Today’s habit of city living has, I am reasonably sure certain benefits; one has a multitude of cinemas, theatres, operas and museums on your doorstep.  One can eat in restaurants offering cuisine from all over the globe, one is a hop and skip away from friends and neighbours, one has gyms, leisure centres and a ready supply of evening classes, taxis, airports and rail stations at hand, but and it is a huge but, one misses out on so very many great things that fortunately still thrive in our delightful region of Umbria, central Italy and my guests at Bellaugello Gay Guest House easily discover.

In my local town of Gubbio, Tuesday is market day.  Traditionally this was the day when the Eugubini and contadini came to sell their produce, and do their shopping.  This tradition continues, although legislation has made it much harder for individual smallholders to sell their produce, if you look you will still find an example of that delightful three wheeler so beloved of peasant farmers the ‘Ape’ parked up under the ancient stone columns of the loggia dei Tiratori, its back loaded with fresh picked vegetables, the damp earth from the field still clinging to them, this is what life is all about.

Stall holders are here from Norcia, the pork capital of Umbria, the town so badly damaged last year and now under a thick blanket of snow.  They have an amazing resilience are trying so very hard to rebuild their lives and keep production of their most delicious prosciutto, salame, coppa, and cheeses. To do your bit to help until you can make it in person to the market you can also buy online from this great co-operative website: prodottidinorcia.it

 

 

 

 

 

Our weekly market is also a social event, the old folk come to buy and moreover to meet and chat.  Long serious conversations, swapping of family news, maybe a birth in the family, relatives from abroad visiting, a new recipe to share, or simply the joy of still being alive and spending time with contemporaries.  I too am guilty of whiling away many minutes in conversation, yesterday by chance I bumped my ex-bank manager. She was promoted, and is now in the big office in town so I see her only infrequently.  As well as being in the Bank she has an agriturismo, it was a good way of getting the low-down on how the tourism sector is faring and what news is coming from the banks.  I also bumped into a good Dutch friend from the neighbouring town of Umbertide (their market is on Wednesday).  We had not seen each other for some time – we both have tourism related jobs so time in the summer for either of us to amble slowly through the market just does not exist.  The three of us ended up going down the road to the Bio store where there just happened to be shopping three other friends each from a different village so I sat them all down and we enjoyed Gabriela’s creamy cappuccinos and slices of vegan cake…  Just imagine Alec with six ragazze,  so weird for me not to have to rush back to work but have time to relax and gossip, it was a hoot!

Anyway I digress, back to the market where you can buy seemingly anything.  From livestock, chickens, geese and ducks, there are tractors, rotovators, all kinds of power tools and a myriad of lightbulbs, plenty to keep the macho guy happy.  Stalls, traditionally run by Neapolitans and now by Asians sell a vast assortment of clothing, targeted at the pensioner class, the stalls are populated by women rummaging through the big bins full of huge bras and panties and, well I did not bother to look too closely, or to disturb them by taking their photographs, but the chattering women were clearly out for a bargain. You can buy curtains, table cloths, dish-cloths, napkins, bedding and towels, the list goes on and on.  On one stall I discovered gay doormats, just had to be bought 😉

Require a pot or pan, that strange gadget for removing stones from cherries, or a strainer to cover the sink waste… all together with cooker parts, vacuum cleaner belts, and an array of gaskets, seals and filters for the Mocha machine are available at the market.

The part that all of my guests love the most is the food.  A van drives up from the Adriatic coast, fresh fish from the morning’s catch, another with breaded fried fish, salted Baccalá, and of course the porchetta van.  Porchetta is that dish best found in Umbria a whole pig stuffed with wild herbs, principally wild fennel, rosemary and sage  and spit roasted.  The local ladies buy it by the kilo to take home to serve to the family for pranzo, but for 5 euro you can buy a panino filled with the succulent fragrant meat, some stuffing and if you ask crisp crackling, utterly delicious, proper street food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vans drive all the way from Puglia and Basilicata in the deep south of Italy and bring fresh produce.  From vegetables to salad leaves, nuts, and tomatoes to cucumbers.  Now you will not fins melons or strawberries, or broad beans (fave), it is not their season, you have to wait a few months for them.  This is the season for citrus fruits, and despite the recent heavy snowfall throughout the south there was still some nice looking oranges and the sweetest clementines I have bought this year.  Oh and those huge knobbly un-waxed Amalfi lemons so perfect for making lemon curd tart or limoncello. Of course you can also buy citrus trees.  This vendor comes from nearby Assisi, his citrus trees I hazard from rather further south, here in Umbria we have to over-winter them indoors, and I buy many aromatics and salad plants for Bellaugello from him, they are always great quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and of course late January, February and early March are the Artichoke months, they are just tooo goood!

The market held every Tuesday in the Piazza Quaranta Martiri in our local town of Gubbio starts early and runs until just after midday.  A mere hop, skip and a jump from Bellaugello, slow the pace, take your time choosing the finest produce, come and enjoy rural life,  then bring it back to your suite and prepare yourselves that simple Italian ‘pranzo’ #slowfood #eatbellaugello

 

Wow! what a busy year this has been.  So much has happened, some good, much bad, but here at Bellaugello we have had a marvellous year.  As ever it has been a real joy to welcome guys from all over the world.  Many returned once again to spend their holidays relaxing poolside, many new guests, and lots and lots of new friends made.  The Bellaugello Gay Guest House network expands, for me a real joy!

