226 – Part 9 – Exploring Barry Island and the Glamorgan Heritage Coast / Louise and Melinda’s Wales Holiday

One calm evening we took a stroll along the beach at Barry Island.


Once upon a time Barry was a quiet little rural backwater with an island situated just off shore.  However all this was to suddenly change during the industrial revolution.

Tons of coal were being mined in the South Wales Valleys, and the docks that had been built by the Marquess of Bute in Cardiff were soon found to be struggling to keep up with the amount of coal being produced.

Some of the mine owners, including a wealthy businessman named David Davies, the owner of  the Ocean Collieries company, got their heads together and came up with an ambitious plan to build a new dock in Barry, to rival that of Cardiff. Work on the first new dock at Barry began in 1884 and was completed in 1889. In the first year of trade alone, one million tons of coal was shipped.  More dock basins were subsequently added to accommodate yet more ships, until by 1913 Barry had become the largest coal exporting port in the world.



 The flourishing town of Barry had expanded rapidly and the island was by now connected to the mainland by a causeway.

Not only did the railway transport coal, but it also brought miners and their families for day trips to the sea and consequently Barry developed into a seaside resort. In the 1930’s the miners were allowed time off work during the last week in July and the first week in August. During this, Barry’s hey day, thousands of miners’ families would flock to the beach during the “Miners Fortnight”.

Yet with the decline in the trade of coal and the eventual closing of the mines the docks and holiday resort suffered badly and the town fell into a deep depression.

In recent years Welsh government money had been reinvested into the town and the resort has seen something of a revival. The pleasure park has been taken under new ownership. The popular  BBC comedy television series “Gavin and Stacey” also helped to promote the town.

Whitmore Bay has a wide sandy beach which stretches between two rocky headlands, Nell’s Point to the east and Friars Point to the west. Around the corner of Nell’s Point is a second sandy beach named  Jackson’s Bay.

You can see right across the Bristol Channel to the coast of Somerset and Devon and the islands of Flat Holm and Steep Holm. The Bristol channel has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world which can reach in excess of 15 metres.



The promenade with its brightly coloured beach huts.




Barry Island’s new climbing wall.



Aneurin loved the beach and of course he promised not to get wet.







Whoops !!! Boys will be boys !!!



Marco’s Café.


A “Barrybados” sunset.



The following day we set off to explore some more of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast. We were heading for Southerndown.  On our way we stopped off in the village of Ogmore where there is a beautiful ruined Norman castle dating from 1106.









Legend has it that the castle is haunted by a Woman in White who is protecting her buried treasure.

Alongside the castle runs a tidal river that leads to the estuary.




There is a series of stepping stones where the river can be traversed on foot at low tide.




Nearby is a farm and stables where you can hire a horse to ride. Groups of riders can be seen gently trotting through the river and heading on down towards the estuary and the sandy dunes of Merthyr Mawr.

We continued our drive passing through Ogmore-by-Sea, then the village of Southerndown and on to Dunraven Bay.  This is my favourite spot along this stretch of Welsh coastline. When we arrived the tide was out.  This is the perfect time to explore the exposed rocks and rock pools which are full of molluscs and sea anemones.

The pebbly foreshore, then the rocks and sandy beach beyond.







Nonna and Aneurin exploring.





The sedimentary rocks contain many fossils.

In years gone by, during storms along this stretch of rocky coastline, men known as wreckers would lure unsuspecting ships in the direction of the dangerous shoreline with lights and cause them to flounder so that their cargoes could be plundered.





Nearby are the ruins of Dunraven Castle, an old demolished mansion. You can walk around the beautifully planted walled gardens and enjoy the magnificent views of the Heritage Coast.  You can also visit  the Heritage Coast Centre at Dunraven. This is where we chose to stop and have our picnic lunch.

A lovely old thatched cottage at Dunraven Bay.



We then drove further along the coast to take a quick look at another local seaside resort named Porthcawl.

