233 – Surprise Day Trip To Herculaneum

Lora and Laurie said that they would really like to go to see Naples and visit Herculaneum. So one morning we set off early and caught the train to Naples and then took the Circumvesuvia to get to the ancient Roman town. The train carriages were absolutely full to bursting. Every time we stopped at the next station more and more people tried to push and squeeze their way on board. It was really quite disconcerting. We wondered if it was always like this on the Circumvesuvia. One lady explained that because of the gale force winds that were blowing that day some of the railway’s electric cables had been brought down causing major delays and disruption to the service.

We ended up standing up all the way to Herculaneum whilst desperately trying to keep our balance. We had never felt so claustrophobic in all our lives. Therefore we were mightily relieved when we eventually arrived at our stop “Ercolano Scavi” and managed to push, elbow and squeeze our way through the other passengers and extricate ourselves onto the open platform.

From the station it was about a 15 minute walk to the excavation site of Herculaneum, so we first revived ourselves in a little cafe along the way before venturing on. The weather was clear and bright, but also really quite cold as there was a strong blustery wind blowing in off the sea. How I wished that I’d dressed in something warmer. We battled on and having purchased our entrance ticket we descended into the excavations  where we were relieved to at last be out of the worst of the wind.

Herculaneum in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.


The settlement of Herculaneum is believed to have been founded by the Greeks in around 600 BC. It was situated about 12 miles from Pompeii. In Roman times it developed into a prosperous seaside resort and trading port in the Bay of Naples.  The Roman town had many luxurious and spacious villas, bath houses for both men and women, a large sports complex, a theater, a temple, shops and bars. It also had a seafront and beach.

For the Romans there had possibly been portent signs that all was not well, when a few years before the major eruption of Mount Vesuvius, an earthquake had occurred in the area. The legendary catastrophic eruption began on the 24th August 79 AD. A few days before the people had noticed that mysteriously the local wells had began to run dry.  The first phase of the eruption thrust molten rock, ash and fumes into the sky. A huge toxic cloud rose up above the mountain until it reached a height of approximately 20½ miles.


This frightening spectacle was documented by Pliny the younger who was just 17 years old at that time. He observed and wrote of the frightful scene from the far side of the Bay of Naples, 15 miles from Mount Vesuvius. The eruption had caused a huge mushroom cloud to rise and tower above the mountain. It was reported that day seemed to have turned into night. Eventually as the cloud cooled the weight of it began to collapse forming a high speed scorching  pyroclastic surge of hot gases and ash which suddenly engulfed Herculaneum. The Romans who had remained in the town would have become overwhelmed and died instantaneously.

The town of Herculaneum lay for many centuries buried under 20 feet of volcanic debris, ash and solidified mud. This thick hard covering preserved the town beneath for many centuries. until excavations began to reveal its hidden secrets. Only a quarter of the Roman town has been excavated. The modern day Ercolano was built above it, and modern buildings overlook the ruins. Mount Vesuvius  still broods menacing in the background.

The Roman town was located right beside the sea however the eruption dramatically changed the geography of the local landscape,  leaving the site of the old town now positioned further inland.








The Roman equivalent of a take-away, café or snack bar that sold hot and cold food.


The College of the Augustales


2,000 year old wall decorations in Herculaneum.







A sign for a Roman wine shop.



Detail of a Roman shrine decorated with seashells.






Statue of Marcus Nonius Balbus.



Many of the Herculaneum’s Roman citizens had sought to abandon the town when they saw the volcanic eruption, however some were unable to to make their escape and found themselves stranded on the beach or huddled together in the vaulted storerooms or boat houses along the shore. As the surge of hot gases engulfed the town there was no means of escape. Approximately 300 bodies have since been unearthed along the seafront.





Does Lora have a Roman nose?



We went on to have supper in Sorrento.  Cin Cin !!!



This was my second visit to Herculaneum this Autumn, as when our dear Australian friend Diana visited us in September we organised a daytrip to visit the ruins accompanied by Melinda and Pat. Pat is very knowledgeable about Roman history and archaeology, thus we learned a great deal on that visit.

Here a couple of photos of Diana’s day in Herculaneum.