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2016 was a busy year, the sun shone, we survived unscathed the earthquake tremors, turbulent changes of government and acts of terrorism.  Here in Umbria I often remark to friends just how lucky I am to be a ‘peasant farmer up an Umbrian hillside’, and how lucky I am to be able to share it with so many fantastic, beautiful interesting guys from all over the world.  The olive harvest was huge, and the oil scrumptious.  My international team as ever worked hard to make guests’ stay enjoyable, and to all of them my huge thanks it was a delight to work with you!

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Today in-between cooking and working I managed a walk with the dogs, the Umbrian countryside and total peace so very rejuvenating, there was utter silence, fitting for 31st December.

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I am so looking forward to 2017 and welcoming back returning guests, new guests some of whom have already booked.  We re-open on 8th April and as ever plan a houseparty for the Easter weekend.  A date for your diaries must be 15 May  when our local town of Gubbio celebrates the ‘Festa dei Ceri’ the race of the candles a spectacular culmination of a year’s planning.  The town fills with men in white pants, it is spectacular.

Festa dei Ceri Gubbio

I have already received a booking for a wedding here, so fabulous to be hosting a gay wedding in Italy, and yes, foreigners can be ‘civilly registered’ here.  We are planning a few changes, which will be revealed in the next months, it is all so very exciting.  Generally I do not make new year’s resolutions, but this year, my much needed diet starts on Monday and I promise to blog more frequently, I feel energised….

Come join in the fun, escape and discover a true magical peaceful re-energising place. Why not follow us on Facebook “Bellaugello Gay Guest House” is our page and also on Instagram, I have a fabulous 2017 season planned and also post there.

Now back to work.  Hugs and kisses to you all.  Alec

A marvellous morning, I am up early to head off to the second set of lessons and complete the refresher course for HCCP in Perugia.  As I ready myself, feed and walk Bobby and Jenny and check all is well for the service of breakfasts the sun is already shining, soft mellow golden hues, it is yet another gorgeous day here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House.

Early morning @bellaugello gay guest house, Umbria, Italy

shadows at noon #Bellaugello gay guest house, umbria, italy

I hate to leave such beauty, but I must away for six hours in the classroom.  Traffic is not bad, the roadworks around Perugia tamed, they have moved onto the second set of tunnels.  When sitting in a queue on the raccordo for all of five minute I often remind myself just how lucky I am.  My previous life in Scotland and the city meant all too frequently sitting for nearly one hour in slow crawling morning traffic, now after a mere five minutes I am already impatient to get on and have my first coffee and cornetto.  My back still hurts, I am wearing the lumbar support, it gives some relief, but not enough and I know that it will be tough in the classroom, but luckily there are a few breaks…

Pausa caffe, coldiretti, perugia umbria #bellaugello

14:30 freedom, I passed and am now on my way home to Bellaugello.  Poolside the guys have been enjoying the peace and quiet that we find here, they are relaxing soaking up the sun and chatting, clouds flit by and the silence is broken by the odd splash as somebody dives into our infinity pool.

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A bbq is planned and the table set, Daniela has done us proud in the kitchen, and I sweat as I cook over the wood fired bbq, it is a warm convivial evening.

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As ever a great group of guests from many countries, some returning some new, a perfect balance, and the conversation flows until well after midnight.

 

You want to know the secret of how to make divine macaroons?  I think one only needs to eat macaroons from Kurkonditorei Oberlaa in Vienna to know they have the recipe exactly right.  Yesterday a new guest brought me a box as a gift and they are utterly delicious, fragrant, flavoursome, soft, delicate slightly chewy and divine colours including gold..  Thank you so very much ‘F’

macaroons #eatbellaugello Oberlaa Wien

I feel utterly spoilt 🙂

 

Brexit, Brentry, in, out, shake it all about, shall we stay or shall we go? it has been a rollercoaster here the past week or so, meanwhile in the sleepy Umbrian countryside the show goes on and as ever I welcome back familiar faces, guest returning once again to spend their holidays at Bellaugello.  I believe their decision is a simpler and more informed one, they come here for the peace and quiet, the utter beauty of the place, a place where you can switch off and relax in the company of friends, often friends made here who too return.

