Bellaugello - The Blog

At home

The Bellaugello network is global

As you are all by now probably aware I love my job.  I live in the most utterly beautiful place, am surrounded by great friends, plenty of good wines and local food, and my business attracts great guys from all over the world to my door.

Bellaugello Gay Guest House has already established a loyal following, guys who return for holidays, guys who recommend friends who in turn visit and then recommend friends of their own.  Bellaugello is a place where friendships are made.  Several couples keep in touch with other guests, often across continents, one or other or both keeping me abreast of their friendships.  I love it so much. Some guys also become personal friends, kind and generous, their homes open to me.

I am often asked if I have a ‘black book’ of guests not allowed to return, asked to ‘spill the beans’ or ‘dish the dirt’.  I must confess to having few such stories to relate, a couple from last year, one from the year before, and this year none, I have had great guests, all a pleasure to have known and hosted.  Of course there have been disappointments, a couple of mediocre reviews on Tripadvisor which I felt unwarranted and got me down,  the indifferent summer weather that did so little to help the annuals bloom, and saw the chairs and cushions from the terrace yo-yoing indoors and outdoors, and has not helped the olives one bit, it is going to be a poor harvest this year.

However on the up side  there were lots of gorgeous men lazing languidly poolside, we hosted our first art show; paintings of the infinity pool by a Dutch artist Paul Van Andel, the subject of many paintings was decidedly male.  Many dinners and barbecues hosted, convivial evenings with engaging conversations, A friend realised another form of artwork using photographs of guys in the  Bellaugello infinity pool, and is now commissioned to produce personalized chairs.  Some great and thoughtful reviews on Google and Tripadvisor – guys there is still time to post your promised review…  The fruit trees were heavily laden this summer, delicious plum fruit ripe for the picking, I made kilo after kilo of marmalades, we killed our first pig – I had christened here Daphne, many of you ate and enjoyed bits of Daphne, our lavender ice cream was brought into production and as well as being served at dinner was also available poolside…

I digress.  The point of this post is for me to unashamedly promote another of my guests;  Bing Taylor, a fascinating cultured and well travelled guy a regular Bellaugello guest and now friend has sent me a link to a book he has written and is now published:

Maquis by Bing Taylor

Hot off the press: I have read the publicists material and have already placed my order.  Why don’t you?  an ideal Christmas present for your loved one, author signed copes are available right now!  TO ORDER: Maquis – the Secret War of Joseph Quantock CLICK HERE FOR LINK

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At home

Autumn morn

Crisp, sunny, clear. Early rise today, guys going to the beautiful Umbrian town of Todi to meet their tour guide meant I was up early to make breakfasts.
Today the tour is of the vineyards of Montefalco, that beautiful town famous for its Sagrantino, robust elegant Umbrian wine. The guys are meeting their guide in the delightful town of Todi before heading for the Strada di Sagrantino, maybe the will stop at the “Carapace” that surreal building on the cantina of Lunelli so beautifully photographed by Steve McCurry, or maybe it will be Di Filippo, the family run cantina making superb biological wines, or maybe Adanti, another great family run cantina with a very welcoming visitor centre. I wait to hear this afternoon which cantinas were on the list and which wines were purchased…
The garden here at Bellaugello Gayguesthouse is looking great. I am midway through pruning the lavender, the Rosemary is in its second bloom, and the Caci tree is laden with fruit, I so love the colour of the fruit, I must admit it is the one fruit tree I grow for beauty not eating! Bobby came and joined me at the infinity pool, red clouds reflected in the still light, mist hanging low in the Chiascio valley.

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IMG_2093.JPGand there are Scotch pancakes for breakfast

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Bellaugello backs

The backs are back

Thanks to “F” for this great picture of his husband in the infinity pool at Bellaugello Gay Guest House in glorious Umbria

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At home

Looks like a busy day tomorrow!

