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Francesco Massa also organised for us to visit a local museum by the name of Casa Museo Académie Vitti. We did not know of its existence prior to this, and from the outside it just looked like an ordinary house, but once inside what a treasure trove it proved to be.
The museum is dedicated to the Academie Vitti, a private art school, founded by Cesare Vitti in the Boulevard de Montparnasse, Paris in 1894. During this period the Montparnasse quartier was a centre of art and bohemian culture which attracted artists from all over the world.
There were three beautiful Caira sisters, namely Maria, Anna and Jacinta, who worked as professional models posing for artists, sculptors and photographers. They came from Gallinaro, a small town in the centre of the Val di Comino, quite near to Atina. On display are many nude sketches in pencil, charcoal and chalk and paintings and drawings by Jacinta Caira.
There are also many postcards and photographs of models in costume taken by the greatest photographers of the time, such as Nadar and Naudet.
Maria Caira married Cesare Vitti.
The Academie Vitti became one of the most respected schools of Art in Paris and operated without interruption for about 25 years, until the beginning of the First Word War in 1914 when the Vitti’s and Caira’s decided to return to Italy. They lived in the very same house where the Museum is now situated.
Cesare Erario is a direct descendant of the family and decided to open a museum to exhibit the family’s treasured private collection of authentic works and memorabilia.
Thank you to Cesare and Francesco Massa
for organising this really interesting visit.
All other photos
© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)
#atina #italy #MuseoAcademieVitti #museum #schoolOfArt #MontparnasseParis #ValDiComino
Some while ago I started a new group on Facebook, 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. The group is called: “WE LOVE ATINA !!!” We now have reached a total of over 400 members.
Brigida Varley and I organised a “Get Together” of “We Love Atina” members in Bella Atina over the weekend of the 26th / 27th / 28th September 2014.
On the Friday afternoon Paul and I had the pleasure of meeting up with Mark and Jan Waldron and Mark’s cousin Peter in Ponte Melfa, in Atina Inferiore.
On the Friday evening we met up at the bar near the Arco and the new fountain for drinks, so we could begin to get to know each other, and what a lovely bunch of people they were.
After some discussion we decided that we would go back down to Ponte Melfa to the Villa Fortuna, a hotel and restaurant run by a friendly couple – Marcello and Christiana. On Friday night they do a Fish and Chip Supper which went down a treat.
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott
#atina #AtinaItaly #WeLoveAtina #battaglia #visocchi #nardoni #leonardi #amata #nardone #tamburrini
During the summer months the population of Itri swells with holiday visitors and as families that emigrated abroad return to their beloved home town. Many come to attend Itri’s July festival which is held in honour of its patron, “La Madonna della Cività”.
The festival always culminates in a splendid firework display which emanates from the magnificent castle that dominates the old medieval quarter.
During July and August Itri holds a whole host of events and this year we ventured to see the “Festa Medievale” which was also held up in the old historic part of town. We arrived early, however the streets were already jammed with cars heading for the festival, and parking spaces were at a premium. So we decided to park in the lower part of town and continue by making our way on foot.
The old town is a warren of narrow cobble stone streets, archways, gates and stairways. It is full of interesting nooks and crannies, there is something of interest around every corner.
In the main square traditional games had been set up to entertain the children.
By the castle there was a display of falconry with live birds of prey – Such exquisite creatures.
As we wandered through the narrow alleyways amongst the jostling crowd we came across local folk dressed in Medieval costumes, acting as feudal lords, courtiers, swordsmen, archers, flag throwers and street musicians.
There were also stalls selling traditional gastronomic delights and arts and crafts …..
and an exhibition of gruesome implements of torture.
The authentic atmosphere of Itri’s historic old town was just perfect for such an event and I think an enjoyable evening was had by all.
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott
#Itri #Italy #MedievalFestival #castle
“Ferragosto” falls on the 15th August and is to celebrate the feast of the Assumption. It is roughly equivalent to the British August Bank Holiday, and when the whole of Italy grinds to a halt. In more affluent times many Italians would take the whole of the month of August as their holiday, still many shops and business post up notices “Chiuso Per Ferie”, meaning closed for the holidays. However in these days, with the present problems and the “crisi” in Italy many families can only afford to take a week or so as holidays, some only a day or two around Ferragosto.
