With its stunning scenery, history, fine art, beautiful beaches, historic towns, exquisite food and wines and so, so many beautiful people, Italy has to be your first choice destination for your European gay holiday.
Whether you are looking to simply relax and soak up the sun, or enjoy an energetic adventure holiday, Italy offers you a myriad of choices and unrivalled opportunities. From the elegance of the Lombardy lakes in the north to dreamy sun kissed southern coastline of Puglia and Calabria, the Italian peninsular has welcomed visitors since the days of the ‘Grand Tour’ to enjoy ‘la dolce vita‘, a ‘life of heedless pleasure and luxury‘. With good international connections, your own grand tour European gay holiday can start from many points in Italy.
In the north the former industrial city of Torino has transformed itself into a chic cosmopolitan destination as seen in the 1969 film ‘The Italian Job’. A veritable café society atmosphere pervades this city of boulevards and grand squares. You will discover delightful loggias and piazzas lined by stately baroque buildings, just the places to sip a Campari soda. Head eastwards out of Piedmonte passing through Alba the city of truffles, famous for its autumn truffle market and fair, not forgetting to sample a plate of fettucini al tartuffo, and you touch the lakes of Maggiore, Como, Iseo and Garda.
Each of these lakes have their own charm, majestic alpine backdrops. Luxury villas with manicured gardens tumbling to the lakeside are the places of celebrity weddings, often featured as part of an Euroepan gay holiday. Lago di Iseo, less well known was brought to prominence in 2016 by the artist Christo who famously ‘wrapped’ the islands in the lake and linked them by golden floating walkways.
Walking on water brings me to Venice, that city of empire so majestically sitting in its lagoon. To my mind the best way to arrive is by public ferry from the Lido and you will get this view.
Stop a night in the fishing port of Chioggia, eat fish fresh from the market across the street, at one of the many restaurants, and see a version of Venice as it used to have been. I prefer Venice out of season; late October, November or late March, and please remember to leave your cellphone in the hotel and look at the city. The calle may be winding but you will find your way back to a familiar point without the need of Google maps. Stay on the nearby island of Torcello at the Locanda Cipriani, ask for one of the rooms at the front of the inn. The intricate masks and costumes of Carnevale, this year from 23rd February to 5th March are a ‘must see’ for a European gay holiday and worth battling huge crowds. The 2019 Venice Biennale art fair takes place throughout the city from 11th May to 24th November.
A side trip, thirty minutes by train brings the traveller to Padova. Head down the main street to the covered piazza, stopping off to visit the Scrovegni chapel where you will see the finest Giotto frescoes.
There are two further internationally famous areas of Italy which are much visited; The ‘Cinque Terre’ and ‘Costiera Almalfitana’. Guys staying at Bellaugello Gay Guest House often head to or head from these two picturesque regions. As you can gather I am not a huge fan of large crowds and mass tourism, so I advocate to those thinking of the Cinque Terre – the coastal strip running between Pisa and Genova to instead drive up into the hills and visit the enchanting towns of Massa and Carrara (yes that is where the best statue marble is quarried). The views from 1500m over the coast are stunning, the towns traditional, and food divine. For accommodation you will pay a fraction of prices on the coast. Sample Lardo di Colonnata, a white fatty salami which is cured in the marble caves with an IGP protection, indulgent, full of cholesterol, bliss.
In a past life I was a frequent visitor to the Amalfi coast. Screamingly pretty villages clinging precariously to the base of cliffs are connected by a narrow road filled with large busses and in my day a plethora of tiny Fiat 500s, their drivers with one hand always on the horn. The stunning belvedere at Villa Cimbrone in Ravello, now in the midst of an seriously luxuriously and expensive hotel, was on the edge of a scarcely visited neglected private garden. The coastline is stunning, but chaotic and uber expensive, better to head to the lesser known coastline of Calabria in the toe of the Italian peninsular. A region famous for its mafia, you will find stunning beaches and old fashioned towns. One of the best is Tropea, a town famous for its red onions deservedly given DOP status that, at Bellaugello we cook very slowly and put on our home-baked bread or into a sauce.
Puglia, that long stretch of coastline in the heel of Italy, has a magic all of its own. White towns and long beaches, cone shaped Trulli and intense wines make this a great area for a hot holiday. Head to Nardò and visit the cantina and restaurant at Schola Sarmenti, whose wines we feature at Bellaugello Gay Guest House. Many guys drive from the north of Europe to Puglia stopping off at Bellaugello on the way down and on the way back on their touring European gay holiday. Mauro, my assistant hails from Puglia and brings with him the finest burrata and mozzarella which we drizzle with Bellaugello organic olive oil and serve at dinner on our terrace.
Before heading back northwards on the long Adriatic coast make a detour to Matera in neighbouring Basilicata, the ancient city of the Sassi. This year Matera is the European City of Culture, so will be busy. Take time to look a the cave hotels and houses. A one night stay here is sufficient to soak up the atmosphere of this unique town.