An industrious day here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House saw me delighting in the warm sun all day in the garden pruning the lavender. This is one of my huge October tasks, seemingly endless rows of still headily scented aromatic lavender all requiring to be pruned back
I cannot complain, the lavender grows well here and throughout the spring summer and autumn provides a fabulous how and intense perfume.
This year we have been exploring new ideas, and new recipes , making our own lavender ice cream, and roasting lamb with our lavender both frequently served at dinner here at Bellaugello Gay B&B in glorious tranquil Umbria. Of course our lavender ice creams went down extremely well poolside, thanks to the new freezer in the bar our guys could help themselves anytime to an artisan ice cream whilst soaking up the hot sun at the edge of our infinity pool… Glorious days!
Anyway back to the theme of this post. It concerns forty quintale… of logs!

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One of my neighbours has been cutting wood and I bought some to burn in our biomass boiler and in the fireplaces. So it arrived and I now know what I will be doing tomorrow! By the end of the week the logs will be neatly stacked, or that is the theory;-)

Out and about - Things to do

A trip round the lake – lungolago

Lago Trasimeno is the largest body of water in central Italy, it dominates the highway from Toscana to Perugia. The North shore is filled with towns such as Passignano and Tuoro that have a ‘seaside’ feel, there are shops filled with buckets and spades, inflatable armbands and floaty toys, restaurants abound, fish predominating the menu. The esplanade gives grandly onto the lake, the sun shining from the south over the water glistening on the limpid waves. Ferries take one onto the lake over to the islands, where one can have a damn good lunch.
But it is the south side of the lake I prefer, it is quieter, more remote, agrarian and somehow real. Every farm in this fertile environment has a stall selling their own Km Zero produce. I stopped at my favourite food place “Da Maria” looking like a truckers stop, even more so now that a major re-building project is underway And took my ticket. I love this place popular with locals and travellers, you eat well and the atmosphere is very convivial. Wait at the crowd, it is like the deli counter at the supermarket, fresh food appearing all the time,. I inspected the counter overflowing with local dishes and the wood fire cooking the ‘Torta al Testo” the local flat bread that is then filled with almost anything your heart desires. My choice of lunch was not the torts but instead fish from the lake itself, they are small fillets, dipped in light batter and fried – the nearest thing to British fish n chips here in Umbria. Utterly delicious, I took my tray and plastic plates and sat amongst the madding crowds in the dappled shade of the umbrella pines looking out over the lake.
Thence onwards to Castiglione del Lago, the ancient Umbrian castellated town on the border with Toscana. A delightful walk along the lungolago, a wee snooze in the sun on an all too convenient bench and a few photos – maybe he was the guy who caught my lunch…

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Castiglione is a town fully on the tourist trail, shops overflowing with cheeses, salamis, ceramics, lentils and pulses, and a few nice cafes to boot, it is very visitor friendly and easily reached for a day trip from Bellaugelllo Gay Guest House

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At home

Bright pictures for a grey day

I woke this morning to a monochromatic sky.

After days of hot sunshine, and brilliant vivid colours the weather has changed, an interlude, it is forecast to return to sun tomorrow, but to his morning all is grey and misty.  I love the mist, it clothes the green hillsides and woodlands in a diaphanous wispy cloak, images are blurred and distant hills meld into the sky.  There is not a breath of wind, even birdsong is muted, it is a day for a long walk along the quiet country lanes from Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  Passing from chapel to abbey, past ruined houses, fields freshly ploughed ready for seeding next spring’s crop, on down to the Chiascio river, running limpidly and lethargically, through the farmyard and back up the hill to Bellaugello and curl up in front of the fire, a cup of tea and good book in hand, gently dozing, the book slipping out of your fingers and falling on the cotto floor.  An autumn holiday in Umbria at Bellaugello Gay Bed and Breakfast is the perfect solution, relax, unwind.

And whilst here you can delight in one of our comfortable suites.  Today I feature the kitchen/dining room and bathroom on the lower level of the Giardino Suite, our south facing duplex.  Like Apple iPhone 6 we do colours too… Brightness on a monochromatic day.

The dining/kitchen of the Giardino Suite at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, Umbria, ItalyThe bathroom of the Giardino Suite, Bellaugello Gay lodgings, Umbria, ItalyColours on a counter - the kitchen of the Giardino Suite , Bellaugello Gay bed and breakfast, near Florence, Italy

Tomorrow the bedroom…..