It’s name is derived from the Latin phrase “Feriae Augusti” as its origins date right back to pre-Christian times when the emperor Octavian Augustus declared the period to be a a day of rest back in 18 BC. Other Roman summer festivals included the “Vinalia Rustica” or the “Consualia” which celebrated the harvest and the successful end of the agricultural season.
Italians spend Ferragosto celebrating with family and friends and always a large meal is somehow included. This year we were very kindly invited to join our friends Pauline and Filippo, who also live in the countryside around Itri. This is the view from their house.
It seemed that most of their family were also invited.
These lovely ladies are in their late 80’s !!!
Of course there is always an animated conversion.
Preparing the Barbecue
Of course, it goes without saying, that there were copious amounts of delicious food …..
By the end of it we were fit for bursting !!!
Then it was somebody’s great idea to start again and to go and make some more !!!
“Mamma Mia !!!”
Thank you to Pauline and Filippo and all the family for including us in their Ferragosto celebrations.
Happy Holidays !!!
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott
#ferragosto #italy #holiday #itri #latina
Augustus in 18 BC.
August 15 was a Pagan holiday.
It was an absolute delight to have my cousins Cathy and Jeff come and stay with us during the month of June. They had left Australia to visit family in the UK and spend to some time in Wales, a place Cathy loves dearly, where her parents were both born. Then prior to coming to us they had spent a couple of weeks on a farm in Umbria visiting old friends and helping to look after their flock of sheep. When they arrived here at Tre Cancelle they came with a wonderful Peccorino cheese which was utterly delicious.
It had been 16 long years since we had seen Cathy. These photos were taken on her last visit with her mother. Sadly Aunty Betty is now is in her 90’s and in a nursing home.
However it seemed like no time had passed at all as we all got on so well. Their visit coincided with that of our most frequent visitors, namely Kay and Elsie who are always good fun to be around.
My Aunty Betty and Uncle John had decided to emigrate to Australia in the 1960’s at the time when there was a scheme which encouraged the British to relocate to Australia. They were enticed by promises of employment and housing, a more relaxed lifestyle and a better climate. For the assisted passage adults had to pay just £10 each and children traveled for free. Such families became known as the “ten pound poms”.
I can remember that they came to stay with us at Woodside before the set off on their new adventure.
What an incredible experience it must have been for my cousins travelling around the world by ship.
The family eventually settled in Melbourne and there they made a good life for themselves.
So, back to the present …………..
Cathy is a superb cook and was keen to get into the kitchen.
She produced the most wonderful vegetable lasagne that I have ever tasted. “Delizioso !!!” “Squisito !!!” “Brava!!!”
Indeed we enjoyed some wonderful meals together out on the terrace “al fresco”.
Jeff is a very talented artist and he took me and Elsie up to the Bellavista, where there is a marvellous view of Itri and its ancient castle, to do some sketching – it was really enjoyable.
This is Jeff’s finished sketch. Just Beautiful !!!
This is another that he did of the view from our terrace.
Cathy and Jeff, Kay and Elsie kindly helped us around the place, weeding and watering the veggie patch, even helping to bath some of the dogs.
One day we drove down to the nearby coastline and we showed them some of the wonderous delights that Sperlonga offers. This is one of my favourite places and I always make sure I have my camera at the ready.
Looking down to the Grotto of Tiberius
and the Roman excavations and Museum.
Sperlonga’s beautiful sandy Levante Beach
We came across a newly wedded couple who were having their photos taken in the romantic setting of the old town.
“Che principessa !!!”
One evening we all went out to our preferred little restaurant that is tucked away in Campodimele – The “Casareccia”.
Maria’s dishes never fail to satisfy us.
So Cathy and Jeff, please don’t leave it another 16 years before we get to see you again.
We really hope it will be much sooner than that !!!
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott
#emigration #australia #TenPoundPoms #casareccia #campodimele
A Guest Blog by Kay McRobbie and Elsie Phillips
Over a year ago (in 2013) Elsie and I had discussed what 2014 was going to be like for the 2 of us ………. it was going to be a Biggy !!!
Our birthdays !!! Mine in July and Elsie’s in October………we had, somehow, managed to reach the ripe old age of 60 !!!
We decided then and there we would like to do something
before we reached that milestone age.
THE ROAD TRIP was born !!!
