Whilst many parts of Northern Europe have been experiencing extreme heat, here at Bellaugello although hot, and above previous seasonal averages, our position on a hillside means a gentle breeze blows and we have not experienced the intense heat of France and Germany.  We water the garden madly and spend any spare time climbing trees picking fruit which this year is abundant, whilst guests make the strenuous journey of forty paces from breakfast table to our infinity pool where they laze, relax and soak up the sun.

All too often our breakfast chats are of global warming, and how we can all help in small ways to do our bit to make changes for the better.  I now look at every apparatus and every purchase to evaluate any impact on global warming.  I do not have air conditioning.  For several reasons; I do not like the hum of an a/c unit, it keeps me awake all night.  The dry air produced only makes breathing more difficult.  They are huge unsightly pieces of kit, and who knows how many times the parts have circulated the world before arriving at the shopping mall.  More importantly to me it seems totally illogical to produce more energy – electricity (heat) to operate a machine to lower temperature.  I read recently that 40% of a southern European city’s electricity consumption was accounted for by air conditioning units.  This, if true, is a really sad indication of just how absurd our lifestyle has become.

So I return to Bellaugello.  We are picking apricots, the trees are full and branches coloured rich orange, gold and red by the plump fruit.  Last year we had one apricot, and it fell off the branch and rotted.  This year the first tree produced delicious sharp if slightly unsightly fruit.  The two venerable trees are now maturing and are so full of fruit.  I ask everyone here to help themselves.  We pick, I make jam, and am having to buy a new freezer.  Yes, that damn heating to chill global warming question again…

I reach up and pluck, the fig tree is huge.  There are so many I cannot get them all, but the birds and insects are happy.  I cook with figs.

A couple of dinners ago I served figs stuffed with sharp tangy blue cheese and wrapped in local pancetta baked in the oven (global warming).  The sweetness of the figs, sharpness of the cheese and saltiness of the pancetta a perfect combination.  Our Bellaugello dinners are such a nice convivial way of eating they now replicated elsewhere.  I am glad to be the catalyst.  We sit together on our terrace under the stars, candlelight, flowers from the garden or hedgerow and local food, cooked in a local manner.  The scent of lavender wafts gently on the breeze and guys from all over the world swap stories and friendships.

Daniela brought in a crate full of small golden plums from her garden.  Boiled, softened, and de-stoned they have made another scrumptious marmalade put on the table for our daily breakfasts.  I have a wild red plum tree that keeps looking at me and says ‘when are you going to pick my fruit?’   …domani!

I wander down the garden to look at the vegetables.  The hare has been in once again and this time eaten the tips of the zucchini.  There is a slight gap under the gate and like Peter Rabbit the hare finds its way in to feast on our produce.  Our orto is suffering this summer, but the potatoes are good.   I planted real dop Colfiorito Umbrian red potatoes and they are now regularly on the menu.

I now look with sadness at my young red plum tree on the lower terrace.  Branches are like a weeping willow, bent to the floor.  The sheer number of fruit has also broken some of the boughs.  I am leaving them attached in the hope the fruit matures, but it is so sad to see the damage to such a young tree.  I weep inside.

Meanwhile lavender is in full bloom, the bees are busy and last night I saw the first bumble bee.  A good sign.  The housekeeping team cut some lavender and make bunches that they place in our suites, a gentle fragrance brings the outdoors in to the rooms.

A rare chance for me to be away for Bellaugello mid-season arose the other weekend with a trip to neighbouring Tuscany.   Tenor, Michael Kristensen was singing Steven Sondheim in the delightful theatre Poliziano in the Montepulciano Summer Festival.  Always happy to hear Michael sing, and Montepulicano being just over one and a half hours’ drive from Bellaugelo, I was Tuscany bound.  A delightful evening, decent aperitivo, indifferent dinner, and a superb production.  At midnight we were at a bar in the otherwise deserted main piazza drinking beers and listening to live jazz.

