249 – Christmas and the Living Nativity of the Village of Maranola

Maranola is a small medieval village overlooking the town of Formia on the South Lazio coast. Each Christmas-time the village puts on a wonderful “Living Nativity” known as the “Presepe Vivente“.  Many of the local people take part in this project, and ground floor rooms and cellars undergo a transformation. Here living scenes are created depicting the every day life of days gone by.  Some re-enact former occupations, ancient skills and crafts.

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Many of the townsfolk are dressed in the traditional costmes of the ancient region of Ciociaria. This area takes its name from the word “ciocie“, which is an ancient form of footware, thought to date back to Etruscan times. It was a type of sandal, with a curiously curved toe, that was bound to the calf with leather laces. It was typically worn by the local shepherds and peasants of the area.

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There are also scenes depicting the preparation of typical local produce.

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Over the festive Christmas period Maranola has three editions of this event. These are normally held on the 26th December, New Years Day and on the day of the Epiphany, the 6th January.  Last year we attended the last event.

The sound of the pipes of the zampognieri heralded the arrival of the Three Kings bearing their gifts.

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They all made their way to the stable when the charming Nativity scene was taking place. A local couple with a young baby played the roles of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.

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We really are hoping to visit Maranola again this Christmas. This is a very special local event – not to be missed.

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Well may we take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and Peace and Goodwill to all.

We also wish you all the very best in the coming New Year.

Love from us all at Tre Cancelle

Louie and Paul, the Tre Cancelle “Woof-gang” and our growing menagerie

xxxxxxx

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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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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245 – My New Website about Atina and the Val di Comino.

I am really passionate about this little hidden gem of a town that has panoramic views over the valley of the Val di Comino – an area of outstanding natural beauty. My maternal grandparents originated from this beautiful mountain community, so it is part of my ancestral heritage and my roots.

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However, I used to find it somewhat frustrating that I couldn’t manage to find much information in English about this area, so I came up with the idea of creating a website in English all about Atina and the Val di Comino.  For over a year now I have been working on setting up a new site about the town of my Italian ancestral heritage – Atina.

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Atina is situated in the province of Frosinone in the region of Lazio Italy, conveniently situated approximately midway between Rome and Naples. It is also only a short drive from the Abbey of Montecassino and the beautiful coastline of South Lazio.

Over the centuries Atina has experienced such an interesting history.  It was an important town even back in the times of the Romans and Samnites and it has been destroyed by earthquakes and rebuilt several times over the centuries.

 

Within the historic centre there are many places to explore such as the medieval fortified palace of the Cantelmo family, the beautiful cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the nearby Palazzo Prepositurale.

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Atina also has several other churches of interest,  archaeological sites to visit and local museums.

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During the summer months there are many popular events held in the area such as the Feast of Santa Maria Assunta, the Atina Jazz Festival, the International Folklore Festival and the CantinAtina wine festival to name but a few.

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photo © Mirko Macari

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There are many interesting local products to sample, notably the Cannellini beans of Atina and the local wine Atina Cabernet Doc and as well as other traditional gastronomic delights.

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It is also a great region for exploring the great outdoors and partaking in various sport activities such as treking, mountain biking, horse riding, climbing, canoeing and paragliding. Indeed this area has so much to offer.

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I am hoping to translate the website into Italian and French and to add a blog which could be a supply interesting articles and publicise local facilities, festivals and events. I hope that my website may encourage more people, with connections with Atina and the Val di Comino in Ciociaria to come and discover more about this wonderful area.  

My new Atina website:  Atina Italy

I have also created a Facebook Group named “We Love Atina”. It is a great meeting place for people who have family with origins from this town, and who share my interest and passion. If you have a connection with Atina please do feel welcome to come and join us.

Facebook Group We Love Atina

All photos except where stated by me © Louise Shapcott

 

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243 – The Lake of Posta Fibreno

During our grandson’s April visit to Italy we took time to explore the Lake of Posta Fibreno, which is located in the beautiful area of the Val di Comino in Italy. The village, of the same name, is perched on on a rocky ledge and has a splendid view of the valley and lake below.

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The lake is in the shape of an elongated curve. It is a protected Nature Reserve measuring about 400 hectares.

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The lake is fed by thawing snow and rainwater that has flowed down from the slopes of the mountains of the Abruzzi. As the rock is limestone much of the rainwater is channeled underground.  Where a pool of water collects the water becomes dispersed through springs into the lake.  Thus the water in the lake is icy cold and crystal clear, and remains at a constant temperature all year round.  Scuba divers enjoy exploring the lake due to crystal clearness of the water.

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The lake has a curious “floating island” known as “la Rota” which has developed over the course of thousands of years due to an accumulation of peat, rhizomes, tree roots, plants and algae.  The thick mat of vegetation is not rooted to the bottom of the lake, so it drifts according the undercurrents  and the strength of the wind.  

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Local fishermen use flat-bottomed boats, known as “nàue”, traditionally made of oak and propelled by the use of a pole or an oar.  It is thought that this type of boat was designed and first utilised thousands of years ago by the Samnite people. The lake contains an abundance of fish such as trout, carp, eels and freshwater crayfish. The lake is lined by weeping willow trees, by rushes and reeds and other aquatic plants.

It is a popular haunt of nature lovers and bird watchers.  Several nature trails have been created through the park and there is also restored watermill and a museum of local culture and tradition to visit. 

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On the shoreline there are several bars and restaurants set beside the lake. There are also lovely spots to have a family picnic. It is a favourite place to visit on a Sunday afternoon by the locals.

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We hired a pedal boat to further explore the lake. 

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We saw numerous birds such as coots, ducks and herons. There were also some eager beavers who were busily collecting sticks to build their dams. Together with its unique natural beauty and eco-system the lake provides an ideal environment for many species of flora and fauna. 

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All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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Discover South Lazio

241 – Christmas Greetings 2016

Well as you can see we have had a busy full-on year here at Tre Cancelle.

We have welcomed guests from all around the world and have had many happy guests, and we’ve received some kind reviews on TripAdvisor

We’ve had the pleasure of meeting some really lovely people, sharing special times with family, friends and visitors, visiting some really beautiful places and enjoying the peace and tranquility of Tre Cancelle.

We are so lucky and we have so much to be grateful for.

Here are some photos of the Christmas decorations in the nearby seaside town of Gaeta.

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Wishing you, one and all, Peace and Joy this Christmas

and also wishing you all the very best during the year ahead.

Ciao for now !!!

Louise and Paul

xxxxxxx

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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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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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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