At home

Hyacinths anyone?

As the evenings draw in we served the first of our fireside candle lit dinners this evening at Bellaugello Gay Guest House

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At home

On not being stereotypical

Often at dinner as the host at Bellaugello Gay Guest House I relate how odd it is that I choose to run a gay guest house and whilst being a gay man I am in so many ways so un-stereotypically gay.

I ask the question, why as a gay man should I have to like gay icons or divas?  I really do not like Liza Minelli and hated the ‘sex and the city’ series, detest ‘big brother’ and would rather not listen to Barbara Streisland’s music.  All that tantrums and tiaras stuff just does not cut it for me.  Perhaps that is why I am here as a peasant farmer in rural Umbria…  I do love my garden, harvesting olives by hand, making marmalade and lolling lazily in my infinity pool.  OK I admit being a ‘peasant farmer’ does have its attractions…  and maybe some of them are a little bit stereotypically gay but…  And Bellaugello does host the most exquisite guys, handsome, articulate, interesting  and immensely, fascinating guys from all over the world, So many different professions and different life experiences, I adore my guests, quite simply I adore my job which gives me the opportunity to meet such a variety of people.

By now you will be asking why this long pre-amble?  What is Alec on about?  Those of you who who who are long-term readers of my blog by now have probably fathomed out a bit how my brain works (could you please let me know!)  Others I am sure will be asking themselves ‘why am I reading the is?’

So to cut to the chase one of the people I most admired in my life died this morning.  I will admit to being just a wee bit sad and surprised when Joan Rivers died, but it is not her I refer to, but Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, her death has left me more than a bit sad.  Happy for her that she is out of suffering, but her passing does mark the end of a glamorous era.

As a child I had the immense fortune to have been on holiday in Derbyshire and taken to visit Chatsworth House.  I was over-awed by the magnificence, the dare I say grandiosity, the visit stuck in my memory.  Times pass and I graduate in hotel management, and periodically Chatsworth crops up in conversation, they are opening Bolton Abbey Hotel, it is a place to watch.  The Devonshires take a personal management of the hotel.   I re-visit Chatsworth on several occasions, every time there is something new to see.   They convert the stables and coach-house into a restaurant and wedding venue, host sculpture exhibitions and the duchess whilst still finding time to tend her chickens is inspirational in opening an organic and quality farm shop.  The business goes from strength to strength, and if her books are to be believed, and I believe they are, so very much of the credit must go to the late Dowager.  She comes over as innovative, daring, mildly eccentric and yet a bit fragile, a bit outside her circle and un-stereotypical.  Not that I would ever deign to put myself on a pedestal akin to hers, the Dowager was pure genius and to me inspirational, her ideas formed the nucleus of so many of mine.

I can’t claim her as a friend, I am just one of tens of thousands whose path crossed hers, but I do remember my time in Wiltshire in the 1990s when I travelled regularly to London and bought books from a rather good bookshop.  Occasionally our paths crossed, maybe the Duchess was there for a book signing, but more often she, like me was choosing a book to read, on a couple of occasions she offered a word of advice on my choice or that of the assistant.  Her warmth, her passion, evident, yes the Duchess was just another person browsing books and that is exactly as she came across to me, yet back home she was running the most innovative and spectacular and successful business.  Reading her books I note that it had not been easy, an unconventional upbringing, fabulously clever siblings, crippling death duties, massive debts, not the easiest of marriages, insurmountable obstacles, the horrid experience of losing children early in their lives, yet she overcame them all, a stoic, and to me was a true inspiration an icon, in my way of thinking a true diva.

and damn it all she was good looking and elegant too….

Bellaugello backs

No sooner said than done!

Grazie mille ragazzi !

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Finalmente a Bellaugello Gay Guest House in piscina a fine settembre una coppia italiana… che bravi!

At home

Utterly beautiful day

The sun is shining, lawns cut, pruning of the lavender commenced,

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Our small almond tree gave bountifully of nuts, now cleaned and drying in the warm September sunshine

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And I am heading off for a relax poolside at Bellaugello Gay Guest House

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Who knows there may even be some backs to photograph…

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