Possibly the only joy of getting up before dawn to ready breakfasts for early departures is the benefit of witnessing the sunrise over Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  When I am clever I set my cellphone to time lapse and record the sunrise over the Apeninnes.  When I am somnambulant I manage to set a slo-mo video and record three hours of blackness.  This morning I got it right, with my phone planted in the garden, it recorded “l’alba”.

Early rising, means saying goodbye to guests who are departing.   It is saying ‘ciao’ to guys who, during their stay have become friends and who plan to return.  This morning birdsong punctuates the air, I see new buds on trees and shrubs and everywhere virgin verdant greens and spring flowers.  The tulips managed to open in time to say cheerio to the guys.  The air is still crisp, and delightfully clear. It was a group of guys from Berlin who were departing.  They take an annual week’s holiday together, and had made the most of their first time here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  Not only did they enjoy time poolside, but they travelled extensively in the region, visiting Urbino, Assisi, Spello, Bevagna, and obviously our local town of Gubbio.

Spring is a time of re-birth and new life.  Just the other day I spied that our resident Owl had hatched a chick.  We have always had Owls nesting here in a pigeon hole in the old house and because it is less tidy than usual I think the nest has been passed from mother to daughter, and she had pushed out a shell to the landing platform.

Owl is very shy and I have to be really careful that she does not see me otherwise she flies the nest.  My evenings are filled with the calling of her mate.  I imagine he calls ‘dinner is on it’s way‘ and she replies ‘hurry I am starving and need to stretch my wings‘.  They call several times throughout the night.  If I am very lucky I see one of them fly swiftly and silently into the nest.  I find that magical.

Finally the comune has sent men to do some road repairs.  Not before time we all say.  The large project we applied for last year did not receive the first tranche of funding but it is in the pipeline again for this year and of course moved up the ranking.  We fought hard to convince the comune that in the meantime the road needs to be maintained.  So this week the grader has been cleaning ditches and levelling the surface of the dirt road.  We had a couple of hilarious days of driving through mud slides, but gravel is on its way and the surface will be much improved.

Deciding to pop over and see my neighbours and chat about the road, I took them a beautiful organic Pecorino cheese made by my good friend Martino.  It is always a danger dropping in to my neighbours, they are so kind and hospitable.  I cannot go for five minutes, I always end up staying some considerable time, being invited into their kitchen and offered a couple of glasses of wine.  We chat away, discussing the strange weather, the strange politicians, and the strange fact that work has actually started on the road.  Another glass of wine, I am once again feeling light headed.  Finally I manage to tear myself away but not before they load me up with ‘qualche uova‘ – some eggs…

and a bunch of fresh wild asparagus.  I just cannot ever mange to go with a gift and not get one back in return…

Last night Mauro and I sat together and feasted on a ‘frittata con asparagi selvatici‘, the freshest of food locally sourced.   That is the joy of living here, the friendship and goodness that is Umbria.

Life is not all work and yesterday afternoon, my tasks done I managed to strip off and sneak an hour at the infinity pool at Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  The water is still too cold for me to enter, but the sun got to over 23˚c and I managed to get a decent bit of colour.  Despite what you see in the photo I was not alone at the pool, everyone had decided that the sun merited their presence poolside, reading, chatting, relaxing, snoozing.

But now it is nine am, it seems that I have already done a day’s work, however there is still much to do, so off I must trot and get back to routine tasks.  It has been good chatting to you, I hope your day is as good as mine will surely be even if it is not poolside 🙂

 

Friday morning brought a bit of sun and our first guests of the season.   It had been a frenetic few weeks at Bellaugello Gay Guest House getting everything ready and preparing for the arrival of the first guys.  I am always amazed that no matter how much I fill my days throughout the winter there is ever a seemingly endless list of small jobs that still require attention right up to the last minute.

Mauro is back, (yippee!) he will be here once again for the season and together we welcomed guests and friends and on Friday evening headed into Gubbio for the “Processione di Cristo Morto” which I have described in previous posts.

On our way in to town the skies opened and torrential rain fell and bounced off the streets.  We divedd into an enoteca and squashed around a tiny table and downed a couple of glasses of prosecco and enjoyed an aperitivo of prosciutto and pecorino, whilst waiting for the rain to subside.

The crowds began to accumulate so we headed out to grab our vantage point at the corner of Piazza Bosone and whilst struggling with umbrellas attempted to capture the event.

I am a creature of habit and we headed to Ristorante dei Consoli for dinner as ever served by the welcoming Francesca.  I like this restaurant as it is on the route of the procession and midway through dinner we were able to see the celebrants still processing in the historic centre.

By Sunday the rain had turned to intermittent hail, but keeping with tradition some of us headed over to a neighbouring organic farm where we have an invitation to join them for Easter Lunch and Egg rolling.  Now I never remember the rules of the egg rolling.  It does not matter how many times and in what languages they are explained to me I simply do not remember if I should aim to break my egg or aim to roll it intact.  Two results, one means that someone in your family will get pregnant, the other that things will stay the same.  Needless to say although I lobbed my egg gently it smashed to smithereens.  I think that means no babies for me, hooray!  Lunch was exquisite and by the time puddings were brought out we were able to enjoy them in the sunshine in the wonderful courtyard at Pratale.

Replete we headed back to Bellaugello Gay Guest House, time for the guys to relax.  For Mauro and me to light the sauna, arrange massages and for me to jump into the kitchen to prepare for dinners. More guests were due to arrive late afternoon.  I planned a light supper which grew into something rather larger.  Alessandro another friend and my yoga master had brought Arancini with him from Rome, Mauro had brought up the most dreamily creamy delicious burrata from Puglia, and my great friend Otto spoilt us all with a superb Passito from Pantelleria;

At midnight we opened Prosecco to celebrate Roberto, another guest’s Birthday, it was a great international party.

I am often asked when the pool at Bellaugello Gay Guest House opens for the season, and how warm it is at various times of the year.  I hate being asked questions about the weather.  These days as we all know the weather is so totally unpredictable, seasons seem to want to be a mix of every other season.  We are all becoming weather obsessed.  When I am in charge of the world one of the first things I will implement will be a ban on cellphone weather apps.  They are always wrong, constantly changing their predictions, everyone is fixated on them, and their lives revolve around the mis-predicitons, I so despair!  The pool is not officially open yet but it did not stop one brave guest sneaking in and taking a dip….

And just because I like it so much here is a short clip of the “Miserere” sung in Gubbio last Friday:

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.