Whatever the President of the USA states,  whilst writing at my kitchen window of spring in a gay guest house, I see daily evidence of global warming.  The snow used to come deep and long.  The river Chiascio which runs below us in the valley below would burst its banks in my first few autumns here in Umbria.   Winters were always grey, damp and somewhat Scottish.  More recently winters are milder.  Noticeably so.  A few years ago we ate Christmas lunch outside on the sunny terrace.  Snow is rarer and rainfall more scarce and the plants just do not know what to do.  I fear for the future of agriculture.  There is no longer any logic to the weather.

When replying to enquiries for bookings the one question I dread is that of the weather;  “We are thinking of coming in June, what will the weather be like?”  “Will it be sunny and dry in September?”  I honestly have no idea, and feel feeble not to be able to predict the weather with accuracy.  All I know is every day brings another joy, and more often than not they are stunning.  I wake to splendid sunrises.  As the sun rises over the Apennines golden rays burst forth over the still sleeping countryside.

The light mist in the valley so well known to our guests slowly follows the winding river and soon vanishes.  I have been busy with maintenance.  Guys think that I spend the winter and spring hibernating.  Ok, I do do some hibernation, but I also spend a great deal of time with maintenance and working in the garden.  My days are full.  Autumn brings cascades of leaves, I rake fervently.  Dragging never-endingly tall piles to the compost heap.

I plan in advance my tasks for the days, but make the final decision when I wake.  The past week has been warm, even hot.  I was varnishing doors wearing only a ‘t’ shirt, or less.  This morning it is decidedly cool, hence I am sitting at my computer and speaking to you.  The weather is totally unpredictable, one day hot, the next cold.  It is maddening.

Nonetheless joy is brought to me in spring in a gay guest house.  The garden comes alive.  Each day yet another plant breaks tenderly through the soil.  Long flowering are the primroses and delicate violets.  Several weeks early this year.  The tulips and the Muscari grape hyacinths are filling the pots on the terrace and fruit trees are in delicious full bloom;

Almond blossom is one of the first fruit blossoms to show.  It is followed this week by the Apricots.  The many gnarled branches of the old Apricot trees are covered in light delicate blossom.  So photogenic against the azure skies.

It looks promising for a good jam making year 🙂

I have been busy in the Orto and two rows of potatoes are planted.  It is hard manual labour.  No need for me to go to the gym! I do want to plant some more, and am saving up the energy to do so.

Leaves are netted out of the pool.  In the bright crisp spring sunlight it looks so Hockneyesque.

Yesterday I was busy varnishing doors.  The silence punctuated by birdsong which was disturbed by the frenetic buzzing of insects.  Honey bees, Bumble bees, Carpenter bees, tiny hover moths (yes, really early) and the odd butterfly were feeding greedily on the nectar of the Rosemary bushes and fruit trees.

I take time for a breather and snap the view from the garden over the Photinia hedge to the Apennines.  Their peaks may be recently lightly dusted with snow, but as you can see the fields and woodland are still very brown and dry.

So my days are full.  Late afternoon ‘Hear’ my rescue dog is looking for a walk.  I don my coat.  She jumps for joy as I try to put on her collar.  We laugh and share the enthusiasm as we head off along the track into the quiet countryside.  Whilst watching Hear sniffing out things to chase, and darting through the bushes, I look to see if the wild asparagus is yet showing.  The walk is, for me also a time of contemplation.  I stare across the valley to the pretty village of Colaplombo bathed in the fading spring sun.

As we head home the sky changes, dusk is falling.  Bellaugello has a commanding south facing view over the Chiascio valley.  We are ringed by distant hills, and whilst we do not get the sunsets beaming down on the house, they are very much in evidence.  The sky just above the hills turns yellow, golden, ochre, ruddy, it is magical.  As we near home the red rises and intensifies.  It is splashed dramatically over the weak grey blue sky.  I can see where the great Burri got his inspiration.

Nature and wildlife is truly wonderful and delicate.  Us humans must quickly respect it more.

