241 – Christmas Greetings 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ciao for now !!!

Louise and Paul

xxxxxxx

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158 – Gentle Strolls Along Local Stunning Beaches

One lunchtime Kay and I we drove down towards Gaeta to Sant’Agostino beach, which is situated on the Via Flacca between Gaeta and Sperlonga.  There is a simple restaurant there that overlooks the beach, the Miramare, that we often frequent.  We were greatly disappointed that it was closed on this occasion, so we drove on towards Sperlonga and parked in the parking area near Levante beach. We took a lovely stroll along the golden sands in the direction of the little harbour.

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The beach was practically deserted, despite the beautifully warm and sunny May weather.

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Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to live near to the stunningly beautiful coastline of the Riviera Di Ulisse.

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The harbour and Torre Truglia.

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We found a lovely little bar on the harbourside called “Il Porticello” where we had a lovely lunch of Insalata Caprese  a simple but very tasty salad, made of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and olive oil.

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Another day we returned to the “Miramare” at Sant’Agostino, this time we were more lucky. Our table was outside overlooking the beach, we had a lovely lunch – Kay had another Caprese salad and I had crispy deep-fried  seafood. Scrummy !!!

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We then went for an afternoon stroll to help work off our lunch.  

Sant’Agostino is a 2 km stretch of golden sandy beach and is very popular with Italians from Rome and Naples, especially during the month of August.  Originally here there were just sand dunes but now there are various small restaurants and bars dotted along the way, and although there are some bathing establishments on the whole it is a free beach.

One end is still guarded by an ancient watch tower, one of many such fortifications built along the coastline to guard against marauding Saracen pirates.  

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At the opposite end you can see one of the several road tunnels that run along the coast, and the remains of the ancient Roman Via Flacca.

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It was a perfect day for taking photos  ….

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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

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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

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

149 – Aneurin’s First Visit To “Bella Italia”

In October we were delighted to welcome our youngest grandson Aneurin and his mummy Emma, who came for a 2 week visit.  The weather was still beautifully warm and sunny for much of their stay, which was perfect for several days out at Sant’Agostino beach, situated midway between Sperlonga and Gaeta.  As you can see, we had the beach practically to ourselves.

The Riviera D’Ulisse or Costa Pontina in South Lazio – this beautiful coastline, with its golden sandy beaches, is still largely undiscovered by international tourists.  It is extremely popular with Italian visitors from Rome and Naples, particularly during the month of August, or on sunny summer weekends, when they flock to the seaside to escape the city heat.  However out of season this area reverts to a sleepy, peaceful setting for a relaxing Italian holiday.

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The safe sandy beach was an absolute delight for a fearless energetic 2 year old !!!

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Aneurin really enjoyed the freedom of  the wide open spaces and olive groves around “Tre Cancelle”

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and we dug out the old train set from the loft, which went down very well !!!

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One evening we went to our friends’ restaurant – the Bellavista in Itri, run by Giancarlo and Massimo. Here Massimo gave Aneurin and Emma a lesson in making pizza.

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We all, including Aneurin, very much enjoyed our pizzas !!!

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Giancarlo has a little girl just a few months older than Aneurin.

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It was so lovely to see them interacting. It was clear that Chiara had taken quite a shine to Aneurin.

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Thanks to all at the Bellavista for a lovely rememberable evening !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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

147 – Our Visit To Tre Cancelle and South Lazio – by Diana Johnson

(A Guest Blog Post by Diana Johnson of Bribie, Queensland, Australia)

Hearing my black Labrador dog, Cindy, barking vigorously under my bedroom window reminded me of the dawn chorus at “Tre Cancelle”. No, not the birds but the doggies of “Tre Cancelle” whose voices may be a little muted if Paul has overslept and they are still in their night kennels. By day they have free rein across a large yard and are quick to detect the slightest movement from the occupants of the downstairs unit who might just be bearing doggie delights to their yard.

“The Woof-Gang”

A shared interest in Shapcott Genealogy gave me a virtual introduction to Paul and Louise many years ago but it is only in the last two years that I‘ve managed to visit their idyllic Italian hideaway. This September I lured my husband as well to South Lazio to meet Paul and Louise and the Woof Gang!

Well what a week! After combing the supermarket shelves in Rome for dog treats, I found it was much easier to buy them in Fondi or Itri. Of course by that time I also had to add in cat food as well for the latest additions to the “Tre Cancelle” home for waifs and strays. We wasted much time in trying to coax a very shy little kitten out into the open although her mother, named Micha, was much bolder and more forthright in her demands for sustenance. Milk and biscuits disappeared rapidly every day and cat food was gone in a flash!

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Tinkerbell

Diana befriending Tinkerbell

Warning to anyone dispensing Dentastix to the “Woof-Gang” – be sure to keep you fingers out of range lest Lizzie mistake one for a Dentastick ….

