155 – Bargains Not To Be Missed

One of the things Kay really likes to do here in Italy is go around all the local markets.  Throughout this area of South Lazio in the various towns of the area, a lively open air market can be found each and every day of the week.

Friday is Itri’s special day, and it is transformed into a vibrant, bustling market place. Each stall holder has his regular pitch.  One section is dedicated to food and eager housewives set out early to shop for the best, freshest of ingredients for a hearty family menu.  Well stocked Salumeria vans offer tempting selections of: plump juicy olives, some stuffed or marinated, capers, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes and grilled vegetables preserved in oil or in vinegar, salted anchovies, “Bacala” or dried salted cod, and an array of olive oils and vinegars.  Then there are the numerous types of salami and also cooked and cured meats such as: Bresaola; Mortadella, Carpaccio, Speck  Pancetta, Prosciutto Crudo, Prosciutto Cotto,  Guanciale etc some of which are made from cuts of meat, and animal parts, that have long ago fallen from favour in the UK.



Then there is the bank of diverse cheeses made from the milk of cows, goats, sheep and buffalos, some dolce “sweet” and some piccante “matured and strongly flavoured, some with hard rinds, some with soft, and some “sotto olio”.  Crumbly Parmesan and Pecorino, smooth Asiago,  Provolone, smoked knobbly Scamorza and Caciocavallo, sweet creamy ricotta, luscious balls of milky mozzarella, to name but a few.

The next “bancarella” has a fine show of silvery, glinting fish and seafood chilling on shavings of ice.



Then there’s the first of the fruit and vegetable stands, which are full to overflowing with freshly picked, irregularly shaped, local produce, artistically arranged in colourful displays. The wide choice of goods, never quite the same each week, reflects the ever changing seasons.  Posies of parsley and basil, celery, carrots, beets, funghi, cabbages, cauliflowers, lush spring greens, spinach, escarole, sprouting brocoletti, asparagus spears, broad beans, garden peas, artichoke heads, chicory, radicchio, salad leaves and rocket, fennel bulbs, radishes, onions, shallots, spring onions, French beans, green runner beans, fresh Borlotti beans, aubergines, zucchini, zucchini flowers, peculiarly shaped squashes, corn-on-the-cob, peppers, and countless varieties of sun-ripened tomatoes on the vine. 



Then the fruits … oranges, mandarins, clementines, lemons, wooden trays of sweet scented strawberries, nespole, soft furry apricots, peaches, nectarines, cherries, luscious plums, apples, melecotone, pears, kiwi, persimmon, succulent figs, juicy grapes, golden melons and giant thirst-quenching water melons. Often, as the market begins to pack up at the end of a session, especially if there is a seasonal glut, crates of perishable items can be snapped up for a song.


The next stall has jars of local honey, bunches of dried fragrant herbs, tresses of onions, plaits of garlic,  threaded garlands of fiery pepperoncini, an assortment of sacks containing  dried  beans,  peas and various pulses.  Then there are peanuts kernels, chestnuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds and dried fruits.


A further stall sells trays of vigorous vegetable seedlings for planting in one’s own orto, as well as potted plants, shrubs and fresh cut flowers. Another familiar face is an Indian pedlar who on fine days walks around selling strings of garlic, whereas on inclement days he tends to switch to umbrellas.

A wizened old lady, wearing a head-scarf and pinny, sells fresh snails from her bucket, which she weighs on an ancient hand-held balance scale. In between sales she shares her time between chatting to the local market goers and attempting to keep all her snails under control and from escaping out of their temporary home.



The other section of market is ablaze with colour and has a fascinating array of wares on sale, rolls of  fabrics, flowing organza curtains,, bed linen and household textiles and furnishings, haberdashery, silk flowers, cosmetics, jewellery, accessories, toys, hardware and kitchen miscellanea, and garments of all shapes, sizes and descriptions, ranging from teeny petite to “big fat spaghetti eating Mamma dimensions”.

There is also a wonderful range of leather goods and fashionable footwear so if you happen to have a passion for shoes this is the place for you.  In China I learned the skill of bartering, the long ritual of negotiating the price, but my ability does not match that of our dear English friend who is renowned for being a “Hand-bag-aholic”, a habit which is easily fed during her visits to us during which she has spent many a happy hour browsing the local market stalls for unusual handbags and bargains.