Click the link to read more about Michael Kristensen’s programme.  He is currently recording a CD of Danish folk music to be issued in the autumn: Michael Kristensen Tenor

My away days are few and precious, but I have no regrets.  I love my job and being here at Bellaugello with such great guests and living in such a beautiful area.  It is all too often too hard for me to tear myself away.  Of course, there is always work to do somewhere, and last week we made our second cut of hay.  This year the weather has been against us on the farm.  The rain in May delayed the flowering of the olive trees, the harvest will be small,  but it did bring on a good first cut of hay.  The hot sun since has meant little subsequent growth.  By good fortune we did mange a second cut on half of the big field, hooray!   My neighbour, Alvaro is seen here through the heat haze collecting the hay bales which will be fodder for some of the sheep here in the valley.  It is so pleasing to produce small bales not these huge industrial jumbo ‘rotobale’

Occasionally even I manage a few stolen hours relaxing at the infinity pool…  And you could do the same.  We have a few nights still available in August;  The Azzurro Suite which overlooks the pool is available for three nights 9th-11th and four nights from 23rd to 27th, and the new look Giardino Suite for seven nights from 24th to 31st August.  Both of these suites have outdoor showers.

For an autumn break we have some availability from 7th September onwards.  You can book by clicking on this link: BOOK AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER NOW

 

Traditions are an integral part of life in Italy.  Here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House we live in beautiful countryside close to the medieval town of Gubbio which is full of tradition.  Every year on 15th of May the city celebrates a festa of new life, the “Festa dei Ceri”.  Tradition is strong and the draw to this spectacular event is huge.

Dating back centuries, with origins in pagan culture the Festa dei Ceri  is held as the oak trees burst forth in new leaf and crops begin to sprout.  The roots of the festa are as a fertility celebration, a festa of new life, the hope for a bountiful summer, and one to which we at Bellaugello always go.

The three ‘Capodieci’ or captains are woken early by trumpeters and men on horseback and as the crowds appear everyone gravitates to the Piazza Grande, the hanging terrace high in the medieval city.  Drummers and trumpeters in bright costume herald the start of the ‘Alzata’ the raising of the three ‘candles’, before they are progressed round the ancient piazzas, streets and alleyways.

For fifty weeks of the year the three ceri live in the basilica at the top of the hill that dominates this central Italian town.  The first Sunday of May sees them progressed down the hill to the ‘Palazzo dei Consoli’, the old town hall where they repose horizontally until the 15th of the month.  There are three, S Ubaldo the patron saint of the city, whose team wear golden shirts; S Giorgio, the saint of the merchants, whose supporters wear blue shirts; and S Antonio, the saint of the peasant farmers and country-dwellers, his team in black shirts.  All three teams have white pants with red sashes and neckerchiefs.  Neckerchiefs are knotted with a small posy of wild flowers gathered from the hedgerows.

As the great bell in the tower tolls, turned by hand and foot by a courageous team the ceri exit the palazzo horizontally and are fixed into the huge supports that are later raised shoulder high to carry the ceri round the town.

The three saints are carried out of the palazzo and fixed to the tops of their cero.  Next are carried out large ceramic jugs made specially for the occasion and filled with wine.  Gubbio has a great tradition of ceramics.  After a salute to the town the ceri are then liberally doused with wine by the ‘capodieci‘ who as the photo shows stand on the frames..   Throwing the now empty jugs high over the crowd, the ceri are raised vertically by sheet determination and strength.

The teams run with their cero three times round the flagpole before heading off round the town.  As my short video clips shows it is a pageant of colour, movement, men, strength, and passion.

Being Italy, there is then a huge and very liquid lunch.  In the late afternoon and into the evening is  the race proper.  This is when the teams in relay run their cero back up the hill to the basilica.  The race is serious and strenuous but a symbolic one.   S Ubaldo, as the patron saint of Gubbio always gets to the basilica first.  What is important is the distance between the cero and not to let your cero fall.  Once at the basilica the great doors are slammed shut the chanting begins.  The teams run round in a frenzy in the cloister, almost trance-like.  It is a real squeeze and not for the faint hearted!

After the race, the three teams come back to the town as brothers in arms.  The race is serious, planned all year.  It is testosterone filled and machismo is to the fore, but, above all it is a celebration of being ‘Eugubine’, being from Gubbio and smiles are abundant.  Tavernas are opened everywhere, wine flows liberally and food is abundant.  Dancing in the streets and partying goes on to the early morning.  The generosity of this little town is enormous.  All are welcomed warmly.

Back at Bellaugello we too celebrate new life.  Yesterday our first owl chick of 2019 flew the nest and landed plop in the flowerbed.  We spotted him/her crouching in the irises, and managed to keep the dog well away…  Today in soft rain the owlet has vanished, hopefully wings strong enough to carry it to an oak tree branch and to a new life in the woodlands around our home.