Somewhere in between walking dogs and generally making a fuss of all the furry inhabitants of “Tre Cancelle”, we found time to do some sightseeing around the region. With Paul driving and Louise supplying the tour commentary we feasted our eyes on the beautiful fishing ports with their steep steps and narrow alleys and archways in the old parts of the towns.

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We visited markets selling every kind of produce under the sun, watched a religious procession …

Feast of Saints Cosma e Damiano

drove up into the mountains to see elaborate churches, villages perched on mountain tops and of course the famous Abbey of Monte Cassino.

The Abbey of Montecassino

A special bonus was afforded to us in Atina, where Louise met some of her relatives and we were invited into one of their houses in the old quarter of the town.

Atina’s ancient Cathedral

An alley in Atina

Louise and Paul at Atina’s weekly market

Louise’s Atina Website:  http://atinaitaly.com

Listening in ignorance to the rapid flow of Italian I knew that I had to improve my knowledge of the language of this beautiful and intriguing country. It is not enough to be able to buy a bus ticket or order some meat or cheese in the deli, you really want to know what is going on…………..

No visit to Itri is complete without a visit or two to the aptly named Bellavista restaurant run by Mamma Riccardi and her charming sons. The road to the restaurant is an interesting climb if you happen to be the driver but thankfully I was not.  Having made it to the top, we relaxed on the terrace in the warm evening soaking up the glorious views of Itri by night (no doubt improved by the jugs of wine that appeared regularly upon our table). The Italian wine goes well with the Bellavista pizza, which is just great, in fact I’ll find it difficult going back to Aussie pizzas after having the real thing in Italy.

Trevor and Paul at the Bellavista

And while I’m on the subject of food, how can I not mention the wonderful gelati ice creams that we downed on several occasions. Alas, it means several more hours in the gym to work those inches off the waistline but ….well…. it was worth it!

Sadly a week goes by too quickly and all too soon we were heading back to Rome for the next leg of our trip but I know we will be back one day in the not too distant future. That is providing our good friends can put up with their Aussie visitors again.

Diana

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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

139 – Gaeta Yacht Med Festival 2012

We recently took a short drive to the nearby picturesque seaside resort of Gaeta, during the Yacht Med Festival which was being held between 20th and 29th April. 

Gaeta has ancient maritime traditions as it has long been an important  port of trade, a key export being “Itrana” Olives, which are more commonly known as “Gaeta Olives” .  The Gulf of Gaeta has a spectacular backdrop as the Aurunci Mountains tumble down to meet the sea.

This Mediterranean festival was to focus on the economy of the sea, sailing, fishing, the environment, culture and tourism. Along the long seafront boulevard there were numerous exhibition stands promoting an array of products and services related to these themes.

On show were of course many boats of all shapes,  sizes and prices.

The Guardia di Finanza had opened one of their training ships to the public.

For the first time we were also to enter the premises of the Guardia di Finanza’s Scuola Nautica at the end of the peninsular known as Punta Stendardo. It was most interesting to see the beautiful old town and its cathedral from new vantage points, which gave the vistas an entirely new perspective.

Here on show were martime exhibits including a model of the John Cabot’s (or Giovanni Cabot0’s) ship  the “Matthew”. It is believed that he was born in Gaeta, although other sources give his birthplace as Genoa. He became an English navigator and explorer, having settled in Bristol in the 1490’s.  He set sail from Bristol in May 1497, and landed in June on what is now called Cape Breton Island.  Then he sailed along the coasts of Labrador, Newfoundland, and New England, believing that he had reached north-western Asia.

Across the bay echoed the sound of strong rhythmical drumming. As we wandered back through the old town it became apparent that the reverberations were emanating  from a troop of drummers and  flag throwers, dressed in colourful medieval costumes.

We looked on as the sbandieratori seemingly effortlessly  waved, twirled and tossed their heraldic standards into the air. 

Traditionally, in times gone by, such bands of brave men would have lead their troops into battle.

Returning to matters nautical – Gaeta is the home port of the 6th Fleet Flagship USS Mount Whitney.

On the 20th May Gaeta will be in the forefront of the sailing news, as it is to be the starting point of the 2012 Rolex Volcano Race. From Gaeta the crews will race past the Pontine Islands and reach Capri to complete the first leg of the event. After the stop-over on the Isola Azzurra, the boats then race across the Tyrrhenian Sea and towards the Aeolian Islands which include Stromboli, Vulcano and Alicudi, a volcanic archipelago just north of Sicily. The long distance race of more than 400 nautical miles will finish at the beautiful Island of  Capri.

We wish all the contestants fair winds and God speed.

By the way – I have recently updated my webpages about the beautiful and interesting town of Gaeta – Please do take a minute or two to take a look:

http://gaeta.shapcott-family.com

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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

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

132 – New Swimming Pool For “Tre Cancelle”

Whilst it takes very little time to get to numerous lovely golden sandy beaches, we have always felt that a lovely addition to “Tre Cancelle Farmhouse” would be a swimming pool. 