The pavillion and town beach.





Here there were yet more rock pools for Aneurin to explore.





*photos by Melinda Abbott

#public domain photos

All other photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#barryisland #wales #ogmorecastle #dunravenbay #southerndown #valeofglamorgan #barry #porthcawl #beach



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


223 – Part 6 – Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan / Louise and Melinda’s Wales Holiday

Our week’s stay at our cottage in Itton sadly came to an end, so soon it was time to move on to our second destination, another holiday cottage on a working farm. Redland Farm is near the village of Bonvilston in the Vale of Glamorgan, situated to the west of Cardiff and just a short drive from the city. The friendly owner warmly greeted us and made us feel very welcome.


On our first full day in Glamorgan I decided to show Melinda around Cardiff, one of my favourite cities. It was a chilly day with a biting cold wind. We drove into town and parked up at Sophia Gardens, one of Cardiff’s large public parks which is located close to Cardiff Castle. This park takes its name from Lady Sophia, who was the second wife of the 2nd Marquess of Bute.  The Millenium footbridge traverses the River Taff into Bute Park.



A little history …

The Stewarts / Stuarts were an aristocratic family of Anglo / Norman origin who settled in Scotland in the 11th century. Over the course of many years they took over large estates in the South Wales area. In 1794 John Stuart was awarded the title of the 1st Marquess of Bute. He owned Cardiff Castle and considerable areas of surrounding landscaped parkland. When he died in 1814 the title passed to his son John Crichton-Stuart, who became the 2nd Marquess of Bute.  He became known as “the founder of modern Cardiff” as he brought prosperity to the area by setting up coal and iron mining industries in the South Wales valleys, and by building Cardiff’s extensive docks for the shipping of coal.  In its heyday Cardiff was the largest exporter of coal in the world. In 1913 alone approximately 10.7 million tons of coal were exported from this port.

The 2nd Marquess of Bute also set about restoring and refashioning Cardiff Castle into a grand mansion. The 3rd Marquess of Bute and his architect William Burges continued this work with extravagant plans to transform the building into a lavishly decorated “fairytale castle” of eclectic neo gothic styles.









Melinda and I walked past the “Animal Wall” which was erected in front of the castle in 1890.





The castle’s elaborate clock tower.




We peeked though the gateway to see the Norman stone keep which was built on the site of a Roman fort.




Across the road Melinda had a browse in one of the Welsh souvenir shops.


There was a wonderful display of intricately hand carved Lovespoons and an array of other Welsh woolly delights !!!






We then took a wander through of one of Cardiff’s several old shopping arcades which include the High Street Arcade, the Royal Arcade,  the Wyndham Arcade, the  Morgan Arcade and  Duke Street Arcade. The Castle Arcade was opened in 1887 and contains many small cafés, bistros, shops and boutiques.






An array of tasty cheeses at Madame Fromage.




St John the Baptist Church offers an oasis of calm in the heart of the bustling city centre.















The church runs a little tea shop where Melinda and I treated ourselves to a reviving cuppa and a tasty bite to eat.



Closeby in the Hayes is the Old Library which is now the home to the Cardiff Story Museum which is dedicated to the history of the city and contains many interesting interactive exhibits.


Across from St John’s is the entrance to Cardiff’s undercover market.


The Central Market opened in 1891 and even today there are numerous stalls selling all varieties of fresh produce, cooked food, local and foreign delicacies, fruit, vegetables, flowers and other goods.











Melinda is something of a beer aficionado and was keen to try some of the local brews. Brains Brewery was founded in Cardiff in 1882 and its beer is one of the best known in Wales. Melinda delighted in sampling several varieties.


We finished off our little tour of Cardiff city centre with some therapeutic shopping of course !!! No trip to Cardiff is complete without visiting some of the large shopping malls and central shopping areas.

