247 – Minturno Festival of the Wheat Harvest and International Folklore Festival

Each summer at the beginning of July  the town of Minturno comes together to celebrate the Festa delle Regne or the Wheat Harvest Festival. This year marked the 63rd edition. The main feast day celebrations are held on the second Sunday of July when thanks are offered to the patron of the town, the Madonna delle Grazie.  Historically monks of the Franciscan order used to bake bread that was then distributed to the poor.

There is a procession throughout the old town where the statue of the Madonna and child is carried on a rustic cart decorated with wheat sheaves, and pulled by a pair of strong oxen.

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There is also a parade of decorated carts and trailers, representing the harvest, that have been submitted by various neighbourhood groups. These are towed up to the main square of Minturno and a prize is generally awarded for the best design. The designs are incredibly intricate and detailed.

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There is a long and colourful parade made up of various groups, these include characters dressed in elegant medieval costumes, sbandieratori or flag throwers and musicians.

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The Associazione Folklorica di Minturno was formed in 1989 to strive to promote and keep alive the town’s popular traditions, culture and musical heritage. From a young age local children are encouraged to learn about their traditional heritage. There are dance classes organised to suit all ages and troupes of dancers are put together.

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Throughout the year the skilled dressmakers of Minturno busy themselves by sewing fine costumes that are typical of this area.

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photo by Melinda Abbott

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photo by Melinda Abbott

The most famous Minturnese costume is called “la Pacchiana”.  This has the characteristic elaborate head-dress made of a starched and folded white linen or muslin cloth, which is edged in lace. There is a white blouse with full puffed sleeves, made of a finely pleated material, which are gathered just above the elbow. The laced bodice is richly embroidered in gold thread, and over this a cream-coloured shawl is worn over the shoulders, once again decorated with gold embroidery.

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The skirt is long and black. At the front a black silk apron is worn, while at the back there is the addition of a special fold of red material known as a “pagnuccia”. The costume wearer is also adorned with abundant gold jewellery and large earrings.  Historically, these ornate costumes would have only been worn on special feast days or at weddings. Often the beautiful treasured costume would be passed down in families from mother to daughter. The men’s clothing typically consists of a black jacket, a white frilled shirt with wide sleeves, knee length trousers, a wide red band tied around the hips, black shoes and bright red stockings.

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At the festival the groups perform numerous traditional dances such as the tarantella and the saltarella.

On the same Sunday evening as the Feast of the Wheat Harvest,  Minturno also hosts an acclaimed International Folklore Festival. This welcomes other dance troupes from around the world to share their cultural heritage and traditions. This year there were colourful performances by groups from Chile, Mexico, Macedonia and Maldova.

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In this cultural exchange dancers, singers and musicians from all around the world can meet up and share their traditional cultural heritage and ethnicity in an atmosphere of warmth, friendship, peace and harmony.

All photos are by me © Louise Shapcott (except those by Melinda Abbott above)

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246 – A Visit to the Local Buffalo Farm

The Fattoria Santa Lucia is a modern farm complex located near to Minturno and Sessa Aurunca, along the ancient Roman thoroughfare of the Appian Way, not far from the River Garigliano which divides the regions of Lazio and Campania.

Buffalo have been farmed on these plains for many centuries, yet the buffalo, bubalus bubalis‘, is not an animal indigenous to Italy, in fact it originates from  the of East India. There is some debate as to how and when the buffalo were introduced into Italy. Some historians believe they were brought here by the Saracens while others think it was down to the Lombards. However it is known that there have been buffalo farmed on the plains of this area of southern Italy for many many centuries.

The Fattoria Santa Lucia has a large herd of buffalo and it welcomes visitors to its premises.  It also welcomes school parties and offers educational tours. You can observe the buffalo in various areas of the farm.

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It soon became apparent to me that there is nothing a water buffalo likes more on a blisteringly hot day in Italy than to wallow and roll in a pool of mud, to help protect itself from the heat.

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Dotted around the farm there are interesting educational panels regarding the breeding of the livestock and how the animals are fed and cared for.

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There is another section with the mothers and their young calves. The babies are so adorable.

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A lactating mother can produce 7 litres of milk a day which is high in protein content and essential vitamins especially vitamin B, K, and J.  Following the milking process the milk must be quickly chilled to a temperature of 4 to 6 degrees C.

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Rennet is then added to the milk to form the curds which are then heated in the whey to form strings which give the mozzarella its elastic consistency.  The strings of curd are then cut – The term mozzarella is derived from this procedure called mozzare which means “cutting by hand”. The curd is then formed into the characteristic balls of soft milky cheese.

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The smaller sized balls are known as boccancini. The cheese can also be formed into plaits.

Mozzarella produced in this area has the certification of Mozzarella di bufala campana DOP. On the farm is a small shop where you can buy the freshly produced Mozzarella and other delicious locally produced products.  The cheese is best preserved in some of its whey and should ideally be consumed within a day or two of purchase.

We love it served sliced or quartered together with sun ripened tomatoes, chopped basil and a generous drizzle of our own Tre Cancelle November Harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Delicious – there’s nothing quite like it !!!

