Every year on 15th of May our local town of Gubbio celebrates the “Festa dei Ceri” or race of the candles.  This event, it is an event that should be famous all over the world, but because the citizens of Gubbio or “Eugubini” regard it as their private festival it is not publicised.  That is not to say that visitors are not welcome, they are, of course with the proviso that “they do not get in the way!!”

The race has its origins in pre-Christian times.  A local author explained to me that it was originally a fertility festival, the blessing of the newly sown crops to provide a bountiful harvest.  There are three candles, for fifty weeks of the year they reside in the basilica on top of the hill that dominates the town.  On the first Sunday of May they are processed down to the Palazzo dei Consoli in the delightful main square of this beautiful medieval town.  There whilst the citizens begin to party they wait, horizontal, quietly until the 15th of May.

The town is full, every street, road, lane, people thronging everywhere all heading to participate or watch the Alzata.  Men on horseback, trumpeters, flag throwers and supporters, we are all there, yes, there is room for us from Bellaugello Gay Guest House.

At eleven in the morning the Ceri are carried out into the Piazza Prande, three Ceri, one for each saint, Ubaldo, Giorgio and Antonio.  The attending Ceraioli wearing white trousers and shirts in the colour of their saint. The piazza is packed, we squeeze tightly amongst the crowds to soak up the adrenaline and atmosphere.

Of course there is pagentry and lots of symbolism before the Ceri are lifted vertical (the Alzata) and then the three teams start to run round the town. We participate from a spot near the Ceri, under the bell tower, the huge bell tolled by hand or more precisely foot, a real courageous feat of machismo, and as they set off we, like the townsfolk follow the Ceri.

Following a huge lunch the Ceraioli rest a while before the eagerly awaited actual race back up Mont Ingeno to the basilica, it too draws huge crowds.  Which Ceri has come first, (it’s always S Ubaldo the patron saint, but hte distance between the Ceri is important) maybe one has fallen or veered off course, these are discussions that will occupy the townsfolk for the next 364 days..  arriving at the basilica about nine in the evening, encirling the fountain in the cloister and chanting the race concludes in a frenzy.

Of course the day does not end there, there is the walk back down to the town then the many ‘taverne’ street food stalls and dancing and drinking in the squares until the “wee sma’oors” it is a truly memorable day and one you can be part of (as a spectator).

This year there is an update to the Ceri website, check it out:  Click here for the link to the Festa Dei Ceri Website it gives you a real in depth look at the event, and to book your Suite at Bellaugello this link will take you directly to our online booking service: Click here to book your stay at Bellaugello Gay Guest House

Last weekend at Bellaugello was a real delight.  For the first time at Easter all our guests at Bellaugello Gay Guest House were Italian so I had to switch my brain permanently out of English into Italian, always good.

The weekend kicked off with the “Processione di Cristo Morto” in Gubbio our local town.  This was the subject of my last post, if you have not seen it then check the video it is mesmerising.  On Saturday the guys headed into the sauna to sweat away their cares and then we dined together, seated in front of the roaring fire around our antique family table, rounding off the meal with some of my home-made limoncello and a raucous conversation.  On Sunday the breakfast table as well as the usual home made breads, cakes, yoghurts and jams was filled with local specialities, prosciutto and affettati, the rich Crescia di Pasqua, a delicious risen cheese loaf, speciality of the region and of course there was also sweet cake and hard boiled eggs to decorate and eat, plenty of caffè and mysteriously arrived easter bunnies and chocolate.

Then, late morning, as tradition dictates we headed off across our beautiful sun drenched valley to lunch with friends on their organic farm.  My friends host a fun lunch with egg rolling, the object apparently depending on whether or not you wish to get married or pregnant, being to smash or not smash your egg.  I never quite remember whether to find love the egg must remain whole or not, so one year I pitch it low and it stays intact, another I toss high and it breaks, but for me every year ‘rien ça change’!

Lunch was as ever magnificent.  The family cook and guests bring food from their homes to share with fellow guests.  One of Bellaugello’s guests brought the most delicious ‘arancini’ from Rome.   On Saturday when he arrived at Bellaugello they were still warm and so so fragrant.  Quickly re-heated on Sunday they were much appreciated by all.  For me you can keep your smart hotels, mega-yachts and pretensions.  Being able to share with my guests occasions such as this lunch in the dappled shade of the Mulberry tree with warm welcoming, generous, caring hosts, who cook and host with love, always welcoming strangers into their home with open arms is really special, something no amount of money can buy.   It is a really relaxing and convivial occasion, together with a delightful group of people from many countries, my guests from Bellaugello are made to feel welcome, and an integral part of the occasion.  In today’s hectic and suspicious life that is, I suggest rare, and for me, one of the greatest benefits and joys of living in this quiet untroubled corner of Europe.

