248 – Autumn Visitors and the 2017 Olive Harvest

Over the Autumn we have had a string of friends and family members come and visit us at Tre Cancelle which kept us busy. First we welcomed our friends: Clive and Marilyn who used to live in Gaeta. For several years Clive used to help Paul a great deal in the olive grove before their move back to the UK. They treated us to a lovely meal at a restaurant in Gaeta named the Masaniello.

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Clive and Paul

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Marilyn

My cousins Cathy and Jeff from Australia came to stay for a a week and also Paul’s sister and her friend Linda. They also helped Paul to celebrate his birthday.

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Cathy and Jeff

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Annie and Paul

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Annie, Paul, Cathy, Jeff and Linda

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The Birthday Boy – Paul

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A hand-drawn birthday card by Jeff of “San Paolo”

They also have us an amazing hand in clearing and preparing the olive groves for the harvest. Thank you all for you wonderful efforts !!!

No sooner had this party departed another arrived in the form of came our friend Kay and also friends Gerda and Adrian from South Africa who had recently got married.  The couple had been doing a 30 day whistle-stop tour of Europe visiting 5 countries, 22 towns and villages in Holland, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy.  And they still managed to fit in a few day’s visit to see us at Tre Cancelle. Amazing guys !!!

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Adrian and Gerda from South Africa

We also welcomed two of Kay’s friends, Nicky and Simon. All had come to help with the olive harvest.  Our American friends from Minturno and  Nandi, Davide and their three children from Itri, Tomaso, Dante and Giada, also volutuneered to help for a couple of days which was fantastic to have some extra pairs of hands.

This year we had a decent crop much to Paul’s delight . Over a couple of weeks with our team of volunteer workers we managed to harvest 1000 kilos of olives which were turned into about 180 litres of November harvest extra virgin olive oil which was really good news. At the same time we also managed to prune some of the trees that were growing too far too tall.

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Our sincere thanks to all those who took part and helped to make it such fun. It was an outstanding team effort.

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

Discover Beautiful South Lazio

 

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47 – Morning of Wednesday 8th April

On our way to Atina, we decided to first take  Mike and Mary to see the spectacular Abbey of Montecassino and then proceeded to drive on through Caira and up towards the village of Terelle.  Near here we halted for a tasty  little picnic, blessed with panoramic views of the snow-capped Abruzzi mountains and the wide expanse of the verdant Cassino valley that stretched below.

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Terelle

Terelle

We began to make our gradual descent, passing through Terelle’s magnificient chestnut woods which are said to be the most beautiful in all of Lazio. The largest chestnut tree has a circumference of 12 metres and the oldest is 800 years old. On the second Sunday of November a well-known Sagra delle Castagne or Chestnut Festival takes place in Terelle. Here there is the opportunity to eat the local roasted chestnuts and desserts and cakes made of them and sample other such delicacies such as wild boar, local hams, sausages, cheeses, bread, polenta, beans, mushrooms, and try a sip or two of the local Cesanese wine.

We continued our descent passing beautiful vistas of the picturesque village of Belmonte Castello which appears to cling to and wind its way around the rock spur on which it stands.

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Belmonte Castello

My Atina Website:   http://atinaitaly.com

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39 – Need Something To Look Forward To ?

Brrrrrrrrrrrr !!!

The weather back in the UK sounds atrocious !!!  

Here in Itri, this year, we have yet to experience a frost !!!

Today was mild and sunny so we have been working outside.  

It was lovely to feel the sun on our back, and hear the birds joyfully twittering.

Spring is on the way !!!

If any of you are fed up with the cold and the snow,

why not think of planning a little break in Italy,

something to look forward to?

The Spring is a lovely time to visit ” TRE  CANCELLE ” and Italy in general

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Set amidst the greenery of our own olive groves,

in the heart of the Italian countryside. 

An  excellent  base  for  exploring  this  beautiful, region of South Lazio.

Close to many lovely Golden Sandy Beaches on the Riviera Di Ulisse 

and  seaside resorts of 

Sperlonga / Gaeta / Formia / Terracina / San Felice Circeo

Rocky coves, hidden caves and sheltered harbours.

Sparkling, clear waters awarded the prestigious

European Blue Flag for several years. 

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Sperlonga

Yet close by are the dramatic mountains of the Aurunci Regional Park,

with its verdant hillsides, olive groves, lakes and protected nature reserves.

 Easy day trips to Rome / Naples / Caserta / Montecassino / Anzio / Ponza

 Nearest Airports: 

Rome Ciampino / Rome Fiumicino / Naples Capodichino

 We are on hand to ensure you have a most enjoyable holiday.  

*** SPECIAL OFFER ***

 We have decided to reduce our “Out of Season” prices.

