Head south west from Bellaugello Gay Guest House and you follow the road crossing the river Tiber and down towards Lago Trasimeno the largest lake in central Italy. It is a delightful drive, as you leave the uplands the vast panorama of central Umbria opens before you. Today that panorama was brightly lit under a warm sun that punctured a cloudless azure sky. Down in the valley bright crisp green fields the winter sowings newly emergent from the mild winter and recent rains, and along the winding road I was passing olive trees already beautifully, some might say too beautifully pruned before I skirted the regional capital of Perugia that noble city, my destination being the village of Solomeo.
Now this is no ordinary village. Located in the comune of Corciano more famous for its light industrial estates than farming, as the comune heads southwards and upwards it brushes the wine growing area, and quaint hill top villages replace the urban sprawl. One of them the thirteenth century village of Solomeo is a special village. As recently as 1985 the village was almost in ruins and but for the vision and drive of one person it still would be.
Brunello Cuccinelli started his knitwear business in 1978. Specialising in cashmere, the business soon grew and Sig. Cuccinelli was on the lookout for a site to expand his business. He chose the near abandoned hamlet of Solomeo, the birthplace of his wife, and like his cashmere products set about a well crafted and high quality restoration.
Today that passion is evident, the village is overflowing with exacting detail, cleaned and restored stone houses, brick pavier streets and lanes, well tended Italianate gardens, and a magnificent theatre – the only theatre that I know of where you get to sit in armchairs.
Teatro Cuccinelli at Solomeo
The programme ranges from classical music to contemporary dance and prose. Teatro Cuccinelli 2015 – 2016 programme If you happen to be at Bellaugello with a free evening and there is something on then do book tickets. In the open spaces of the village you discover intimate spaces to sit and meditate or chat, maybe under the shade of a large canopied tree, or one of the many cypresses that dot the hillsides and line the roads and garden boundaries. There are many small loggias with delicate brick vaultings and a considerately placed table and chairs, where you can soak up the atmosphere. There is also a sizeable amphitheatre, the village is a home to meeting people and the arts. As I wandered down one lane I brushed against a wall topped with a clipped hedge made entirely from Rosemary, a plant I just knew would make a fine hedge, inspiration for part of the Bellaugello Garden.
Rosemary trained as a hedge at Solomeo
Of course the day was glorious, 19˚c blue skies and birdsong, a lady tending her pots planted with bright primulas, peace and time to breathe…
Street scene Solomeo
Solomeo the horticultural college
A gay guy climbing the hill.
and Solomeo in any weather is well worth a detour on your way to the lake or the proud city of Citta della Pieve near the Tuscan border.
And now to the other aspect of Brunello Cuccinelli, his cashmere. I saw it many years ago at a catwalk in our local town of Gubbio, a girl elegantly modelling a shawl or as they are now called ‘pashmina’ worn over a cashmere dress, both in camel colour, and both woven of the finest cashmere, the shawl was almost invisible and so light it seemed to float. The good news is that Cuccinelli has a guys range, and it is heavenly. As well as the Solomeo store you will find his stores in most major capital cities, do check out the website: Cuccinelli Cashmere you will love it!
Homage to Immanuel Kant