By tradition the World’s Largest Christmas Tree is lit each year on 7th of December and, as with many, we are in town to party.  Since 1981 Monte Ingino the hill above our beautiful medieval town of Gubbio is illuminated by over five hundred huge coloured lights.

A team of volunteers start work early October.  To erect the 650 metre high tree the guys lay over eight and a half kilometres of electric cable.  It is a monumental task.   So it merits only the most important people to be given the honour of turning the switch, lighting the tree and initiating a splendid firework display.  Just some given the honour in past years are the President of the Republic and the Pope. This year the honour was given to the pilots of the “Frecce Tricolori” Italy’s Airforce formation flyers.

Waiting for the captain to press the switch we congregate in main piazza, witness flag throwing, pageantry, and speeches.   Italy and Gubbio certainly know how to throw a great party.  A torch-lit procession wends its way down the dark hill from the basilica of S Ubaldo seen in the top of the photo below.  The city wall through which the procession passes is seen brightly lit on the right.

Passing by the Palazzo dei Consoli seen illuminated in the photo below the procession arrives with a fanfare in the piazza to be greeted by the ‘Sindaco’ or mayor.

This is the signal for the Captain of the “Frecce Tricolori” to hit the button and eureka! the dark hillside is now a multi coloured display of the World’s Largest Christmas Tree radiates over the medieval town.

The light sponsored for you readers, guests, and friends of Bellaugello Gay Guest House is right in the centre 🙂

Maybe for once I should be thanking global warming (did I really write that!?) but this unseasonally glorious weather made an excuse to take an away day.  These days are warm and sunny.  Early morning mist clears to reveal clear blue skies, the colours are magical.    What better to leave off raking leaves and explore Umbria and head to Orvieto in the south  east of Umbria.  The town, like so many in Umbria is a gem, and it is also one of my real favourites.

The road to Orvieto takes the traveller south of Perugia following the course of the river Tiber.  Passing by the hilltop town of Todi, voted in the 1980’s Condé Naste’s Top 100 places to live and itself worth a day visit, one peels off and takes the road following Lago di Cobarra.  The twisty road along the artificial lake never ceases to amaze me.  Because of the need to raise the road above the lake it hugs the shoreline and passes over curved bridges and through a series of short tunnels.  The scenery is attractive in an artificial sort of way, and there are several lay-bys presumably meant as places to appreciate the view.  I well remember driving this road in the 1980s and seeing many camper vans parked up, presumably tourists enjoying the scenery and peace.  But, no, I have for long known these are not the reasons.

The camper vans are places of work.  Unlike the road near Gubbio where ‘ladies’ stand by the roadside or sit in cars, at Lago di Cobarra the ‘ladies’ work openly in their camper vans.  Clearly there is more money in this area.  Passing this time, the vans without exception, looked shabby and unkempt.  I guess business is bad.  I’ve never understood why there are not ‘gentlemen of the night’, but there are not.  It is just part of the Italian culture.  I am not advocating this lifestyle, it saddens me and I find it weird to find it so evident in a Catholic country.

However I digress.  In the time I have known Orvieto the opposite is true, it has seen a boom and rejuvenation.  Approaching Orvieto the road passes by well tended vineyards and slowly winds its way up the volcanic tufa hill to the entrance to a stunning medieval town.  We parked the car just off a piazza which has overtures of pompous 1930s architecture and headed off to explore.  Our first stop is the hanging gardens.  Entered through an imposing stone arch the views westwards are expansive.  The gardens immediately giving a sense of calm and contentment.

A few paces away we bought tickets for the Pozzo di S Patrizio.  This 53 metres deep well was constructed by Antonio di Sangallo the younger between 1527 and 1537 to ensure a good supply of water when the then Pope was in residence.  A small circular building gives no idea of the architectural gem that awaits the visitor.

Entering through a digital turnstile you start the descent.  There are two concentric staircases lit by seventy arched windows.  It is ingenious.  The double helix staircases allowed a constant flow of mules to descend and ascend with water, and these steps are the ones we follow.

We walked to the bottom and crossed the bridge to start the ascent.  The ascent on the second staircase was, even for the unfit, surprisingly easy.

We stopped for the obligatory coffee in one of the many small bars that line the street heading uphill to the town centre we breathe in the atmosphere.  Main streets are lined with alimentari, galleries, stylish design stores, artisan craft shops and a myriad of restaurants.  Side streets are narrow, residential and even in early December flower filled.  This town has a vibrant feel.

