It is not every morning before dawn that I stumble out of bed at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, manage to find my iPhone and set it at the window to record. However this morning was one of those rare occasions, and I just have to share the result with you.
Clumsily, sleepily I balanced my phone precariously on a pile of books and set the ‘slo-mo’ record and via the bathroom went back to bed. About one hour later I awoke in my now light bedroom and went over to check the phone. I switched the camera off and replayed the video.
Sunrises can be amazing here, often red, often misty, magical, and special. A couple of years ago one guest at our gay guest house caught on video the mist below in the Chiascio valley. Unbeknownst to me it was visibly running downstream with course of the river. I had imagined the movement of mist was vertical, but no it is more complicated. I have often thought to try to recapture that stunning show, but I love my bed. This morning the sunrise was no less magnificent. The orange sky grows, and to my entertainment it seems like the clouds are jumping a race over the peaks of the Apennines like new born lambs gambolling on a bale of hay or a small hillock.
I just love the clouds reflected in the infinity pool and the mist cuddling the hills. Umbria is a truly magical place. The region is central in Italy, between Lazio,Toscana and Le Marche. If you can tear yourself away from the many beauties of Umbria you will discover that Bellaugello is a perfect base for day trips to Rome, Florence, Siena and Rimini to name but a few.
Here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House you find a special peace and harmony. Our aim is to indulge you and at the end of your stay to return you to your daily life refreshed and invigorated. Bellaugello offers a holiday escape away from the worries of daily life, and who doesn’t need that?
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.
We open Bellaugello Gay Guest House for the 2018 season at the end of March. Today, sitting at my kitchen window overlooking the grey frozen Umbrian countryside, with the Burian in full force, outdoors is silent, the birds are sheltering from the storm and it hardly seems possible that the weather is soon to change and spring is on its way, but it is. My view of blown snow is abundant, trees are sheathed in ice, their branches are glistening in the intermittent sharp sunlight. With the backdrop of the Apennines magically white and deeply blanketed with crunchy with snow it is winter at its finest and a good time to plan a gay holiday spring break away.
By tradition we open our doors a few days before Easter and for good reason, there is a special event I adore and love to share with Bellaugello guests. The evening of the Friday before Easter in Gubbio, a magical and beautifully preserved medieval town is filled with haunting chanting of the Miserere as the “Processione di Cristo Morto” winds its way slowly through the narrow city streets.
To quote from the body responsible for the procession; the Confraternita Santa Croce dalla foce “the Procession of the Dead Christ is a sacred symbolic representation of the Passion and Death of Jesus. It represents a popular religious tradition that has been embodied for centuries in the social and cultural fabric of the people of Gubbio and in which the whole city participates with devotion“.
The first sound we hear is the clacking of the ‘battistrangoli’ the decorated wooden boards with metal rings turned by hand that announce the arrival of the procession. Soon to arrive are ‘incappucciati’, the celebrants sheathed in a hood that covers the entire face with just two holes for the eyes. The hood is seen as a sign of humility and anonymity: Faces and social classes are hidden … all are seen as equal in the eyes of Jesus. Soon the streets are filled with the haunting sounds of the Miserere a mournful chant that precedes the arrival of the dead Christ carried high by the celebrants.
We spend the evening in Gubbio, dining in a restaurant which is passed by the procession. For those interested you can read more, see many photographs and listen to the Miserere and the beautiful chorus of the “Pie Donne” by clicking on this link: Santa Croce Gubbio
April is a time when Umbria comes alive. Come discover it! Come take advantage of Bellaugello Spring deals. We are offering four night midweek breaks at a huge 25% discount on our daily rates. Choose your luxury suite, check-in Sunday or Monday and stay four nights.
Pay three nights and we give you the last night accommodation and breakfast for free. See the website Deals page for full details, or just click HERE to book your break now! To take up our offer during the booking process simply enter “Rock” in the promotional code box.
Fields that have been sown over the winter begin to turn verdant green, roads are not too busy. Umbrian blossom trees give generously, vines are pruned and new shoots are appearing, a fine time for that long wished for vineyard visit and wine tasting. Cantinas like Di Filippo who make stunning bio wines, and Lunelli with their unusual Carapace visitor centre welcome Bellaugello guests.