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The farm also has an agriturismo, a restaurant where you can sample the local produce and traditional dishes.

The Fattoria Santa Lucia website

* photo Luigi VersaggiCC BY-SA 2.0

All other photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

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240 – Celebrating Thanksgiving in Italy

 Our American friends Pat and Melinda and Darcy and Gerry invited us to join them and have the experience  of our first traditional Thanksgiving. Also invited was Alberto who is Pat and Melinda’s English teacher. The venue was to be Pat and Melinda’s apartment in Minturno for the main course, then we were transferring to Darcy and Gerry’s in Gaeta for the dessert.

Melinda and Darcy were to share in the cooking duties. They had managed to purchase a fresh turkey, which is not so easy to find here in Italy.

The table was beautifully set and there were tempting little things to nibble on as a starter.

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Melinda’s roasted walnuts prepared with rosemary, salt and a dash of paprika. The walnuts were harvested from our own trees at Tre Cancelle.

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Savory Taralli Napolitani with almonds.

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Pat with his big bird.

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Sweet potatoes with marshmallows.

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A very tasty green bean dish.

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Pearl onions in a creamy salad.

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A traditional Wardolf salad.

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What a wonderful spread. Buon appettito !!! Mangia !!!

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Pat, Melinda, Darcy, Gerry, Alberto and Annette.

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Gerry, Alberto, Annette and Sarah

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Pat, Gerry, Darcy, Melinda, Sarah, Annette, Alberto and Paul

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Gerry, Melinda, Darcy, Sarah, Annette, Alberto, Louise and Paul

At Gerry and Darcy’s in Gaeta we enjoyed Pumpkin pie and other traditional desserts.

Thank you so much for inviting us.

It was a wonderful experience and a joy to spend Thanksgiving with you.

Thank you once again.

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#Thanksgiving #italy #turkey #PumpkinPie #Minturno #American #Friends

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

209 – Minturno – La Sagra delle Regne and International Folklore Festival

La Sagra delle Regne is a religious festival dedicated to the Madonna delle Grazie, the patron of the old medieval town of Minturno. It takes place every year on the second Sunday in July. 

Our American friends, Pat and Melinda, very kindly invited us to spend the afternoon and evening with them, so that we could see the festival for ourselves.  They have purchased an apartment in Minturno and have now left their old life back behind in Ohio, and begun their adventure of living in Italy. 

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Melinda, Pat and Paul

Pat and Melinda had very kindly had the foresight to reserve a table at their local bar, which was located directly  in front of the event’s main stage. It proved to be an excellent viewpoint.  Of course I had my trusty camera with me !!!  I was hoping to capture some good shots of this colourful event.

The term “regne” has Latin origins, meaning bundles or sheaves of wheat.  The festival had pagan origins. Local farmers would beseech the Roman Gods of the earth to protect the wheat harvest and bless the fruits of their labours. During the Middle Ages the festival became a Christian one, in which the Madonna delle Grazie was entreated to grant local families, farmers and fishermen success in their personal endeavours.

In Minturno’s main square stands the 14th century stone church dedicated to San Francesco.  Inside there is a side altar with a beautiful fresco depicting the Madonna delle Grazie.

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As the festival began to get under way we watched decorated carts being transported to the centre of the village, some were horse-drawn, others were towed by tractor.

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photo © Melinda Abbott

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In the evening Minturno hosted the Festivale Internationale del Folklore.

We watched an impressive performance by a band of sbandieratori or flag wavers / throwers, an ancient Medieval tradition.

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Many local people, both young and old, were dressed in the typical costumes of this region.   There seems to be so much passion, diligence and pride in trying to preserve the old traditional ways.

Everyone gathers in the main square to see the wheat being threshed manually by the “vigilatori”. 

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There were numerous performances by local dance groups

and musicians from Minturno.

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At this year’s 2015 festival Minturno welcomed colourful dance troupes from

Mexico, Panama and Poland.

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The evening’s entertainment culminated

in the castle being seemingly set alight.

We retired back to Pat and Melinda’s apartment where we sat on their wonderful roof terrace.  Here we were able to sit and relax, and enjoy the cooler night air whilst watching the festa’s grand finale  – a colourful firework display.

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Thanks to Pat and Melinda for a wonderful evening.

All photos (except were indicated) by me © Louise Shapcott

#minturno #italy #festival #festa #sagra #FolkDancing #SagraDelleRegne #WheatHarvest #tradition #culture

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Just recently I have been updating my Minturno web pages.

Minturno has a fascinating history and it is so interesting to wander around the old Medieval town.

You can read more about Minturno and see more photographs here at my website:  

http://minturno.shapcott-family.com/

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga and Itri, South Lazio

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.

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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.

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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.

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Elsie and Kay

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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.

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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 !!!

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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.

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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).

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This was the girls’ first attempt at jam making.

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They also had a go at making some lemon marmalade.

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They baked a cake or two …..

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….. and then tried their hand at making scones to go with the jam.

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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 !!!

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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.

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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.

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We then added the rinds of 4 lemons and topped the bottle up with a litre of alcohol and left it to steep.

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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

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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

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TCTitleTre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga and Itri in South Lazio