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.

In Rome as well as visiting the usual sites

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.

It’s always hard when waking early, but getting up is not a problem especially when the day begins warmly and magnificently.  Then to be greeted with an enormous full bloodied sunrise through the window at Bellaugello Gay Guest House I just know the day is off to a good start.  So it was this morning;

The suns rays streamed through the window bathing the bedroom in a golden light.  The shadows cast playing with movement in the room, golden rays bouncing off the mirror and splashing the stone walls.   Sometimes it is good to lie back and enjoy.

In moments like these I occasionally think of the people whose lives have been part of the history of this ancient Umbrian farmhouse.  Were they like me blown away by the energy and beauty, or were some oblivious?  When St Francis of Assisi walked these hills passing Bellaugello on the way to Gubbio surely he and his followers revelled in the beauty, they walked slowly they must have.  I wonder did the soldiers fighting in the last war dug in on both sides of the valley whilst firing shells over the house and hard worked land have time to admire the beauty?  I guess rarely.  Bellaugello is a fixture, it has been a farm for over four hundred years, and parts of the house date way back then.  Through history the house has been home to many families.  I know some members of the last of the ‘Mezzadri’ as happily some including an amazing woman now over ninety still return and share wondrous stories.  Reading between the lines they recount of their lives, they were anything but easy.   Did they have time in their hard lives to pause and be amazed by such sunrises?  I know their work days were ruled by daylight, so I guess they probably did pause and get blown away.  From their return visits and my experience I know the pull of this place is strong.

Now like the times, the use of the house has changed.  We concentrate less on agriculture instead our focus is on welcoming guests from all over the world.  Mind you we do still produce dazzlingly delicious extra virgin olive oil.  Bellaugello is the leading Gay Guest House in Italy.  Where two families once lived there are now five luxury suites for you guys to enjoy.   Here I know guys find a huge level of peace and pleasure, they find time to breathe and enjoy nature.  Bellaugello is an utterly magical spot and many guys capture its beauty in their holiday snaps that they choose to share with me.  You too can come and stay, take your own photos and experience the magic.

Enough of the lyrical melancholy!  I spent yesterday in front of the computer correcting errors on the Bellaugello website.  It seems that the ‘experts’ had made a mess of things on some of the Dutch and Italian pages (for which mijn verontschuldigingen) and having worked hard eventually I discovered how to correct them.  It was a very satisfying day.  I had to write some new copy and took time to add some new Spring Offers to our ‘Deals’ page.  If only I could translate that page into other languages I would be a veritable star!

The amazing sunrises are not the only reason to visit Bellaugello.  Continuing the red theme, Spring in Umbria is a time when there is lots going on not forgetting the stunning “Festa dei Ceri” the Race of the Candles on 15th of May.  The planning for this historic tradition commences on 16th of May each year.  At large autumnal dinners the teams, each named after saints there are three,  start to choose their ‘Capodieci’ or captain who responsible for the strategy for his saint’s team.  Wearing golden yellow shirts is the team of S Ubaldo the patron saint of Gubbio.  The merchants follow S Giorgio and wear blue shirts, and the farmers and countryfolk support S Antonio, their shirts are black.  Each team has white pants and a red bandanna.

Early on 15th of May the teams assemble and head to the Piazza Grande, the large open space standing on huge arches half way up the hill in the ancient town centre.  The ceremony really gets underway when to the sound of trumpeters the Ceri are carried out of the town hall and fixed to their supports and then raised.  Each wooden ‘candle’ weighs 300kg and is carried in relays by team members round the historic centre.  After a long lunch – this is Italy after all, the race proper up the hill to the basilica begins.  S Ubaldo is always first, after all he is the patron saint, the distance between the three ‘ceri’ is the important element.  The town is full to capacity, the atmosphere electric, and we at Bellaugello are mere spectators, but what a spectacle!  Here, soak up the atmosphere, watch a clip for yourselves…

To help you guys come and enjoy a spring break at Bellaugello Gay Guest House I have reduced the price of two of our suites.  Special Offer prices for a suite throughout April and May now start at €155,00 for double occupancy and our delicious daily breakfast.   In addition we have a four night mid week break also applicable in October  Simply book four nights arrival Sunday or Monday, pay for three and we will give you the fourth night for free..   For further details and to book your spring break click here you will be taken to the page of our website.  Or simply book your room now: click here you will be redirected to our online booking service.

As if that isn’t enough, as I seem to be writing this post backwards I finish with a photograph of the equally impressive red sunset over the farm at Bellaugello Gay Guest House last night:

“Hey Alec there is a launch of a new tourist magazine for Umbria being held at the airport in Perugia you going to come with me?” went the WhatsApp message.  Me thinks, hmm.. launch of a magazine at the airport  not really my scene but the airport, maybe I can learn something new, so off I trotted.

Our local airport of S Francesco of Assisi, Perugia is small and perfectly formed, a bright new terminal building, lots of glass and polished stone, ample sufficiency of car rental desks, and easy to get to and out of.   It is a mere forty minute drive from Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  The one problem is that unless you wish to travel from Eastern Europe or Italy the choice of flights are limited.

So the magazine launch was intensely uninteresting and it being a hot sunny day we went in search of a gelato.  Coming out of the café we got chatting to a guy who just turned out to be the Managing Director of the airport, yes, it was well worth my time coming.