You can read more about Cardiff and see more of my photos of this vibrant city here at one of my former blog entries:  140 – Cardiff – “The Land of My Fathers”.

* photos by Melinda Abbott

#  public domain photos

All other photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#cardiff #city

#glamorgan #wales #castle #welsh #lovespoons #welshcakes #market



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


220 – Part 3. Exploring Chepstow and the Wye Valley / Louise and Melinda’s Wales Holiday

Today the  River Wye forms a natural border between the countries of Wales and England. In fact, curiously the town of Chepstow is situated half in Monmouthshire, Wales and half in Gloucestershire, England. In lower Chepstow an elegant arched cast iron bridge spans the river. This was built in 1810 and replaced former crossings constructed of wood.









We took a stroll on the Welsh riverside where there is a park with a bandstand.




On a formidable cliff adjacent to the river stands the mighty castle which dates back to the 11th century.

Here are some photos I took on a former visit to Chepstow.





Chepstow’s Visitor Centre


A Georgian street leading down to the river.


Chepstow was once a port of some importance and was protected by sturdy town walls, which can still be seen today.


The Priory Church of St Mary

We found a sweet little tea shop named the Tiffin in St Mary’s Street.





Following the River Wye upstream you come to the village of Tintern. Here are the remains of a Cisternian abbey which was founded in 1131. It fell into ruin following the Dissolution of Monasteries ordered by King Henry VIII. This is a photographer’s paradise. As you can see we were graced by beautiful weather and clear blue skies.


This magnificent historic structure is now preserved and cared for by the Welsh association known as  Cadw.


















Next to the Abbey is the Anchor Inn where we called in for refreshments and sampled a rhubarb and rose hip sponge cake with cups of tea. Delicious !



Tintern village sits on the banks of the River Wye and is the heart of the lower Wye Valley. Steep, wooded hills, rivers, streams and leafy walks all add to the natural beauty of this beautiful unspoiled area. There are many interesting trails through the Wye Valley. Nearby is Offa’s Dyke, an ancient earthwork barrier built in the 8th century by Offa, King of Mercia to divide his kingdom with that of Powys (now Wales). Below are some views of the river.




An abandoned old cottage. If only we had the money to buy it !!!


Also in Tintern is the old Abbey Mill with small shops selling local crafts and souvenirs.









Typical costume of Wales



Welsh Love Spoons



A Davy miners’ safety lamp and copper kettle




Continuing on a little further is the Old Station Visitor Centre, with its tea rooms and picnic area. The station was built in 1876 and closed in the 1950’s. Old railway carriages contain exhibitions and various railway memorabilia.







Carved wooden figure of King Offa of 8th century Mercia


Carved wooden figure of King Tewdrig of Gwent


Carved wooden figure of Eleanor of Provence, spouse of England’s Henry III. (It looks as if she has a splitting headache !!!)


Wooden sculpture of Sabrina the princess / goddess of the River Severn

Continuing further up-stream we came to the small picturesque village of Brockweir, which is situated on the English side of the river Wye. The river is traversed by a cast iron bridge that was constructed in 1906. We took a wander along the riverbank and as you can see the river was in full spate. We then walked on through the village.







Monk’s Hall dates from the 14th century.










All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

(except where  photos have been rightfully accredited to the photographer / owner)

#chepstow #wyevalley #tintern #abbey #brockweir #wales #monmouthshire



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

185 – Itri’s Medieval Festival

itri medieval festival

During the summer months the population of Itri swells with holiday visitors and as families that emigrated abroad return to their beloved home town.  Many come to attend Itri’s July festival which is held in honour of its patron, “La Madonna della Cività”.

Itri Castle in Latina South Lazio Italy

The festival always culminates in a splendid firework display which emanates from the magnificent castle that dominates the old medieval quarter.