If your preference is for leisurely eco-tourism wend your way on a bike along quiet roads in beautiful countryside through some of Umbria’s many beautiful hilltop villages. Of course, always remembering to stop off for a delicious lunch.
For those keen to keep fit there are many challenging bike trails. The thrill seekers in you will head up the slopes of the Apennines in the Monte Cucco regional park where challenging trails take you through spectacular scenery far from the madding crowd. Our local bike shop can rent you a great bike, helmet and all the required kit. Just let me know and I will arrange it for you.
Or, maybe you prefer to be Italian and rent a Vespa…. All is possible here!
Maybe you prefer to go by foot?
Go ‘Urban Trekking‘ and you will find yourself walking through one of the many beautiful medieval towns in the region, allowing you to discover the thousand faces of a town, its hidden places, its people, its underground, its curiosities and its artistic treasures. My favourites are many and include Spoleto, Bevagna and Montone.
Still not convinced? Here are some further ideas for places to visit during your gay holiday at Bellaugello:
Driving up from Rome you pass near Orvieto. Take time to look around the Etruscan town. Explore its astonishingly impressive Duomo with its sculptured facade, to my mind the most beautiful in Umbria, and inside some very interesting frescoes, frescoed indubitably with a love that dare not speak its name. Head underground to the city below the city, two thousand five hundred years of digging has produced a labyrinth of passageways and chambers. The underground tour takes one hour.
Not to be missed is the ‘Pozzo di san Patrizio‘. Designed by the architect-engineer Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and completed in 1536 The 53 metre deep well (248 steps) is encircled by double helix ramps allowing mules to bring up water to the city.
A hop skip and a jump away from Orvieto brings you to the long footbridge to Cività di Bagnoregio, a 2500 year old car free hamlet that sits atop an extinct volcano. I discovered it on my first trip to Umbria many many years ago. Then it was forgotten, deserted, desolate, and had a population of five. Now it has become a heritage site and is becoming too busy in the summer to visit, but April is a perfect time. Walk over the long bridge and soak up the atmosphere, wander freely through the timeless film-set like streets. Enter the church, drink a caffè or Aperol Spritz in one of the trattorias that offer local dishes, absorb ‘la vita quotidiana’ as it has been lived through the centuries.
Another great day trip from Bellaugello takes you to southern Umbria. In the 1950s the Milanese architect Tomaso Buzzi purchased the old former Franciscan convent and turned it into a theatrical fantasy known as ‘La Scarzuola“. Embodying architecture and allegory from throughout the ages the village is a unique gaily whimsy delight.
…and not forgetting the sybarites who are able to tear themselves away during their gay holiday from Bellaugello’s sauna a ‘must’ trip takes you past Lago Trasimeno and just into Tuscany to the Terme at San Casciano dei Bagni. These ancient Roman terme were restored some thirty years ago. Three simple baths sit by the side of a dirt road below the charming town. We tend to go early evening, it can be more fun. The water is deliciously hot, not too sulphurous, jump in, relax, enjoy.
The choice is vast. Umbria is not only a region of churches and museums but unique curiosities. With a gay holiday stay at Bellaugello you are going to be captivated and want to return.
As if by magic our local town of Gubbio hidden away in a quiet corner of Umbria, itself a beautifully sleepy region in the centre of Italy has a distinguished historical connection with Harry Potter, and now you can live the Hogwarts experience yourselves.
The unassuming village of Ponte d’Assi is not only home to a great bakery and friendly petrol station, the drop off point for packages by lazy courier drivers, the joiners who made the large table that sits on the terrace at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, around which so many meals in great company have been enjoyed but it is also home to a small light industrial estate where one company is truly global.
MedioEvo started many years ago in metalwork, and through their dedication to excellence and detail won the contract for supplying props and costumes two major Hollywood film series, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Recently as if by magic they have opened a store dedicated to Harry Potter memorabilia. Here you can shop for wands, broomsticks, gowns, potions and Flying Cauldron ‘beer’ and much much more.
The demise of Air Berlin has left many European flight slots to be filled and re-allocated. Easy Jet has picked up many of them and announced new destinations to regional airports in Italy, one of which is Ancona. Brexit gossip has it that companies like Ryanair will have to relocate the British part of their fleet to mainland Europe and vie for new slots so this is just the beginning of many new flights to central Italy. Happily our regional airports of both Ancona and Perugia are in the running for new destinations.
