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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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments Near Sperlonga’s Beaches and Historic Itri

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227 – Visit to Pastena

At the end of April we welcomed two lovely ladies, Lissa and Debra, from the USA.  This was to be their first trip to this area of Italy and Lissa was keen to visit her ancestral home of her family, namely Pastena.  Pastena is a small but picturesque medieval village which is in the province of Frosinone and belongs to the ancient region of Ciociaria.

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As Lissa and Debra didn’t have a car we offered to drive them to Pastena, which is along an interesting route, passing through Fondi and then heading inland towards Lenola and beyond. Finally we reached the verdant plain of Pastena surrounded by  hills and mountains. Here the soil is rich and fertile thus agriculture has always been the mainstay of the economy in these parts.

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As we approached Pastena we saw a hill which at its peak has modern sculptures representing the patron saints of the town, Sant’Elena and San Sinforo.

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Lissa first wanted to call in at Pastena’s Register Office or Anagrafe in the Town Hall.

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We were received by the registrar who seemed to be rather flustered and busy, and he insisted that he did not have time to look through the records to try and find out more about Lissa’s ancestors. However he did take details from her and promised to look for them during the next few days.  Feeling slightly deflated we went for a stroll around the old town.

Close to the Town Hall is a museum – “Il Museo della Civiltà Contadina e dell’Ulivo” or Museum of Country Life and Olive Cultivation.This is  housed in a palazzo which was once the home and an ancient olive m of the Trani family.  Among the interesting exhibits are the original old mill-stone and press, tools related to olive farming, tilling the soil, animal husbandry, wine making, cheese making, basket making, spinning and weaving of linen.  Also there are examples of traditional clothes, musical instruments and general domestic items of everyday Pastena life in times gone by.

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Lissa also wanted the visit Pastena’s cemetery which was situated a little way out of town. She was hoping to find some of her ancestors’ graves.

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We went back into Pastena to wander through the characteristic Medieval centre. At the highest point of the village is the main square and the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. On the facade are two niches which house images of the patron saints of the town.

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We noticed that there were festive lights mounted throughout the town. We learned that the following day was the Feast of “Il Maggio” or “la Festa del’Albero della Cuccagna” -a festival to celebrate the coming of Spring.  We soon made plans to return the following day, with our friends Pat and Melinda, to see the celebrations for ourselves.

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On the 15th April the local men go out into the woods to choose the best tall straight cypress tree. Once this has been selected a cross is carved out of the bark mark it.  At sunrise on the morning of 30th April many of the local men folk will gather around the chosen tree for a traditional ceremony where the parish priest recites prayers.  The master of ceremonies takes the axe and makes the first cuts into the tree, in the presence of the calf, with each of the participants taking their turn to wield the axe. The actual felling of the tree is marked by gun shots and a drum roll. The tree is then cleaned of the bark and branches etc.

There follows a ritual “funeral” procession for “the tree of sacrifice” that has been taken from the “sacred forest”.  Slowly but surely it is hauled up to the village with the help of a numerous pairs of strong oxen, lead by the sacred calf.

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During the long procession loud firework were periodically set off, and  unnervingly groups of hunters shot rounds from their rifles and shotguns into the air.

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We then walked uphill back towards the town. As we entered the square in front of the town hall we were spotted by the register who eagerly tried to flag us down.  He told Lissa he had looked in the registers and had found several more generations of Lissa’s family. He lead us into his office where he handed over the paperwork.  Lissa was happy and we were so pleased for her.  We took a photo of the Registrar, Lissa and Debra to remember this very special day.

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Debra and Lissa

A little more about the “Il Maggio” festivities ….

On the 1st May the tree is cleaned in the main square, in front of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.  The top of the tall tree trunk is adorned with May flowers of broom.  A hole is prepared and then the men work together using ropes to gradually winch the tree trunk into an upright position.

On the 3rd May, on the feast day of the Santissima Santa Croce, when the statue of Sant’ Elena on her throne is taken from the church and carried around all the districts of the town followed by a solemn procession.

