Lovely organic oranges arrive from Sicily.  They are blushed with the sun, and when I cut them open are abundantly generous with their juice.  The flesh a spectrum of colour from orange through red, to almost violet-black.  I am busy in the kitchen at Bellaugello Gay Guest House making orange marmalade ready for the coming season.

Of all the jams orange marmalade ranks firmly in my top five of preferences.  I like the bitter sweetness, the sharpness and fruityness, it is just scrumptiously more-ish.  However it must rank as one of my least favourite preserves to make.  It is just so labour intensive and the fruit acid ruins my hands.  I slice, squeeze, clean, chop, trim, for what becomes hours.   Finally by adding zest and juice of lemons and some beautiful light cane sugar, the pot is ready to bring to the boil.

It is blood red, matching my humour.   Oranges from Sicily lack one thing, pips.  Unlike the Seville oranges I used to use way back when, they are very sweet.  I have to do a double boiling and add pectin.  No pectin – no set.  Last month a friend visited from Switzerland and knowing my love of marmalade he brought me 1kg of organic bitter oranges.  I grabbed the Swiss supermarket package and read “produce of Italy”!!  How come you can get them abroad but not here, crazy.  I know in Rome the public parks are full of bitter orange trees, the fruit lying unappreciated on the floor, “non sono dolce” – they’re not sweet…. nobody wants them.  How do they mysteriously find their way to Switzerland I wonder?

Don’t feel sorry for me the result is now in jars and I am pleased to report my hands are recovering.  The marmalade is delicious and will be on the table at breakfast time for my guests.  Furthermore just occasionally I do manage to get out and see things.  The other day I received an invite for this morning to the opening of the exhibition of “Lego” in Gubbio.  This project is the brainchild of two local groups, one, “Iridium’ a ‘consorzio’ of agriturismi and guest houses, of which I am a member,  named after the precious metal from the meteorite that only supposedly made the dinosaurs extinct, found uniquely in Europe only in the Gola di Bottacione just outside Gubbio,  the other ‘Host’ which is delightfully pronounced ‘oast’ by the hoteliers who comprise that group.  Together with the comune they have worked hard and pulled off an amazing feat.

Now I guess Lego is not everybody’s turn on, but I am sure back in our youth we all played with it, and I know some guys continue to be Lego aficionados well into their dotage.   I fall into the former category, but was blown away by the displays.  I learnt that it all began in the 1940s in a small family run carpenter’s workshop in Billund.  Yes, the first pieces were pre-plastic and made of wood and amazingly some are on display. The exhibits have drawn from private collections from all over Italy, some owned from new, so real prized possessions, and the exhibition is certified by the Lego company and shown in their website for 2018.

The exhibition traces the development of Lego through the decades, right up to the present day.  Oh, how I remember the joy of being given a ‘light brick’ with two wires with huge cumbersome connectors and a separate battery box, so innovative.  Then my first Lego motor which was at least four inches in length….  How times have changed.  The contemporary displays are filled with led lights and fully furnished models of houses, space craft and film sets.  I also discovered that you can submit your fantasy to Lego and if it is liked by 1,000 people then it will be put into production.  Food for Bellaugello thought…..

Anyway enough of my blethering here are some photos taken today of the opening by the Sindaco of Gubbio (seen in the fawn jacket) of the exhibition which runs until late June 2018.  Do come and stay Bellaugello and visit the Lego.

and just because it made me laugh I have to include this next photo…

For those of you who think my life is prancing round in the kitchen making jams and attending openings of exhibitions, to round off this post, read on and learn that I am also supremely talented at many other things!  Waking last Friday the house was cold, brrr…..  Jumped out of bed, I found some clothes and stomped sleepily over to the boiler house.  The boiler was showing an alarm. bugger…  I do try to be ecological, if one can ever honestly be ecological ( and “i hae ma doots”) so the boiler runs on biomass fuel.  Here I use olive nuts, which, unlike the glued together pellets which crazily come from Chernobyl or far flung lands, they come from the neighbouring region of Abruzzo, fewish carbon miles.  I also like the concept of using something that would otherwise have little practical use and be tossed.  I fire off (ha!) an email to the boiler manufacturer, they are high in the Alps in a tiny village in northern Italy.  Within half an hour a telephone call, it is the technician.  From my description he has a good idea of the problem, but asks me to take some photos and send them to him.  I dismantle part of the boiler, and snap away.  Eureka! it is as he thought, a thermocouple in the blower that lights the boiler that has failed.  It seems the fuel is lit by a potent hairdryer!