From this summer it easier to make connections to Bellaugello by the revitalised “Marche Airport“. The airport is small, friendly and easily to use, and as it is just over one and a quarter hour’s drive from Bellaugello Gay Guest House, so shockingly convenient to meet up and escape.
Lufthansa has, for some time scheduled incoming flights from Munich, convenient also for trans-atlantic connections, and now confirmed by Easy Jet and already bookable on their website (see links below) this summer there will be twice weekly flights from both London Gatwick and Berlin with prices starting at a trifling 30 euro.
The London route commences at the end of June scheduled flights every Wednesday at 11:35 and Saturday at 07:05. Bringing London and Brighton so much closer to Bellaugello, meaning for you Umbria is easier for both a proper holiday and short break, and for me, that I can get to see my adored Brighton Pavilion even more frequently.
The Berlin route starts in August with departures from Tegel Friday and Monday 10:40 and return flights departing Ancona at 13:05 making week-ending from Berlin and Western Poland to Bellaugello so very easy, and for me a chance for city breaks in cities I adore.
Further good news is that the road from Ancona is currently being enthusiastically upgraded to full dual-carriageway. As it heads through the Apeninnes towards Umbria, there already are super new led lit tunnels and sweeping bridges.
Finally it arrived! Luca Guadagnino’s much acclaimed film “Call me by your Name” found a home in Postmodernissimo, the small jewel of a cinema in Perugia, and so I had to gather friends and see just what all the fuss is about.
At Postmodernissimo on Wednesdays films are screened in original language. Wednesday is also discount day, so for the decidedly unchunky sum of €4 a comfortable seat and an English language film, especially one that I really want to watch, are yours. On long winter evenings definitely a ‘no brainer’.
There are three screens, the “Visconti” sala is small, a mere six rows, fifty four seats, and last night it was full. Ok it was the later afternoon screening but I was surprised at the audience, not fringe at all, instead many elderly seemingly well heeled women and some young hetero couples. There too was a smattering of gay couples, me and two straight guys, and I guess inevitably a few of the dirty raincoat brigade, one of whom was sitting behind me (oddly with his ‘wife’?) and annoyingly kicking my seat and grunting throughout the film.
I’m not a film critic, the film is long and some critics state at times slow, but it is utterly beautiful, I drank thirstily every moment not wanting to get to the bottom of the glass. A generous romantic love story that evolves against the backdrop of a dreamily crumbling villa, which like its garden filled with ripe fruit gives bountifully to the unlikely lovers. The setting is a delight, the local countryside has a “must visit” quality, the period cars and accessories from a Sony Walkman to a clunky Telefunken tv add much to the authenticity of the film which I’m certain will do a huge amount to boost tourism and particularly gay tourism in Italy. Italy is just such a fabulous and overlooked destination for a gay holiday. Cinematographically best of all for me although set in 1982 the film does not follow the irritating trend of most period pieces, here especially thinking of ‘The Darkest Hour” filmed in dusky gloom, an annoying trait by directors I guess dully wanting to create atmosphere or a sense of past times, but to be able to watch you want to keep turning on a torch. This film is beautifully lit.
For those of you yet to see the film the young Timothee Chalamet is on screen in virtually every shot. His portrayal of a precocious youth entrancing, that of Armie Hammer a very convincing grad student, and the chemistry generated between them kept the cinema (apart from or maybe including the raincoat behind me) enraptured.
I’m on a mission to remove gender as a defining element of a person so hate writing this next line, but neither leading actor ‘defines themselves as being queer’. To my view they put their all into the film, and act their respective parts with passion, intense sensuality and professionalism. As quoted in the UK Guardian, Luca Guadagnino said “This film is about the blossoming of love and desire, no matter where it comes from and toward what. So I couldn’t have ever thought of casting with any sort of gender agenda … I prefer much more never to label my performers in any way.” I long for the day when labels of sexuality are no longer required.
My two friends loved the film, they saw the romance and love portrayed, regarding the gay leads were non judgemental, and chattered about it enthusiastically all the way back to Gubbio where we headed for another Italian delight, home cooked pizzas.
Guadagnino has in this film done a huge amount to show that love between two men is as natural and exquisite as any other. The Pizzzas too were natural and exquisite, Thanks Matteo!