Fireworks at Itri Castle in Latina South Lazio Italy

During July and August Itri holds a whole host of events and this year we ventured to see the “Festa Medievale” which was also held up in the old historic part of town.  We arrived early, however the streets were already jammed with cars heading for the festival, and parking spaces were at a premium.  So we decided to park in the lower part of town and continue by making our way on foot.

Itri Castle in Latina South Lazio Italy

The old town is a warren of narrow cobble stone streets, archways, gates and stairways.  It is full of interesting nooks and crannies, there is something of interest around every corner.

Historic old town of Itri in Latina South Lazio Italy

Old Door in Itri Latina South Lazio Italy

Old Balcony in Itri Latina South Lazio Italy

Alleyway in Itri Latina South Lazio Italy

Bell Tower of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Itri

Detail of the Bell Tower of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore

In the main square traditional games had been set up to entertain the children.

Medieval Festival in Itri Latina South Lazio Italy

Medieval Festival in Itri Latina South Lazio Italy

Medieval Festival in Itri Latina South Lazio Italy

By the castle there was a display of falconry with live birds of prey – Such exquisite creatures.

Falconry Display at Medieval Festival in Itri Italy

Hawk at Medieval Festival in Itri Italy

Barn Owl at Medieval Festival in Itri Italy

Owl at Medieval Festival in Itri Italy

As we wandered through the narrow alleyways amongst the jostling crowd we came across local folk dressed in Medieval costumes, acting as feudal lords, courtiers, swordsmen, archers, flag throwers and street musicians.

Medieval Festival in Itri Italy

Costumes at Medieval Festival in Itri Italy

Medieval Festival in Itri Italy

Medieval Festival in Itri Italy

Flag Thrower Medieval Festival in Itri Italy

Medieval Festival in Itri Italy

Medieval Festival Itri Italy

Medieval Festival Itri Italy

Musicians at Medieval Festival Itri Italy

There were also stalls selling traditional gastronomic delights and arts and crafts …..

Medieval Festival Itri Italy

and an exhibition of gruesome implements of torture.

Rack of Torture Medieval Festival Itri Italy

Chair of Torture Medieval Festival Itri Italy

Skeleton at Medieval Festival in Itri Italy

The authentic atmosphere of Itri’s historic old town was just perfect for such an event and I think an enjoyable evening was had by all.

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#Itri #Italy #MedievalFestival #castle



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

140 – Cardiff – “The Land of My Fathers”

Following our son’s accident back in February, I decided to stay on in the UK for a month or two to help out, as and when required, during his convalescence.  Our dear friend Kay very kindly offered me board and lodging at her house in Cardiff.

I have come to love the city of Cardiff,   I suppose it is because as well as being part Italian, I also have Welsh blood running through my veins – from my father’s side of the family.  Well, my maiden name Davies couldn’t really be more Welsh !!!

Cardiff became great during the grand age of Coal, when the Marquis of Bute built a large port and docks for the export of coal hewn from the Welsh Valleys.  Sadly a hundred years or so further down the line, the need for coal sharply diminished, causing the dockland areas of Cardiff to fall into a deep decline.

However a few decades ago an ambitious plan was drawn up to regenerate and transform the derelict areas which included the construction of a Barrage across the mouth of Cardiff Bay and the creation of a new waterfront area.  This area is now known as Mermaid Quay and has an array of inviting restaurants, cafés and bars.

This is the Pierhead Building ……

Nearby is the Wales Millennium Centre …..

The centre of the capital is bustling with several modern shopping centres. 

This is the new Library building.

More of Cardiff’s notable landmarks include  …… 

The City Hall and Museum

Cardiff Castle

Yet within the city there are many parks and green spaces such as Bute Park, Cathays Park and Roath Park with its Boating Lake.

All in all there is so much to explore in the vibrant, multicultural city of Cardiff.

During March was the 2012 6 Nations Rugby Tournament and I had the pleasure of being in Wales when the Welsh Team Won !!!

Bravo Wales !!!

My Rugby Mad Welsh “Daft Daffy” friends in their suitable attire !!!

