240 – Celebrating Thanksgiving in Italy

 Our American friends Pat and Melinda and Darcy and Gerry invited us to join them and have the experience  of our first traditional Thanksgiving. Also invited was Alberto who is Pat and Melinda’s English teacher. The venue was to be Pat and Melinda’s apartment in Minturno for the main course, then we were transferring to Darcy and Gerry’s in Gaeta for the dessert.

Melinda and Darcy were to share in the cooking duties. They had managed to purchase a fresh turkey, which is not so easy to find here in Italy.

The table was beautifully set and there were tempting little things to nibble on as a starter.

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Melinda’s roasted walnuts prepared with rosemary, salt and a dash of paprika. The walnuts were harvested from our own trees at Tre Cancelle.

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Savory Taralli Napolitani with almonds.

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Pat with his big bird.

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Sweet potatoes with marshmallows.

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A very tasty green bean dish.

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Pearl onions in a creamy salad.

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A traditional Wardolf salad.

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What a wonderful spread. Buon appettito !!! Mangia !!!

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Pat, Melinda, Darcy, Gerry, Alberto and Annette.

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Gerry, Alberto, Annette and Sarah

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Pat, Gerry, Darcy, Melinda, Sarah, Annette, Alberto and Paul

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Gerry, Melinda, Darcy, Sarah, Annette, Alberto, Louise and Paul

At Gerry and Darcy’s in Gaeta we enjoyed Pumpkin pie and other traditional desserts.

Thank you so much for inviting us.

It was a wonderful experience and a joy to spend Thanksgiving with you.

Thank you once again.

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#Thanksgiving #italy #turkey #PumpkinPie #Minturno #American #Friends

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

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209 – Minturno – La Sagra delle Regne and International Folklore Festival

La Sagra delle Regne is a religious festival dedicated to the Madonna delle Grazie, the patron of the old medieval town of Minturno. It takes place every year on the second Sunday in July. 

Our American friends, Pat and Melinda, very kindly invited us to spend the afternoon and evening with them, so that we could see the festival for ourselves.  They have purchased an apartment in Minturno and have now left their old life back behind in Ohio, and begun their adventure of living in Italy. 

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Melinda, Pat and Paul

Pat and Melinda had very kindly had the foresight to reserve a table at their local bar, which was located directly  in front of the event’s main stage. It proved to be an excellent viewpoint.  Of course I had my trusty camera with me !!!  I was hoping to capture some good shots of this colourful event.

The term “regne” has Latin origins, meaning bundles or sheaves of wheat.  The festival had pagan origins. Local farmers would beseech the Roman Gods of the earth to protect the wheat harvest and bless the fruits of their labours. During the Middle Ages the festival became a Christian one, in which the Madonna delle Grazie was entreated to grant local families, farmers and fishermen success in their personal endeavours.

In Minturno’s main square stands the 14th century stone church dedicated to San Francesco.  Inside there is a side altar with a beautiful fresco depicting the Madonna delle Grazie.

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As the festival began to get under way we watched decorated carts being transported to the centre of the village, some were horse-drawn, others were towed by tractor.

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photo © Melinda Abbott

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In the evening Minturno hosted the Festivale Internationale del Folklore.

We watched an impressive performance by a band of sbandieratori or flag wavers / throwers, an ancient Medieval tradition.

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Many local people, both young and old, were dressed in the typical costumes of this region.   There seems to be so much passion, diligence and pride in trying to preserve the old traditional ways.

Everyone gathers in the main square to see the wheat being threshed manually by the “vigilatori”. 

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There were numerous performances by local dance groups

and musicians from Minturno.

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At this year’s 2015 festival Minturno welcomed colourful dance troupes from

Mexico, Panama and Poland.

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The evening’s entertainment culminated

in the castle being seemingly set alight.

We retired back to Pat and Melinda’s apartment where we sat on their wonderful roof terrace.  Here we were able to sit and relax, and enjoy the cooler night air whilst watching the festa’s grand finale  – a colourful firework display.

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Thanks to Pat and Melinda for a wonderful evening.

All photos (except were indicated) by me © Louise Shapcott

#minturno #italy #festival #festa #sagra #FolkDancing #SagraDelleRegne #WheatHarvest #tradition #culture

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Just recently I have been updating my Minturno web pages.

Minturno has a fascinating history and it is so interesting to wander around the old Medieval town.

You can read more about Minturno and see more photographs here at my website:  

http://minturno.shapcott-family.com/

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga and Itri, South Lazio

84 – Buon Natale 2009

A cheery “Ciao” to you, one and all,

hoping each and everyone is keeping well

and getting into the swing of this year’s seasonal festivities.

I must admit, I’ve never been much of a fan of Christmas, since at the age of 9 or 10 I became very disillusioned on abruptly discovering that Father Christmas was in fact not real.  I was absolutely devastated.  How I had been duped !!!