Exchange of messages and the part is duly ordered and dispatched.  I light the boiler using firelighter and sticks, and the technician sends me instructions on how to programme it to stay alight, which it does, I once again have heat.

This afternoon replete from a buffet lunch with the Glitterati of Gubbio I discover the boiler part has arrived.  Off with the smart togs, and into my ‘workie’ gear.  Within twenty minutes the new part was installed and the boiler back to normal working.  Job done! Great satisfaction.

It’s always hard when waking early, but getting up is not a problem especially when the day begins warmly and magnificently.  Then to be greeted with an enormous full bloodied sunrise through the window at Bellaugello Gay Guest House I just know the day is off to a good start.  So it was this morning;

The suns rays streamed through the window bathing the bedroom in a golden light.  The shadows cast playing with movement in the room, golden rays bouncing off the mirror and splashing the stone walls.   Sometimes it is good to lie back and enjoy.

In moments like these I occasionally think of the people whose lives have been part of the history of this ancient Umbrian farmhouse.  Were they like me blown away by the energy and beauty, or were some oblivious?  When St Francis of Assisi walked these hills passing Bellaugello on the way to Gubbio surely he and his followers revelled in the beauty, they walked slowly they must have.  I wonder did the soldiers fighting in the last war dug in on both sides of the valley whilst firing shells over the house and hard worked land have time to admire the beauty?  I guess rarely.  Bellaugello is a fixture, it has been a farm for over four hundred years, and parts of the house date way back then.  Through history the house has been home to many families.  I know some members of the last of the ‘Mezzadri’ as happily some including an amazing woman now over ninety still return and share wondrous stories.  Reading between the lines they recount of their lives, they were anything but easy.   Did they have time in their hard lives to pause and be amazed by such sunrises?  I know their work days were ruled by daylight, so I guess they probably did pause and get blown away.  From their return visits and my experience I know the pull of this place is strong.

Now like the times, the use of the house has changed.  We concentrate less on agriculture instead our focus is on welcoming guests from all over the world.  Mind you we do still produce dazzlingly delicious extra virgin olive oil.  Bellaugello is the leading Gay Guest House in Italy.  Where two families once lived there are now five luxury suites for you guys to enjoy.   Here I know guys find a huge level of peace and pleasure, they find time to breathe and enjoy nature.  Bellaugello is an utterly magical spot and many guys capture its beauty in their holiday snaps that they choose to share with me.  You too can come and stay, take your own photos and experience the magic.

Enough of the lyrical melancholy!  I spent yesterday in front of the computer correcting errors on the Bellaugello website.  It seems that the ‘experts’ had made a mess of things on some of the Dutch and Italian pages (for which mijn verontschuldigingen) and having worked hard eventually I discovered how to correct them.  It was a very satisfying day.  I had to write some new copy and took time to add some new Spring Offers to our ‘Deals’ page.  If only I could translate that page into other languages I would be a veritable star!

The amazing sunrises are not the only reason to visit Bellaugello.  Continuing the red theme, Spring in Umbria is a time when there is lots going on not forgetting the stunning “Festa dei Ceri” the Race of the Candles on 15th of May.  The planning for this historic tradition commences on 16th of May each year.  At large autumnal dinners the teams, each named after saints there are three,  start to choose their ‘Capodieci’ or captain who responsible for the strategy for his saint’s team.  Wearing golden yellow shirts is the team of S Ubaldo the patron saint of Gubbio.  The merchants follow S Giorgio and wear blue shirts, and the farmers and countryfolk support S Antonio, their shirts are black.  Each team has white pants and a red bandanna.

