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.


Clive and Paul



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.


Cathy and Jeff


Annie and Paul


Annie, Paul, Cathy, Jeff and Linda


The Birthday Boy – Paul


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 !!!


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.

















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





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

Discover Beautiful South Lazio



199 – Spring In The Olive Groves

The Spring is always a busy time for us at Tre Cancelle.  There’s always the Spring cleaning of the apartments to do and generally tidying and sprucing up around the place. 

This Spring was extra busy as we had had a fair bit of pruning carried out on the olive trees over the winter months, and there was a large amount of wood from the severed branches to be sorted and cut to size ready for the wood-shed.




Some of the dogs didn’t waste time in making themselves cosy little nests amongst the leafy branches or frasche.




Our builder friends very kindly lent us a hand by helping to transport some of the wood from the lower sections of the olive grove to the car park area in front of the house.




We purchased a new chop-saw to help with the task of cutting the wood into manageable lengths.


This may seem like an awful lot of wood but our wood-burning stoves are hungry beasts and consume huge amounts of firewood over the winter months to keep us cosy.  There are still several piles of firewood to be gathered and chopped, so hopefully we will be well stocked up for next winter.


Italian winters can be cold and damp, however we rarely get a frost.  This year however was an exception, as we were hit by an icy cold snap, which killed off most of my geraniums and also burst an underground pipe.  At first we didn’t understand what had happened. It wasn’t until we received a phone call from our local water supplier asking us to pay our bill.  When Paul asked how much it was, his jaw dropped !!! – It was far higher than normal.  It was only then that we realised that there must have been a leak !!! Not good news !!! Not good news at all !!!

During March our friend Kay came to stay and she is always willing to help with many different tasks around the place.  Some of our other friends, Pauline and Filippo who also live in Itri, also came to lend us a hand in the groves. Heartfelt thanks to them all !!!


Filippo, Pauline, Paul and Kay at Bix Bar in Itri


By then the olive groves were gaily decorated by delicate wild flowers and blossoms.




The astounding beauty of nature !!!

At this time of year the people from Itri also roam the countryside to collect the local delicacy of wild asparagus.  It grows freely on our land.



Unfortunately the horses also love to eat it !!!

Photos by me – Louise, Paul, Kay and F. Agresti

#spring #itri #italy #SouthLazio #olive #grove #WildAsparugus


TCTitleTre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments

Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy

159 – Itri’s Sagra dell’Ulivo

In May Itri held a special feast, that is known as the Sagra dell’Ulivo”,  to celebrate Itri’s wonderful table olives and olive oil which play a vital role in the town’s agricultural economy. 


The Itrana variety of olive trees is exclusive to this specific area, thriving as a consequence of the unique environment, quality of the fertile soil, temperate micro-climate, sea breezes and fresh mountain air.  

Itri exports much of its olive oil and olives, under the denomination of “Gaeta Olives”. The product adopted the name of the more known nearby city because they were shipped from the port of Gaeta.

Here are some photos I took in May of scarlet poppies growing under the olive trees …




Budding olive flowers and poppies

A large camp kitchen had been set up in the centre of  the town and was serving meals based on Itri’s olives and olive oil.



Kay and I enjoyed our passeggiata browsing through the stalls which were exhibiting local traditional food and wine  …..


traditional work and tools of local artisans …..




Typical tradesmen …..



Local arts and crafts …..






The following day was Mothers Day in Italy

A young lad was playing the zambogna, a form of typical rustic bagpipe


and there were some locals dressed in traditional Ciociara costumes.


You can read more about our own olive groves in Itri and our Extra Virgin Olive Oil here at our Tre Cancelle website


All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

 #itri #italy#olives #oliveoil #extravirgin #gaetaolives


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

151 – La Racolta And The Return Of The Belly-Dancers – (part 1)

Just where does a year go !!! November – Olive Harvesting time again. 

By the end of October a good proportion of trees were heavy with olives.


Our friends Kay , Elsie and Karen are regular visitors to “Tre Cancelle” and had volunteered once again to help us out.  This time they recruited a new member for their team, Bobbie, who was eager to experience the harvest.

Unfortunately,  at the beginning of their stay, the weather was not so helpful, as there were several days of rain and strong winds which scuppered our plans. Thankfully as the week went on the weather began to improve.  The girls were keen to get stuck in.


On the first terrace, we spread out the nets around the bases of the trees.  Elsie commenced on the higher branches using the mechanical shaker.



Meanwhile the rest of us girls gathered any olives that which we could reach and pick by hand.

Some of the trees had grown over tall, so Paul set about killing two birds with one stone, giving the lofty bushy branches a good prune, which then allowed us to gather the olives from them more easily.






We also set aside the thicker branches which could be used as winter fuel for our wood-burning stove.


The olives were poured into plastic crates to take down to the local olive mill in Itri.





I sorted some lovely plump olives to be cured in brine to make into delicious table olives.


Paul was unable to overdo things, because of his heart condition.  He was finding  that he tired very quickly. Thankfully, on several days our builder friends also offered their services which was grand as they are a very fit and strong gang.