Our destination is the Duomo or cathedral, my favourite in Umbria.  From the first glimpse the visitor has no concept of just how well it sits in its environment.

The elaborately carved and mosaic facade begins to reveal the magnificence of this building.  Dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary work on the cathedral started in 1290 with work continuing until the twentieth century.  The body of the cathedral is constructed in alternating layers of white travertine and black basalt.  The golden facade attributed to Maitani was built between 1325 and 1330 with additions to 1590.  Wow! it is breathtaking, a masterpiece.  Three pointed gables top mosaics and intense carvings and bronze figures.  The entire cathedral sits so well in its piazza, to me a perfect harmony of spatial architecture.

The details are stupendously daring.  The stone carving is detailed and intricate.  Four bronze statues, symbols of the, Angel, Ox, Lion, Eagle dart forward leaving the facade.  I particularly like the winged Ox signifying S Luke.

On my first visits the tourist was free to enter and leave the cathedral at random.  Now it is ticket entrance guarded by handsome young men in smart uniforms.  We enter the cathedral by a side door, the main bronze doors sculpted in the 1970s by Emilio Greco are rarely opened – see a later photo on this post.  I am blown away.  Inside the travertine and basalt layers seem to continue, but in fact the basalt finishes at one and a half metres in height, the remaining contrast layers being painted.  Yes, I read the guide book!

This in no way spoils the effect. Softly lit by alabaster windows and lit by large wrought iron chandeliers, it is a harmonious space.

But it is the chapel of the Madonna of San Brizio with its rich frescoes that draws us.  The vault – “Christ in Judgment”  is by Fra Angelico and Benozzo Gozzoli and is magnificent in itself;

However it is the Signorelli frescoes that are the real draw.  In 1499 Luca Signorelli was commissioned to paint frescoes depicting the apocalypse and last judgement and his treatment of the nude male is utterly stunning.  The figures are heavily muscled and exude life and movement.  I particularly like the “Damned taken to Hell and received by Demons” .

We tear ourselves away from the chapel and head to the exit.  As a funeral cortège is leaving the main doors are open, we have to wait.  We follow through the enormous bronze doors and out into the warm sun.

It’s Italy and time for lunch.  Lunch is very important.  Having remarked earlier on a sign outside a small trattoria of a huge pig lying on her side whilst her piglets are suckling, somewhat gross we thought, we decide to return and check it out.  The window is filled with home cooked antipasti and salamis and pecorinos.  It looks real and locals enter, and, so we dive in to “L’Oste del Re“.  The marble topped tables in the small ground floor space are taken and we are shown upstairs.  Choosing hand cut prosciutto and marinaded figs to start, we follow with a local pasta ‘Umbriachellini‘ made with only flour, water and red wine, yeah!  Served ‘in bianco’ with luxurious plump porcini, it is exquisite, a good choice.  The kitchen is on the top floor, above where we are eating, those smiling waiters sure have their work cut out.

Time marches on….

….and we still have not seen the extensive underground city but that will have to wait for another visit.   After a creamy gelato we head back to the car and wend our way back down the narrow streets still busy with tourists and with smiles on our faces and on to Bellaugello Gay Guest House.

If you want to discover more about Orvieto you can check this website in English:

Traditionally in the comune of Gubbio the feast of S. Cecilia, the 22nd of November is when it all used to start, but now we start much earlier.  I blame enthusiasm and workload.  Many believe it is because of global warming (undoubtedly correct), whatever, now we start at the end of October.  That is when our olives are ready to be picked.

Like fruit, olives tend to swing between a good year and a poor year.  One year a bumper crop and the next a humble offering.  These cycles can also be confused and interrupted by weather. Yields can meld into one another.  Hail in late spring can blast the small fruit off the branches, as can a late frost burn the flowers and so reduce the fruit quantity.  Too much rain (no chance these days) causes the fruit to swell and reduce the oil content, but abundant sunshine throughout the summer and like us guys the olives are in heaven.

I spend mid October in farming mode, scruffy clothes – slightly pungent, strimmer in hands I clear round the trees preparing for harvest.  I adore getting down and dirty on the farm.  Six hours of strimming and chopping and I am exhausted.  From the resulting aches, it is obvious that I am not overly fit.  Traditionally in this valley olive groves were also planted with vines between the trees.  I guess it was the possibility of maximising crop production on the land.  Add to that the planting of roses at the end of every line of vines and there is a myriad of creepery growth to be kept under control.