Most of the traders are Italians however, there are a few stalls that are run by Chinese, Phillippinos, Indians and North Africans.  We have befriended a young trader, from Senegal on the Ivory Coast of Africa, who specializes in selling handbags, belts and sunglasses and always offers us a good “sconto” or discount.  He positively stands out in a crowd as he is remarkably tall and stately, at a height that must be approaching seven feet.  Dressed in his flowing caftan, he enthusiastically rushes forward to greet us with a beaming toothy smile, a hearty handshake and a few words of English.


By mid morning the market is buzzing as shoppers jostle between the “bancarelle”.  However, this is not just a place to shop but provides an ideal opportunity for the locals to mingle, catch up with each other over a caffe or a cappuccino.  A gnarled mustachioed Neapolitan accordion player routinely does the rounds of all the local bars.

As lunchtime approaches the hard working stall holders exchange lively banter as they set about packing up their wares and heading off back home for a tasty filling plate of delicious pasta.

On Sundays there is a huge market in nearby Fondi as well as one in Gaeta on Wednesday Mornings and Formia on Thursdays. Here you can buy a kaleidoscope of  merchandise. Kay especially loves the rummage stalls, where sometimes you can snap up a bargain. 


In fact Kay now has a whole wardrobe of clothes that she leaves here when she goes back home !!!

But she can never turn down a bargain !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


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


146 – Fire at Tre Cancelle – August 2012

I awoke with a start when Paul burst in to say that the Vet would be here in 5 minutes. It was time for the dogs to have their annual check-ups and vaccinations.  Maurizio, who we have come to consider as a good friend, is very sympathetic to our cause and very kindly only charges for the medication and not for his time.

As we walked around to the front of the house I noticed the patio was littered with black specks of ash, and as I looked up it became clear that a fire was close-by. Columns  of grey / brown smoke were billowing from behind the hill in the Valle Staura area.  We immediately phoned 115 to alert the Fire Brigade. 

Maurizio then arrived and we tried to concentrate on the job in hand, of getting the dogs inoculated.

Meanwhile the smoke continued to rise into the sky, swirling in the light breeze.  Before long we could hear the crackling as the bush fire neared the summit.  The Polizia Forestale and the Vigili arrived and I directed them to drive up the rough track on our neighbour’s land, that leads to the top of the hill. 

One of our guests, Andrew White began to video the scene …….  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vbf-2EPMKUg

The bright orange flames soon became visible as they continued to ferociously devour all in their path. The firemen began dousing the edge of the inferno which was by now descending our flank of the rocky limestone slope, and scrubland.  This is composed of densely growing vegetation such as broom, heather, juniper, myrtle, rock roses, wild asparagus and stramma grass. The fire also took hold of many Cork Oak trees along the way. The terrain was parched as we have in the last month or so, been regularly experiencing temperatures in the mid 30’s centigrade.

I and all the members of the White family speedily ran down to the edge of the wood, which borders our olive grove.  Andrew and Paul lugged down the petrol driven pump, to where we had previously had the forethought to install a water stand pipe. Here we were able to fill up a large tub with water, to act as a reservoir, and hence deliver water through the long yellow hose that we would normally use for spraying the olive trees.

Paul and Andrew intrepidly took this hose into the woods spraying the edges of the fire that was steadily creeping through the undergrowth, while the rest of us frantically filled buckets and any containers we could find with water in an effort to dampen down the boundary of the wood  to prevent the fire from reaching our olive trees.

At last a fire fighting helicopter arrived with its first bucket of water to release over the fire, dowsing an area of the flames.

a great photo by andrew white

It then returned in the direction of Fondi Lake to refill and repeat the procedure. Indeed the helicopter to and froed many times and then a second helicopter joined in the fire-fighting effort.

In between the skillful helicopter manoeuvres and drops Paul and Andrew continued to work on the edge of the fire. Yet as one area seemed to come under control another section would flare up necessitating taking up new positions along the creeping front.

Eventually the Vigili thought we had all managed to get the fire under control, and we continued to douse down stubborn little pockets. 