This summer the Cardiff Millennium Stadium will yet again be in the forefront as it is hosting 11 Olympic football matches.

Cardiff, Wales – “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” – “The Land of My Fathers”

Hope you enjoyed my photos, you can see more of them on Flickr:


All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


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

100 – Itri The Old Historic Centre

Late in the afternoon on Sunday we decided to take a stroll.  We drove down and parked near the old historic centre of Itri.  From here we began to explore on foot the many nooks and crannies of the old town that we hadn’t investigated previously, despite this being our fifth year here in Itri.

It was really pleasant to ramble through the narrow streets, alleyways, stairways and arches in the warm early evening sun. On this occasion I think we’ll let the pictures do the talking,

as they say  “A Picture Paints a Thousand Words”…

As we descended into the lower part of Itri, it soon became apparent that something was afoot.  A crowd had gathered in the square in front of the Church of La Vergine Annunziata. A friend came over to greet us and explained that shortly a procession would take place, to officially mark the end of the feast of the Madonna Della Cività, with the taking down of her beautiful banner. The band players began to tune up and soon the procession set off on its way, carrying the banner of San Rocco.

Many of the townsfolk of Itri joined in the religious procession as it streamed down the Via Farnese.  It came to a halt when it arrived at the centre of town, in Piazza Incoronazione, where traditionally the beautiful banner of the Madonna Della Cività is suspended.  The priest offered some prayers and then the banner of the Madonna was carefully and ceremoniously lowered.

See our earlier posts about

Itri’s Feast of La Madonna Della Cività.

66 – Feast of the Madonna Della Civita (part one)

67 – Feast of the Madonna Della Civita (part two)

68 – Feast of the Madonna Della Civita (part three)

Visit Our South Lazio Webpages for more information about Bella Itri

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


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

99 – Itri – “La Bellavista”

We have a favourite little Restaurant / Pizzeria in Itri that we tend to frequent quite regularly.  It goes by the name of the Bellavista.  It is perched on a hill-side overlooking the town and the view of Itri is truly magnificent, both by day and by night.

We like the restaurant because it is a well run, small family business, it is unpretentious but it serves good food and good wine at reasonable prices.  We have become good friends with the owners.

From the menu you can choose from a good selection of pizzas which are prepared to order and baked in their own wood-fired oven.

Alternatively, if you would like a traditional Italian meal then you can choose from the following courses:

Antipasti (starters)

Primo Piatti (a selection of traditional pasta dishes)

Secondo Piatti (main courses of meat, fish or sea-food)

and Contorni (side dishes of vegetables or salad)

For Dessert they offer a selection of cheeses, fresh fruit salad or a variety of ice-creams.

Unlike some local restaurants, if you do not wish to have a huge Italian meal of numerous courses, you can choose to order just one or two.  The staff here do not make you feel pressurised to order more than you really want.

The atmosphere is informal and relaxed and it is open from 7.30 pm each and every evening.

We would highly recommend it.

Ristorante Pizzeria “Bellavista”

Via Mezzabrino, Itri (LT)

Tel: 0771 729 698  Mobile: 392.8686006

For More Information about Itri and the surrounding area please take a look at our South Lazio Website



All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


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

93 – The Gardens of Ninfa

Back at the beginning of April we were invited by our English friends, Clive and Marilyn from Gaeta, to accompany them on a visit to the Gardens of Ninfa.  This was a place that I had longed to visit for some time, so we didn’t hesitate to accept their kind offer.

We arrived at Ninfa, at the foot of the Lepini Mountains, at around 10 am and to my surprise there were a number of people already there, queuing to purchase entrance tickets, and for the first guided tour of the day.  Our Guide was very knowledgeable about the history of  Ninfa but only spoke in Italian.

