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

126 – In Search of Anzio and Nettuno

Having completed a trip to Rome to drop off friends at Fiumicino Airport, with much of the day still ahead of us, we decided to take a bit of a detour on the way back, heading towards the coast in search of Anzio and Nettuno.

Even since Roman times it seems that Anzio has been a popular holiday destination, indeed both of the Emperors Caligula and Nero were born here. On the small headland of Capo D’Anzio we came across the viewpoint with a bronze statue of Nero.

To the right the remains of his luxurious villa can be seen in the cliff-top Archaeological Park of the Arco di Muto.

Here also stands Anzio’s Lighthouse looking out over the remains of the ancient Roman port.

However, with the decline of the Roman Empire the city fell into disrepair and by the Middle Ages Anzio had reverted to little more than a simple fishing village.  It was not until the early 1900’s that Anzio once again developed into an elegant seaside resort with many edifices constructed in the Art Nouveau “Liberty” style of that period, such as the grand casino, known as the “Paradiso sul Mare”

Today Anzio is a bustling holiday town, with many restaurants, pizzerias,  bars and cafes and during the summer months visitors can enjoy many cultural events.  There is a busy port packed with fishing boats, in addition to various ferries and hydrofoils which travel daily back and forth to the Pontine Islands.  The colourful marina is filled with numerous  yachts and pleasure craft.

The nearby town of Nettuno shares much of its history Anzio.   From the 9th century the local inhabitants found themselves exposed to repeated attacks by the Saracens, so a more secure fortified settlement was established high on the cliff, where the historic centre still stands.  The walled Fortress of Sangallo was built in 1503 to protect the city from more seaborne  attacks.  

Sadly Anzio and Nettuno are best remembered as being the landing point of the Allied British and American Forces in the WWII,  during “Operation Shingle” in January 1944. The strategic blunders of this military exercise resulted in a the terrible loss of life of many of these soldiers who took part in the bloody battle along its shores, and indeed of many of Anzio’s innocent civilians.

The Anzio Beachhead Museum, or Museo dello Sbarco Alleato is housed within the 17th century Villa Adele, has of a fascinating collection of documents, battle plans, maps, photographs and assorted artefacts relating to “Operation Shingle”.  At the junction with traffic lights outside Anzio train station, on foot take the hill down towards the town centre and the museum building is on the left-hand side in Via Villa Adele. Admission is Free.  Disappointingly, on the day of our visit the museum was closed, so it may be wise to take note that the museum is only open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturday and Sunday.  (This is Italy !!!)

http://www.sbarcodianzio.it/english.htm

In Anzio there are two British Cemeteries:  The Beach Head War Cemetery

http://www.cwgc.org/search/cemetery_details.aspx?cemetery=70511&mode=1

and the Commonwealth Anzio War Cemetery

http://www.cwgc.org/search/cemetery_details.aspx?cemetery=2064800&mode=1

We found ourselves deeply touched by our visit the former – so many graves of brave young men who sacrificed their lives to liberate Italy.  The cemetery is meticulously maintained, and contains 2,312 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.

We eventually found that the 77-acre Sicily-Rome American Cemetery lies closer to Nettuno than Anzio.  Here are the graves of 7861 Americans who died during the liberation of Italy and there is a  memorial to the 3095 missing.  The statue, by sculptor Paul Manship, is entitled “Brothers in Arms.” The cemetery is generally open daily to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

* photo by raffaele birnardi

Sicily-Rome American Battle Monuments Commission website: http://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries/sr.php

The town of Anzio was awarded the Gold Medal for Civil Merit because Anzio was the scene of violent clashes between opposing forces, suffered devastating bombings and fierce reprisals that caused the death of many citizens, including many children.  The town and port was almost completely destroyed. The population was displaced, personal property abandoned, forced to seek refuge in neighbouring towns or in makeshift caves.  The people endured extreme hardship and starvation.  Yet the survivors responded with dignity and courage, confronting the horrors of war, to the return to peace and the difficult work of reconstruction.