My dear mother, Tina, always loved Christmas. She seemed to forever see Christmas through the eyes of an innocent child.  When I was young she used to delight in taking me on trips to London to visit the large department stores with their glittering, alluring window displays.  Here I would be enticed to visit dear Olde Santa in his magical twinkling grotto.  However, so fervent was her passion, that in the period leading up to Christmas I was taken to visit Santa in several different stores.  Even at the age of 4 or 5 I must have had quite an enquiring mind, as I soon began to deduce that each of the Santas somehow looked subtly different, ie the colour of their gloves, boots and belts etc !!!

In Italy festivities begin on the 6th December with the Festa di San Nicola, followed by the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th, which is marked by a Public Holiday.  The 13th December is the feast of Santa Lucia also known as “The Festival of Lights”. It seems that no expense is spared as each Comune stings up its extravagant sparkling, displays of Christmas street illuminations, on entering or each town one is greeted with the cheery message Buona Festa.

Outside their premises some shop keepers lay out cheery red or green felt on the pavements, and display Christmas trees decorated with ribbons and bows, and assorted dangling pasta shapes that have been gilded with gold spray paint, creating a jolly festive atmosphere.

One thing that it is not easy to find in Italy is Christmas cards.  Occasionally they are sold individually, and then choice is very limited, the quality very poor, and they very over-priced.  Last year the only place we were able to find packs of Christmas cards was in IKEA in Naples.  It seems that greetings cards in general have not really caught on in Italy.  The staff at our local Post Office often comment on how many letters are cards we receive, particularly around Christmastime.  I think that next year I will have to get busy and make my own greetings cards, perhaps this could be a new little cottage industry for me.

In Italy, in the weeks leading up to Christmas traditionally shepherd pipers, known as pifferai and zampognari, come down from the mountainous regions of the Abruzzi to herald the pending birth of the Christ child, by playing their traditional festive music.  The ciaramella is a wooden flute, and the zambogna is a type of reed bag-pipe, the air sacks of which are traditionally made of goat or sheep skin and the flutes are commonly carved of olive wood.  They musicians sport an unusual type of foot ware, known as the ciocia, which is said to date back to Etruscan times.  This consists of a rudimentary leather sole which towards the toe curves upwards.  This is held in place by long straps which are tightly bound around the foot and calf.  This type of foot-ware is part of the local costume of the people of Ciociaria, who take their name from this unique type of shoe.  My mother’s family originated from this region.

Each church erects a special Nativity tableau, called a presepe, many of the figurines that been hand crafted by traditional artisans. In certain towns it is possible to see a “living” Nativity scene, with real people and children dressed in costumes, acting out the traditional story.  I am told such an event takes place annually in the medieval hill towns of Maranola and Minturno and we are hoping to go and take a look this Christmas.

In their own homes families also strive to recreate their own nativity scenes, some more elaborate than others, and encourage their children to play their part in the family’s preparations for Christmas. Shops sell many of the essential crèche components to create a fanciful display.  These can range from the basics such as: cork, moss, bark and straw, to more extravagant additions such as snow capped mountains, caves, stables, bridges, lights and electrically driven streams and water-wheels.  Also there is a wide range of figurines on offer, Mary and St Joseph, glittering winged angels, lowly farmyard animals, traditional shepherds playing their pipes, people representing other common professions, and of course il bambino Gesù, to be laid in the manger at midnight on Christmas Eve.  The exotic Magi are added to the display on the day of the Epiphany.  These figures range from decidedly tacky, mass produced, plastic specimens, to more tasteful, hand crafted statuettes.  Sometimes such nativity scenes are handed down through the family, from one generation to another.

I recall one year, many years ago, my aunt once sent over a parcel containing a basic crib, with an integral musical box.  It played the tune to the well loved Italian Christmas carol: “Tu scendi dalle stelle,  O re del Cielo,  E vieni in una grotta,  Al freddo e al gelo.” As a child I was transfixed by the enchanting scene and the delightful rhythmical tune.

My mother used to describe to us how my grandfather, or Nonno in Italian, used to create their special Nativity scene.  Being a skilled carpenter he constructed a splendid wooden crib and would work for many hours, painstakingly creating the display, with mountains made of cardboard and a night sky illuminated by tiny bulbs which ran off a battery.  He would use earth for the ground, and flour for the snow.  Then he would lovingly position the plaster statuettes of Our Lady, Joseph, the shepherds, kings, angels and animals to complete the scene.  Unfortunately one Christmas the poor family cat got somewhat confused and did a “whoopsie” in the middle of the scene !!! I am sure he would have paid for his error!   After this Nonno vowed never again to use real soil in the display.

Paul and I will be spending Christmas in Italy this year.

We would like to wish …..

Peace and goodwill to all men ( women and dogs !!!)