Not yet able to afford a fully built-in pool we decided to install a quality, steel sided, above ground pool of ample dimensions, ie. 6.1 metres by 3.75 metres.

A substantial base was going to be required to support the weight of the some 21 m3  of water incorporated in the pool.

So Stefano and gang set about excavating material from high points of the terrain, and then redistributing it at lower points until a level base area of about 50 m2 was achieved.

Then they mixed and carefully laid a reinforced concrete base.

The next day Stefano set about tiling the base, by the end of a hot and sticky sunny day poor Stefano was exhausted by the heat and his poor old knees were suffering badly.  That said, he did a really splendid level job and the following day the tiles were then able to be grouted.

Having checked off all the parts against the swimming pool parts list,  the instructions were pretty easy to follow step by step.

Before long the pool began to take shape.

And …..

Hey Presto !!!

TRE CANCELLE’S NEW SWIMMING POOL

Sincere thanks to Stefano, Pasquale and Cipriano for all their hard work

and making it all happen !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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

129 – One of Those Days

Changeover days are always busy days for us. On one such day, Paul came bounding down the outside staircase in his usual carefree manner, only to lose his footing off the very last step, landing awkwardly on the side of his foot – A truly “Oh Dear, Oh Bother” moment. !!! The discomfort was intense and forced Paul to sit on the ground in an effort to recover his composure.  It was immediately apparent that he had made a “really good job” of this.  Eventually he managed to hop over to the caravan to try and rest for a while, hoping that the pain would subside.

Meanwhile I began to run around like a mad thing in order to get the upstairs apartment ready for our next visitor, Diana, an old pen-friend and fellow Shapcott family researcher from Australia, who we expected to arrive around lunchtime.  She was travelling down from Rome by train, and we were to meet her at the station on her arrival.

Feeling slightly better, Paul tried his best to help me but was finding it very hard to put any weight on his ankle. By lunchtime we finally managed to get everything ship shape for our guest’s arrival, and decided to nip down to Itri to buy some provisions for lunch.

However somehow in the chaos we realised that one of our mobile phones had been left downstairs in the old cisterna, and when we went down to retrieve it we discovered, to our dismay, there was a  messages and a missed calls from Diana, indicating that she was due to arrive at 11.09 at Itri Station. In great haste we sped off to the station, which is situated a couple of kilometres out of Itri itself. A series of further messages arrived, saying that she had arrived at the station, and that she was still waiting at the station.  We immediately tried to phone her only to find that her phone was switched off. Almost immediately one of our phones ran out of battery.  On arriving at the station, it soon became clear that there was no sign of Diana, and we were left deliberating  as to what we should do next.

Then, mercifully, we received a phone call from a friend in Itri, saying that there was an unfortunate foreign lady with a suitcase, waiting in the square in Itri, desperately hoping to find us. It seems that after waiting at the station for a couple of hours, feeling totally abandoned, poor Diana, who doesn’t speak any Italian,  had managed to accost an obliging elderly local to hitch a lift into the centre of Itri. We headed back into Itri and there in the square was a destitute Diana, patiently waiting for us . The look of relief on her face was immediately evident.  I don’t think Diana will forget the experience readily !!!  Sorry Diana !!!

 

After profuse apologies on our part, we bundled into the car and returned to Tre Cancelle, where over a soothing cup of tea Diana recounted her misadventure.  We then drove down to Sant’Agostino beach for a spot of lunch in an establishment overlooking the sea. Although we had only corresponded with Diana via the internet, we soon felt like true old friends, finding that we have so many things in common.

 

Meanwhile, having got Diana comfortably installed at “Tre Cancelle”, we thought it best to seek some medical advice from our local friendly pharmacist, who in turn strongly recommended that we went to the A & E in Formia’s hospital for an X-ray.  Thankfully, despite a 3 hour wait, the X-ray showed that nothing was broken, however the doctor recommended a return visit  the  following morning to an orthopaedic clinic to allow the experts to asses any muscle or tendon damage.  So early next morning Paul drove back to the hospital, and to his surprise soon found the damaged ankle held immovable by a plaster cast from knee to toe.  This of course meant that Paul could not drive.

 

Paul on Mum’s old zimmer frame !!!

Up until this point I had not felt confident enough to drive much in Italy, however with Paul incapacitated,  through necessity this was to be my baptism of fire !!!  That evening we had arranged to meet up with friends in Gaeta for a pizza, so we decided to leave early and take Diana for a quick tour of the old town.  To my dismay we found that the traffic was busier than I had expected, with cars and scooters weaving frantically around each other and double parked at the side of the road. However all went pretty well, I managed to park and we enjoyed supper. There was, however, one hairy moment when we were pulled over by the Carabinieri in Itri to be informed that one of our headlights was not working.  Thankfully they soon waved us on and I managed to get us all back home safely, where I soon treated myself to a stiff drink.

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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