Typically the womenfolk  have previously prepared a type of sweet bread / doughnut in the shape of a decorated ring called a Ciambellone, these are carried during the procession as a symbol of religious devotion.  The procession is accompanied by ceremonial gunfire.

Later in the day the tree trunk is raised into position in the main square, having been covered in grease. This is known as the “albero della cuccagna”. Then there is a competition amongst the young men of the village, when they attempt to scale the slippery pole. At the top there are prizes for the successful climbers. In the evening there are more celebrations of musical entertainment and fireworks.

The tree trunk remains in place in the square until September, when it is cut down and distributed as firewood to the local inhabitants of Pastena.

All  photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#pastena #festival #ilmaggio #familyhistory #spring #italy

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

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

204 – Itri’s June 2015 Infiorata

Each June to celebrate the Sunday of Corpus Domini, held on the 9th Sunday after Easter, Itri stages a wonderful festival of flowers, known as The “Infiorata”. This was to be the 29th edition of this community event and people young and old gather to work on the various designs.  

Our American friends Pat and Melinda were keen to take part, so a day or so before the actual event we turned up in Itri, in a side alley off Via Della Repubblica,  each armed with a pair of scissors.

We were warmly greeted and allocated some chairs and we set to work. There were bucketfuls and bucketfuls of carnations of various colours. 

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The first task was to snap off the flower heads from their stems and collect them into crates. All the remainder of the greenery was set aside to later be put through a shredder machine.

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Pat and Melinda

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These lovely French ladies travel to Itri every year just to take part in the Infiorata.

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When all the flower heads were detached, the next job was to snip off the petals just above the green base of the flower. The fresh confetti of petals were collected into crates, the bases were thrown into another basket for later use.  Nothing of the flowers is put to waste.

There were people of all ages and walks of life helping with the preparation of the flower petals. There were children with their mothers, grandmothers with their grandchildren, pensioners, school children, teenagers, all were happy to lend a helping hand.

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PM10440722_10207085063068434_8798950205324739827_nOn the Sunday morning we travelled down to Itri to see people working on the creations.  Each design measures 4 x 7 metres.  This  is at truly amazing type of street art, a Floral carpet flower petals that only lasts for one single day.  Some of the designs are very elaborate. This year they followed a modern theme.

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K11427188_10152958666998963_5690021273640806369_nIn the afternoon, after Sunday lunch,

people flock to admire the completed designs.

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The ceremonial altar and a design of La Madonna della Civitá –

the Patron of Itri.

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K11407153_10152958667023963_6732031142755339241_nAfter the religious procession has wound its way through all of the districts of the town, the Priest, carrying the holy sacraments walks over the tapestry of flowers.

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It was very satisfying to know that we had played a small part in this wonderful community event.

Photos by me – Louise, Kay McRobbie, and Patrick and Melinda Abbott

#itri #infiorata #SouthLazio #italy #flower #festival #CorpusDomini

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You might also like to take a look at some of my past posts relating to the Itri Infiorata:

162 – Preparations For Itri’s June 2013 Infiorata

163 – The Completed Designs of Itri’s June 2013 Infiorata

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic 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.

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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

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

179 – Itri’s Spring Bonfires – Festa di San Giuseppe

Thankfully here in Italy Spring tends to come earlier than back home in the UK. It had been generally a mild but somewhat wet and windy winter so we were eagerly awaiting the first signs of spring. By mid February our almond trees were erupting into pale pink  bloom as the days became warmer and the sky bluer and the days longer and more optimistic.

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To follow this theme …. Each 19th March, around the time of the vernal equinox, an ancient auspicious tradition of building bonfires is celebrated in Itri.  The Fuochi di San Giuseppe mark the closing days of winter, the welcoming of Spring and the hope for a good year’s harvest.  Originally before the Middle Ages this was a Pagan ritual to scare away bad spirits, however it was later adapted into a Christian festival to correspond with the feast of St Joseph, or San Giuseppe the Patron Saint of Carpenters. In Italy this day is also celebrated as Fathers Day. 