Fifty plus years ago the then contadini tended an olive tree nursery in the land below the house at Bellaugello.  On this sun kissed slope they tended two to three thousand olive tree saplings.  On freezing winter nights the family (huge of course) would light fires between the rows of saplings to protect them from the frost.  When clearing ground I discovered a strange rectangular structure deep down in the ‘jungle’.  A neighbour who had lived in the farmhouse here told me that it was built as a shallow bath, the water then used for watering the saplings.  He explained that the spring water was decidedly cold and the shallow water bath warmed the water a little so shocking the tender plantlets less.  What devotion, can you imagine parents asking their kids to sit all night in the frost and freezing fog to tend fires in the woods?!

Anyway back to 2018 and the olive harvest.  This has been a bumper year.  The trees heavily laden with fruit, their branches brought low by the weight.  Olive trees flower in mid-May and the fruit begins to form.  It grows green, and the varieties of olives at Bellaugello turn black when ripe.  No, not all of them turn black, so to gauge when is the right moment to start the ‘raccolta’ I tend to ask and watch my neighbours!  We have suffered three years of indifferent harvests.  Luckily the olive tree fly is not a huge problem, but annoyingly the weather has not been on our side.  Last year there was a late damp spell and then in summer it was burning hot, too hot.  This year all went so well.  The spring was good and kind, the summer hot and sunny and there was just enough rain at the right time.  The trees looked amazing, olives like bunches of grapes hanging from the beautifully pruned branches.

I pick with neighbours here in the valley.  They come and help me and I go and help them.  Because there are more of them than there is of me I spend much more time on their farm.  It is a work I love.  Never did I imagine that I would have the opportunity to hand pick organic olives in Italy.   We pick in the traditional fashion, no machines, just hands.  A net is spread under the tree, and some comb their hands through the lower branches.  Some climb ladders and reach the middle sections, and on smaller trees the tops, whilst the adventurous climb into the tree proper and pull the olives from the uppermost supple branches.   Your hands get slightly oily, and if tender can be damaged by the constant pulling on the branches, for olive wood is hard.

I am up a tree trying to reach a far out branch and pause to think that I am picking olives in the same way that has been done round the Mediterranean for thousands of years.  It is magical.  Large trees can yield in excess of 170kg whilst the smallest ones a mere couple of handfuls.  We aim to pick all the fruit.  That that is unreachable or overlooked we say is ‘left for the birds’.  The good fruiting years are most satisfying as the branches are full.  Same work, more product.

This year we picked in glorious hot sunshine.  T shirts and shorts.  We always break for lunch, homemade soup or pasta or risotto, sitting together at one table.  After a ‘wee nap’ we head back and work until sundown.  The day’s pickings are spread out in a cool room to wait for the trip to the frantoio or olive mill.

Now like men olive mills come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are tech savvy milling olives in a vacuum controlled by a copmuter.  The frantoio so sterile that it looks like a hospital operating theatre.  Some are new and whizzy, built with funds from European farming grants.  Some are born in the 1960’s white, shiny clumpy, pedantic and noisy.  Some are just plain old fashioned.  Me being me I go to the old fashioned frantoio.   If I am picking olives as has been done for millennia I want to have the oil milled in them most authentic way.

The earlier one picks olives the less oil one gets but it is noticeably higher quality.  Oh yes, you can re-process the olives and it is a widespread practice.  But to get the best oil one requires a cold press and a first press.  This is how we do it.  Come taste it and see.  Heat is a no-no.  Commercial brands sold in supermarkets mill the olives over and over again and add inferior oils from abroad.  They use heat and chemicals to get the last drop of oil out of the fruit with a disastrous lessening of quality.

So I trundle the crates to the frantoio in Gubbio.  We go to Rossi.  They have stone grind wheels and Luciano one of the partners – it is a cooperative, tells me that he and his brother set it up some twenty years ago.  They scoured the Gubbio countryside for equipment and initially found two presses that were in mills that had been powered by water.  I understand that Gubbio had at one time some eighty water mills for flour corn and olives.  Now Rossi is the last frantoio in Gubbio using traditional stone grind wheels, hydraulic presses and one centrifuge, with a bit of modern technology added!  The team is dedicated and a delight to watch and chat to as they turn black fruit into green gold.

