Pliny the younger who was just 17 years old at that time. He observed and wrote of the frightful scene from the far side of the Bay of Naples, 15 miles from Mount Vesuvius. The eruption had caused a huge mushroom cloud to rise and tower above the mountain. It was reported that day seemed to have turned into night. Eventually as the cloud cooled the weight of it began to collapse forming a high speed scorching  pyroclastic surge of hot gases and ash which suddenly engulfed Herculaneum. The Romans who had remained in the town would have become overwhelmed and died instantaneously.

The town of Herculaneum lay for many centuries buried under 20 feet of volcanic debris, ash and solidified mud. This thick hard covering preserved the town beneath for many centuries. until excavations began to reveal its hidden secrets. Only a quarter of the Roman town has been excavated. The modern day Ercolano was built above it, and modern buildings overlook the ruins. Mount Vesuvius  still broods menacing in the background.

The Roman town was located right beside the sea however the eruption dramatically changed the geography of the local landscape,  leaving the site of the old town now positioned further inland.

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The Roman equivalent of a take-away, café or snack bar that sold hot and cold food.

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The College of the Augustales

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2,000 year old wall decorations in Herculaneum.

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A sign for a Roman wine shop.

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Detail of a Roman shrine decorated with seashells.

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Statue of Marcus Nonius Balbus.

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Many of the Herculaneum’s Roman citizens had sought to abandon the town when they saw the volcanic eruption, however some were unable to to make their escape and found themselves stranded on the beach or huddled together in the vaulted storerooms or boat houses along the shore. As the surge of hot gases engulfed the town there was no means of escape. Approximately 300 bodies have since been unearthed along the seafront.

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Does Lora have a Roman nose?

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We went on to have supper in Sorrento.  Cin Cin !!!

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This was my second visit to Herculaneum this Autumn, as when our dear Australian friend Diana visited us in September we organised a daytrip to visit the ruins accompanied by Melinda and Pat. Pat is very knowledgeable about Roman history and archaeology, thus we learned a great deal on that visit.

Here a couple of photos of Diana’s day in Herculaneum.

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.A Roman flour mill.

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Pat and Diana

Melinda and a hug pot.

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All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#herculaneum #ercolano #naples #roman #ruins #archaeology #italy

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

232 – Fire

It had been a long hot and dry summer. I always keep alert and if I think I can smell smoke I immediately check it out by going outside and having a sniff around. This time we could see a plume of smoke rising over the mountain, Monte Marano, that sits behind Tre Cancelle. Paul always contacts the Vigili Forestale to ensure that they are aware of the fire and its exact position.

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The Vigili soon sent our two Canadair water-bombing planes and one helicopter. It is common to see and hear them during the summer months.  We are very fortunate that we live near to some large lakes in Fondi and this is where the yellow amphibious planes skilfully dive down and scoop up water into their bellies, and where the helicopters can hover and fill their buckets.

In some cases the planes fly over the sea and scoop up water there, however as this water is salty it is not good for putting fires out in olive groves as it can damage the vegetation.

Soon we could hear the familiar drone of their engines as they got to work on halting the path of the fire and extinguishing the hungry flames. These are amazing pilots who are so skilful at manoeuvering and diving down close to the site of the fire. It quite a spectacle to watch.

I managed to get a few good shots that I thought I would share here.

Thanks once again to these brave pilots who work so hard to keep us safe from fire.

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All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#fire #wildfires #canadair #plane #airplane #itri #italy

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

231 – The Highlights of Summer 2016

In July I flew back solo to the UK on a very special mission. I am not confident about flying on my own, but this time there was a strong incentive for me to do so. We had invited our grandson Aneurin to spend his summer holidays with us in Italy.

I was to stay in Wales for just under a week. My friend Ellen very kindly picked me up from the airport and it was lovely to spend some special time with her in Caldicot, where we used to live before moving to Italy.

I then visited family in Chepstow.  Vicki and Tommy took me out to see the Bristol Harbour Festival which was a fun day out.

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I then moved on to Cardiff where I stayed with Emma, Aneurin’s mum, for a few days looking after Aneurin and I was also able to catch up with some friends.

On my return flight I was to have company, and very good company Aneurin was too. He loved the flight and after we waited for the majority of the passengers to disembark Aneurin went up to the captain as he wanted to know how planes manage to fly.  The Captain was so impressed by his enquiry that he invited Aneurin into the cockpit to sit in his seat so he could see all the controls.

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We had a really busy summer with guests and our friends the White family from Northern Ireland staying with us. Aneurin enjoyed their company and playing with the girls in the pool.

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Melinda in Minturno kindly organised a cookery lesson for Aneurin and Bethan to learn how to cook American pancakes. Aneurin especially liked the maple syrup.

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The stunning view from Pat and Melinda’s apartment.

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A pizza evening up on Pat and Melinda’s roof terrace in Minturno.

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My cousins from London arrived to spend a week with us. It was so lovely to catch up with them as we all get on so well together.

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Later in mid August Emma and Kay also came to visit.

There were fun days at the beach.

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Nightime paddles.

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Endless games of Ludo, Snakes and Ladders and Connect Four.

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Cuddling of dogs.

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Washing of dogs.

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Pizza of course.

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and Gelato

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Many meals “al fresco” with family and friends.

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 Celebrating Niamh’s A Level results.

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Another wonderful meal at La Casareccia.

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An evening out with the girls.

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As you can see we all had a fantastic summer.

Thank you. Sending love and hugs to all xxx

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229 – Florisa’s Garden

My wonderful Italian friend Florisa is always busy, whether it be cooking, cleaning, working, harvesting olives or helping people, friends and family. She has such a very kind and generous nature.

However the thing that she loves the most is her garden. She really does have green fingers, or as they call it here in Italy “pollice verdi” which curiously translates as “green thumbs”. She really does knows how to make her garden grow. It is a delight to wander through it.

This will be just a photo blog, as I believe the pictures will speak for themselves.

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Isn’t it just amazing !!!

Florisa with some of her home grown strawberries.

Grazie Carissima  Florisa xxx

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All  photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#garden #gardening #italy #italian #recipes #italian

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga / Itri, South Lazio, Italy