The beauty of nature and tradition in this special place that is Bellaugello is sheer magic.

Several decades ago deep in the distant lands of Umbria a group of men met.  Without exception they were Eugubine.  Men from the city of Gubbio.  Nestling on the west foothills of the Apeninnes over the lower slopes of Monte Ingino, Gubbio is one of the most traditional, masculine and proud medieval cities in central Italy.

Fought over for centuries the city retains an erect sense of defiance.  Beautifully preserved medieval streets are encircled by tall city walls.  These still largely intact walls are pierced by four entrance gates which give entrance to the four ‘quartieri’.  Each quartieri having their name church and traditional tunic colours. The belicosity of the Eugubine is manifested today by a series of crossbow competitions with neighbouring cities.  These competitions are ‘must see’ events for the traveller.

So strong is the pride and animosity of  the Eugubine and neighbouring Gualdese, the citizens of Gualdo Tadino that a skirmish occurred only recently.  When the hospital board proposed the closure in each town of their hospitals they constructed  new one to serve both.   Built between the two towns, but in the comune of Gubbio, the Gualdese refused to use the anti-natal unit.  Citizens of Gualdo Tadino did not want their children to have ‘born in the comune of Gubbio’ on the birth certificates.  As a result a local law passed that room in the hospital be ceded to the comune of Gualdo Tadino.

I digress.  How that meeting so many years ago came about I have yet to discover, its history is lost in the mists of time.  What the true purpose of the meeting was, is similarly forgotten.  However the outcome lives to today and manifests itself in the “World’s Largest Christmas Tree“.  The decision to string coloured lights from the city wall to the summit of Monte Ingino in the shape of a Christmas tree is one that still renders me slightly speechless and with a broad cheesy grin.  To think of a group of macho men conceiving a hillside dressed with coloured lights is surreal.  But that decision was made and each December the lights of the tree illuminate the medieval city.  I am so glad that they did, and continue to do so.

The team of volunteers ranging in ages from 19 to 86 years old have been and are busy.  The slopes are being adorned with 8.5kms of electric cable and over four hundred coloured florescent lights.   They work hard, real hard.  The planning is huge and work arduous.  The Eugubine are proud, quite rightly so.  The result is spectacular.  The summit of Monte Ingino is adorned with a huge led flashing star strapped to a massive scaffold.  A few years ago, with the aim of being ecological solar panels were installed to power the tree.

The tree is switched on with a huge party and firework display on 7th December.  Last year I witnessed the event from a friend’s terrace:

The tree remains lit until early January.  Not only is it splendid to see from afar, but the walk down through the lights is magical.

For the past few years Bellaugello Gay Guest House has sponsored a light on the tree.  I am asking you to help this great project by also sponsoring a light.  For a few Euros you can sponsor and have a light named to your choice.  Click on the link below:  The opportunity starts on 31st October and like concert tickets the lights go fast.  Hurry, the clock is already ticking.

To choose and sponsor a light click this link: Adopt a light on the Gubbio Christmas Tree

To read more about the tree click here: Albero di Gubbio website

Let’s see how many Bellaugello guys can get their names on the tree for 2018-2019.  Do let me know.

Listening recently to Yuval Noah Harari talking about developments in “AI” I was struck how increasingly we are left with fewer opportunities in making our own choices.   He cited his own coming out and how already AI is targeting his own sexuality in target marketing products and services.  By monitoring simple things as eye movement while browsing, algorithms adapt marketing strategies to present products specifically for him.  Algorithms pick up minute details.  Looking at an image of a group of people, a gay man’s eyes will focus, not on the girls, but on the guys in the group.   He goes on to say this is used to market product to him with images of sexy guys.  Hot sweaty men appear in Coca Cola adverts and he feels constrained to buy the drink.  To my heterosexual friends different images are used.  All of this on an individual basis and increasingly this invasive AI will creep up and control us ever more.

Now turn this argument on its head.  Ok, technology is replacing ancient inherent life skills, but is it a new concept?  For a long time it has been widely accepted that a place chooses you.  Be it a home or a holiday location, I strongly believe that if you are in touch with the real world, you are drawn to the right place.  Places also have different auras in my opinion souls.  These auras and souls attract the right person to their place.  For you sceptics, please do not click off, please read on, just humour me a bit.