My olives are weighed and fed into the washer and leaf extractor.

From there they pass to the grind mill.  These two massive stones are some fifteen years old and hopefully will last another seven before they need to be replaced.  Black olives turn into a surreal pink paste.

The paste is fed into a container where it is constantly moved ready to be spread on the mats.  Traditionally these mats were coir, but are now synthetic.  I am told that the paste was almost impossible to remove from the old mats so a new material was introduced.  The mats are changed every year.

The mats are stacked one on top of the other, mat – paste – mat -paste until the column reaches over 1.5 metres.  Then as the liquid starts to ooze out from the paste mat sandwich they are taken over to the press.  The first hour or so the press exerts zero hydraulic pressure.  The liquid simply oozes out of the tower.

but then the oil master moves a lever which slowly increases the pressure.  The hydraulic ram is heavy, industrial and clanks and groans as it pumps.  Our olives are seen in the middle press.  An obsessively neat tool bench is evidence of the constant requirement for maintenance and adjustment that this old equipment craves.  Finally the pressure reaches 400bar.  Yes the hydraulic pressure does slightly heat the oil, but it is very minimal.

Thence the oil passes trough a series of tubes.  Some frantoio have their tubes under the floor and it is said by the untrusting that there are cases of deviation tubes, like a blind rail siding in a tunnel, so a certain percentage of oil is diverted to the frantoio proprietor.  A former frantoio in a neighbouring town had a reputation for low yields.  I’ve heard told that the grandmother sat in the corner dressed in a scruffy black frock with a shabby headscarf and a little black book with a stub of a pencil and like a hawk watched and noted down everything.  The frantoio blamed the soil and olive tree variety for the low ‘resa’, but the locals, seeing the owners away from the frantoio dressed smartly with gold jewellery and going on fancy holidays could not accept this argument!

At Rossi the pipes from the press carry the un-diverted liquid to a tank high up on the wall.  The liquid is like mud, brown, filthy, and I wonder how this muck can produce olive oil but it does.  As if by magic the centrifuge spins off the dirt and water and intense green oil pours into my fusto.

Newly minted olive oil is green, thick, opaque, pungent and piquant.

After some six hours of waiting watching and chatting, the oil is weighed and we head home, remembering to stop on the way at Loredana’s bakery in Ponte d’Assi to buy her delicious warm bread.  By tradition we head to my friends house where as we carry in the heavy fusti the wood fire is already lit.  Bread is toasted on the wood fire, rubbed with garlic and sprinkled with salt.  Then the new oil is liberally poured over the bread to make the best bruschetta imaginable.  We wash it down with wine made from organic grapes harvested on the farm, which I too helped pick.  Bruschetta with just milled extra virgin cold pressed Bellaugello oil washed down with Pratale wine is orgasmic and cannot be beaten.  You can keep your Michelin three star restaurants.  This is my favourite dinner of the year.

and this year the olives were bounteous and the oil exquisite.  So good I want to bathe in it…

Bellaugello Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Olive Oil 2018 is for sale.   €17 per litre plus postage and packing. Various sizes available. We can ship worldwide.  Drop me a note for further information:

Amusingly enough one of the most talked about blog posts from this year is the one I wrote asking if anyone had seen my cock.  It was a post I really enjoyed writing.  I remember smiling as words tumbled out of my brain through my fingers to the keyboard and lit up my computer screen. What was so pleasing is learning that so many guys were upset at not having seen my cock.

I aim to welcome personally all guys arriving at Bellaugello for their holidays.  Often I manage to be in the car park.  No, please, behave… I’m not loitering or cruising, but, when I am waiting on new arrivals I keep an ear open for the sound of a car.  In the summer this is often in my hammock slung in the shade of the huge fig tree.  As the car doors open I slip out of my hammock and head up to the car park.   It is magical to welcome back so many guys and to introduce many new guests to my little corner of paradise.

Of course I am dressed.  Let’s face it, a welcome must be professional.  I know my guest house intimately and that a slow reveal works best 😉  From the winding road (beautifully repaired this year) that leads here, you catch only tiny glimpses of what awaits you.  Descend from the car park and the huge southerly view opens up, as indeed, do I.