Piervittorio was charming, helpful and prepared to listen to our gripes whilst explaining the airport strategy, his vision for the future, and also giving us some good news.  He and the region are in active discussions with Eurowings and Easyjet and Ryanair for new routes.  It seems that to save the company from going under Eurowings have bought some of Air Berlin’s planes, and are looking for new destinations.  Easyjet are in expansion mode and Ryanair are already thinking about the consequences of Brexit and the possibility of them having to relocate sixty of their fleet into Europe and Perugia is fighting hard to win that business.

We learnt of the possible new routes to Perugia:

Berlin Germany, Cologne Germany, Eindhoven Netherlands, Krakow Poland, Manchester UK Paris France.  Now of course nothing is yet 100% confirmed, but negotiations are “progressing well”.  For some destinations daily flight frequency is proposed, and others three or more times per week.  This is excellent news, getting to Bellaugello for your holiday break is hopefully getting much easier.

Last week I received an invite to visit a friend near Siena.  Let’s face it Siena is a beautiful town and only just over two hours driving from Bellaugello Gay Guest House, my friend has a charming house in deepest ‘Chiantishire’ with views over rolling hills to the towers of San Gimignano, a house full of dogs meaning Bobby and Jenny were also welcome, a very well stocked wine cellar and an abundance of warm hospitality, so it was an invite I could not and would not refuse.  Car packed, dogs beds, food and towels more luggage than for me, off we all set.

It is funny how I am so used to a simple country life that on reaching the raccordo – the bypass that skirts Perugia and discovered a traffic queue because they are doing major repairs to the many tunnels that no longer meet modern safety standards, I got frustrated and racked my brain to think of alternate routes.  Yes, the traffic delay was in reality less than five minutes but I am used to hopping into my car and just driving uninterrupted to where I want to go.  I have long ago forgotten the habit of sitting for an hour in standing or slowly crawling traffic or having to plan journeys around office, football match and school hours.  Many things I miss but traffic jams are definitely not one of them.

A great few days away, lazy, spoilt and a day trip into Florence.  Now Firenze is a city I love, I was wrapped up warm grey skies and a breeze, and yet it was mild and happily rather tourist free so I got to see some of my favourite sights without having to elbow my way through madding crowds.

#Giambologna rape of the sabinesViale in #Firenze#Arno#Firenze #Giambologna

I went off to hunt for trays to discover that since I was last in Florence many changes have taken place including the total pedestrianisation of the piazza Duomo and the removal of large stretches of the street market.  Now I used to love the open market, stalls overflowing with leather goods, textiles, and the decorated trays I was searching for.  The stalls used to be peopled by traditional Florentine craftsmen, the slang bartering part of the joy, but over recent years I have noticed that they are being replaced by foreign traders, so I guess the resistance for change was no longer there and the stalls are retreating to the area immediately surrounding the covered market.  Lunch upstairs in the covered market, mostly Florentines and a wide choice of fresh cooked food.  A juicy beefburger with Chianina ground beef and Tuscan pecorino accompanied by a rich glass of Chianti classico, deliscious!  On the way out I noticed a new cooking school, very stainless steel and inviting:

Firenze Scuola di cucina

indeed tempting! These days Florence has so much to offer.  So guys follow my lead and enjoy a day out in Firenze whilst staying at Bellaugello.  Driving is easy, by the summer the tunnels will be finished and access to car parking in the city is well signed.

 

Gale force winds, rain, hail it has been a blustery few days here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House in Umbria.  I guess it was inevitable after an ever long warm autumn that winter arrived, and by golly it has!  I have spent countless hours clearing ditches, hoiking leaves out of the swimming pool and picking up broken tree branches from around the garden and policies.

However, to turn this post on its head (blown away being the link) I move on to March and the 24th to be precise which is when Bellaugello re-opens for the 2016 season, just in time for Easter.  The Easter weekend is important throughout Italy and especially huge here in Gubbio starting on the Friday before Easter (in Italian  ‘Venerdì Santo’) the day when the passion of Christ is remembered and in Gubbio starting at 18:00 there is the most magical and haunting procession throughout the centro storico.  A short YouTube video well shows some of the beauty of the procession.

By tradition we at Bellaugello head into town to watch part of the procession, the chanting mesmerising, the atmosphere intense and reverent, and then we all head to a local restaurant for dinner of good Umbrian food.  The procession continues, and passes by later the restaurant later in the evening.

On Easter Sunday again by tradition we are invited over to a neighbouring farm for a lunch party.  My neighbours very kindly host this party, it is of course optional and no cost but we ask that any guest wishing to join in brings some food from their own country to share as a contribution to the lunch, (wine and chocolates as a gift to our hosts are also welcome too!).  As well as we ‘adopted locals’ there are friends from the area and always some from overseas, so making the event really multinational.  We roll painted eggs down the hillside above the farm and weather permitting eat lunch in the courtyard.

painted eggs

Both events show a different but very important part of life here in springtime and combine tradition and friendship, the ethos of Bellaugello.

I know it is early, but suites are already getting booked up for this last week in March, so to be able to join us hit that ‘Book Now’ button on the website…

This afternoon a still caught on my cousin’s GoPro cam during a flight in a Polaris microlite with my good friend Aimaro piloting from the airstrip in our local town of Gubbio over the countryside showing an amazing view of the stunning and beautiful setting of Bellaugello Gay Guest House nestling in the foothills of the Apennines.

#Bellaugello Gay Guest House, Umbria, Italy seen from the air

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