Guests arriving at Bellaugello Gay Guest House are struck by the beauty and tranquillity and positive vibe of the place.  They often ask how I found the location.  The answer is simple; it chose me.  With my ex partner I had been searching for a spot to open a guest house for guys.  The search had taken over five years.  We had specific ‘must have’ attributes for the place we wanted to live and run the business.  In those five years we had seen so many ‘wrong’ places.   Either the location was not right or more importantly the place just did not feel ‘right’.

From the moment I turned into the road at Valdichiascio without even having seen Bellaugello I instinctively knew the place was meant to be.  Four kilometres down an astonishingly beautiful country lane and I arrived at the place I am thrilled to now call ‘home’.   You pass many houses, this was and still is a farming community.  People were born and raised in the houses and many still live where they were born.  I remember that first drive down the road, my heart fluttered, raced, it felt good and so positive.

It took over three years to transform the long abandoned farm to the guest house it is today.  Initially, logically, I am sure there were some raised eyebrows.  A gay guest house in rural Umbria, possibly the first such place in Italy was a new and different concept for this traditional community to have to cope with.  However the community did accept me and as well as good neighbours, they have become good friends.

In our little valley some 14km from the medieval town of Gubbio we are a community of some hundred and twenty.  As I wrote, some were born here and have never moved from the valley.  Some, like me, have chosen to move here.  I am not the last ‘incomer’.  In my years here I have seen the older generation sadly pass on, but happily replaced by a new generation.  Kids have been born here.  Although farming does continue, even though on a smaller scale, many are now forced to work outside the valley, returning home in the evening.

A large tract of Valdichiascio was an estate, which, in the major part is still is owned by one family.  The families living in the various houses dotted along the road all worked for the estate.   The ‘Mezzadria’ ended here in the late 1970’s and the estate gave a small parcel of land to the various families that they could continue to live in the valley.  This, with us incomers, is our valley today.

By tradition residents congregated each year on 8th September for a lunch in a field.  Every family brought food and wine to share, that is the way we do things here.  Living in detached houses, often separated by a few km, and previously without cars, it was a rare occasion to be together.  Sadly before I arrived this tradition had lapsed.   It occurred to me that this lunch should be revived,community is important to me.  Discretely, I made tentative enquiries and was met with a delightfully positive response.  Yes! a neighbourhood lunch would be a great idea.  We formed a tiny steering committee, and set the date of 30th September.  Invitations were hand delivered to every house.  WhatsApp messages buzzed to and fro, and neighbours asked what they could do to help.

Sunday dawned, a blisteringly beautiful day.  Bright sunlight, warm, later hot.  The men arrived with tables kept from previous lunches that had been stored at the church and began setting them up on the lawns at Bellaugello.  The women were all still busy cooking at home.  Bright cheery coverings were laid on the tables.  We opened the box of biodegradable plates, cutlery and glasses bought specially for the occasion.  Bellaugello soon began to look very festive.  BBQs were set up a short distance away so as not to smoke out the party and we lit the old wood oven.  At 11am I began to have doubts, would people turn up?  Was I mad?  Had I, as an incomer have any right to suggest this party?

By midday people laden with exquisite home cooked dishes wended their way down the path to the main terrace.  Soon the table we use for breakfasts and dinners was groaning with quiches, pastas, torta al testo, prosciutto, salads, breads, bbq sausages, bracciole and savouries.  Oh! how well we all ate.  I had set the dining room table for the deserts and it too was totally covered with a vast array of delicious home cooked crostatas, cakes, biscuits and tiramisu.  Everyone brought wines and Prosecco, the youngsters provided the music and the party continued.

I did a rough count; we were over ninety neighbours.  We all chatted and ate and drank, so, so well.  From the very old to the very young, (both requiring help but in different ways) delightfully, so many neighbours turned up.  Those that did not were few and had previous engagements.

As somebody later remarked, nobody was on their cell phones.  It was astonishing, six hours and the only cell phone usage was to take photographs.  People actually talked to each other.  It was a real party.  People mixed.  People who I have never seen talking to each other were deep in conversation.  The priest came, dressed casual, he too is an integral part of Valdichiascio life.