I had voted, of course, and it has been interesting having had guests from both sides of the referendum staying, hearing their reasons and also the reactions of my other guests from other countries in Europe.  What has been shocking is the utter panic the result instilled to us immigrants and the ensuing frantic searches for European citizenship application forms and requirements.  I will apply for dual nationality, and maybe even triple nationality, I qualify for a third country’s citizenship, and might just bag both options.  More form filling and history lessons for me.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, it has been a bit shake and stir.  Our local town of Gubbio very generously gave funds to the Gay Pride celebrations held this past weekend in Perugia our regional capital.  I am delighted that my adoptive town have been so pro-active in their support of the gay community, it is really heartwarming and I thank them greatly.  Whilst still on comune talk I have been co-opted onto a tourism committee in our local town of Gubbio, and feel the responsibility to attend meetings that affect the tourism business.  I have spent several hours in meetings listening to how everyone expresses themselves, how frustrated and un-cordinated they are and just how at the final hurdle they are really only interested in self promotion, quite a sad eye-opener.  Talking of eye openers Mauro who is helping here was walking towards the house from the swimming pool when he nearly trod on a tiny bird.  He called me over and we discovered it had only one eye open, presumably the first attempt at flight was traumatic.  I fetched a napkin and placed the bird together with a tiny saucerette of water in one of the herb bushes, it winked at us through a groggy eye, but an hour later it had flown, happy to have been on help.

Needing a breather, @Bellaugello

Thinking of the pool, with the hot sunshine the water has reached a very acceptable 28˚c and guys have been enjoying themselves, raising the standards and yet more Bellaugello Backs for you…

Up up and away, guys in the pool at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, Umbria, Italy

The challenge for future guests seems now to be just how high you can lift your butt out of the water for the photo!!  “Oh really? Alec” I hear you say “whatever next??””

As well as relaxing poolside guests have enjoyed our barbecue evenings with food cooked over wood embers, sitting together on the terrace, under the stars surrounded by magical dancing fireflies.  We set an informal table for our bbqs, I like it that way, and hope that everyone will realise the informality and get up and help themselves, both to food and wines which we keep on the trust bar, and even help with the cooking, but, no, they prefer to be served, so that is what we do!

bbq evening, table set at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, Umbria, Italy

The fire heating for one of our bbqs at Bellaugello gay hotel, near tuscany, ItalieEnjoying the evening, guests @Bellaugello gay guest house, umbria, italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were a large group, it was a hugely delightful evening, bubbling conversation and lots of laughs and merriment.  The evening was a special one for me and two of my guests as back in April they got married and although this trip to Bellaugello is not part of the of honeymoon, we made it so with one of Isabella’s delicious semifreddo celebration cakes.

The warm weather has brought the colours out in the garden, the Fig of India cactus is especially grand this year and the lavender is just beginning to give generously of its heady perfume…

Fig of India in flower at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, Umbria, ItalyLavender in the garden @Bellaugello Gay Guest House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weather has not been so kind to everything, and Bobby my dear English Setter suffered a stroke.  He has had a rough time of it this year, what with being poisoned by the hunters and then an inner ear infection giving him vertigo, it was distressing when the other morning he quite simply could not get up out of his bed, he was lying splayed on the floor and his eyes were flickering vertically, as I knew from the last time a sure sign of a stroke.  Bundled into the car I drove him down the to the vet near Perugia, where my suspicions were confirmed.  Another two overnights at the vet’s and finally today I brought him home.  He is still weak and wobbly, but understandably seems so happy to be home.  Getting into the house he drank an entire bowl of water and thankfully he is eating well, even if I have to give him each piece of meat individually.  I have a whole bunch of medicines to give him, including a pill specifically to control Alzheimer’s wow! do dogs actually suffer from Alzheimer’s I did not realise.   So now as I type he is lying quietly at my feet, I do not want to think of the prognosis, but want to enjoy his company as he seems to want to enjoy mine, it will be a quiet evening this evening.

Just as other evenings are here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  So often after having cooked supper in their suites and eaten on their respective terraces guests meet up somewhere in our large open spaces and share a glass or two of wine,

it was a late night, @Bellaugello gay guest house, italie

Until the hour finally comes, long after the timer has automatically switched off the outside lighting and it is time to hit the hay.  Tomorrow is another day…

It is always a huge pleasure to welcome returning guests to Bellaugello, indeed over the past few weeks I have had the enormous privilege of welcoming guests from the UK, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the USA all of whom have been before.  Some have been before at the same time, others have made new friends, the Bellaugello network is ever growing.   Next week more returning guests, and with a few available suites mid July it could be you to make new Bellaugello friends, book now!

I was reminded this morning that KLM is a huge fan of Bellaugello, many of their dedicated team spend their holidays here, as did three couples who were celebrating milestone birthdays for whom we organised a special celebration dinner.

Any excuse for lobster, oysters, truffles, beef fillet and one of our chef Isabella’s divine semi-freddo celebration cakes is not to be missed, and so it was on Saturday we laid the table and our guests accompanied by a selection of ‘gay’ music partied the evening.

Oysters served at Bellaugello Gay Gueast House, Umbria, Italy #eatbellaugello Umbrian salami and cheeses #eatbellaugello Lobster salad #eatbellaugello

Today the sun is shining, news from Casteluccio di Norcia is that the flowers in the Piano Grande are just about to open, so within the next two weeks we will be making a trip there

Piano Grande, Norcia, Umbria #Bellaugello

otherwise life here at Bellaugello is easy, just take a good book, choose your sunbed, maybe one of our new double sunbeds…  and enjoy, soak up the sun, relax, a dip or two in our infinity pool, spoil yourselves, life is Bellaugello.