I wake early.  The sun manages to pierce the small gap in the shutters on my bedroom window and land on my still somnambulant face.   I stretch and slide silently out of bed and tiptoe to open the outside door.  Birdsong fills the air, the dawn chorus is in full flight.  Remembering my phone I step outdoors and look over the heady lavender bushes and the swimming pool to the valley below and as far as the Gran Sasso in the depths of the Apeninnes, this is summer living in our gay guest house in Italy.

Almost every morning I follow this ritual and am never disappointed by what I see and occasionally manage to photograph.  Sometimes still hiding behind the cypress tree almost too shy to come out of hiding, the sun is golden yellow.  Sometimes it is already high in the azure sky burning off the mist that swirls in the valley below, and sometimes it is just peeking over the top of the mountain peaks.

Today as I head down to the pool there is a blackbird singing his heart out sitting in the topmost branch of a pine tree.  The water on the infinity edge is glistening.  Cyril the robot has done his overnight cleaning job and is now napping.  Still naked, I dive in.

Swimming naked is a wonderful sensation that I honestly believe everyone should try at least once in their lives.  Of course you are welcome to wear swimming shorts, here the choice is yours.

I exit the pool and brush through swathes of now heady deeply purple lavender busily being caressed by honey bees, butterflies and hover moths, and jump under the shower.

It is an amazing year and Umbria is looking splendid.  Now dressed I head down to the terrace where Mauro has prepared a delicious breakfast for our guests.

Home baking, fresh sourdough and wholemeal breads, jams made with fruit gathered from our large gardens, and eggs boiled in the machine that when the eggs are ready sounds like an alarm at a nuclear plant, it is all part of the fun and joy of the place.

I grab a coffee and chat with the guys.  Maybe they were out in Gubbio last night, I hear about their evening.  Maybe they are wanting advice on a town, museum or vineyard to visit, or maybe it is just banter for banters sake, it is all good and relaxingly light hearted.  Kindly they all humour me! Another example of summer living in our gay guest house in Italy.  I head through the dining room and notice a bunch of generous cream roses  brought in by Daniela my smiling housekeeper fresh cut from her garden.  It is Daniela that tidies up and keeps the suites spotless for the guys, a sometimes arduous task that she does with a huge smile.

I’m now off to check on the daily tasks, yes, I am a bit of a control-freak, highly detail oriented.  I like things to be right for my guests.  Once again so many guys are returning for their holidays.  It is such a reward for me and my team to welcome back guests many of whom I now count as real friends.  Be it from Italy, or Europe or points farther abroad, the Bellaugello network is growing every day.

This week some of the guys went up in the hot air balloon,

…whilst others chose to do something really energetic and hike the long walk from their suite to the infinity pool and relax poolside under the Umbrian sun.

Whilst others just lazed in the garden with a good book.

There are a multitude of quiet corners to hang out in at Bellaugello.  You can be as lazy or energetic as you wish.  Some guys take a copy of my trusted map and walk some of the many tracks that crisscross the valley.  Others take one of our picnics and head for some more serious hiking into the Monte Cucco regional park.  The views from the top are to the Adriatic and Lago Trasimeno. Most stay poolside…summer living in our gay guest house in Italy.

As you can guess I am in a reflective mood. Such beauty surrounds me on a daily basis, and so many guys come here to enjoy and photograph it.

My selection of photographs in this post have been taken over this past month.  Most are tame but this next one is decidedly hot…

460˚c to be precise, in the wood burning oven as one of our delicious pizzas is cooking.  We get through a whole lot of wood here…

Now the day draws to a close and before heading back to bed I make a final inspection.  I have the notion to paint the wall at the infinity swimming pool Klein Blue.  This photo of the pool at night puts me even more in the mind.  This is summer living in our gay guest house in Italy.

 

 

Umbria is a very beautiful region in central Italy.  Bordered in the east by the majestic Apennines and to the west filled with the vast expanse of Lago Trasimeno there is a huge variety of delicious countryside to enjoy.  Drive along quiet roads and discover a sleepy village, or iconically beautiful hilltop town.  There inevitably will be a decent osteria or trattoria for lunch, and of course a bottle of  great Umbrian wine to put you into fully relax mode.