I chatted to the head of the Volunteer Fire-Fighting team, who informed me that the fire had started the evening before in Valle Staura, but because it was dark the helicopters were unable to fly.  I asked what he considered to be the cause to the fire, and he replied that he was pretty sure it had been started intentionally and that the suspected culprits were local herdsmen or hunters, who try to clear troublesome undergrowth to enrich pasture-land and stimulate regrowth. There had been a spate of local fires during the last few days and weeks, far too many to have been all started naturally.  Indeed, in Italy, it is said that 98% of forest fires are caused by people while only 2% by natural phenomena.  One night recently, during the Feast of the Madonna della Cività, a large fire had raged on one of the hills that encircle the town. The problem, the fireman said, is that it is difficult to catch the arsonist with such malicious intentions in the actual act.

Around mid afternoon, seemingly the job was done, the helicopters having returned to base.

We adjourned to the upstairs balcony for a most welcome cup of tea.  However, from this vantage point, and only a couple of mouthfuls of tea later, it became very obvious that under the tree canopy, in the most dense patches of parched undergrowth the fire had rekindled and ominous columns of smoke began to rise once again like the proverbial phoenix. 

So once again Paul and Andrew dashed back down, refilled the pump’s motor with petrol and set to work tackling the re-energised flames within the woods. 

After another hour or so, Paul was suffering badly from heat and exhaustion, and was forced to sit down, before Andrew drove him back to the house in our car, where Paul had to retire and take to his bed for a while.

In the meantime I joined the White family went back on the balcony to keep an eye on things.  Before long a new large plume of brown smoke appeared on the hillside ……. http://youtu.be/QBickbHENdE

I phoned 115 once again, and before long we once again heard fire trucks in the vicinity, and shortly afterward the familiar and welcome hum of the helicopter making its way in our direction.

The helicopter tackled the new region of fire.

a great atmospheric photo by andrew white

The rest of us had to start again working on small persistent pockets of fire which stubbornly held on.

At this point our Italian guests returned from the beach, and rushed down to find us. Valter asked me to find some spades. It turned out that he had had experience as a Volunteer Fire Fighter in the Torino area – what a wonderful choice of guest to have at this critical moment !!!

Paul was by now feeling a little better and he helped locate the required tools.  Valter, using his invaluable experience, began moving burning chunks of debris away from the fresh and untouched vegetation, to areas that had already been consumed by the fire, where they could burn out harmlessly.  Meanwhile Paul and Andrew continued dousing down along the front edge. 

By the end of light, we were exhausted, and had done all we could physically do, so we retired back to the house to shower off the soot and ash of the day’s toil.

Andrew and Jenny and family had very kindly prepared a meal for us to share with them all.  As we dined on the balcony we watched the glowing embers of tree trunks that had succumbed to the flames.

The next day, in the heat of the day small areas of our charred woodland began to smoke ominously, and we spotted flames in an area close to the edge of the wood. Once again we all sped into action, getting the pump working and handing out buckets of water.  Thankfully it did not take long to get these odd glowing patches extinguished.

We took a drive around to the far side of the hill to survey the damage in Valle Staura, where despite the fact that the fire had been largely extinguished, we could clearly see that some large sections of olive groves had been consumed, and there were several olive trees still burning. 

We cannot thank the White family enough for their sterling fire-fighting efforts. We don’t know how we would have managed without you.  Many thanks to Valter and family also.

The fire-fighting team ………..

Andrew, Ricky, Shannon, Caitlin, Niamh, Jenny, Bethan, Laura, Valter, Andrea, Matteo

Thank you all !!!


An Italian Newspaper report of the fire:



Photos of last year’s fire that came close to Tre Cancelle:



Our first fire at Tre Cancelle in 2008:



photos © Andrew White

photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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


134 – A Well Earned Day Off

The following day the “Welsh Girls” deserved a well earned day off. 

We thought that they could benefit from some retail therapy, so with it being a Wednesday, we took them to the colourful Gaeta market.  Here there is an array of stalls selling almost everything under the sun. 

The girls made some new friends.

This included the 7ft tall Moustapha from Senegal who runs an stall selling handbags.

Moustapha and Kay

Moustapha and Elsie

Moustapha and Karen

Mooustapha and Sylvia

Elsie, Kay, Moustapha, Sylvia, Karen

We then proceeded along the coast road to Sant’ Agostino beach, midway between Gaeta and Sperlonga.  and had a snack lunch at one of our favourite little haunts, the Miramare.  Outside tables look directly onto the beach.  It was a beautifully day and we all enjoyed the warm rays of the sun.