On Tuesday the weather turned and long awaited rain was delivered.  The rain was hard and driving, the wind turned north easterly and for a while the temperature dropped dramatically. I awoke on Wednesday to snow on the Apennines, quite a shock not only to me but to the tender shoots springing up madly in gardens and fields here.

By the afternoon the sun had returned, bringing with it real warmth and I spent a delicious time cutting the lawns and tidying around the garden.  Tonight is forecast to be cold, I know there will be many a farmer walking well before dawn and heading down to their vineyard to light small fires to keep the chill away from the setting fruit, it’s the way they have always protected their vines.  I myself, viziato, will still be tucked up warm and cozy in bed!

This weekend there is a wine festival in Città di Castello, a historic town a bit further up the Tiber valley.  We plan to head there and sample the array of wines from young and innovative producers from all over Umbria.  Please someone call me a taxi!

As well as being geographically central in Italy, Umbria is central to tradition and on the Friday of the Easter weekend towns all over the region witness the “Processione di Cristo Morto” – the procession of the dead Christ.  At Bellaugello Gay Guest House we are a few km from the medieval city of Gubbio where the preparations already began some weeks ago and it is an event that we love to share with our guests and hate to miss.

In the weeks preceding Easter go to dinner in Gubbio and you might just hear and catch a glimpse of a group of men racing down medieval streets, stopping outside a church and begin chanting, the Miserere, it is a haunting, deep, dramatic melody and part of the tradition that makes Italy so very special.  On different evenings they sing outside some of the many churches in the historic centre.

Friday evening before Easter Sunday the effigy is taken from the church of San Domenico and processed around the medieval city centre.  The procession is heard before seen, the sound of the sinister ‘battistrangole’ arrives long before we catch sight of the Carabiniere who walk in front of the men in cloaks, all but hidden except for their eyes.

Last night the crowds of spectators were large, it seems all the town and many tourists came out to witness the procession.  Many are believers and were seen crossing themselves, many others not, no judgement made, everyone mingling happily together.  Soon I heard the Miserere the choir walking slowly behind the effigy of Christ carried on the shoulders of four strong men.

The procession wends its way round the historic centre, up and down narrow candle-lit streets, crowds follow and we pass one of the huge bonfires lit in the streets:

If you look carefully you just see me on the right of the photo, it gives you an idea of the scale of the fire.  I remarked to a friend that this could only happen here in Italy.  Back in the UK there would be fire brigade, cordons, barriers, police, ambulance and first aid, that is even if the risk assessment would let the fire be lit in the first place, to me it just would not happen, and what a shame, here there is none of that, the fire burns brightly and people walk by. A friend tells me that one year the fire was lit in the same place and melted the telephone box…  he went on to say ‘now everybody has cell phones’.

Part of the joy of evenings like these is seeing familiar faces, meeting people one has not seen for some time and sharing company, so it was we met up with friends and late on were a huge table eating delicious pizzas.  The conclusion to a marvellous evening.

The next date is May 15th when we celebrate the “Festa dei Ceri” the race of the candles, the town fills with men in white trousers carrying three ‘Ceri’ or candles and in the evening racing them up the hill, a truly spectacular day, come join us!

“Hey Alec there is a launch of a new tourist magazine for Umbria being held at the airport in Perugia you going to come with me?” went the WhatsApp message.  Me thinks, hmm.. launch of a magazine at the airport  not really my scene but the airport, maybe I can learn something new, so off I trotted.

Our local airport of S Francesco of Assisi, Perugia is small and perfectly formed, a bright new terminal building, lots of glass and polished stone, ample sufficiency of car rental desks, and easy to get to and out of.   It is a mere forty minute drive from Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  The one problem is that unless you wish to travel from Eastern Europe or Italy the choice of flights are limited.

So the magazine launch was intensely uninteresting and it being a hot sunny day we went in search of a gelato.  Coming out of the café we got chatting to a guy who just turned out to be the Managing Director of the airport, yes, it was well worth my time coming.

