Not cold, but wet, damp and grey, this Sunday morning in Umbria, the sort of day for not getting out of bed, or just slopping around the house in pyjamas, lighting the fire and snuggling up with a good book and gently dozing. It was not to be…
A flurry of emails, bookings are coming in thick and fast for spring and summer stays here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, and each needed to be replied to swiftly. In the midst of all a WhatsApp message: “Hey Alec do you fancy coming to the Terme at S Rapalano?” A text: “Alec come over to dinner tonight we are going to open our own Champagne and want you to be with us”
Neither offer could I refuse. I packed my rucksack with towels, trunks and havaianas and drove up the road to meet my friend. We nattered constantly on the journey into southern Tuscany and the spa town of San Rapalano. The windscreen wipers squeakily un-enthusiastic in wiping the rainfall off the windscreen. The spa was busy, the first car-park full of camper vans (families – young kids – noise – commotion) the second littered with smart shiny high spec cars (young Tuscan’s Christmas presents??). The spa was busy, but as ever the water was warm and inviting.
Since my last visit they have remodeled the outdoor pool. No longer is it a stark rectangle, gone the small deep plunge pools that lead to the giant but cool swimming pool on the lowest terrace. Now is all sensual curves. The serpentine curves give privacy, even the entrance steps of which there are many are set into small intimate basins. The water inside was real hot, that outside cooler but very comfortable, the terme was indeed full of families, the beau monde of Toscana nowhere to be seen, unless they were all in the deep recesses of the pools….
Three hours later we were back on the road towards Perugia and Gubbio and then to drink champagne. Bubbles, sublime bubbles – No! there were none, the cork just feebly fell out of the bottle, what a disappointment. My host apologized then noticed the white collar around the bottle… “No” he exclaimed! “this is not my champagne it is a friend’s wine and I put the white collar on to remind me but I forgot wheat it meant” (I so know the feeling – why, what is that, why did I do that, does it mean anything or is it merely decorative??) Down he went to the cellar and swiftly back brandishing another bottle.
A flourish, off with the wire capsule, thumbs under the cork and pop! the cork flew across the room hit the ceiling, and bounced along the entire length of the dining table. The wine was ruby red, softly sparkling, dry and refined and without chemicals or sulphates. Utterly drinkable, divinely so……
A spa day followed by champagne dinner, wet on the outside wet on the inside, the life of an adoptive Umbrian peasant is not half bad.