I started planning as soon as we knew how long we could be away from work/home etc. 3 weeks was all we could allow, so we got maps out and each decided what we really wanted to see. We knew straight away that the 2nd week of our trip would be spent re-charging our batteries at a place that both Elsie and I love, “Tre Cancelle”. Elsie worked out the route for us as I prepared the car, my trusty Clio. Sorting out the kit you have to have when you drive abroad, all insurances etc etc. To anyone reading this, Halfords do a check list which helps a lot. I hadn’t done anything like this before but Elsie had, back in the 70’s. Elsie neglected to tell me she had done a similar route back then and it had taken 3 MONTHS !!! We did it in 3 WEEKS !!!
Monday 26th May, 8am…ish – BARRY, SOUTH WALES TO CAEN, FRANCE
Left Barry to go to Penarth to pick Elsie up. From Elsie’s we go through the outskirts of Cardiff on to Newport Road up to St Mellons, to Kirsten’s house to say “ta-ra”. We drove to Portsmouth to get the 3pm ferry to Caen, France. After many hours on the ferry, which included an on board quiz, which Elsie and I won!!! we arrived at the F1 hotel, which was very basic but clean, the only thing we didn’t like was the fact we had to pad down the corridor in our PJ’s to the shower and toilet. Free wi-fi though – so we were able to plan our next day, which ended up not being as relaxing as we’d first thought.
Tuesday 27th May – TOULOUSE, FRANCE
We had arranged to meet my son Martyn in Toulouse for dinner. I think it was an 8 hour drive almost non stop. Elsie did take over the driving for a short distance, but she was better at sorting the route out so we changed back to me driving and Elsie telling me which road to take. We arrived here later than planned at about 7pm…ish. Martyn had been delayed in a meeting anyway, so it was OK. So it had been a hectic 8 hour drive with not much sight-seeing, only as we drove past. Martyn came in a taxi to pick us up to take us into the town centre, where we had a beautiful dinner (very expensive) and we had a long walk around Toulouse centre, Martyn knows his way around as he comes here almost every week with work. Again we stayed in a F1 hotel.
Wednesday 28th May -CARCASSONNE to FREJUS
We had booked a hotel in Frejus, not F1 but it was another cheap one.We only had a 2hr…ish drive to Carcassonne so that was good, although I was beginning to feel extra tired. We had a lazy walk around and had lunch and then Elsie wanted to go into the castle, which I ducked out of and stayed in the car to try and sleep. Then another long drive to Frejus, we got lost trying to find the hotel, my fear of going round roundabouts the wrong way was soon conquered !!! I did get used to going round the same ones more than once !!!
Thursday 29th May – MONACO to SOVANA, ITALY
Fairly early start that day, I was so excited! I knew one of my many dreams was going to come true this day, and it did BIG TIME!! It was everything I had dreamed about and more! Even seeing road signs with St Tropez and Nice made me tingle! I was like a big kid! When we got into Monte Carlo…..OMG!!! To be able to drive the Grand Prix circuit, the grandstands were still up as the race had taken place the previous weekend. So I was Nigel Mansel, Damon Hill, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.
We sat in a roadside cafe, people watching, my fave pastime! We had a cup of tea and a piece of cake – 22 euros!!! But I didn’t care! The stuff dreams are made of !!!
We saw the memorial gardens where it was all about Princess Grace, there were footprints cast in the pavement of famous people.
We had booked into a bit more of an up-market hotel in Sovana – well just outside. So by now we were just over the border into Italy! We arrived here early evening, settled into the hotel and on advise we walked down the road to a restaurant, quite a smallish place with a conservatory across the front. There was a couple with a child and another couple sat eating. We sat in the conservatory too. We discovered that there was one man running the whole show, he was barman, chef and waiter. Very jolly. Then we thought he had put a CD on, but as it turned out it was him singing!! He did a good job of doing a Pavarotti !!!
Friday 30th May – LIVORNO, Italy
Early start again as we were supposed to be meeting friends in Livorno for lunch. It was very hot and we were up in the mountains. If we went through one tunnel through the mountains we went through ……. well I really cant remember how many, but it was a lot! The scenery was amazing everywhere we went! Due to some mix up with data on my phone we didn’t get the messages we were supposed to, so ended up not seeing our friends, so therefore we didn’t know exactly where we would be sleeping that night. But it all became clear thanks to Elsie working out a route and judging how long it would take! So a very long drive later, approx 12 HOURS, we arrived a night early to our “Secondi Casa” TRE CANCELLE! We sat down to dinner at about 11pm.