Piervittorio was charming, helpful and prepared to listen to our gripes whilst explaining the airport strategy, his vision for the future, and also giving us some good news.  He and the region are in active discussions with Eurowings and Easyjet and Ryanair for new routes.  It seems that to save the company from going under Eurowings have bought some of Air Berlin’s planes, and are looking for new destinations.  Easyjet are in expansion mode and Ryanair are already thinking about the consequences of Brexit and the possibility of them having to relocate sixty of their fleet into Europe and Perugia is fighting hard to win that business.

We learnt of the possible new routes to Perugia:

Berlin Germany, Cologne Germany, Eindhoven Netherlands, Krakow Poland, Manchester UK Paris France.  Now of course nothing is yet 100% confirmed, but negotiations are “progressing well”.  For some destinations daily flight frequency is proposed, and others three or more times per week.  This is excellent news, getting to Bellaugello for your holiday break is hopefully getting much easier.

What news of conflict and conflicting news is circulating these past few days.  Even deep in the beautiful Umbrian countryside world news filters through, and, I like a leech to blood, thirstily suck it up.  This week I am at the same time heartened and saddened and utterly confused by what I am hearing and reading.

Firstly circulating the globe the reaction to a hate crime in the Netherlands which saw two guys attacked whilst they were holding hands the news tells of the overwhelming reaction witnessing men all over the globe now walking hand in hand. #allemannenhandinhand

Meanwhile in the UK there is a report of massive complaints at the introduction of ‘gender neutral’ lavatories.

and to confuse me further Stonewall UK has been reported in the UK Guardian as stating “UK passports should allow people who do not identify as male or female to define themselves as X”

Firstly I say a huge “Bravi” to everyone showing solidarity by holding hands, hate crimes in whatever form are reprehensible and to have the self confidence to be just who you want to be is truly laudable.

Now I must admit I have never really understood the problem of unisex lavatories.  Here I daren’t generalise but in my youth it was suspected that women went to the lavatory together to ‘powder their nose’ synonymous for ‘going for a gossip’ and guys avoided going to the lavatory together so as not to be seen as ‘cissies’ (can I say that these days?) are we not all size queens so maybe that was the real reason.    In my travels I have come across several unisex lavatories and never encountered any problems or embarrassment.  In one of my favourite café bar restaurant stores in Perugia the lavatories are large and unisex, it seems perfectly normal.  We are after all thankfully long past the nineteenth century and ‘Victorian sensibilities’.

Now the third has me really stymied.  Coming from an organisation whose strapline reads “Acceptance without exception” I fail to understand the policy of a new passport gender “X” .  Surely yet another gender will create more hatred and media topicality, it will highlight differences not eradicate them.   I read with increasing depression that banks are proposing to their customers a raft of forms of address such as Mx, Misc, Ind, M, Mre  reminds me of the late Screaming Lord Such and his ‘Monster Raving Loony Party’ who stood in many an election, it is shock value, at least he had a point.

Gender, which is now the hipster subject of choice for the zealous politically correct classes should be cancelled.  Why should I be defined by my gender any more than my sexuality defining who I am?  Gender is only habit and a means of subjugating and pointlessly differentiating many.  On a passport gender must make no difference to anyone’s ability to travel and be protected by their country.  For those who question their safety in a public lavatory I reflect that I want to be safe in any public space whoever is there. Of course logically this leads back to the couples holding hands, and anyone must be able to feel free to hold anyone else’s hand without prejudice no matter what their gender.

 

Just launched today Bellaugello’s incredible Spring Discount Offer.  Why not escape to Italy for an early Spring break and enjoy a stay of four nights in the cosseting comfort of Bellaugello gay Guest House whilst paying for only three nights!

April and May are the perfect time to enjoy the quiet hilltop towns and green countryside of this region in central Umbria.  Spring is a time of warmth and growth,  The vines are bursting forth, a vineyard visit to stock up on your Italian wine collection, a lazy walk in the foothills of the Apennines or by fields full of new-sown crops, or a lazy day wandering the quiet streets of some ancient hilltop town such as Assisi, Perugia, Todi or Gubbio.   Umbria is close to the major cities of Florence, Siena and Rome, and its towns are filled with medieval treasures, adorable sculptures and delightful frescoes including Pinturicchio and Giotto, those in the the Duomo of Orvieto are a ‘must see’.

To book click theBook Nowbutton on the website and choose your four nights between 1st April and 25th May 2017 enter the code “Rock” in the promotional box and scroll down the rates list to see the offer, it is a simple as that.

Start your spring break in style, a bottle of chilled Prosecco with our compliments will be waiting for you in your suite.

Why not tell your friends and have them come along too, make a party of it!

Bookings for this offer apply to a period of a four consecutive night stay.