There is a story often told of a little girl who was discovered alone and forlorn on one of Anzio’s beaches by Anglo-American soldiers.  The soldiers not knowing her name called  her “Angelita” and took her to a place of safety.  There are various versions of the tale, but some say that during the German’s heavy bombing of Anzio, she was killed soon afterwards.  The story has come to represent the suffering of innocent children during times of war.  In Anzio a beautiful bronze statue has been erected in Angelita’s name, depicting a little girl surrounded by flying seagulls.  You can see here:

Viggy77 Flickr:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/62114411@N00/5192018738/

Indeed there is so much of interest to discover in Anzio. It is an easy day trip from Tre Cancelle.  For more information please see our Anzio /Nettuno web pages at : http://anzionettuno.shapcott-family.com/

* photo by raffaele birnardo

All other photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy

 

82 – Battles Along The German GUSTAV Line

Very recently we welcomed a trio from America, Patrick, Kathy and Rita, who came to this area searching for more information on a particular time in their family’s history. 

Patrick and Kathy were trying to retrace their father’s journey through Italy as a soldier in the US 88th “Blue Devil” Division. 

Patrick is currently writing a book about his father’s experiences during this period.  His father sent home many descriptive letters to his new bride, who he had only married the day before his departure from America.

Charles Logan was just 22 years old when he was drafted into the army and sent to fight in Italy along the infamous GUSTAV Line.  His Division disembarked at Naples and was then transported to the town of Piedimonte d’Alife (now known as Piedimonte Matesse)  for combat training.

The 88th was then sent to the GUSTAV Line, on the western flank of the main Fifth Army, to relieve the 5th British Division in the Minturno area in Operation Diadem. The 88th “Blue Devils”, encountering stiff German resistance, took part in a particularly bitter and bloody battle, which lasted almost 3 days, to seize the village of Santa Maria Infante.

The capture of this position  on the 14th May 1944, proved to be a defining moment, finally breaking through the GUSTAV line and forcing a German retreat. 

The French Expeditionary Corps of Morrocan Goumiers*, who were skilled in mountain warfare, continued to make their way forward over the seemingly impassable terrain of the Aurunci Mountains, while the 88th surged ahead, taking the seaward facing villages of Spigno Saturnia, Castellonorato, Trivio, Maranola, then on through Formia, Itri, Fondi, Monte San Biagio to Roccagorga.

Continuing northward some of the 88th Division made contact with  Allied units breaking out of the Anzio beach-head on 29th May and they were the first to enter Rome on the 4 June 1944.

We had the great pleasure of acting as Patrick’s guide and driver during their stay, and we visited Cassino and  Montecassino and many of the above mentioned towns and villages, traveling some 500 miles during the week.

We learned so much about the historical significance of these places through this traumatic  period of the Second World War.  From the picturesque little villages that we see today, it is hard to imagine what it would have been like for the local people and the opposing  Allied forces during this terrible time.

The Italians had suffered greatly under German occupation, having to endure persecution, reprisals and famine.  Prior to their liberation these villages also had endured heavy land and naval bombardments by the Allied forces which resulted in catastrophic damage, and hundreds of innocent civilian deaths and casualties.

 

* Yet there was more suffering to come – The French General Alphonse Juin, before the final battles to the breach the German GUSTAV  line, he was said to have promised the Morrocan Goumier troops the following:

“For 50 hours you will be the absolute masters of what you will find beyond the enemy. Nobody will punish you for what you will do, nobody will ask you about what you will get up to.” 

When the Goumiers swarmed over the mountain villages they subjected thousands of Italian women and even young girls to merciless violence and rape, and reportedly any men who fought to save  their wives and daughters from harm were ruthlessly murdered. 

A novel, “La Ciociara”, was penned, based on this subject of mass rape, by the author Alberto Moravia.  This was subsequently made into a film also called “La Ciociara” or  “Two Women”, directed by Vittorio de Sica, and starred Sophia Loren. In 1960, for this role, she was awarded an Academy Award for Best Actress.

We would just like to wish Patrick Logan good luck with the writing of his book about his father’s war time experiences, and we very much look forward to the book’s publication.

We would be interested to hear from anyone else who had family members who fought in Italy during World War II, along this area of the German GUSTAV Line.

For more information about some of  the towns and villages in SOUTH LAZIO that were positioned along the GUSTAV Line, please click on the following links:

Montecassino

Castelforte

Santi Cosma e Damiano 

Minturno

Spigno Saturnia 

Castellonorato

Trivio

Maranola

Formia

Gaeta 

Itri

Campodimele

Fondi

Monte San Biagio

#morrocan #goumiers #film #laCiociara #SantaMariaInfante #war #1944 #88th #BlueDevil

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