REVISED PRICES – per apartment, per week (7 nights) during Period :

2 Feb 2009 to 3 April 2009 … was 425 euros    Now 395 euros

(including heating via Wood-Burning Stove – wood provided)

4 April 2009 to 1 May 2009 … was 450 euros   Now 425 euros

2 May to 3 July 2009 …  was 550 euros    Now 500 euros

4 July to 17 July 2009 … 550 euros

18 July to 28 August 2009 …  630  euros

29 Aug to 2 Oct 2009 …  was 550 euros   Now  500 euros

3 Oct to 6 Nov 2009 … was 475 euros   Now 425  euros

See our website for full details: 

 http://trecancelle.shapcott-family.com

 

We also have a selection of other Holiday Villas available in this area:

http://www.shapcott-family.com/Immobiliare_Itri_La_Rocca/Holprops/index.html

Please do contact us for more details

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29 – Our “Tre Cancelle Olive Oil”

olivIn Itri there are several olive mills, the largest of which is a new modern building, marked with a curious tall post mounted with a ball made of yellow wire mesh, which is illuminated at night, presumably it is supposed to represent an olive.

However, we normally choose to get this batch of our olives processed at the local Co-operative.  At the olive mill, first our crates were weighed and marked with our name, and then stacked until it was their turn for processing.  

During the first process the olives are tipped into a hopper and passed through a vibrating machine which separates the olives from the leaves and any other debris.

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Then they are washed, and sent on to another machine for the second process, where they are mechanically sliced, crushed, mashed and churned to produce a smooth pulp.

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The third process extracts the liquid mixture of oil and water and feeds it into a large centrifuge, whilst the remaining solids are collected for further processing offsite.

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A session of spinning to separate the oil from the water follows, the oil after a last filtering being finally decanted into the olive producer’s portable container.

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It is back-breaking work, but it is incredibly satisfying to see our own olives transformed into freshly milled, vibrant golden green oil.

From tipping the olives into the hopper at the beginning of the “continuous cycle” , to the oil flowing out the other end takes a little more than one hour.

Our olives had been harvested early in the season, so they tend to produce slightly less oil, but one of an extra high quality (low levels of acidity) with a fruity and slightly peppery after taste. Oil derived from fully mature olives, harvested later in March or April, would be somewhat denser, less bitter and with higher levels of acidity.

To be classified as “Extra Virgin” olive oil  this has to be extracted during the “first pressing” of the olives and must have an acidity level of below 1%, therefore, the lower the acid level, the higher the quality oil. More oil can be (and is) extracted from the solids remaining after the first extraction, but a lower quality olive oil is the result. Finally after all the oil processing is done the remaining matter is pressed into briquettes for burning on open fires.

Therefore our own olive oil, could be labelled:

“Extra Virgin” 

“Cold Pressed”    

“Early Pressing” 

“Derived solely from the Itrana variety of olives”

It is a superior quality oil, with a good flavour,  and is noted to be exceptionally low in acidity, in fact far below the 1% international standard.

Many olive oils that you can buy fairly cheaply in supermarkets may be labelled “Extra Virgin”, but these can be made from a blend of oils of varying quality. 

It is rather like the blending of whisky, where taste and quality can vary widely.  Our “Tre Cancelle Olive Oil” is more comparable to a superior Single Malt Whisky, of infinitely higher qualityThe real McCoy”  !!! 

Chefs would generally choose this type of “quality oil” to dress a salad, rather than for use in general cooking.

Well – This is just the beginning of our Olive Harvest.  The harvesting will go on for several weeks/months.

Some excellent News !!!  At the end of November we have some of our past guests coming to stay, known lovingly the “Welsh Girls” (despite the fact that they are not all Welsh !), who have volunteered to come to help us with the olive harvest. 

We are sure that even without the offer of free accommodation and wine, they would have come anyway !!!  

Any other volunteers ???

 

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07 – “The Welsh Girls”

Our next set of guests at “Tre Cancelle” were some of our previous visitors, who we have nicknamed the “Welsh Girls”.  On this occasion their group was made up of Elsie and Linda (this was their third visit to “Tre Cancelle”) and two new friends called  Jane and Helwyn. They took a stroll around the pruned olive trees and assessed the magnitude of the problem.  Amazingly they began to volunteer to help us to clear some of the debris. 

Helwyn proved to be a real workhorse, and seemed to see this as something of a personal challenge and really got stuck in.  The other lasses soon followed suit and helped us no end.  Some mornings they were up at 6 am working in the rain to get things moving.  They worked like Trojans and we had some huge roaring bonfires.  In fact they were not satisfied until the groves were completely cleared of prunings and everything was left looking incredibly spick and span.

We also now had an abundance of olive wood to chop up for firewood for the chilly winter evenings.  Amazingly these girls had paid to come on holiday to “Tre Cancelle” and ended up working throughout most of their stay.  They even talked of coming out again to help during the olive harvest. 

"The Welsh Girls"We cannot say just how much we appreciated all of their help and how much we enjoyed their cheery company. 

This gave us an incredible boost as we felt once again in control of the situation, and could now fully concentrate on our long awaited trip back to the UK.  

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03 – Olive Pruning

Now we desperately needed to concentrate on getting the olive trees back into shape, as they had become sadly neglected over the last year, however our nursing duties at the time naturally had taken precedence. 