Kay, Sylvia, Karen, Elsie, Paul, Louise

Kay and Elsie

Sylvia and Karen

Karen and Kay

We then drove on to Sperlonga, where we showed them delights of this magical little town. 



Kay and Elsie

Sylvia and Elsie

Elsie, Kay, Sylvia, Karen in Sperlonga

Elsie, Kay, Sylvia, Karen in Sperlonga

All in all … a very beautiful day !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


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

97 – Handbag Heaven

During our visit to the UK we were invited to lunch at our dear friend’s home in Bristol.  Esmé, as a part of the continuing celebrations for her birthday, was keen to cook for us. As always the fare was most delicious and we enjoyed, with Paul’s Dad Peter, a very pleasant couple of hours in her good company.  She has a real zest for life and lives each day to the full.

She has an eye for interior design and her apartment is beautifully decorated, mainly done by her own fair hand, and adorned with many of her own colourful oil paintings and remarkable photo collages.

She is also a dab hand on the old sewing machine.

It has to be said … that Esmé is a bit of a “Handbag-aholic” !!!

A habit which is easily fed during her many visits to us here at “Tre Cancelle”, during which she has spent many a happy hour browsing the local market stalls for unusual handbags and bargains.  Indeed, when she is here she is in “Handbag Heaven”. She never fails to haggle with the North African stall holders, in whatever language is most useful, to achieve the very best discounts. Consequently, she never fails to fly back home rather heavily laden – with many more bags than she came with !!!


Esmé, Peter and Paul, Gaeta Harbour


 Ciao Em !!! Looking forward to your next handbag expedition !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


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



86 – New Videos About “Tre Cancelle” and South Lazio





Tre Cancelle Garden


I (Louie) have been beavering away on the old computer.

Using  my own photos I have  now put together 2 Video / Slideshows.

Please do take a look  ………..

One is dedicated to :

Our “Tre Cancelle” Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

The second is about this interesting region of South Lazio

that we are so lucky to now live in :

“Beautiful South Lazio”

I hope this will give you an idea

of what beauty surrounds us here at

“Tre Cancelle”

For more details about our 2 Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

and other local Holiday Villas available to rent,

please go to our Website at :


 #holidayapartments #sperlonga  #itri #italy vacationapartments #holidayhomes #holidayrentals #holidayvillas


46 – The Week The Earth Shook

This will be a week that people will remember for many years to come, particularly those that have lived in the historic city of  L’Aquila and the surrounding area of the Abruzzi mountains, in the centre of Italy.

We have had Paul’s brother and sister-in-law staying here with us this week at “Tre Cancelle”.  The first we knew of the disaster was when we received a mobile phone call from Mike’s son in the UK on Monday morning, as he was ringing to check if we were all OK.  Immediately we switched on the TV and were horrified to see the news story that was unravelling  – a devastating earthquake in L’Aquila measuring 6.3 magnitude.  It seems that there had been another significant tremor around midnight, and another prior to this on 30th March.

We actually had not felt a thing, as we were probably fast asleep and there was no apparent damage here. (Later we learned that some people in Itri and Fondi had definitely felt the tremor, as had Rome and Naples.)

View From Atina of the Abruzzi Mountains

View From Atina of the Abruzzi Mountains

We were naturally concerned for our family in Atina and San Donato, which border the Abruzzi mountains, so we immediately telephoned to check up on them.  Mara was very upset, they had experienced a very harrowing, sleepless night, with violent tremors.  However, thank goodness there had been no serious damage in Atina or the Val di Comino area.

However cousin Elena’s daughter, Antonella, is a student in the university town of  L’Aquila studying Biotechnology.  We learned that, despite many students having already left for the Easter break, Antonella had been staying in L’Aquila that dreadful night, and that she had had to crawl out of the student’s lodgings in her pyjamas, in shock but thankfully physically unhurt. Our cousins were distressed as they were unable to drive to L’Aquila to fetch her as the roads had been blocked off by the Police and Civil Protection authorities, and there were reports that some major routes in the area had been damaged.  Eventually one of Antonella’s friends drove her home to be tearfully reunited with her family in San Donato.

We arranged to go and visit the cousins on Wednesday to give them some moral support.