It seems that during the Medieval era, Ninfa was a thriving town, sited along the Via Pedemontana which linked Rome with Naples.  Over the years the main route, the Roman road the Via Appia, had become impassable through the marshy Pontine wetlands. At Ninfa a toll gate was instigated which brought the town significant prosperity.

At the end of the 1200’s Pope Boniface VIII purchased the town, and made a gift of it to his nephew. Under the rule of the Caetani family the town prospered and expanded, with the construction of a castle, several churches, a town hall, bridges and numerous dwellings, which were all fortified by a double town wall.

However turbulent times were to follow with the rise to power of the French King Philip IV, who sought to raise money to finance his wars by taxing the clergy. Pope Boniface issued a decree claiming total papal supremacy, indicating that kings were subordinate to the power of the Church. A long political battle ensued, however Philip was eventually the victor, Pope Boniface was arrested and a new French Pope was installed in his place. This consequently lead to a huge split within the Catholic church and even within the members of the Caetani family itself. In 1382 two Caetani heirs began a feudal war against each other. Thus Ninfa came under repeated attacked until it was finally overrun and razed to the ground.  The few remaining survivors were eventually to be driven out by the plague and by malaria which in those times infested the nearby Marshes.

It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that a descendant of the Caetani family rediscovered Ninfa and began to drain the site, and subsequently over three generations, it was transformed into a beautiful romantic English style garden.

When the last descendant of the Caetani’s passed away, the garden was bequeathed to the Roffredo Caetani Foundation which now runs the site in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund. http://www.fondazionecaetani.org/index.php

Ninfa  is an oasis of peace where a profusion of fragrant climbing roses, jasmine and honeysuckle scramble over the Medieval architectural remains.

Through the 21 acre estate runs the Ninfa River which at one point has been dammed to form a beautiful lake.  A series of little cascades and watercourses have also been created to help maintain the lush greenery of this delicate eco-system.  There are numerous varieties of flowering trees, shrubs and flowers, indeed the garden contains botanical specimens gathered from all over the world including: magnolias; wisterias; camellias; bamboo; hydrangeas; irises and lilies to name but a few.

The protected reserve provides a habitat rich in fauna as well as flora.

Near to the ancient castle is a wonderful long established grove of citrus fruit trees.

Countless picturesque vistas open up around each and every twist and turn of the meandering path which leads you through the garden.  Through the course of the year the colours of the landscape gradually change as one season passes to another.

Click here for more information about the Giardini di Ninfa

The Gardens can only be seen on a guided tour.

Opening Times:

Note – The opening times are extremely limited  and it closes for a couple of hours at lunchtime.

From April to October it is generally open on the first Saturday and Sunday of each month, and the third Sunday of April, May and June.

Times of opening are 0900 -1200 and 14.30 – 1800

except for July and August when the afternoon openings are from 1500 to 18.30.

After our tour of Ninfa we headed for the nearby Medieval hill-top town of Sermoneta.

* photo by pensierolaterale

Here Clive and Marilyn have a favourite little restaurant near the castle, curiously named “Ghost”.

Clive, Marilyn and Paul

Paul and I resolved to soon return to Sermoneta

to further explore this picturesque historic town.

For more information about this beautiful area of South Lazio

please take a look at our



* photo by pensierolaterale (wikipedia)

All other photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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



83 – Traditional Nativity Scenes / Presepi

Last week whilst in Minturno, we visited an exhibition of traditional “Presepi” in the old Baronial castle.  Such hand crafted nativity scenes are a centuries old traditional speciality of the Naples area.

Some tableaux featured the traditional group of figures, depicting the announcement of the birth of Jesus to the shepherds and Magi, together with animals and angels.

Others had far more elaborate settings, such as realistic Italian village scenes, showing every-day domestic life, craftsmen and occupations of a time gone by.

For the artists who had painstakingly sculpted these intricate masterpieces it must have been a true labour of love, with such astonishing attention to detail.

I will leave you to wonder at the superb craftsmanship of these artisans ……

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


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