All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


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


135 – Start of the November 2011 Olive Harvest (part two)

The next day the “Welsh Girls” were keen to get back to work.

We threw down the gauntlet saying that the most olives ever gathered to take down to the mill in a single drop was 400 kilos.  The girls were determined to beat this record over the next two days.

We all got into the swing of things, and worked really hard and efficiently as a team.

Yet there was also time for a great deal of joviality, general larking about and of course cups of tea.

Dont mess with these girls !!!  Elsie and Kay

Kay and Sylvia

Elsie and Kay

Kay and Sylvia

Karen, Sylvia and Kay … Dance of the 7 Veils _???_

Sylvia practising her Belly Dancing routine !!!

Karen … Just looking cute !!!

That afternoon Moustapha, our 7 ft Senegalese friend from the market, also volunteered to lend a helping hand … he was ideal for reaching the loftier branches with the olive clapper !!!

“Just a bit higher Mousapha !!!”


Moustapha enjoying and English cup of tea

The next morning the girls were up early and worked all day like crazy to fill more cases with olives.

By the end of that day we had gathered 408 kilos of olives, beating the previous record by 8 kilos.

Well done everyone !!!

Karen, Kay, Elsie

Sylvia, Paul, Karen, Elsie, Louise

Elsie, Karen, Paul, Kay, Sylvia

We then loaded up the car with the 21 cases of olives.

Sincere thanks to Kay, Elsie, Karen and Sylvia, and not forgetting kind Moustapha for their hard graft and sterling efforts over the past week.  We couldn‘t have done it without you.  Well done !!!

You may have thought that the “Welsh Girls” would have been exhausted after their laborious day …..

But No !!! They went on to perform a Belly Dancing Extravaganza at the Bellavista Restaurant in Itri that evening !!!

See next post !!!

The Belly Dancing Extravaganza !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


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

133 – Start of the November 2011 Olive Harvest (part one)

Two of our friends, Kay and Elsie, who are regular visitors to Tre Cancelle, volunteered to come and help us with this year’s olive harvest.  Elsie also recruited two of her friends, Karen and Sylvia, who all belong to a popular Belly-Dancing group in South Wales.

Itri’s undulating hillsides are tinted with the silvery green foliage of olives trees, indeed Itri has been noted for the quality of its olives since Roman times.

The “Itrana” cultivar is exclusive to this specific area, thriving as a consequence of the unique environment, quality of the fertile soil, temperate micro –climate, sea breezes and fresh mountain air.

So for the last month the olive groves around Itri have been a hive of activity, with the cheery banter of workers laughing and jesting whilst preparing for the olive harvest, strimming grass and weeds and trimming and burning suckers.  Little “apes” (pronounced Ah-Pays, which translated literally mean “bees”) – small three wheeler vans noisily buzz and rattle along the local lanes, sometimes with a husband and generously proportioned wife cosily crammed inside the tiny driving cab.

By November many of the olives have grown round and plump and are gradually turning from bright green to dappled pink. Those harvested in November / December produce the much sought after “Early Harvest” Extra Virgin Olive Oil and / or Green Table Olives.

Other farmers prefer to harvested their olives when they are fully ripe, during February / March, to produce the “Mature Harvest Extra Virgin Oil and / or Purple / Black Table Olives.

After the well received comments from our last years November oil, we elected to harvest our olives early in the season, which whilst it produces less in volume, yields a wonderfully green and intense olive oil.

The weather seemed to be in our favour being set fair for most of the week.  The “Welsh Girls” were keen to get stuck in.

We started by carefully spreading out nets around some of the trees on the first terrace to be worked. Paul fired up the compressor to which can be fitted a variety of pneumatic tools, in this case a mechanical rake on a 4 meter telescopic pole, which is used to comb and vibrate the laden branches, causing the olives to cascade onto the nets below.


Elsie and Kay

 Some of the trees had grown very tall, and required pruning back, so Paul climbed up a ladder, and with his trusty chain saw, and lopped off the tops to a more manageable height of 4 meters,  thus allowing the olives to be easily harvested at ground level.

This is done by hand either by using small rakes or by gently running one’s fingers over the fronds, popping of the colourful fruits, a task I find enormously satisfying.



Inevitably the odd stray olive manages to bounce off the net so we scrambled about under the trees collecting these up.

The nets were then carefully gathered up and the olives rolled to one edge, where stray twigs and leaves are pulled out before pouring the olives into the waiting plastic crates. The huge nets were then lugged to the next batch of trees to be harvested.

Elsie, Kay and Karen

Kay, Elsie, Sylvia and Karen

  Ideally the olives need to be processed within 48 hours of being harvested, to preserve the very best of their natural characteristics.

The minimum batch size to take to the olive mill is 200 kilos, or 2 quintale, to ensure that your olives are processed in a single lot, and that you retrieve your own oil at the end of the process, and that it is not a mixed with someone else’s olives.  We think this is very important because by choice we do not use pesticides and herbicides whereas some other producers are not so ecologically minded.