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In the days leading up to this festival large piles of branches, donated by the local Forestry, are prepared in the squares of ten various districts of Itri, both in the higher and lower quarters of the town.

Itri Italy Bonfires Fuochi di San Giuseppe

We and Kay, who was visiting us at the time (yes again !!! we just can’t keep her away !!!) and other towns-folk gathered around the bonfire erected right in the centre of town in Piazza Incoronazione. 

Itri Italy Bonfires Fuochi di San Giuseppe

This was very conveniently situated just opposite Kay’s favourite place in Itri, the Fiocco di Neve Gelateria.

Fiocco di Neve Itri Italy

The girls there are always pleased to see us and especially Kay. 

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Fioccho di Neve Itri Latina Italy

They offered us all ice-creams on the house !!!  Thank you so very much !!!

Ice Cream at the Fiocco di Neve Itri Italy

Kay was once again in Ice-cream Heaven !!!

Next to the ice-cream shop a stall selling cakes and sweets was setting up.  They looked absolutely delicious.

Italian Muffins

Italian Cakes and Pastries

Italian Cakes and Sweets

Spring Flowers

There was even a chocolate fountain.

Chocolate Fountain in Itri Italy

Finally at 8 pm a booming firework signaled the simultaneous lighting of the bonfires across the town. 

Itri Italy Bonfires Fuochi di San Giuseppe

After a few seconds of minor crackling the fire suddenly took off with a whoosh and the vicious flames soon licked hungrily around the effigy which represented the fading winter.

Itri Italy Spring Bonfires Fuochi di San Giuseppe

Bright orange sparks spiraled high up into the black night sky and then showered back down on us.

Itri Italy Bonfires of i Fuochi di San Giuseppe

Indeed the town was aglow.

Children ran around throwing more branches onto the fires their faces rosy and glowing from the radiating heat.

Itri Italy St Joseph's Bonfires

Itri Italy Bonfires Fuochi di San Giuseppe

During the evening each area of the town served an array of typical local foods and delicacies, such as traditional Itri sausages with “Scarola”, “Pasta e Fagiole”, Itri olives and Itri Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  We wandered along the old original Roman Via Appia and passed a stall selling pork cheeks served with lemon and salt.

Stall selling Guanciale in Itri Italy

We were tempted to try some of the freshly prepared “zeppole“,  traditional fritters made of sugar, eggs and honey.

Zeppolle Fritters in  Itri Italy

Zeppolle Fritters in  Itri Italy

Zeppolle Fritters in  Itri Italy

In addition there were numerous street venders selling sweets, toys and balloons.

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Balloons in Itri Italy

Also some colourful street entertainers.

Balloons in Itri Italy

There was music to suit all tastes ranging from traditional folk groups to modern hip hop. 

Musician St Joseph's Bonfires Itri Italy

An delightful evening of food, wine, dancing and festivity – something for everyone, young and old.

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#FuochiDiSanGiuseppe #itri #italy #bonfires #FathersDay #zeppolle

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

166 – Itri Festa della Madonna della Cività 2013

The highlight of Itri’s year is the festival dedicated to its patron – La Madonna della Cività held over the span of three days – 20th, 21st, 22nd July and it іs celebrated wіth several religious processions with strong townsmen carrying the silver statue of the Madonna and Child through all the quarters of Itri.

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The silver statue is normally kept in a secure side chapel of La Chiesa dell’ Annunziata for safe keeping. 

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By night the town is adorned with multi-coloured illuminations, and people flock to take part in the celebrations. 

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During such warm balmy evenings  people enjoy leisurely “passeggiata-ing”. The full length of Via Civita Farnese is lined with food vans, numerous noisy fair booths, and cosmopolitan merchants selling an diverse array of objects and knick-knacks.  For the youngsters there is normally a fairground and amusements,  and stalls selling sweets and toys.

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Toasted Sweetcorn

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Crepes

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Guinciale (pork’s cheek)

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Guinciale (pork’s cheek)

Each night there is a musical event, this year there was a classical concert by a Police band, a Pink Floyd tribute band and on the last night a “past their best ageing pop star” !!!