Ravenna, just north of the busy resort of Rimini is chic and restrained. Soak up the sun at Lido di Dante, a gay beach before heading to see the Roman mosaics, some of the best in the world. A couple of hours drive from Bellaugello, guys also take in a shopping trip to the tiny duty free country of San Marino. I love the nearby towns of San Leo with its Montefeltro fortress and Pennabilli, one of the quaintest towns in Emilia Romana, both close to the lovely national park of Simone e Simoncello, a stone’s throw from Urbino the birthplace of Raphael.
take time to stroll through ‘il Giardino degli Aranci‘ where in the spring you will wend your way through paths littered with the bitter oranges fallen from the trees. Italians eat sweet oranges, and these bitter ones from which I make orange marmalade are neglected and un-appreciated. I have often thought of walking the gardens and filling baskets with these great fruit. Fiumincino Rome airport is the main point of entry for your European gay holiday. Recently upgraded, it is sleek and efficient and just over two hours drive to Bellaugello.
Milano is the modern commercial hub of the country. A sophisticated city famous for fashion and design. Walk the elegant streets, and shop in the glazed Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele. My mother once told me ‘darling there are only two things worth seeing in Milano – the Duomo and the Station‘. I add to her statement the beautiful people and modern design but have to agree, both are architecturally different but equally magnificent and every time I am in the city I make a point of visiting them. Milan airport is the other main port of entry for transatlantic flights for your European Gay Holiday.
For lovers of all things male head to Florence in May and June for the “Calcio Storico Fiorentino“. A cross between soccer, wrestling and rugby where teams of bare chested guys from the various city ‘quartieri’ compete in the sand covered piazza Santa Maria del Fiore. Click here for the website This city straddling the banks of the river Arno is a delight. I stand in awe in front of the statue of Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect forever looking up at his finest creation; the dome of the cathedral. The enthusiast in me says the traveller can get a taste of Florence in a day, but it is true. A two hour drive from Bellaugello, start at the parking, and head to the Duomo. The city centre is compact and very walkable. One will pass through streets lined with sculptures, chic boutiques and gelaterias. From the Duomo stroll to the Piazza della Signoria famous for the fountain of Neptune and copy of Michalengelo’s David. Pass by the Uffizzi and walk under the hidden corridor along the banks of the Arno, crossing the river by the Ponte Vecchio, the bridge lined with gold jewellery stores and up to the Pitti Palace. Return by the Ponte Santa Trinita, perfect for selfies, and to the Piazza Italia, perfect for people watching. This quick taste will make you fall in love with Florence for life.
The town of Siena some forty minutes south of Florence is a delight. Guys talk of the Pallio, but unless you have bottomless pockets and the right connections I suggest you visit the town any time but in the frenzy of the horse racing. Quaff an Aperol Spritz in one of the many bars on the Piazza del Campo before heading to the magnificent Duomo with its star filled azure vaulted ceilings and illustrated medieval library. Buy Panforte, that sticky candy filled with nuts and dried fruit a speciality of the city.
Have you noticed how I am slowly winding you to the centre of the country? Siena is a hop skip and a jump to the best gay resort in Italy. A good network of roads and regional airports brings the traveller to the ‘green heart of Italy’, namely Umbria. Hill top towns, vineyards, art, both traditional and contemporary, and delicious frescoes by Luca Signorelli meld with rafting, potholing, mountaineering, hiking and trail biking opportunities. Don’t miss out on the ‘Festa dei Ceri’ (it’s my one crowd exception) which is held every 15th May in our local town of Gubbio.
Our regional airports, Ancona and Perugia have transatlantic connections via Zurich and Munich. Direct flights in Europe are from Berlin, Brussels, London Gatwick, Frankfurt and Sicily. Check the Umbria Tourism website: Umbria Tourism what to do, read more for further information.
At Bellaugello Gay Guest House you will find a place to relax in the company of like minded guys on your European gay holiday. A luxury gay guest house on a sunny south facing slope in tranquil countryside where you can recharge form the stresses of daily life. We have five individual suites, each with their own private entrance and private terrace. Our infinity pool is the place where you can soak up the sun, clothed or naked, the option is yours. Breakfasts with home made organic ingredients are served daily. In cooler periods around our antique family table in our dining room, in warm weather outdoors on our terrace.
Each suite has a large bathroom, some also with outdoor showers.
All suites have a kitchen corner, fully equipped for the preparation of simple meals. Don’t you just get “restaurant outed” and long for a simple lunch or supper? Guys love heading the short drive to our local town of Gubbio and buying seasonal food at the market and small local stores and making a simple meal either for themselves or for sharing with others. Three evenings a week in summer we serve dinners with all guests seated together at one table. We alternate dinners with pizza evenings, sourdough pizzas baked in our ancient wood fired oven.
Bellaugello Gay Guest House is a place to make friends, our network is international and intimate, with attention to detail, fragrant gardens, a place to wile your cares away, to totaly relax, perfect for your European gay holiday.