Therefore, in general we tend to work two days on and one day off.  Our team of volunteers worked well and following the first 2 day harvest we were able to take 209 kilos of olives to the mill.

The following day the “Welsh Girls” deserved a well earned day off. 

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


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


43 – Fuochi di San Giuseppe – 19th March

The 19th March is the feast of the Fuochi di San Giuseppe, in honour of St Joseph the patron saint of Carpenters, and is also celebrated as Father’s Day in Italy.

Originally this was a pagan festival, full of mystic symbolism of purification. It celebrates the end of winter and welcomes the long awaited arrival of Spring. Prayers are said to grant a good harvest for the year.




This was our first opportunity to see how Itri celebrates this special evening.  Itri was thronged with people and the air was filled with the smell of wood smoke as large bonfires had been  lit around the town. Different neighbourhoods compete to build the largest bonfire.

Despite the slightly inclement weather there were long queues at the various stalls serving traditional dishes and zeppole, fritters made of sugar, eggs and honey.

In the main piazza by the Comune a band played folk music. 


I was particularly interested in the zampogna player, as this instrument is typical of the Atina / Villa Latina /  Ciociaria area, from which my Italian grandparents originated.


The zampogna is a type of rustic bagpipe that was traditionally played by local shepherds known as zampognari particularly at Christmas and other times of celebration. 

The evening came to a somewhat dramatic crescendo when a lively thunderstorm struck the town with a pelting of hailstones.  Thankfully it had held off so there were no disruptions to the San Giuseppe festivities.


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


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. 



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.  


 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: 



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


Please do contact us for more details


32 – Our Olive Harvest Volunteers – Jane & Heulwen

The next set of volunteers, Heulwen and Jane arrived safely on the following Sunday evening.  The weather forecast was not looking promising, however on Monday morning the weather was in fact fine and fortunately stayed fine for the whole week, so we started where we had left off a few days previously. 

Normally each Monday and Wednesday evening  Paul does an English Lesson for our good friends Pasquale and Raffaele, so we invited them to eat with us, and Jane, who is a cook by profession, prepared a tasty meal for us all with bruschetta and chicken breasts stuffed with ham, cheese and spinach.

ol16Tuesday we worked hard again in the olive grove and the tally from Monday and Tuesday’s collection came to a grand total of 357 kilos, beating the previous record that had been set just the week before.  This yielded another 60 plus litres of oil.

Thankfully with the weather improving further, Wednesday was another good day of olive harvesting. Wednesday evening is normally another English lesson, and Pasquale and an old student, Antonio, came over after supper to benefit from more English conversation. Even Raffaele managed to turn up a little later despite having said he would be unable to make it.

In Thursday’s sunshine, and with the additional help of Filippo in the afternoon we managed to gather a massive 400 kilos of olives to take down to the mill.  This total took us over the amount we had gathered during our very first harvest at “Tre Cancelle” on the back of all the previous owners cultivation skills.  Paul felt this was an important milestone, an indiction that perhaps we have at least learned some new farming skills  over the past three years.

Once again, we can’t thank you enough for all your help and hard grind, Filippo, Jane and Hels !!!

Not only did the girls work long and hard in the groves, but in the evening they experimented with cooking.  Jane is clearly passionate about food and Heulwen was keen to learn.  One evening together they knocked up some delicious home-made pizzas.   

past01bThe girls wanted to have a go at making pasta, so we dug out our old pasta machine.  They prepared and kneaded the dough, before feeding the first flattened lump through the rollers of the wonderful contraption. 

They repeated this process several times, periodically reducing the gap between the rollers, thus gradually rolling it out into a thinner and longer strip of smooth, silky pasta. 

past05We used this to make some ravioli with a beef filling. With the left over dough  they made some fettucini and spaghetti.

Heulwen tried her hand at a Carbonara sauce (with fried pancetta, eggs, cream and Parmesan cheese) which was delicious.

The following lunchtime we dined on the fettucine and spaghetti with a freshly prepared Puttanesca sauce (made with tomatoes, “Itri olives”, capers and anchovies).



Friday we took a well earned day off and went for a spot of lunch at Pauline and Filippo’s.  Deefa insisted on coming too !!!


A meal at Pasquale’s that evening was a suitable finale to our busy week.  Rafaelle brought a sauce, prepared by his mother, for a primo piatto: pasta with Aubergine, courgette, sweet peppers and tomato, plus some fresh chilli to give it a bit of an edge. This was followed by a Secondo:  local hand-made sausages cooked in the oven with potatoes and rosemary.   

peppFilippo had expertly prepared some roasted red peppers.  He had charred them over an open fire before removing the blackened skins, slicing them into strips and tossing them in olive oil and lots of finely chopped garlic. Ideal for warding off vampires !!!

The meal continued with a salad of mixed green leaves and some fresh Mozzarella di Bufala and Parma Ham.  For the pudding or Dolce Jane had made a fresh Ricotta Cheesecake with a Fruits of the Forest Coulis topping and a scrumptious Kiwi fruit Pavlova with some rather nice “bubbly”. Then coffee and grappa topping off a wonderful spread and a most pleasant evening.