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The final night culminates in a spectacular firework display held at the castle.  We drove up to the Bellavista Restaurant which overlooks the town, with a perfect view of the castle.

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All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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

165 – Itri’s Sanctuary of La Madonna della Cività

The Madonna della Cività is the patron of Itri.  An ancient  sanctuary, one of the oldest in Italy,   bears her name.  It is located inland, approximately 10 km from the centre of Itri, along a long winding road that leads its way through the Valle d’Itri into the Aurunci mountains,  perched at a height of 670 metres on the peak of Monte Cività.  

Up here the mountain air is clean and fresh, and on a clear day there are magnificent panoramic mountain views, whilst in one direction you can look down over Itri, the Gaeta peninsula and Ischia,  in another you can see Fondi and its coastal lakes and the superb coastline that sweeps round and culminates in the rocky promontory of San Felice Circeo, and the Pontine archipelago.

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• Wikipedia image

Here there is a church decorated in a Baroque style, a quiet place of prayer and contemplation.

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It houses the sacred icon, a painting of a black Madonna and Child, which is thought to have been painted by the St Luke the Evangelist, dating back to the 8th century when the Byzantine Emperor Leo III ordered religious persecutions and outlawed sacred images. 

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Legend  has it that this work of art was lost at sea and then later found by a young mute herdsman who was searching for a missing cow on the mountainside.  On discovering the painting in the branches of a holm oak tree, the boy fell to his knees and prayed, and miraculously was able to hear and speak for the first time in his life. He went back to the town of Itri to tell people what had happened and the townsfolk were amazed to witness that the boy could now communicate.  

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This site became a venerated shrine and a Benedictine monastery, a destination of pilgrimage. The steady stream of pilgrims grew over the years and the sanctuary and its hostels grew accordingly.

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•• Wikipedia Image

In 1527 Itri found itself struck by the devasting Black Death.  On the 21 July of that year many people gathered at the Sanctuary and a procession took place through the local towns and villages with the sacred icon carried aloft.  The Madonna  is said to have miraculously intervened to spare many from the terrible plague.

So each year on the 21 July approximately 500,000 people make a sacred pilgrimage to the Sanctuary, some still on foot.

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On the outskirts of Itri in the Raino district there is a small shrine at the start of an ancient sheep track, a winding mountain trail that pilgrims have followed to reach the Sanctuary.

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In Itri near Via Farnese there is also a shrine dedicated to the

Madonna della Cività.

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The annual Feast of the Madonna della Cività

is held in Itri over  three consecutive days,  20th, 21st, 22nd July.

All photos by me (except where stated)

© Louise Shapcott

 • Wikipedia image Public Domain

•• Wikipedia image Public Domain

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

159 – Itri’s Sagra dell’Ulivo

In May Itri held a special feast, that is known as the Sagra dell’Ulivo”,  to celebrate Itri’s wonderful table olives and olive oil which play a vital role in the town’s agricultural economy. 

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The Itrana variety of olive trees is exclusive to this specific area, thriving as a consequence of the unique environment, quality of the fertile soil, temperate micro-climate, sea breezes and fresh mountain air.  

Itri exports much of its olive oil and olives, under the denomination of “Gaeta Olives”. The product adopted the name of the more known nearby city because they were shipped from the port of Gaeta.

Here are some photos I took in May of scarlet poppies growing under the olive trees …

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Budding olive flowers and poppies

A large camp kitchen had been set up in the centre of  the town and was serving meals based on Itri’s olives and olive oil.

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Kay and I enjoyed our passeggiata browsing through the stalls which were exhibiting local traditional food and wine  …..

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traditional work and tools of local artisans …..

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Typical tradesmen …..

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Local arts and crafts …..

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The following day was Mothers Day in Italy

A young lad was playing the zambogna, a form of typical rustic bagpipe

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and there were some locals dressed in traditional Ciociara costumes.

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You can read more about our own olive groves in Itri and our Extra Virgin Olive Oil here at our Tre Cancelle website

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

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

 #itri #italy#olives #oliveoil #extravirgin #gaetaolives

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