Early on 15th of May the teams assemble and head to the Piazza Grande, the large open space standing on huge arches half way up the hill in the ancient town centre.  The ceremony really gets underway when to the sound of trumpeters the Ceri are carried out of the town hall and fixed to their supports and then raised.  Each wooden ‘candle’ weighs 300kg and is carried in relays by team members round the historic centre.  After a long lunch – this is Italy after all, the race proper up the hill to the basilica begins.  S Ubaldo is always first, after all he is the patron saint, the distance between the three ‘ceri’ is the important element.  The town is full to capacity, the atmosphere electric, and we at Bellaugello are mere spectators, but what a spectacle!  Here, soak up the atmosphere, watch a clip for yourselves…

To help you guys come and enjoy a spring break at Bellaugello Gay Guest House I have reduced the price of two of our suites.  Special Offer prices for a suite throughout April and May now start at €155,00 for double occupancy and our delicious daily breakfast.   In addition we have a four night mid week break also applicable in October  Simply book four nights arrival Sunday or Monday, pay for three and we will give you the fourth night for free..   For further details and to book your spring break click here you will be taken to the page of our website.  Or simply book your room now: click here you will be redirected to our online booking service.

As if that isn’t enough, as I seem to be writing this post backwards I finish with a photograph of the equally impressive red sunset over the farm at Bellaugello Gay Guest House last night:

It is not every morning before dawn that I stumble out of bed at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, manage to find my iPhone and set it at the window to record.  However this morning was one of those rare occasions, and I just have to share the result with you.

Clumsily, sleepily I balanced my phone precariously on a pile of books and set the ‘slo-mo’ record and via the bathroom went back to bed.  About one hour later I awoke in my now light bedroom and went over to check the phone.  I switched the camera off and replayed the video.

Sunrises can be amazing here, often red, often misty, magical, and special.  A couple of years ago one guest at our gay guest house caught on video the mist below in the Chiascio valley.  Unbeknownst to me it was visibly running downstream with course of the river.  I had imagined the movement of mist was vertical, but no it is more complicated.  I have often thought to try to recapture that stunning show, but I love my bed.  This morning the sunrise was no less magnificent.  The orange sky grows, and to my entertainment it seems like the clouds are jumping a race over the peaks of the Apennines like new born lambs gambolling on a bale of hay or a small hillock.

I just love the clouds reflected in the infinity pool and the mist cuddling the hills.  Umbria is a truly magical place.  The region is central in Italy, between Lazio, Toscana and Le Marche.   If you can tear yourself away from the many beauties of Umbria you will discover that Bellaugello is a perfect base for day trips to Rome, Florence, Siena and Rimini to name but a few.

Here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House you find a special peace and harmony.   Our aim is to indulge you and at the end of your stay to return you to your daily life refreshed and invigorated.  Bellaugello offers a holiday escape away from the worries of daily life, and who doesn’t need that?

Today the sun is shining, it is warm and skies are laced with the wispiest of high alto strato clouds, and I am to be busy in the garden at Bellaugello Gay Guest house.  Despite the cold winter days the garden has been sneakily growing and it needs taming.

The garden at Bellaugello is large, full of plants all bursting into bud and new growth.   The lavender pruned back in the autumn is now requiring a second trim, Rosemary is flowering, I am always in a quandary whether or not to prune now, cutting off the blue flowers seems cruel, or to wait until the growth has gone mad and the plants are untidy.  I have the same indecision with the roses.  Autumn was mild, there were blooms as late as early December, and new growth in the first months of this year.  I hate to prune back when the flowers give such joy in cold gloomy days, and now the buds are in leaf, I am unsure whether it is kind or unkind to the plants to cut them back hard.

I speak to my plants, and they seem to respond well.  The garden was started from zero less than ten years ago and has grown into a place of fragrant beauty and peace.  However the roses do not reply to my question as to when is the best time to prune them.  I research the RHS website, it is a great resource, but I dither wondering if their advice is correct for the climate here in central Italy.  Yesterday I was bold and some of the roses were cut back hard, but others I am unsure of, I don’t want to damage them.

Meanwhile the infinity swimming pool is sparkling.  Cyril the robot has been in overnight and has gobbled up the red sand that seems to land in huge quantities every time the Sirocco blows, bringing up Sahara dust that smudges the water.  The water is still cold, and though it will be some time before I take my first dip I do like to keep the pool well maintained as it gives me pleasure to look out over the crystalline waters.  The pool is treated with salt to make natural chlorine, the system works throughout the year, gentler on your skin and kinder to the environment.  No, the salt level is nothing like that of sea water, it is barely noticeable except it does mean you can swim with your eyes open and when you exit the pool your body does not have that horrible chlorine smell and your skin is not dried out.