I have driven many roads in the region, each one a real delight.  Be it between fields of tall sunflowers, or in shady woodland or high over a hill, the variety is immense and so, so Italian.  I have also had the good fortune to experience Umbria from the air as I fly a microlite.   I dart over hill and vale in what seems an impossibly small machine, but one that gives me such an adrenaline rush.

At Bellaugello Gay Guest House we have teamed up with Cantina Dionigi.  Starting in mid May we are able to offer guests the opportunity to fly over Umbria in something a bit larger than a microlite; a hot air balloon or Mongolfiera.

Taking off early morning from near the beautiful town of Bevagna, in your hot air balloon adventure over Umbria Captain Peter will fly you over the town of Assisi and surrounding countryside.  With 26 years experience as a pilot Peter is one of the most qualified pilots in hot air ballooning.  It is a very different way to see the countryside. Ideal for that special gift for your husband or loved one.

Your flight will last approximately one hour and be a breathtaking experience.

On landing you will be taken to Cantina Dionigi for a good breakfast and a wine tasting.  I say an excellent start to any day of an Italian holiday.

Flights in the hot air balloon adventure over Umbria cost €180 per person including the breakfast and wine tasting.  You can add the flight option during the online booking process.  Or, if you have already booked your stay at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, drop me an email and I will happily make the reservation for you.  All flights are obviously subject to decent weather, and an early (very early) start is required.

Today the sun is shining, it is warm and skies are laced with the wispiest of high alto strato clouds, and I am to be busy in the garden at Bellaugello Gay Guest house.  Despite the cold winter days the garden has been sneakily growing and it needs taming.

The garden at Bellaugello is large, full of plants all bursting into bud and new growth.   The lavender pruned back in the autumn is now requiring a second trim, Rosemary is flowering, I am always in a quandary whether or not to prune now, cutting off the blue flowers seems cruel, or to wait until the growth has gone mad and the plants are untidy.  I have the same indecision with the roses.  Autumn was mild, there were blooms as late as early December, and new growth in the first months of this year.  I hate to prune back when the flowers give such joy in cold gloomy days, and now the buds are in leaf, I am unsure whether it is kind or unkind to the plants to cut them back hard.

I speak to my plants, and they seem to respond well.  The garden was started from zero less than ten years ago and has grown into a place of fragrant beauty and peace.  However the roses do not reply to my question as to when is the best time to prune them.  I research the RHS website, it is a great resource, but I dither wondering if their advice is correct for the climate here in central Italy.  Yesterday I was bold and some of the roses were cut back hard, but others I am unsure of, I don’t want to damage them.

Meanwhile the infinity swimming pool is sparkling.  Cyril the robot has been in overnight and has gobbled up the red sand that seems to land in huge quantities every time the Sirocco blows, bringing up Sahara dust that smudges the water.  The water is still cold, and though it will be some time before I take my first dip I do like to keep the pool well maintained as it gives me pleasure to look out over the crystalline waters.  The pool is treated with salt to make natural chlorine, the system works throughout the year, gentler on your skin and kinder to the environment.  No, the salt level is nothing like that of sea water, it is barely noticeable except it does mean you can swim with your eyes open and when you exit the pool your body does not have that horrible chlorine smell and your skin is not dried out.

Most of the trees shed their leaves in the autumn, and decide to dump them in huge quantities in the pool.  The large oak tree by the house on the way to the pool is still clinging on to its leaves.  Through gales and torrential rain some trees seem to manage to hold on tightly to their leaves, there is no logic.   To me they are the same variety of tree, but obviously not.   The leaves are brown and crisp and I know they will fall into every nook and cranny later this month.  It is as if to say my raking and sweeping up leaves is a task that keeps me fit all year round, we are thinking of you.

Gardening to me is a joy.  I am passionate about it and the south facing site at Bellaugello gay guest house is a superb environment in which to garden.  I have been able to plant a huge variety of plants, and through time have learnt which like full sun and which are thankful for shade.    The one thing I do not have is a damp northerly corner, so no rhubarb and the hydrangeas are not happy, but that is small price to pay in my sun drenched garden.