.A Roman flour mill.


Pat and Diana

Melinda and a hug pot.


All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#herculaneum #ercolano #naples #roman #ruins #archaeology #italy



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments


187 – 2014 Gathering of the “We Love Atina” Group – A Guided Tour of Atina

On the Saturday morning we all met up by the new fountain in Piazza Garibaldi.

We Love Atina Group New Fountain in Atina Frosinone Italy

Eugenio Cannatà, born in Atina, but a resident of New York in the USA, had donated some money to create a new monument for the centre of the square, to replace the fountain that was destroyed in the bombing of Atina during WWII.  The new fountain bears the inscription “In memoria dei coniugi Guglielmo e Ofelia Cannatà”.

New Fountain in Atina Frosinone Italy

Piazza Garibaldi and the Porta dell’Assunta or San Rocco – an ancient gateway into the historic centre of Atina.


Mark and Jan Waldron


Paul, Sally and Ken Nardone


Trevor and Brigida Varley

We were met by Dottoressa lenia Carnevale, the Director of the Archaeological Museum of Atina, who was to give us a guided tour of the town.



The “Posterula” dates back to around the II Century and allowed access to the Roman town from the surrounding countryside. Its round arch opens into the original boundary walls.  The Visocchi family’s wine factory was founded in 1868 on the premises opposite this gate.  In 2003 the factory was turned into a museum and seat of the “Associazione Enogastronomica” named “Le Cannardizie”.  This restaurant is highly recommended in Atina. Website: http://www.lecannardizie.it


La Porta dell’ Assunta or La Porta di San Rocco.

P1290381aThe Palazzo Ducale, the Duke’s Palace


Outside the Palazzo Ducale there is a Roman statue, the head of which, it is said, was changed with the proclamation of each new Emperor.  The epigraph inscribed on the base records Marco Aurelio Antonio (161-180) who owned a holiday villa in Atina.


The entrance to the Palazzo Ducale – A Roman Memorial Epitaph  – a large block of stone or marble with a memorial inscription dedicated to a respected citizen.


Inside the Palazzo Ducale there is an ancient mosaic depicting Samnite warriors.


In the Palazzo Ducale there was a private chapel which is under restoration.  There are some beautiful frescoes.






Some frescoes were rescued from the ruined church of Santa Maria.


The following two paintings depict life at Court.



In the great hall of the Palazzo Ducale stands a large table with beautifully carved legs.


In the Palazzo Ducale there is now a room with three modern multi-media interactive units depicting Atina and the Val di Comino during the Medieval period.



Stairway inside the Courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale.


Ken & Sally Nardone, Paul Shapcott, Enrico Battaglia, Brigida Varley, Dottoressa Illenia Carnevale, Mary Gilmour, Gina Pollard, Trevor Varley, Mark Waldron & his wife Jan


Ken Nardone, Me Louise, Sally Nardone, Enrico Battaglia, Brigida Varley, Dottoressa Illenia Carnevale, Mary Gilmour, Gina Pollard, Trevor Varley, Mark & Jan Waldron

An ancient doorway


A tiny alleyway


Via Grotti, where my ancestors lived.


Next Illenia gave us a tour of  the Archaeological Museum of Atina. 

Another Roman inscription.


An ancient Cyclopean piece of stone.



Ancient sculpture of a Lion






All of us at Archaeological Museum of Atina

Thank you so much Illenia from us all !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

My Atina Website:  http://atinaitaly.com

#AtinaItaly #history #museum #archaeology #history



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

174 – Atina Get Together The Weekend of 26th / 27th / 28th September 2014

A while back I created a Group on Facebook called



Atina Frosinone Italy in the Val di Comino

This is an English speaking Group for people who share my passion for beautiful Atina and the Val di Comino and who have family roots firmly planted in this beautiful little town in Frosinone, Italy.  We now have over 275 members.

Cathedral in Atina Frosinone Italy

Brigida and I are currently organising a “Get Together” in Atina over the weekend of the 26th / 27th / 28th September 2014. 

Anyone with family connections with Atina is very welcome to take part.

For anyone who would might like to stay a few extra days – the Feast of Atina’s patron saint, San Marco, is held on 1 October.