Let some photos do the talking:

So strong is our community that people are vying to hold the next year’s party lunch at their homes.  I feel so very privileged to live and work in this great community.   I realise just how precious and rare it is to be able to live in such an environment.  To be able to share this gem with guys from all round the world is particularly special.

 

With morning views like these this morning at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, Life just has to be great!
October view from Bellaugello Gay Guest House, Umbria, Italy #bellaugello ,#infinityswimmingpool,

mist hangs low in the chiascio valley below Bellaugello Gay Hotel, Umbria,Italy, #gayhotel ,#gayguy

It is a delightful week, the weather is still warm, sun fills the azure sky, and there is a sense of peace and tranquillity as I spend delicious days doing autumnal tasks in the garden.  The logs are stacked away in the shed, ready for the cooler winter days when we light the fires, lawns have received what I guess (and hope) is their final cut for the year, and hedges are being clippered, tidied up for the winter.  Of course the trees are beginning to shed their leaves, colours turning magical ambers and golds and reds, most still clinging tightly to the branches, but just enough falling to make sweeping up a necessary chore.

Today I am off to town, I have an invite for a halloween party, and need to find a mask.. What a horror, I find the thought utterly intimidating.  What do I wear?  It is a party of a newly made friend, and I suspect will be rather smart and full of handsome men, I am more than a little bit anxious about the whole thing.

And next week sees the opening of the TRUFFLE FAIR in our local town of Gubbio.  This is the 33rd year of the event, held over four days in the centro storico of this beautiful medieval town.  There will be feasts of truffles, wild mushrooms and chestnuts.  Umbria is a delight at this time of year, so many towns holding food fayres, sheer indulgence..  and then all to soon we will be picking olives, a task I adore!

 

It has been a rollercoaster week here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  Highs, lows, speed, standstill, joy, sadness, things shared, sharing denied, solitude, companionship, courage, weakness, rain, sunshine, warmth and cold; I could go on further, much further with the adjectives, but I guess you begin to see the picture.

I have been suffering a blogger’s  block, unable in the disorganised jumble that is rapidly becoming my brain to find the right words and phrases to enable me to satisfactorily to put digit to keypad and express my feelings.  Oh! and having now found the wherewithal to post, my train of thought has put me in mind of that great British comedian Frankie Howerd who as Lurcio the slave in the BBC comedy “Up Pompeii” always began his oration with ‘The Prologue” and never quite got to the subject …..

So, let me start with a great rant about automatic spell-checker.

I hate it, I find the blue text boxes that pop up with increasing and irritating frequency utterly annoying, and so very often quite simply wrong!  They are confidence destroying.  Whilst I know I speak Italian competently with a grandiose English accent, I have an utter failure to pronounce my ‘R’s.  Maddeningly a friend of mine in Rome can make entire paragraphs full of “R”s fall and tumble out of his mouth rrrrrrrrrrrrrollingly long and melodiously, (I am so jealous) I cannot manage even one “R” and when I do it just plops out in an emasculated un-noticed fashion.   My Italian friends mimic my accent and try in vain to correct me or adopt my ‘r’less way of speech.  On the other hand grasp of the English language is reasonably proficient.

I guess I have always enjoyed words.  Way back in the midst of time as a wee nipper on my Mother’s knee I learnt the joy of books, (owing to that dreaded ‘political over-correctness’ probably all now banned or censored beyond recognition).  Mother had infinite patience, a joy in reading and sharing, and the skill to find books with the right amount of text, story and pictures to enthrall and entrance me.  She was a consummate reader.  We come from a very matriarchal family, down the generations all strong women who were avid readers, writers of letters, writers of books and pamphlets, and wordsmiths.  in the 1960s a great aunt subscribed to Readers’ Digest, the World Book Club, National Geographic, the Lancet and every gardening catalogue then printed, was there wallpaper in her house? I never knew it was hidden behind walls of books, long escaped from what had been known as the library to encompass the entire house,  Purportedly her aunt could quote from Chaucer, Milton, Chairman Mao, Dante and the Cornflakes packet.  These are traits the gay son has inherited, (though not the quotations, as I opened this theme admitting my brain is already addled) perhaps it explains my love of blogging, perhaps not, but it does go some way to explain my hatred of the automatic spell-checker.