The house is on four levels, it hangs on the hillside looking over the valley, so we designed terraces on each level to give horizontal spaces.  One enters the bedroom suites directly from the gardens.  Each suite has its own private outdoor space with table and chairs, dining outdoors is such a joy, be it on your private terrace or together with other gay guests at one of our evenings under the stars.  Two of the private terraces have outdoor showers.  What gay man does not want to be caressed by hot water in the world’s largest bathroom, and in this gay guest house you can! sheer bliss!

When planning the garden for my gay guest house I found an empty palette and set about creating spaces and quiet corners.  Hedging in laurel and bay feature, lots of fragrant lavender and rosemary flow onto the paths and attract insects, such a delight to brush past.  Escape to the four poster bed hidden at the far end of the swimming pool, or swing gently in a hammock hung in the dappled share of our majestic fig tree, or doze in a chair under an oak tree, enjoy a relaxing massage, it is all here, and now I must return to work to keep it and myself in trim.

Telephone call, with-held number, but I decide to answer it, after all it is Sunday and the telesales bores tend to not work today.  The conversation went thus (slightly abbreviated):

Caller (C):  Hi is that Bellaugello.

Me (B):  Yes, Bellaugello Gay Guest House.

C: Pronto pronto mi senti?  I can’t hear you very well I will call you on Skype.

B: Perfect, I wait to hear from you on Skype.

Now type chat;

C:  My partner and I will be celebrating 15 years together this summer and I am thinking of treating him to a stay with you.  Before booking I have a few questions to ask…

B: Sure ask away.

C: Have you chosen your staff for this summer?

B: (thinking odd first question, actually odd question to ask at all) Yes.

C: Are they well hung?

B: (slightly bored, knowing what is coming, tongue in cheek so time worn reply) They are hung like elephants. (thinking ‘it’s a prerequisite of the job, make all the guests feel very inadequate zzzzz.)

C: and will they be up to having a bit of fun with us?

B: (getting disinterested and feeling I should be more professional) hahaha…  Bellaugello is not a bordello it is a luxury agriturismo, we require a high degree of professionalism from our team, and job interviews are always held with the candidate fully clothed.

C: What a bore.  I want to gift a ‘special’ massage to my husband.

B: Are you by any chance referring to a ‘happy ending’?

C: An intimate massage

B: (bored again now being a bit wicked) Are you expecting the masseur to be naked?

C: Ok I supposed we will accept a ‘normal’ massage but hope the masseur will be naked.

B: And if it is a pre-requisite for Bellaugello to ask anyone wishing to stay to submit a full frontal photo of themselves naked, (At times like these I seriously think of adding this requirement to the booking process 😉 ) would you feel this was a  reasonable question for a hotel director to ask?

Huge smile on my face now waiting to receivethe next message continuing the subject… Buona domenica a tutti!

 

Still some time away but as I walk round the garden and see the daffodils, primroses and violets my thoughts turn to Easter.

This year Easter is very early and we are opening the doors to Bellaugello on 24th March.

On Friday 25th enjoy tea and home made cake in front of the fire before heading off to see the mystical ‘Processione di Cristo Morto’ in our local town of Gubbio.  This very ancient procession starts in the early evening, fires lit in the piazzas, chanting, candles DSCN3759.JPGand medieval costumes, we always head into town to watch and I book a table for guests in a local restaurant, the procession continues through the evening:

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On Saturday we will be cooking dinner at Bellaugello, time to enjoy local food and meet your fellow guests.

Easter Sunday here at Bellaugello has become something of a ritual, we are always invited by neighbouring farmers in the valley to join them in their lunchtime party on their organic farm.  After breakfast when you have painted your egg, we head off across the valley for a very informal but utterly delicious lunch, we roll our eggs and eat astonishingly well.  My neighbours make no charge for their hospitality we only ask that you bring some food from your home country to share with fellow guests, the lunch is truly international.

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Of course throughout the weekend the sauna at Bellaugello will be operational.

No surcharge for the weekend, just please remember to bring some specialities from your home country.

Booking now just a click away!