Most of the trees shed their leaves in the autumn, and decide to dump them in huge quantities in the pool.  The large oak tree by the house on the way to the pool is still clinging on to its leaves.  Through gales and torrential rain some trees seem to manage to hold on tightly to their leaves, there is no logic.   To me they are the same variety of tree, but obviously not.   The leaves are brown and crisp and I know they will fall into every nook and cranny later this month.  It is as if to say my raking and sweeping up leaves is a task that keeps me fit all year round, we are thinking of you.

Gardening to me is a joy.  I am passionate about it and the south facing site at Bellaugello gay guest house is a superb environment in which to garden.  I have been able to plant a huge variety of plants, and through time have learnt which like full sun and which are thankful for shade.    The one thing I do not have is a damp northerly corner, so no rhubarb and the hydrangeas are not happy, but that is small price to pay in my sun drenched garden.

The house is on four levels, it hangs on the hillside looking over the valley, so we designed terraces on each level to give horizontal spaces.  One enters the bedroom suites directly from the gardens.  Each suite has its own private outdoor space with table and chairs, dining outdoors is such a joy, be it on your private terrace or together with other gay guests at one of our evenings under the stars.  Two of the private terraces have outdoor showers.  What gay man does not want to be caressed by hot water in the world’s largest bathroom, and in this gay guest house you can! sheer bliss!

When planning the garden for my gay guest house I found an empty palette and set about creating spaces and quiet corners.  Hedging in laurel and bay feature, lots of fragrant lavender and rosemary flow onto the paths and attract insects, such a delight to brush past.  Escape to the four poster bed hidden at the far end of the swimming pool, or swing gently in a hammock hung in the dappled share of our majestic fig tree, or doze in a chair under an oak tree, enjoy a relaxing massage, it is all here, and now I must return to work to keep it and myself in trim.

We open Bellaugello Gay Guest House for the 2018 season at the end of March.  Today, sitting at my kitchen window overlooking the grey frozen Umbrian countryside, with the Burian in full force, outdoors is silent, the birds are sheltering from the storm and it hardly seems possible that the weather is soon to change and spring is on its way, but it is.  My view of blown snow is abundant, trees are sheathed in ice, their branches are glistening in the intermittent sharp sunlight.  With the backdrop of the Apennines magically white and deeply blanketed with crunchy with snow it is winter at its finest and a good time to plan a gay holiday spring break away.

By tradition we open our doors a few days before Easter and for good reason, there is a special event I adore and love to share with Bellaugello guests.   The evening of the Friday before Easter in Gubbio, a magical and beautifully preserved medieval town is filled with haunting chanting of the Miserere as the “Processione di Cristo Morto” winds its way slowly through the narrow city streets.

To quote from the body responsible for the procession; the Confraternita Santa Croce dalla foce “the Procession of the Dead Christ is a sacred symbolic representation of the Passion and Death of Jesus.  It represents a popular religious tradition that has been embodied for centuries in the social and cultural fabric of the people of Gubbio and in which the whole city participates with devotion“.

The first sound we hear is the clacking of the ‘battistrangoli’ the decorated wooden boards with metal rings turned by hand that announce the arrival of the procession.  Soon to arrive are ‘incappucciati’, the celebrants sheathed in a hood that covers the entire face with just two holes for the eyes.  The hood is seen as a sign of humility and anonymity:  Faces and social classes are hidden … all are seen as equal in the eyes of Jesus.  Soon the streets are filled with the haunting sounds of the Miserere a mournful chant that precedes the arrival of the dead Christ carried high by the celebrants.

We spend the evening in Gubbio, dining in a restaurant which is passed by the procession.  For those interested you can read more, see many photographs and listen to the Miserere and the beautiful chorus of the “Pie Donne” by clicking on this link: Santa Croce Gubbio

April is a time when Umbria comes alive.  Come discover it!  Come take advantage of Bellaugello Spring deals.  We are offering four night midweek breaks at a huge 25% discount on our daily rates.  Choose your luxury suite, check-in Sunday or Monday and stay four nights.