So many guys arriving at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, have been before.  The joy in welcoming back guys is immense.  Conversations, like a just put down good book, pick up automatically and are animated and happy.  We rapidly catch up on news.  Very often it took remarkably little time for guys to mention my cock.  Wow! my cock an early topic of conversation.

For those of you who are not avid readers of my blog, let me explain.  Earlier this summer I posted about loosing my cock.  It vanished.  One day it was there, then the next it had gone. I was naturally very very upset.  Well, who wouldn’t be?  A cock is so beautiful an object of desire and one to be treasured and taken care of.  It seems that my cock was desired too much by a couple of guys who took it home with them.  They know who they are and I suspect I do too.

Amongst my guests are two remarkably thoughtful guys who are also blessed with a great sense of humour and tremendous kindness.  They were immensely sad to learn that my cock had disappeared and very kindly offered to search the world for it.  We have been exchanging emails on the update to their search.  Recently I learnt from them that they had found a suitable replacement cock in Sitges.

This morning the postman called.  Two packages to deliver.  One a pair of slippers, the other…. well if he only knew!  I carefully opened the package and to my delight drew out the most divine and generously sized cock.  Measuring a whopping 25cm with a girth of 18cm it is really handsome.  Indeed two hands full!  Rigid, and lightly oiled it demands to be touched, stroked even.  It is perfectly proportioned and utterly beautiful.

R & T thank you so very much.  I realise you must have had huge fun and hopefully not too much embarrassment choosing the right cock for me!

My cock is now back in its rightful place for all to enjoy:

I now need to take care to ensure that I do not lose my cock again.  Should I have it pierced and chained to the bar or should I get my cock tattooed?  A cock tattoo appeals.  I’m thinking along the lines of: “This is Alec’s Bellaugello and is stolen from him”.  Suggestions please on a postcard to the usual address!

Sitting at my kitchen window overlooking rain falling gently on the beautiful Umbrian countryside it is time for a rant.  This topic has been fermenting for some time and I hope that I can express myself clearly.  “Gay Friendly“, how I so detest that term.  Increasingly any internet research for gay travel is swamped by so called “Gay travel agents and operators” who are elbowing in to the market using the term gay friendly as a justification for their existence.  They are not in the slightest bit interested in equality or gay rights but only in making money.  They do not help the gay traveller find a really gay lodging.  They merely promote any old chain hotel or guesthouse that wishes to be advertised as ‘gay friendly’.  No regard to gay ownership, gay lifestyle or gay choices.  These are not places where gay travellers can relax and be themselves, they still have to keep guard and in many cases be discrete.  Lodgings screaming “Gay Friendly” are thrown by the bucket full at the gay traveller.

What ramifications does the phrase ‘gay friendly’ have for the gay traveller?

To me it is an instant turn off.  I will not search any of these websites.  I see the listings as I guess we have no choice but to accept the gays and gay guys have two salaries so are a lucrative market that we should be tapping into. I find the term cynical and want to be no part of it.   When marketing Bellaugello Gay Guest House I actively stay away from such websites.

Open any Google search for gay holiday and the first page or so is swamped with websites that on closer look principally promote ‘gay friendly’ accommodation and have links to the multinational hotel booking websites.  The individual gay accommodations are by their very individuality not featured and are pushed down the rankings.  This is bad for gay travellers. The gay traveller has to search harder and in much greater depth to find a true gay place to stay.

Open a guide such as the ‘Spartacus’ gay guide and again you are swamped by hotels and lodgings that are ‘gay friendly’ huh, that is really all there is in these guides.  They are effectively listings of lodging businesses which will grudgingly or otherwise accept gay guests.  Ok, good so they damn well should.  We are living in the twenty-first century and all can and should expect a decent chunk of harmony.  Whatever reason could they not have for accepting all honest well behaved clientele of whatever sexual orientation especially those who pay their bills?    All too often these ‘gay friendly’ places might be welcoming of gay guests but there is no guarantee whatsoever that the other guests will be equally welcoming.  They are just chain hotels looking to increase income stream.  Increase in guests are numbers for the bottom line.

Why, I ask are lodgings happy to be included in such detestable guides?  Are they afraid that if they are listed as ‘gay’ they will be reviled?  Marked as ‘stay away’ – ‘to be avoided’?

I suggest guides and websites claiming to be for the gay traveller must stop the saccharine publicity.  They should not be a cynical money grabbing marketing tool unnecessarily flooding the travel market but be true to gay.  We need to campaign to change the use and connotation of the phrase and the eradication of such useless websites.