I was brought up in Great Britain,  the language English.  My parents’ spent obscene amounts of money sending me to school in England where English was drummed into me, sometimes with the aid of the ruler, sometimes with the un-nerving accuracy of a well chucked b….board duster, and sometimes with care, compassion and enthusiasm.  For years I endured spelling tests, the thought of having to leave the warmth of a study for the horror of having to get into damp rugger kit and run round the playing fields after prep in the rain as a punishment for mis-spelling the simplest of words was enough to ensure I paid attention.  But now all to no avail.  I press keys on my laptop, or prod my iPad and all too often that dreaded blue box flashes up below my line of type.  It does not like what I have typed, it objects and it has me questioning my spelling.  Now why does it have to be an American spell-checker?  Try as I might WordPress does not seem to want me to keep to my British English spelling, but wants me to Americanize with ‘zees’ in abundance and turn rugger into rugged (hmm not bad!) but it questions my competence and erodes my confidence, and makes me irritatingly defiant, which is not the ideal humour (yes it is spelt with an ‘u’) for me to have whilst writing.  Do I spell the word like that, is my punctuation correct etc., my dictionary is ever to hand.  I do like my WordPress, it is becoming a very powerful tool, but at the same time crushing the individuality of grammar.

A roller-coaster week! Sunshine and snow, but come rain or shine the perennial problem of my internet connection once again deigned to push its head above the parapet.  On Off, slow, slower, stop.  Enough!  I cried and sat down and composed and email to the service (?) provider.  This has resulted in three weeks of testing and proving of the connection.  Speeds had sunk to 31Kbps download and ping of -1, not a lot you can do.  Italian tv being so awful – a YouTube look at ‘Up Pompeii’ from the 1970s gives you an exact idea of just how far behind the times and sexist (but without the humour [and humour still has a ‘u’ in it]) it is so I try and stream tv.  I am saddened by the inconsistency of the internet speed. Although I have recommended several new clients and many neighbours to my provider and am a client of long-standing, I do not expect any particularly special treatment, merely a service that works.  A constant 3Mbps would be nice.  Listening to the BBC I learn that the average rural broadband speed in the UK is currently 15Mbps and by 2017 the aim is to have that increased to 30Mbps.  15??  30??  those are speeds only to be dreamt of here.  I am simply asking 3!

And talking of special treatment, I have been privy to information regarding a carbuncle.  Firstly news from a friend, then another and finally I read an article in the local paper.  Alas! It is true! There is a plan approved in Comune to install glass panels in the upper level of the Logge dei Tiratori, that wonderful loggia seen on first entering the beautiful medieval city of Gubbio.  I am incensed.  One of the particularly splendid and often remarked things about my nearest town of Gubbio is that it is unspoilt, (not unspoiled)  it retains its medieval characteristics.  There is so much to admire in this sadly unpublicized and badly marketed jewel of a city, clinging as it does to the slopes of M Ingenio.  Pale cream and pink stone interspersed with brick and pietra serena, the architecture is a mix of styles, that are somehow homogeneous and a joy to behold.  It is not like Assisi, that city so currently fashionable and increasingly so by the multinational’s chief executive taking the name of one of its most famous sons.  Assisi is beautiful, yes, but it is over-restored, too perfect.  The 1997 earthquake that hit Norcia Umbra and damaged the surrounding towns and villages also hit Assisi.  The multinational made sure that funds destined for the repair and clean up went first to Assisi and what has resulted is a picture postcard Disney city, not a stone out of place, perfect cobbled streets, even the geraniums are perfectly shaped, but Gubbio is so much nicer.  They say it is so unaltered because historically there never was any money here, the town had to adapt and make do and mend.  The result is entrancing.  Of all the many guys who stay here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House only one has come here specifically to see Gubbio ( and he a fan of the Italian tv programme [no not program me] Don Matteo, even that carelessly lost to Spoleto) indeed nobody has really even heard of Gubbio, but when they visit and they all do, they are captivated.