BUT WE HAD DONE IT !!!
We had driven to Italy, where Elsie could sleep in and not have me shaking her to get the show on the road !!!
A week of rest and relaxation.
Sunday June 8th and Monday 9th June – VENICE, Italy
Early start, this was going to be one of those days for me! Eyes wide, mouth open days in wonder of the most amazing places that I had only dreamed about / read about /seen on TV! Another place to cross off the bucket list – The wonder of VENICE !!! I wasn’t disappointed. The hotel was just outside Venice and they did a shuttle bus to the waters edge. We had only booked one night’s stay here but when we arrived at the hotel we asked if we could stay the next night too and we did. So next morning we got the 9.30 shuttle bus and arrived in the centre of Venice about 20 minutes later. WOW !!!
Tuesday 10th June – KEMPTEN, Germany.
One whole day in Venice wasn’t really long enough, but we had to think quick as to when we would eventually get the ferry home and where from ……. :( It was going to be a problem getting the ferry on a Friday or Saturday, so it had to be on the Thursday and it looked like Dunkirk was the place to head for. So Elsie concentrated on the route and I drove. We drove through tunnels, over mountains and saw some amazing houses and castles.
Wednesday 11th June – DUNKIRK
Early start so as to get to Dunkirk that night for early ferry on Thursday morning :( . We hadn’t booked the ferry so we decided we would just turn up and hope for the best. Anyway again we drove through some amazing countryside but this is the problem we had, because we were on such a tight schedule, that’s all we did was drive through places. We did stop to take pics of the cuckoo clock houses but not for long.
We drove through Belgium but we did a longish stop in Luxembourg because we knew that everything here was mega cheap! Diesel for the car was something like 70p a gallon!!! We had timed it right to fill up the car! Then we arrived in Dunkirk, OMG! It was deserted and very grotty! It took us ages to find where we were staying, and it was a bit of a shock! It could only be described as “student accommodation”! A room in a shared house! Still it served a purpose. We went for a walk to try and find something to eat, bearing in mind this was about 10pm !!! We found a back street pub that very kindly made us a sandwich. we were the only customers in the pub!!! We were straight on the wi-fi to book a ferry when we got back to our room. We decided to get the ferry from Calais to Dover at 10am…ish because we really didn’t like Dunkirk.
Thursday 12th June – CALAIS to CARDIFF
Well this was it! The end was nigh! A very early start to join the queue for the ferry at Calais, we sat watching men trying to climb into the back of lorries and when police started arriving they all tried escaping but some didn’t quite make it!
Then the hour long trip on the ferry.
Next the very long drive to Cardiff, South Wales, arriving at Elsie’s about 4pm.
Finally me taking myself home to Barry.
I enjoyed the trip very much, I’d never done anything like it before
and I would do it again,
but I think Elsie would disagree.
We are still great friends though – so that says something in itself !!!
Kay celebrating her 60th Birthday in July
Some birthday flowers for “Aunty Kay” from Emma and Aneurin.
#RoadTripToItaly #itri #italy
In June we were invited by our friends Davide and Nandi to attend their daughter’s First Communion ceremony.
We arrived to find the church full to the brim and the service had already got underway.
We soon spotted Giada looking very beautiful.
Here, in Italy, all children wear the same outfit – so there is no competition as to who has the prettiest dress, which I think is a very sensible solution.
Here are all the first communicants with the parish priest and their teachers.
Giada with her parents and brothers Dante and Tomasso.
Giada opening her First Communion gifts.
Giada with her special ice cream cake.
Auguri Giada !!!
Thank you to Giada and her lovely family
for inviting us to share this special day with them.
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott
#FirstCommunions #itri #italy
It was a perfect Spring day and this was to be our first visit to the historic town of Sezze. We could see, as we approached, that it was perched high on a hill overlooking the Pontine Plain.
We could just make out a queue of slow moving cars making their tortuous way up the steep and winding hill. Clearly this was going to be a popular event. Finding a parking place was very difficult because the town, which was larger than I had imagined, was already thronged with visitors from far and wide. In the end we had to park a little out of town and make our way back to the centre on foot.
April is the season when the artichoke is in its prime, and in Sezze this vegetable has become the symbol of the cultural and culinary heritage of the area. This was the 45th edition of this gastronomic event, Sezze’s Artichoke Festival or Sagra del Carciofo.
