The other morning I had early departures, a couple of guys taking the plane to Brussels from Ancona airport back to Brussels wished to leave at 06:00 and so I was up early to give them coffee and cake before they headed off, so I decided it was a good opportunity to sit down and blog. Over the next three hours on and off as tasks permitted I wrote a blog post about my evening at the local sagra in nearby Carbonesca and my evening at the opera in Macerata. The post was a good one, my creativity had returned and I had inserted many links giving you guys ideas of things to do whilst visiting Bellaugello. As ever I clicked the ‘save draft’ button, but this time the post vanished… yes completely vanished. Even my webmaster could not find it, all my creativity lost, frustration does not come close. These past few days the creativity has not returned, but now I sit at my computer and will try and recreate the post.
For those of you who have not yet had the opportunity to visit Bellaugello let me describe where we are. Situated in the region of Umbria, we are in central Italy, placed between Rimini on the Adriatic coast, Florence in Tuscany and Rome. The region of Umbria is utterly beautiful, even in this exceptionally dry and hot summer the countryside retains a lush greenness not found in many places in Italy. Bellaugello looks out over the valley of the river Chiascio, this summer lazily running towards the dam at Valfabbrica which will at some future date get closed and create a huge lake in front of the house, what an even more splendid view we will have.
Nestling on the eastern hillside is the village of Carbonesca, it is a small village, one bar and a small supermarket, a couple of hundred inhabitants, but during the first week of August it comes alive as with so many small towns and villages across the region they hold their local ‘sagra’ or party. To me the event is most likened to a harvest festival, the harvest is in and people gather to celebrate and give thanks. The difference with Carbonesca is that they do this in huge style and this year the 43rd Sagra of Polenta and Sausages drew huge crowds. The sagra is held over a week, but the big night is the Saturday and as ever all of us from Bellaugello Gay Guest House head over to join in the party. We hired a minibus, nobody needed to drive, and queued for tickets. Finding a table was not so easy, over one thousand people attend, but an eagle eyed guest spotted space and very soon we were served with wine and scrumptious polenta with sausages, all of which just kept coming throughout the evening. We were joined by friends from the valley and the band struck up. A huge stage and live music, the Bellaugello guys joining in the dancing from waltzes to line dancing, so enthusiastic was the dancing that we were all reluctant to return to the bus.
Of course the village sagras are not the only events held in Umbria. July sees Perugia, our regional capital host “UmbriaJazz” a two week music festival with headline acts in the stadium and two live sound stages in the historic centre. Music is from pop to rock to folk, a heady mix, something for every taste. Headlining last year was Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, this year Kraftwerk. “UmbriaJazz” winter season is held in the beautiful town of Orvieto, concerts over the new year period. To find out more click the link: Umbria Jazz
Perugia is also the venue for “EuroChocolate” a chocaholics dream. Yes the event might be run by Nestlè and the chocolate mostly from one of their many brands but the historic centre is filled with stalls groaning with chocolates, chocolate drinks and chocolate souvenirs. This link takes you to the official website of the festival which runs from 13th to 22nd October, so still time to book Bellaugello: BOOK your stay at Bellaugello we have plenty of availability, and here is the chocolate website: Eurochocolate October 2017
For those of a more eclectic leaning then a visit to the National Gallery of Umbria is a must. Situated in the ancient Palazzo dei Priori, in the historic centre, the gallery has one of the finest regional Italian collections of renaissance paintings including many by Pinturicchio, and Pietro Perugino. The gallery is modern, and much natural day light filters in, the vivid blues, reds and golds, painted so long ago still strong and vibrant: National Gallery of Umbria, Perugia
But it is to the neighbouring region of Le Marche that together with two guests I ventured. We drove to the honey brick town of Macerata to listen to opera. Macerata, an University town is just south of Ancona, has a population of 43,000 population and is built on a hillside facing the glittering Adriatic. We were attending the: Macerata Opera Festival held in the dramatic setting of the open air Sferisterio. This building dating from 1820 was originally designed for the old Italian sport of “pallone con bracciale” or handball where the players with their arms encased in a wooden sleeve hit a ball, from prints it looks a tough game… Football gained in popularity and took over the use of the Sferisterio, then in 1921 the first opera was held, then the Sferisterio fell quiet until recent times, revived and expanded to seat 3000 now impressively hosting the Macerata Opera Festival, the forty metre stage hosts productions with international artists.
The evening was hot, 40˚c and our seats were in the centre of the upper tier of boxes, the brick columns radiating yet more heat. The production was “Turandot“. I was in the company of two guests from Denmark, one the Solo Tenor, Michael Kristensen who I heard in Mahoganny this winter is a great friend of the Swedish Soprano Irène Theorin and she was to be singing the part of Turandot. Tragically one week before the performance she fell badly and broke her jaw so was unable to sing. The production was modern, minimalistic sets and an amazing cast. With the chorus, including a large group of school age kids spending part of one act in a huge fabric lined box, the remainder dressed in Alitalia like uniforms flocking back and forth, and about twelve young extremely fit guys initially wearing black boiler suits and balaclavas, moving props and cast, as we sweated in our box, I felt for those on stage, they must have been sweltering even if towards the end of the third act the young fit guys were adorned motionless only in speedos.
For lovers of opera the Macerata Opera Festival next year runs from 20th July to 12th August 2018 and they have a great website: Macerata Opera Festival 2018 Macerata is an easy two hour drive from Bellaugello, we dined simply in one of the main piazzas, walking towards the Sferisterio eating delicious gelati, a really enjoyable evening.
This winter amongst other productions the amazing Michael Kristensen is singing in “Butterfly” he tells me that rehearsals have already begun. The production opens on 17th September and runs throughout the winter. So for any of my readers heading to Denmark please do go and hear him sing. The venue is the Royal Opera House, Copenhagen, a stunning modern building overlooking the harbour and Royal Palace funded by Maersk Lines.
On my visit there I sat next to Michael’s husband. We had amazing seats in the front centre of the stalls, the cast walking on a narrow companion-way suspended over the orchestra pit, almost close enough to touch. Mahoganny by Kurt Weill, premiered in 1930 but seeing it in February 2017 the message was strangely apt, I was enthralled. I was lucky enough to be invited back stage for a tour of the rehearsal stage, and to actually stand on the main stage (it is enormous and the auditorium mind bogglingly, intimidatingly huge) and see the dressing rooms, an awesome experience for a peasant farmer from Umbria. For the full programme simply click the link: Copenhagen Opera House – programme and buy tickets