So back to the Logge.  It seems that the building was owned by Unicredit bank who sold it to a bank in Perugia that just happens to be a part of the burgeoning empire of one of our local cement magnates.  This said “cavaliere” as he was called at a meeting last night has the intention to glaze in the what is now open space in the upper level of this beautiful and simple building that as one enters the town is the first thing that is seen.  His intention is to create a multi-use conference centre, concert hall, gallery and exhibition space all in the upper level of the building.  This involves closing in the open space with panels of glass some 3.5 m x 5 m.  I understand that these panels of glass will have either automatic blinds or obscuring properties and will undeniably change the characteristics of the building.  Ok he owns the building, but other home owners in the centre of the city cannot as they point out change by a mere jot the facade of their homes.  Windows have to be in wood, and paint colours 4 in total are proscribed by the comune’s architectural department.  Now I am actually all in favour of that, it keeps the city as it is and as I said it is intrinsically beautiful.  However it seems one rule does not apply to all people.  At a meeting last october the Comune (and yes in there is only one ‘m’ in Comune – it is an Italian word) approved the  design.  The Bella Arte architects supported the application, one of their justifications being that a restoration in the 1970s when wooden beams were replaced with reinforced concrete and the ceilings replaced was wrongly done, together with the birds flying around and crapping on the concrete has endangered the building and the only way to ensure the continuity of the building is to close it in!  Think Coliseum, Stonehenge, Pont du Gard…….

Last night was a meeting of the protesters.  A lengthy and rambling meeting.  Why? Oh why do meetings in Italy seem to ramble on so long without ever reaching the point.  In this instance although lengthy the speeches, the speakers were articulate, arguments well put.  The justification for the Comune’s decision was put by the spectacularly elegant four rows of pearls, Commissaria Prefettizia del Comune di Gubbio D’Alessandro for it is she that is, since May of last year, in the absence and agreed budget and facing bankruptcy and without a mayor, custodian and administrator the city until the next elections in April this year.  The meeting was getting heated the Commissaria justifying the Comune’s actions by laws long since enacted, and obfuscating replies.  To me the crazy thing is why are they even thinking of this project?  There are plenty of under-utilised and beautiful public spaces in Gubbio, plenty of buildings really needing repair, and pray do tell me just how they will manage to get 200 delegates into the conference centre on Tuesdays when the market fills the piazza around the loggia, or will the centuries old market just have to move or stop?

After two hours I had to leave to meet friends for supper.  Outside the hall in the all too often closed public library were a handful of local police and in the street outside opposite the still unfinished after how many years multi-storey car park pulled up the carabiniere….  The iniquity of it, one rule for some another for the masses, it seems that is increasingly the way of Italy today.  Decent people are no longer blaming Berlusca, they are tired, frustrated and disillusioned, they simply state he is symptomatic of the Italian mentality.   Whether or not that is true, his legacy is so negative and destructive, there is a breakdown of trust, a desire to do over your neighbours, to better yourself at whatever the cost to others, the caring society is sadly dissipating, it is all very depressing.

One point that did come out of the meeting was the admission by the Commissaria that she makes a point in familiarising (no it does not have a ‘z’) herself with the issues that she is presented with.  So, my being as ever totally fed up with the state of our road in Valdichiascio,  huh! a joke! it is, in places not a road but a cart track or river bed, and having already decided to circulate a petition of the residents’ my neighbours, we are some 80 who live here and use the road on a daily basis, I am having a refined attack.  Having thought to present it once again to the Assesore who is responsible for road maintenance, I have now changed my mind and will take it directly to the top, and before Sig.ra D’Alessandro returns to Rome in April,  and in good time for her to see the situation herself, so hopefully the road will be drivable for us and you guys.

Supper with friends is for me, always a joy.  We met at our local osteria, Il Panaro familiar to so many of you guys who have stayed at Bellaugello.  Feasting off Crescia generously filled with prosciutto, sausages, spinach and fontina, washed down by a reasonable spumante, a convivial evening of catching up with news.  This time it was me with most of the news, and continuing my roller-coaster week I had to unload.

I was able to announce that discussions over the vineyard are well progressed and if the last piece of the jigsaw falls into place this year I will be tending a few lines of vines here in the valley, and making Bellaugello wine!  I am so excited.  How I will find the time I am unsure,  but I hate to think of the vineyard becoming overgrown and abandoned, and the chance to offer my guests our own wine is quite simply too tempting.  One of my friends at supper kindly offered to come over and help instruct me in pruning of vines.  Add to that the possibility of you guys coming over to help with the vendemmia or grape harvest, secateurs in hand warm sun hitting your backs, cutting bunches of plump juicy grapes, taking them to our press,  and sitting down in the vineyard to a lunch of local produce washed down by our own just made grape juice… a romantic dream I wish to make a reality.

