I delight in living in and sharing life in an Italian garden filled with lavender. It is just such a generous plant. Delicate tufts of slender silvery leaves form a compact bush that in summer are crowned with the most aromatic of flower heads. Long flower stems float in gentle waves on the summer breeze, tossing their scent to all. The purple is intense, and attracts honeybees, butterflies and hover-moths. The lavender never seems to be still. In the summer we cut some flower stems to dry and hang in the Suites at Bellaugello and take to the kitchen. I cook with lavender. All too often our ‘signature’ Bellaugello cake is flavoured with lavender from the garden. I roast local meats on a bed of lavender. One long winter we experimented and finally found the best recipe for lavender ice cream. So silky smooth, delicate, gentle, and intense, the ice cream is a popular request.
October is the time of year when we wake to magical misty mornings. Sunrises are a multitude of reds, oranges, pinks, and golden yellows that give way to often cloudless days.
I spend endless pleasurable hours in the still warm sun pruning the many lavender bushes in the garden. Dodging between breakfasts and chatting to guests soaking up the sun, I take up my secateurs and begin to prune back the flower stems that have given so many guys such heady pleasure throughout the summer.
Ok, I am making lavender seem like the perfect all giving requiring nothing plant. That is not quite true. It does like to be looked after. The first three years after planting it received copious water. I installed a drip system. Lavender, although perennial, does not last forever and slowly I am replacing and replanting the original plants that are now very woody. The wood is so fragrant burnt in the fireplace which I am now lighting, not because it is cold, but to give cheer to the breakfast table.
Lastly lavender needs to be pruned back each autumn. So to return to my starting point that is what I have been doing. I love my garden, and as I work amongst the bushes I talk with them. My garden gifts me and my guests such enormous pleasure, so as I prune, I also thank it. I prune using secateurs. No! I hear you all shout! you should be using a hedge trimmer… No way, far too harsh. Instead I dart in and out, balance precariously on the ‘greppo’, slip a bit here and there, and snip, snip away. As I snip the dog decides on the pretence of wanting a drink to surreptitiously check out the guys in the pool 😉 Dear dog it’s too early the sun is just coming up and the mist is still in the valley.
October is a great month here in Umbria. The sun is still warm enough to lay out in. Indeed it was a toasty 27˚c earlier this week and guys were poolside and I was gardening in just a pair of shorts. During one of the rare cloudy moments the Aperol Spritzes came out, a pause from work. It does not need to be summer to drink Aperol!
I am also proud of my garden and this year especially my lawn. It is green, and has been all summer. A huge feat and satisfaction for me. It may not be up to Wimbledon Centre Court perfection, but it is green! If you look carefully you can see the now pruned lavender lining the path.
Following on the green theme a couple of pics of the Specchio Suite. This suite has green gres flooring, a green painted bathroom with double shower, and a bedroom painted green overlooking the pool and with a bed large enough to sleep a ‘thruple’.
As well as the bedroom and bathroom, there is a living room with sofa, a fully equipped kitchen corner and dining table and chairs, and outside a private covered terrace. This winter the living room of the Spechio Suite is to have a ‘make over’. I am thinking shades of grey, more contemporary. I am resistingthe urge to make it ‘loft’ or ‘hipster’ style but the new theme will be more ‘today’. Along with a new kitchen planned in the Giardino Suite, the rejuvenation of the Specchio Suite is one of my many exciting winter projects. More about them as they progress.. Keep reading guys!
Occasionally, I do urge myself to take the odd day off and out, there is just so much to see and do in Umbria and le Marche. We really are spoilt for choice and variety. Last week I headed south in Umbria towards Foligno to the village of Rasiglia. This is a magical village. It is so, so pretty. An Instagram paradise.
Nestled in a narrow valley on the edge of the Apennines, like the water that cascades through it, the village seems to tumble down the hill. A helter-skelter of houses and buildings, each one different and unique, all abut each other as they line the sides of the many streams that flow through the village. They are there because of the bounteous water.
Cleverly restored, thankfully not over-restored, Rasiglia is a village where happily, people still live. In amongst the many streams you will see the mill buildings. By ingenious means each mill receives a supply of the crisp water that tumbles from the Apennines. They used to weave fabrics on huge looms, grind corn, work wood, dye cloth, and make paper. A large selection of the many old mills are now open for you to glance through the door. Some mills were very small, others employed a few tens of people. The flour mill with its two grindwheels is still in use and you can purchase stone ground flour made from local organic grains.
An ingenious number of sluices and spillways throughout the village divert the water to each and every mill. Today one of them has been converted to a small Hydro-electric station. Genius!
It was a quiet day, actually raining which made my visit all the more fun. I discovered a tiny Osteria, the kitchen no larger than a shower cabinet, filled with a portly chef who cooked the most exquisite strangozzi with ricotta and fresh truffles. Depending on the route chosen, Rasiglia is a one hour drive from Bellaugello. You can do as I did and take the back roads passing through villages such as Capodacqua, again water everywhere and on to Norcera Umbra, the majestic sleepy hill town famed for its mineral waters…
which, if you believe all that is written on the plaque, the waters of Norcera Umbra are all you need for a fit, productive and healthy long life!
Oh there is just so much to explore…