The artichoke, is in fact, a member of the thistle family, and it’s the large compact flower bud that is for eating – they are high in fibre and iron and interestingly are also said to possess aphrodisiac properties.
In these parts it is the non prickly “Romanesco” variety of artichoke that is grown, which produces beautiful purple tinted heads.
They thrive in the local micro-climate of the Pontine Plain where they are sheltered from cold winters and warmed by balmy sea breezes. The plain was originally just swamp land where people were plagued by Malaria. However, during the 1930’s, Mussolini organised thousands of workers from the north of Italy to construct networks of dikes and canals to drain the land and transform the swamps into fertile agricultural land. Today the local economy remains largely based on agriculture.
As we neared the bustling centre of the town we began to see stall after stall of proud farmers exhibiting and promoting their wonderful seasonal produce.
Some had created floral arrangements with the artichokes.
These had been spray painted to look like flowers.
An artichoke tree !!!
Makeshift camp kitchens and tented dining areas had been erected serving meals of several courses all based on artichokes, prepared and cooked in so many different culinary ways, such as raw, pickled, marinated, fried in batter, braised, fricasseed, barbecued, alone or in sauces and stews. There is even an artichoke liqueur called “Cynar”.
The streets were full of music and dancers in colourful traditional costumes.
There were street entertainers.
Demonstrations of local handicrafts – basket making.
Stalls selling arts and crafts.
I would have liked to have further explored the old Medieval quarters of Sezze and taken more photos, but the town was absolutely thronged with visitors that day.
So I will just have to go back there very soon !!! Watch this space !!!
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott
#ArtichokeFestival #sezze #latina #artichoke #FoodFestival #travel
Thankfully here in Italy Spring tends to come earlier than back home in the UK. It had been generally a mild but somewhat wet and windy winter so we were eagerly awaiting the first signs of spring. By mid February our almond trees were erupting into pale pink bloom as the days became warmer and the sky bluer and the days longer and more optimistic.
To follow this theme …. Each 19th March, around the time of the vernal equinox, an ancient auspicious tradition of building bonfires is celebrated in Itri. The Fuochi di San Giuseppe mark the closing days of winter, the welcoming of Spring and the hope for a good year’s harvest. Originally before the Middle Ages this was a Pagan ritual to scare away bad spirits, however it was later adapted into a Christian festival to correspond with the feast of St Joseph, or San Giuseppe the Patron Saint of Carpenters. In Italy this day is also celebrated as Fathers Day.
In the days leading up to this festival large piles of branches, donated by the local Forestry, are prepared in the squares of ten various districts of Itri, both in the higher and lower quarters of the town.
We and Kay, who was visiting us at the time (yes again !!! we just can’t keep her away !!!) and other towns-folk gathered around the bonfire erected right in the centre of town in Piazza Incoronazione.
This was very conveniently situated just opposite Kay’s favourite place in Itri, the Fiocco di Neve Gelateria.
The girls there are always pleased to see us and especially Kay.
They offered us all ice-creams on the house !!! Thank you so very much !!!
Kay was once again in Ice-cream Heaven !!!
Next to the ice-cream shop a stall selling cakes and sweets was setting up. They looked absolutely delicious.
There was even a chocolate fountain.
Finally at 8 pm a booming firework signaled the simultaneous lighting of the bonfires across the town.
After a few seconds of minor crackling the fire suddenly took off with a whoosh and the vicious flames soon licked hungrily around the effigy which represented the fading winter.
Bright orange sparks spiraled high up into the black night sky and then showered back down on us.
Indeed the town was aglow.
Children ran around throwing more branches onto the fires their faces rosy and glowing from the radiating heat.
During the evening each area of the town served an array of typical local foods and delicacies, such as traditional Itri sausages with “Scarola”, “Pasta e Fagiole”, Itri olives and Itri Extra Virgin Olive Oil. We wandered along the old original Roman Via Appia and passed a stall selling pork cheeks served with lemon and salt.
We were tempted to try some of the freshly prepared “zeppole“, traditional fritters made of sugar, eggs and honey.
In addition there were numerous street venders selling sweets, toys and balloons.
Also some colourful street entertainers.
There was music to suit all tastes ranging from traditional folk groups to modern hip hop.
An delightful evening of food, wine, dancing and festivity – something for everyone, young and old.
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott
#FuochiDiSanGiuseppe #itri #italy #bonfires #FathersDay #zeppolle