The cheeky imp in me sees one useage:  Turn it on its head; As travel advice for those intolerant homophobic travellers that still remain:  Flag the lodging as a place where you will encounter openly gay travellers.  If your beliefs present you with a problem, then don’t go there.

But NO! this is not interpretation I wish the phrase should be put to.  I want it to be used in a positive way.  I do see a very valuable and valid use for the phrase ‘gay friendly’:

Where lodgings are located in blatantly homophobic places.  In countries where being gay is still (unbelievably and sadly) illegalpunishable by death, or subject to putrid inhumane ‘conversion therapy then such lodging listings are clearly important places of safety.

In fundamental regions of countries with established gay rights but where to be openly gay is a terrifying experience, there is a need for such a list.

Applied in these cases, like government travel advices, a listing of places where gays can be safe is imperative.  Gay guys have to live and work in such countries and these hateful homophobic communities.  They might wish or need to travel within these places.  I suppose that one’s employer might want to make one have to go to such neanderthal places ‘for business’.   That action to me, obviously seems unethical, and cynically supporting homophobia.  However we do not live in a perfect world.  Such employer pressure is reality. So let’s use the term ‘gay friendly’ as a place of sanctuary.

Many will argue such a list could be used by those wanting to perpetrate gay hate crime.  The lodgings will be targeted.  As a gay man living in an openly gay business gay hate crime is always, all be it, far back, somewhere obscure in the back of my mind.   International hotel chains have huge legal and security teams so less need to be paranoid.   I, like all lodgings in Italy have a legal duty to register guests with the Italian police.  Ostensibly one could argue that the lists I send could be used for a ‘gay register’.   When joining gay apps such as Grindr, Scruff or Romeo guys willingly make open their sexuality .  Data recorded in these apps is huge and comprehensive and geolicalised.   Privacy, safety…  rise in fascism… religious fundamentalism… and intolerance….  This is a very interesting subject for a future blog post.  Watch this space 🙂

So let’s be positive, let’s turn the phrase around, let’s change the presentation.  No longer let ‘gay friendly’ be a cynical money grabbing marketing tool unnecessarily flooding the travel market hampering the promotion of real gay lodgings:  Make gay friendly a term in homophobic localities to indicate safety and refuge for the gay traveller.

Who will help me in my campaign?

Oh, and by the way the phrase “Gay Only” is one I detest equally.

A message last night from a really good and kind friend asking if all is ok and enquiring why I had not posted on my blog for almost one month has got me back to the keyboard in my gay paradise.  I replied to him that I have not felt inspired to write, the hot summer days have rather taken up all my time, and I have been enjoying the company of and looking after my many guests.

August has been a great month, the weather is delicious.  By day azure skies, in the evening a myriad of stars and the red warming presence of Mars in the southern sky.  Temperatures have been in the low 30˚s centigrade and a light breeze has wafted the heady scent of lavender over the gardens and pool.  I simply adore our infinity pool.  As well as being a place to laze, cool off and enjoy the spectacular panorama it is a pool long enough for serious swimming…

I have found myself more in the kitchen this summer and have enjoyed both the act of cooking, and the rediscovering of recipes and filling the air with scents of baking and jam making.  One of the most often ask for cakes is our ‘Bellaugello’ breakfast cake.  Always slightly cheeky, different and delicious.  The gay paradise team is always curious to see which part is devoured first.

Back once again for their holidays two guys from Germany brought me a gift of a decorated ceramic ‘kugelhopf’ mould and Bernd spent time in the kitchen showing me how he makes this most delicious of cakes.  I watched intently as he carefully measured the ingredients and, like me so evidently cooked with love.  The result was so delicious:

As we all feasted we had a discussion over breakfast as to the name – Kugelhopf or Gugelhopf, it seems both are correct.  Of course cooking is not only done in the kitchen we have been busy at the barbecue, such a delightful way to eat great food in the company of international (hey I mistakenly typed ‘ginternational’ I kind of like that word) guests on the starlit terrace and a good excuse for us to be caught in an unguarded moment on camera.

Quieter moments in this gay paradise are spent in relaxation, guys sit on their private terraces, sip coffee or Aperol, read books, chat to fellow guests, or write up their diaries, Bellaugello is all about relax.  It is a place of good times where friendships are made.

