227 – Visit to Pastena

At the end of April we welcomed two lovely ladies, Lissa and Debra, from the USA.  This was to be their first trip to this area of Italy and Lissa was keen to visit her ancestral home of her family, namely Pastena.  Pastena is a small but picturesque medieval village which is in the province of Frosinone and belongs to the ancient region of Ciociaria.

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As Lissa and Debra didn’t have a car we offered to drive them to Pastena, which is along an interesting route, passing through Fondi and then heading inland towards Lenola and beyond. Finally we reached the verdant plain of Pastena surrounded by  hills and mountains. Here the soil is rich and fertile thus agriculture has always been the mainstay of the economy in these parts.

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As we approached Pastena we saw a hill which at its peak has modern sculptures representing the patron saints of the town, Sant’Elena and San Sinforo.

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Lissa first wanted to call in at Pastena’s Register Office or Anagrafe in the Town Hall.

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We were received by the registrar who seemed to be rather flustered and busy, and he insisted that he did not have time to look through the records to try and find out more about Lissa’s ancestors. However he did take details from her and promised to look for them during the next few days.  Feeling slightly deflated we went for a stroll around the old town.

Close to the Town Hall is a museum – “Il Museo della Civiltà Contadina e dell’Ulivo” or Museum of Country Life and Olive Cultivation.This is  housed in a palazzo which was once the home and an ancient olive m of the Trani family.  Among the interesting exhibits are the original old mill-stone and press, tools related to olive farming, tilling the soil, animal husbandry, wine making, cheese making, basket making, spinning and weaving of linen.  Also there are examples of traditional clothes, musical instruments and general domestic items of everyday Pastena life in times gone by.

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Lissa also wanted the visit Pastena’s cemetery which was situated a little way out of town. She was hoping to find some of her ancestors’ graves.

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We went back into Pastena to wander through the characteristic Medieval centre. At the highest point of the village is the main square and the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. On the facade are two niches which house images of the patron saints of the town.

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We noticed that there were festive lights mounted throughout the town. We learned that the following day was the Feast of “Il Maggio” or “la Festa del’Albero della Cuccagna” -a festival to celebrate the coming of Spring.  We soon made plans to return the following day, with our friends Pat and Melinda, to see the celebrations for ourselves.

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On the 15th April the local men go out into the woods to choose the best tall straight cypress tree. Once this has been selected a cross is carved out of the bark mark it.  At sunrise on the morning of 30th April many of the local men folk will gather around the chosen tree for a traditional ceremony where the parish priest recites prayers.  The master of ceremonies takes the axe and makes the first cuts into the tree, in the presence of the calf, with each of the participants taking their turn to wield the axe. The actual felling of the tree is marked by gun shots and a drum roll. The tree is then cleaned of the bark and branches etc.

There follows a ritual “funeral” procession for “the tree of sacrifice” that has been taken from the “sacred forest”.  Slowly but surely it is hauled up to the village with the help of a numerous pairs of strong oxen, lead by the sacred calf.

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During the long procession loud firework were periodically set off, and  unnervingly groups of hunters shot rounds from their rifles and shotguns into the air.

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We then walked uphill back towards the town. As we entered the square in front of the town hall we were spotted by the register who eagerly tried to flag us down.  He told Lissa he had looked in the registers and had found several more generations of Lissa’s family. He lead us into his office where he handed over the paperwork.  Lissa was happy and we were so pleased for her.  We took a photo of the Registrar, Lissa and Debra to remember this very special day.

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Debra and Lissa

A little more about the “Il Maggio” festivities ….

On the 1st May the tree is cleaned in the main square, in front of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.  The top of the tall tree trunk is adorned with May flowers of broom.  A hole is prepared and then the men work together using ropes to gradually winch the tree trunk into an upright position.

On the 3rd May, on the feast day of the Santissima Santa Croce, when the statue of Sant’ Elena on her throne is taken from the church and carried around all the districts of the town followed by a solemn procession.

Typically the womenfolk  have previously prepared a type of sweet bread / doughnut in the shape of a decorated ring called a Ciambellone, these are carried during the procession as a symbol of religious devotion.  The procession is accompanied by ceremonial gunfire.

Later in the day the tree trunk is raised into position in the main square, having been covered in grease. This is known as the “albero della cuccagna”. Then there is a competition amongst the young men of the village, when they attempt to scale the slippery pole. At the top there are prizes for the successful climbers. In the evening there are more celebrations of musical entertainment and fireworks.

The tree trunk remains in place in the square until September, when it is cut down and distributed as firewood to the local inhabitants of Pastena.

All  photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#pastena #festival #ilmaggio #familyhistory #spring #italy

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga / Itri, South Lazio, Italy

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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 !!!

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

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

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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.

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Unfortunately the horses also love to eat it !!!

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

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

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TCTitleTre 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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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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