Here are some ideas that Brigida and I have come up with

for the Get Together ….

The Friday Evening

Meet and Greet – to meet up with We Love Atina members of the group at a Bar in Atina. It would be great if we could find somewhere with a side room where we could all get to know each other, chat, show photos etc etc. and generally use as a base.

Saturday Evening:

All meet for drinks at a bar and on to Restaurant for dinner.

Sunday Morning:

Attend Mass at the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.

Some other ideas ……

A Guided Tour around Atina, discovering the different districts, houses and palaces, learning about the history of the town.

A Visit to the local Museum and Library.

A Visit to the local Graveyard.

A Visit to the ruins of the old Paper Factory

A Wine Tasting at a local Vineyard and Tasting of local delicacies

If people want to stay on for a few days they could also …….

See the Monday morning Market held in Atina

For anyone who would might like to stay on for a few extra days – the Feast of Atina’s patron saint, San Marco, is held on 1 October.

San Marco Atina Frosinone Italy

Well these are a few ideas, perhaps you can come up

with some new or better ones.

Please feel free to get in touch if you would like

to join We Love Atina !!! on Facebook


and / or if you would like to attend this event in Atina.

This is my website about Bella Atina:


All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#WeLoveAtina #FacebookGroup #atina #italy


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

128 – Discovering The Delights of Historic Terracina

In July two very good friends from Cardiff, Kay and Elsie, came to visit us.  During their stay we decided to take them to the seaside town of Terracina which is 35 km  from “Tre Cancelle”. As it was a Thursday we headed first to the enormous general market, on Viale Europa, which runs parallel with the seafront – there were so many stalls selling a whole array of goods, they seemed to go on forever. 

Having “shopped ‘til we dropped” and having worked up a good appetite we went in search of a place to have lunch, which had been recommended to us several times by friends.

On the Terracina quayside there are a number of fishing co-operatives which sell fresh fish, straight off the boats. 

Some of these establishments also have simple little eating places  attached. We went to the Cooperativa  La Sirena, which is a delightfully simple self-service restaurant where a wide variety of typical fish and seafood based dishes are daily loving prepared. 

The cheery helpful staff instructed us to take a tray and proceeded to help  guide us through the wonderful range of fishy delights on offer.  Our selections included a salad of calamari, swordfish steak, fried mixed seafood, grilled squid and prawns.   We found the prices to be remarkably reasonable.

We munched the tasty fare “al fresco” gazing out over the fishing boats in the harbour.

Feeling suitably replenished we next drove up to Terracina’s old historic centre which is located in the upper section of the town.   Here is the ornate 11th century Cathedral of San Pietro e San Cesareo, with its elegant tall bell-tower made of intricate brickwork  and decorated with brightly coloured discs of majolica.

Here, by chance, we bumped into an old friend, Luigi.

We strolled together along an original section of the ancient Roman Via Appia (the Appian Way) where there are several interesting Roman ruins including the remains of an ancient Roman Forum

Luigi knows a great deal about the history of the city, and he explained that the Town Hall currently have something of a dilemma as archaeologists have discovered traces of yet more important Roman remains laying under certain historic medieval structures. Indeed, Terracina could be likened to an onion, where its countless layers of historical past can slowly be peeled back, piece by piece.

It was a pleasure to explore the old town on foot, browsing in the tiny shops, wandering through the narrow streets, discovering items of interest around each and every corner.

Leaving Luigi to get back to work, we then drove further uphill along the road that leads up to Monte San Angelo and the impressive remains of the Temple of Jupiter AnxurThis imposing edifice was constructed by the Romans in the year 1 BC.

It was a very hot afternoon, and in dire need of cooling refreshments we stopped at the “Piano Bar” and sat on the terrace indulging ourselves with some delicious refreshing gelati.

On a clear day, from the Temple, there are panoramic views of the Terracina: of the old town, the newer section of town with its lively  fashionable shopping centre, the harbour, the long promenade and sandy beaches that stretch for miles along the Riviera di Ulisses. In the distance can be seen the mountainous headland of San Felice Circeo and out to sea – the Pontine Islands. 