We hope that this year the true spirit of Christmas will enrich your lives.

We wish you  health, happiness and harmony for the coming New Year

Louise and Paul

and of course the “Woof-Gang”

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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

 

83 – Traditional Nativity Scenes / Presepi

Last week whilst in Minturno, we visited an exhibition of traditional “Presepi” in the old Baronial castle.  Such hand crafted nativity scenes are a centuries old traditional speciality of the Naples area.

Some tableaux featured the traditional group of figures, depicting the announcement of the birth of Jesus to the shepherds and Magi, together with animals and angels.

Others had far more elaborate settings, such as realistic Italian village scenes, showing every-day domestic life, craftsmen and occupations of a time gone by.

For the artists who had painstakingly sculpted these intricate masterpieces it must have been a true labour of love, with such astonishing attention to detail.

I will leave you to wonder at the superb craftsmanship of these artisans ……

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

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

 

82 – Battles Along The German GUSTAV Line

Very recently we welcomed a trio from America, Patrick, Kathy and Rita, who came to this area searching for more information on a particular time in their family’s history. 

Patrick and Kathy were trying to retrace their father’s journey through Italy as a soldier in the US 88th “Blue Devil” Division. 

Patrick is currently writing a book about his father’s experiences during this period.  His father sent home many descriptive letters to his new bride, who he had only married the day before his departure from America.

Charles Logan was just 22 years old when he was drafted into the army and sent to fight in Italy along the infamous GUSTAV Line.  His Division disembarked at Naples and was then transported to the town of Piedimonte d’Alife (now known as Piedimonte Matesse)  for combat training.

The 88th was then sent to the GUSTAV Line, on the western flank of the main Fifth Army, to relieve the 5th British Division in the Minturno area in Operation Diadem. The 88th “Blue Devils”, encountering stiff German resistance, took part in a particularly bitter and bloody battle, which lasted almost 3 days, to seize the village of Santa Maria Infante.

The capture of this position  on the 14th May 1944, proved to be a defining moment, finally breaking through the GUSTAV line and forcing a German retreat. 

The French Expeditionary Corps of Morrocan Goumiers*, who were skilled in mountain warfare, continued to make their way forward over the seemingly impassable terrain of the Aurunci Mountains, while the 88th surged ahead, taking the seaward facing villages of Spigno Saturnia, Castellonorato, Trivio, Maranola, then on through Formia, Itri, Fondi, Monte San Biagio to Roccagorga.

Continuing northward some of the 88th Division made contact with  Allied units breaking out of the Anzio beach-head on 29th May and they were the first to enter Rome on the 4 June 1944.

We had the great pleasure of acting as Patrick’s guide and driver during their stay, and we visited Cassino and  Montecassino and many of the above mentioned towns and villages, traveling some 500 miles during the week.

We learned so much about the historical significance of these places through this traumatic  period of the Second World War.  From the picturesque little villages that we see today, it is hard to imagine what it would have been like for the local people and the opposing  Allied forces during this terrible time.

The Italians had suffered greatly under German occupation, having to endure persecution, reprisals and famine.  Prior to their liberation these villages also had endured heavy land and naval bombardments by the Allied forces which resulted in catastrophic damage, and hundreds of innocent civilian deaths and casualties.

 

* Yet there was more suffering to come – The French General Alphonse Juin, before the final battles to the breach the German GUSTAV  line, he was said to have promised the Morrocan Goumier troops the following:

“For 50 hours you will be the absolute masters of what you will find beyond the enemy. Nobody will punish you for what you will do, nobody will ask you about what you will get up to.” 

When the Goumiers swarmed over the mountain villages they subjected thousands of Italian women and even young girls to merciless violence and rape, and reportedly any men who fought to save  their wives and daughters from harm were ruthlessly murdered. 

A novel, “La Ciociara”, was penned, based on this subject of mass rape, by the author Alberto Moravia.  This was subsequently made into a film also called “La Ciociara” or  “Two Women”, directed by Vittorio de Sica, and starred Sophia Loren. In 1960, for this role, she was awarded an Academy Award for Best Actress.

We would just like to wish Patrick Logan good luck with the writing of his book about his father’s war time experiences, and we very much look forward to the book’s publication.

We would be interested to hear from anyone else who had family members who fought in Italy during World War II, along this area of the German GUSTAV Line.

For more information about some of  the towns and villages in SOUTH LAZIO that were positioned along the GUSTAV Line, please click on the following links:

Montecassino

Castelforte

Santi Cosma e Damiano 

Minturno

Spigno Saturnia 

Castellonorato

Trivio

Maranola

Formia

Gaeta 

Itri

Campodimele

Fondi

Monte San Biagio

#morrocan #goumiers #film #laCiociara #SantaMariaInfante #war #1944 #88th #BlueDevil

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