Sandy and Helga, my South African neighbours and friends on the catamaran Carla, have looked after an old wooden sailing vessel in the marina this past winter. The boat belongs to a local family from the area. A gentleman and his wife, their daughter Claudia, her ex-husband Stefano and their thirteen year old son, Carlo. And a whole kennel of dogs. A fantastically generous family, proud to show a bunch of sailing nomads the culture that their region has to offer. Last Sunday, following a particularly heavy party night on Carla, we were invited to a barbecue at Stefano’s house in the mountains. And when I say house I really mean mansion.
We were picked up at noon by Claudia. She managed to fit five of us and two dogs into her Mini Cooper and raced us up the tiny mountain roads. ‘The Italian Job’ was an obvious conversation as Claudia praised ‘Mr Cooper’ on his performance. After half an hour or so we folded the external mirrors as we drove through the tiny streets of a small village only to pull up to a massive set of wrought iron gates at Stefano’s mansion. A three storey building from 1879 that has stayed in his family since it was built. With the exception of a few years during the second world war when German officers set up camp in the house. The house was filled with numerous traces from the war including helmets, shrapnel from grenades and gunfire and uniforms. Claudia and Stefano’s son Carlo eagerly gave me a grand tour that stopped just short of a historical re-enactment.
Stefano cooked us a delicious Carbonara and I once again have to learn that the pasta is the first dish and that you really do have to make room for what comes afterwards. In our case a full barbecue. All in all it was a fantastic day and the dogs took the humans for a walk through the town before we were all dropped back at the marina in Gaeta. I can not thank Stefano and Claudia enough for this experience.