* photo by tittimi

Terracina has so much to offer – We would highly recommend a visit.

For more information about Terracina please see our Terracina webpages:


* photo by tittimi

All other photos by me © Louise Shapcott


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

120 – Across The Channel and Back On British Soil

Our next destination was Coquelles near Calais,  the French terminal for the Eurotunnel, we drove down the long slip roads and passed through the passport , frontier and customs check points without problems.

This was to be my second trip on the Eurotunnel Shuttle

* photo by hisgett

Initially I had been really concerned that I would find the whole experience overwhelmingly claustrophobic.  In the past I have suffered from problems with phobias and panic attacks, for example I find travelling on the London Underground quite a nightmare, the fear being trapped, unable to escape, being jostled in a crowd. The dry mouth, the heart pounding, hyperventilating.  Even certain supermarkets and shopping malls make me feel spaced out and queasy.

However, I was determined to be brave and give the Eurotunnel a try.  Faced with having to traverse the choppy English Channel by some means or other, and the fact that I am not a good sailor – I tend to get seasick even when crossing a millpond, and the fact that during the winter La Manche is known for its choppy seas, the short sharp Eurotunnel crossing seemed to be perhaps the lesser of two evils. I had to be brave and strive to confront my fear.

There is a simple roll on, roll off system, cars are directed to drive up a ramp to board the carriages.   Inside it is brightly illuminated and not SO SMALL I suppose!!!  There is just about enough space get out and walk up and down a narrow walkway, but I preferred to stay put in the car. 

At this point it was probably not best for me to dwell on the fact that the tunnel is 31 miles long, that 24 miles of it are in an undersea passageway, at a depth of 40 metres.  It is indeed, an amazing  feat of engineering.

So I tried to concentrate on reading my book to keep my mind occupied, and sucked on a peppermint  or two to moisten my dry mouth.  In fact, the journey passed quite swiftly and uneventfully, it takes about 35 minutes or so.  A gave a huge sigh of relief as we emerged into the daylight at Cheriton, West Folkstone  Back in Olde Blighty !!!

We had various presents to deliver nearby.  We drove through the countryside of Kent which is often described as “The Garden of England”,  because of its infamous hop gardens and orchards.  We passed some traditional old Oast Houses.

These conical roofed buildings were used as kilns for drying hops used for the brewing of  beer.

# photo by amandabhslater

Historically, the hops would be ready for picking during the month of September, and it was a very labour intensive process.  Workers, sometimes whole families, from the East End – the poorest part of London, were annually recruited to help gather the hops.  Many folk leaped at the opportunity to escape the gloom of London and work in the fresh air of the Kent countryside.  Some even came to regard it as a sort of annual holiday, but it was hard work all the same. Special steam trains were laid on to transport them.  These migrant workers were housed, during their 6 week stay, in huts or tents with basic facilities.  There was a certain feeling of community spirit that developed in such camps and in the evenings, after a hard day’s toil, they would gather around the open fires and  tell stories,  play music and have a  good old sing-song. Some families returned year in year out, even subsequent generations of the same family often followed in the custom.

Sadly, during the mid 20th century this industry began to fall into decline, thus many Oast Houses fell into disuse and disrepair.  Some of those still remaining have now been restored and converted into unusual houses.

For more information on the Hop Pickers see this excellent website:


Here are some fascinating personal memoirs of Hop Picking:


* photo by hisgett

# photo by amandabhslater


100 – Itri The Old Historic Centre

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

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

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

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

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

See our earlier posts about

Itri’s Feast of La Madonna Della Cività.

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

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

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

Visit Our South Lazio Webpages for more information about Bella Itri

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


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

93 – The Gardens of Ninfa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for more information about the Giardini di Ninfa

The Gardens can only be seen on a guided tour.

Opening Times:

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

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

Times of opening are 0900 -1200 and 14.30 – 1800

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

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

* photo by pensierolaterale

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

Clive, Marilyn and Paul

Paul and I resolved to soon return to Sermoneta

to further explore this picturesque historic town.

For more information about this beautiful area of South Lazio

please take a look at our



* photo by pensierolaterale (wikipedia)

All other photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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