Pay three nights and we give you the last night accommodation and breakfast for free.  See the website Deals page for full details, or just click HERE  to book your break now!  To take up our offer during the booking process simply enter “Rock” in the promotional code box.

Fields that have been sown over the winter begin to turn verdant green, roads are not too busy.  Umbrian blossom trees give generously, vines are pruned and new shoots are appearing, a fine time for that long wished for vineyard visit and wine tasting.   Cantinas like Di Filippo who make stunning bio wines, and Lunelli with their unusual Carapace visitor centre welcome Bellaugello guests.

If your preference is for leisurely eco-tourism wend your way on a bike along quiet roads in beautiful countryside through some of Umbria’s many beautiful hilltop villages.  Of course, always remembering to stop off for a delicious lunch.

For those keen to keep fit there are many challenging bike trails.  The thrill seekers in you will head up the slopes of the Apennines in the Monte Cucco regional park where challenging trails take you through spectacular scenery far from the madding crowd.  Our local bike shop can rent you a great bike, helmet and all the required kit. Just let me know and I will arrange it for you.

Or, maybe you prefer to be Italian and rent a Vespa….  All is possible here!

rent a vespa on your gay holiday ini Italy

Maybe you prefer to go by foot?

Go ‘Urban Trekking‘ and you will find yourself walking through one of the many beautiful medieval towns in the region, allowing you to discover the thousand faces of a town, its hidden places, its people, its underground, its curiosities and its artistic treasures.  My favourites are many and include Spoleto, Bevagna and Montone.

Still not convinced? Here are some further ideas for places to visit during your gay holiday at Bellaugello:

Driving up from Rome you pass near Orvieto.  Take time to look around the Etruscan town. Explore its astonishingly impressive Duomo with its sculptured facade, to my mind the most beautiful in Umbria, and inside some very interesting frescoes, frescoed indubitably with a love that dare not speak its name.  Head underground to the city below the city, two thousand five hundred years of digging has produced a labyrinth of passageways and chambers.  The underground tour takes one hour.

make a visit to Orvieto cathedral on your gay holiday in Italy

Not to be missed is the ‘Pozzo di san Patrizio‘.  Designed by the architect-engineer Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and completed in 1536  The 53 metre deep well (248 steps) is encircled by double helix ramps allowing mules to bring up water to the city.

A hop skip and a jump away from Orvieto brings you to the long footbridge to Cività di Bagnoregio, a 2500 year old car free hamlet that sits atop an extinct volcano.  I discovered it on my first trip to Umbria many many years ago.  Then it was forgotten, deserted, desolate, and had a population of five.  Now it has become a heritage site and is becoming too busy in the summer to visit, but April is a perfect time.  Walk over the long bridge and soak up the atmosphere, wander freely through the timeless film-set like streets.  Enter the church, drink a caffè or Aperol Spritz in one of the trattorias that offer local dishes, absorb ‘la vita quotidiana’ as it has been lived through the centuries.

make a visit here during you gay holiday in Italy

Another great day trip from Bellaugello takes you to southern Umbria.  In the 1950s the Milanese architect Tomaso Buzzi purchased the old former Franciscan convent and turned it into a theatrical fantasy known as ‘La Scarzuola“.  Embodying architecture and allegory from throughout the ages the village is a unique gaily whimsy delight.

…and not forgetting the sybarites who are able to tear themselves away during their gay holiday from Bellaugello’s sauna a ‘must’ trip takes you past Lago Trasimeno and just into Tuscany to the Terme at San Casciano dei Bagni.  These ancient Roman terme were restored some thirty years ago. Three simple baths sit by the side of a dirt road below the charming town.  We tend to go early evening, it can be more fun.  The water is deliciously hot, not too sulphurous, jump in, relax, enjoy.

gay holiday in Italy, the terme at San Casciano

The choice is vast. Umbria is not only a region of churches and museums but unique curiosities.  With a gay holiday stay at Bellaugello you are going to be captivated and want to return.

For more in depth information on the region visit the: Umbria Tourism Website