During one of the many spells that “Ugo” had been in hospital we had the pleasure of getting acquainted with a fellow kidney patient, a  very kind man by the name of Mario.  He spoke a few words of  English as he had lived in Australia for several years before returning to his home village of Lenola.  We chatted and soon learned that he worked as an olive pruner and when we told him about our olive grove at “Tre Cancelle” he was much intrigued and bemused that we had taken on such a huge project, with no absolutely no knowledge or previous experience whatsoever.  We exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch, however with Dad being so poorly over a year had passed since we had been in contact. 

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Lenola

We decided to give Mario a call and arranged to go up to Lenola to meet him and discuss the possibility of employing him to do some pruning for us, and ask if perhaps he could teach Paul some of the basic skills required for olive farming. 

We were warmly greeted by Mario and his wife, and who were saddened to learn of our recent loss.  We asked if he would be able to help us and he agreed to start work in a week’s time.  He agreed willingly.  

Mario then took us for a very pleasant stroll around his small medieval home town of Lenola where we visited the beautiful Sanctuary of La Madonna del Colle.  

We were not allowed to leave their company before his wife parcelled up for us two bags of frozen home farmed chicken portions, 21 fresh eggs and two bottle of Mario’s special homemade red wine.

He told Paul to meet him down at Itri Cemetery at 5.30 am on the following Monday morning, thus we set our alarm clock to waken us at this anti-social hour of the morning.  At 6 am Paul, Mario and his workmate Guglielmo commenced work, first walking around the various terraces to assess the situation and decide which trees most needed pruning and attention.  This was not the conventional time of year to be carrying out this task, and some of the healthier trees were in blossom and showed some promise of bearing some fruit this year.  However there were certain terraces where the trees were looking rather poorly as they had grown far too tall and bushy and required a severe cutting back.  Thus battle commenced.  

At around 9 o’clock  they said they were stopping for a spot of breakfast.  Paul and I went to gather some rolls and jam and a cup of tea for our “continental” style breakfast, however when we returned Mario and Guglielmo were eagerly tucking into what appeared to be a three course meal that their wives had prepared for them, which was being helped down by a half a litre each of potent homemade wine.  They were horrified to see what we were going to eat and Mario said something along the lines of  “Paul, how on earth are you going to survive as an olive farmer if that’s all your going to eat and drink.  Here tuck into some of this and have a swig or two of my hearty wine”.   At 9 am in the morning !!!  Feeling replenished, and Paul somewhat tipsy, they went back to work climbing up the olive trees pruning with secateurs and brandishing a chainsaw or two until they knocked off  for the day at 1.30 pm, to return home for an even more substantial midday meal.  Over the next few days Paul found himself gradually becoming accustomed to this new routine, however I failed miserably to stir myself into getting up at such an early hour.  Everyone knows I am not renowned for being an early riser!!!

I remembered that Mario had said that his two sons, following a reasonably good education, had chosen professional careers instead of following in their father’s footsteps of working the land.  To Mario his work was a craft, a skill, which the youth of today did not value, preferring to seek jobs in which they need not dirty their hands.  It suddenly struck me that Mario saw Paul as his young apprentice or understudy, and that he was eager to pass on the tricks of his treasured trade to a younger generation.  At times Mario seemed a hard task master and found our mistakes very frustrating.  I think  Guglielmo really didn’t know quite what to make of us.  The olive chaps worked with us for a total of 6 days over two weeks and incredibly managed to prune 120 olive trees. 

The downside was that we were left with all the mountains of olive prunings to deal with.  We had to start tidying up all the severed branches and twigs, conserving as much wood as possible for the log burning stove during the winter months.  The remainder needed to be raked up and burned.  This seemed a really daunting task as there was so much to clear, especially as there was a deadline to meet as from the middle of June all fires are banned by the Forestry Police and Comune.

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02 – The Risk of Fires

 

Canadair Fire Fighting Plane

Canadair Fire Fighting Plane

Next Paul threw himself into taming the wilderness of our olive groves, getting up at the crack of dawn to strim the grounds to keep the grass and weeds down in the cool of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the beginning of May there had already been two wild fires nearby, which was very odd so early in the season. One was on  the slopes of Monte Marano, just behind us, and was so severe as to require a Canadair water bombing plane plus a fire-fighting helicopter to finally get it under control.  The Forestale Police suspected that this fire had been started intentionally and were said to have a suspect arsonist in mind, however they did not have sufficient evidence to get a prosecution.

Monte Marano

Monte Marano

Then, just a few days later yet another fire started in close proximity to our neighbour’s olive grove, in the scrubland next to the woods and a strong gusty wind eagerly fanned the flames. We were really concerned that if it continued to spread it could potentially consume our woodland thus we immediately alerted the local Forestale.  After 30 minutes a fire-fighting helicopter flew overhead and hovered over the fire and commenced dowsing the flames by  releasing the water contained in its suspended bucket. The crew undertook 10 or so such trips before finally succeeding in extinguishing the flames. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thus we were reminded that we must always be on our guard and that we needed to maintain a decent fire break around our olive grove.

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