In this world of craziness I am so fortunate to be a simple peasant farmer living up an Umbrian hillside.  My home is idyllic, my neighbours delightful, I adore my local town of Gubbio and, as with the late John Fothergill of the Spread Eagle at Thame UK I have nothing but beautiful interesting guests to stay (none else are allowed).

I am however distressed by the path the world is taking, and despair of the extremism that is fast becoming accepted into all cultures.  During August I have received the first trolling abuse calls in all my years here.  Always late at night, Italian voices on withheld numbers.  I suspect, as with so many, from guys who are scared of their sexuality but happy to be disgusting to me down the phone.  I reply to them that Bellaugello is a Gay Guest House and open to all.. (ok, read above even if you must be both beautiful and interesting 😉 ) but it saddens me to have started to receive this abuse.   Today I read the president of the USA admits paying ‘hush money’ but out of his personal account (as if that is ok and he is safe in the knowledge that like Berlusconi supporters his will be proud of him and aspire to be him).  We live in frightening times where abuse is either encouraged, and certainly not discouraged… I was taught ‘lead by example’

I sit back and think just how in recent years the world has fundamentally changed and sadly for the worse.  Had the allegations and innuendo been about ’44’ how totally different would the situation be.  Can you imagine the rage?  Russians, Prostitutes, Affairs, Dodgy lawyers, Racism, they are all now apparently quite acceptable.  44 must be very sad, knowing that if even one millionth of a percent of these allegations were levelled against him he would long have been totally disgraced, out of office, hunted and berated.

I am reminded of Brexit which was passed with a very minimal of contra publicity, and what little there was, was poor and amateur.   Where was Europe, how were what are now recognised as myths allowed to be perpetrated?  In Turkey the autocratic president has been re-elected.  In Saudi any opposition or dissent is met with prison sentence or worse.   In Poland the government has taken over the justice department, no longer independent, now political appointees.  In Hungary laws are changed at whim to suit the government.  Even property rights are rescinded.  In Italy our minister of the Interior chooses to ignore an immense infrastructure tragedy (possibly the first of many) and ‘tweet’ denying desperate migrants permission to land at Italian ports.  Where is the opposition, where are the alternative voices, why is nobody of substance speaking out?  We are rapidly becoming a neutered society.  What I want to know is who and what organisations are behind all this.  It is too frightening and sad to consider, so back to life as an Umbrian peasant.  You too can be part of our gay paradise.

The first weekend of August is a one I look forward to as it is the one that draws back a special group of guys and together we head off over the valley to the village of Carbonesca to their annual Sagra of Polenta and Salsicce.  This tiny village somehow manages to host two weeks of party culminating in a sausage and polenta party with live music for over 1,500 people.  This year the Bellaugello guys were there in our usual spot and of course in party mode.

So popular is this first week in August that all but one suite at Bellaugello Gay Guest House is now booked for next year.

You can book your stay for this autumn and the 2019 season by clicking on this link: Click here to Book your 2019 holiday at Bellaugello Gay Guest House

A few hours of rain have refreshed the garden, the trees and plants can all breathe.  You almost hear them sighing with relief, and I certainly see them smiling.  Another benefit of the rain is the wonderful early morning mists that dance in the valley below Bellaugello.

Usually we only get to see these shows in spring and autumn, but this last week every morning has been like this.  Take your iPhone set it on the windowsill and initiate time lapse program of our gay paradise.  It means an early start – very, but the results are amazing, you see the mist running with the course of the river Chiascio below the house.  If you can tear yourself away from the view then you might just catch me drooling over Matteo’s grandfather’s original Fiat 500 or Cinquecento.  From 1982 it is in original condition and has only 14,500km on the clock.  Recently put back on the road Matteo brought it over to show me.  What happy childhood memories of school runs.

Recently out and about in the hilltop town of Trevi I spied a cinquecento in its garage.  Cute car designed to fit the space available:-)  Note the circular mat hanging on the left wall.  It is an original old olive press mat.  The modern replacement type to the same design is used in the frantoio in Gubbio that we take the Bellaugello olives to to be pressed.  Olive harvest starts at the end of October.  If you are interested in helping us pick olives in the time honoured way then drop me a line.

Ok that’s it for now.  I am back in blogging mode and my next post is going to be a rant.  Tune in soon, in the meantime have a wonderful day