Reality struck home for a good friend of mine recently.  A lovely articulate caring guy, he told me that he has been diagnosed HIV+  He is young, early twenties.  Relating the story of course anonymously, I knew exactly what my friends were thinking – a gay guy playing around and having unprotected sex, it is the obvious conclusion.  However the reality is different he has been a regular blood donor and  so he has consistently been checked, also is not promiscuous and was negative last summer before he had to go into hospital for a routine surgical procedure.  Last autumn he started losing weight and feeling unwell checks resulted in the HIV diagnosis, clearly there was a lack of crapulous (how does spell-checker make crapulous out of scrupulous?) hygiene or some contamination during one of three routine procedures.  He is remarkable, stoic, and although hurting so very much is upbeat, I am so proud to call him my friend.

And talking of friends and family, a wonderful email hit my computer this week.  I have yet to answer it, so to my cousin who I now know follows my blog I will, of course, be replying personally, but I hope you don’t mind me sharing our news so publicly.  Two years ago I received another email on my business account.  Depsite what I wrote earlier about my Mother, she was where distant family were concerned a lousy correspondent, and far flung relatives were lost.  But these relatives are canny, hence this email of which I, at the time  blogged.  Pam my, as one of her daughter’s so succinctly put it “Mum tells me we are some strange sort of distant cousins” is once again with her husband planning a Europe trip, and has scheduled to pass through Umbria this August and wants to stay a few nights at Bellaugello.  She writes asking me if I will accept a couple of “straight guests?”.  Of course I will, Bellaugello whilst being a Gay Guest House, does welcome everybody.  I may not actively advertise outside the gay guys market, they are after all my target market and the reason for this business, however I do feel strongly that us gays have fought long and hard to be included in mainstream life and it would be hypocritical of me to refuse heteros to stay at Bellaugello.  I am utterly delighted that I will be able to show my antipodean cousins around Umbria for a few days.

And talking of repression, I too am saddened by events in Russia.  Like most gay guys I have a few Apps on my iPhone that put me in touch with other gay guys worldwide.  Some recent chats have been with guys in Moscow, purportedly professional middle aged guys. Incidentally who knows until you meet who you are actually talking to and how on earth in the world can there can be so many perfect physical specimens out there, and not here in Umbria, surely one of them would like to be my husband?!?! Tentatively I ask them about the truth of gay life in Russia today, and alarmingly often their reply as if rehearsed or being intercepted is that ‘if you keep hidden and don’t disclose then all is ok.  In Moscow gay bars and saunas continue to diction, but are now very much under the radar. It is ok, no problems’  With the release of the film ‘Twelve years a slave” we are currently more aware of the wrong one human does to another, of injustice and prejudice.  I cannot help but feel that  theirs and my sexuality, like everybody’s for which none of us have any choice is being persecuted the way colored people were in the era of apartheid and until recently the southern USA.  What is it with the persecutors?  Are they scared of their feelings and own sexuality, and if so why?  What are they trying to do?  Does the world population really need to be more controlled?  I do not at this point want to go into this issue in depth, it must be the subject of another blog post when my brain is more focused.

Right now as I look out of my kitchen window, sun streaming in, snow dusting the tops of the Apennines, I am focusing on two great packages…..  steady on guys! alas! not what you are thinking;-), I am on my own 🙁  I am referring to two holiday packages we will be offering this year at Bellaugello Gay Bed and Breakfast in Umbria, Central Italy.

HIKING WEEK:  Check-in Saturday 3rd. May for 7 nights.  Guided walking with a professional guide in the delightful Monte Cucco regional park, a trip to the Valnerina, and leisurely wandering the hidden paths in Valdichiascio, finishing off with a wine tasting here at Bellaugello.  Places limited to ten.

SINGLES WEEKENDS:  Two such weekends are planned.  4 – 7 April and 6 – 9 June,  Friday through Sunday, a three night stay.  The weekends will include indoor carting at a racetrack, a wine tasting held at Bellaugello, dinner on the Friday and Sunday evenings, use of the sauna, and Saturday evening in Gubbio.  Accommodation is open to singles only, a choice of twin, single or double accommodation – you are welcome to bring a friend but no partner!   A chance to meet new guys, make friends and socialise and who knows, maybe meet the love of your life…..