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 🙂

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: info@bellaugello.com

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.

The 15th of May every year is held sacred to the heart of every citizen of our town, Gubbio.  This is the day that diaries are cleared to allow everyone to be in town to celebrate the “Festa dei Ceri” or “race of the candles”.   It marks the culmination of several weeks of partying as the Ceri are erected and paraded around the town before being raced up the hill to the basilica of S Ubaldo the patron saint of Gubbio. It is indeed the very finest of pageantry and hospitality at the Festa dei Ceri, Gubbio, Italy.

Throughout early May the town awakens, and the excitement rises tangibly.  People gather and parties are held.  A lot of food and wine is consumed.  On the evening of 14th May the ‘Taverne‘ are in full swing.  Townsfolk open their doors and invite friends and neighbours to share copious quantities of food and wine.  I and all the Bellaugello guests received an invitation from my dear friends Laura and Roberto to join them at their friend Roberto Rossi’s Taverna.  We walked through busy streets and arrived at the house, but no host!  After about half an hour Roberto appeared, more than merry, he had been at a good and clearly bucolic lunch.  As the sky lit red we were warmly greeted, lots of kisses on both cheeks, and rapidly supplied with wine and delicious food laid out on tables in the street.

There are three Ceri, S Ubaldo, (yellow) the patron saint, S Giorgio, (blue) the saint of the townsfolk and merchants, and S Antonio (black) the saint of the farmers and countryfolk.  As a peasant farmer my saint is Antonio, and dressed appropriately I headed into town for the day.

I met up with my Ben, my best friend and together after the obligatory coffee we headed into the historic centre of Gubbio.  Guys in white pants and coloured shirts filling the streets of the city of stone.

Why am I always the shortest in every photo?

We climbed to the Piazza Grande where as the huge bell high in the bell tower is tolled by hand the pageantry and splendour of the Alzata or ‘raising’ started at 11am.

A bit about the history of the event as told by the city itself:

The tourist arriving in Gubbio for the ancient folk tradition known as the “Ceri festival”, is left in awe by the morning ceremonies; The Holy Mass, the procession with the saints’ statues, the parade of the “Ceraioli”. They cannot help but breathe the extraordinarily festive, excited, and passionate atmosphere that engulfs the town. After the medieval ceremony of investiture, they find themselves buzzing with excitement in the Piazza Grande. Then, like a colourful cascade the “ceraioli” rush down the staircase of the Palazzo dei Consoli into the square. As the Ceri are raised skywards accompanied by the tolling of the big bell, emotions in the piazza also rise higher.

Here is a video clip of the actual moment the Ceri are washed with wine by the ‘Capodieci’, the jugs then thrown high into the crowd as the Ceri are erected and then run around the flagpole three times before exiting the piazza to go and salute the townsfolk.

During the afternoon race the thrill of the event continues to enrapture the tourist. This is when the three Ceri, topped by the statues of St Ubaldo, St George and St Anthony, run along Corso Garibaldi, the main street of the town. The spectator is caught by sudden excitement as shouts of joy and applause merge into a deafening roar that rises up to the sky. It is as if everyone has become an actor on a huge open air stage.

But before the run up the hill I had an appointment to keep.

I had received an invitation from the Comune to the VIP lunch held for the ‘great and the good’ in the Palazzo dei Consoli, the building that dominates the piazza in the cente of town.  This “Tavola Bona” is a lengthy banquet of fish dishes (the day is the eve of Saint Ubaldo, so only fish is consumed).

Five hundred guests are seated and the party got underway…  I ran unsteadily up the stairs and got a bird’s eye view 😉

Wow! do the Eugubini know how to party.  Wine flowed and flowed and the band played more and more frequently, second and third helpings were offered.  Napkins were twirling, people dancing, everyone, laughing, chatting, merrily having an amazing time.  For me as a foreigner it was very special to be invited to the lunch, the ‘inner sanctum’ of the event.  Now I totally understand the soul of Gubbio and what makes the townsfolk tick.  Their passion and enthusiasm is infectious and real.

Several hours later as I headed out I stopped to chat and say ‘thank you’ with a couple of the people working in the kitchen.  They told me they were a team of only twenty, and as well as feeding the VIP lunch they also fed 1000 ‘ceraioili’ – the team members who ate in the huge arcone below the piazza grande.  What a feat! Bravi!  This passion to me sums up the spirit of the town which has welcomed me and my guests and which I have come to love and call home.

For those interested in the origins and history of this amazing event please do read on;

In the 1950s, journalist Franco Cremonese wrote: ” The people who cram the streets on May 15th are not a public of spectators, but a delirious crowd, floating, shouting, crying, sharing the Ceraiolis’ passion. When the Ceri run, nobody can be just a spectator: for a few moments, even perhaps for a few minutes, no-one can avoid feeling a collective anxiety, an excitement that leaves one wondering whether to either smile widely or cry”. These few words express the unique charm of the festival. Of course words alone cannot describe in full the atmosphere pervading the spectacle. That can only be experienced by running after the Ceri.

To have a close at the Ceri and even touch them, it is necessary to follow one “Cero”, the one that attracts you the most at first sight. During the so called “show” you have a chance to get close. At certain points as the Cero is carried along the streets it stops and the Cero circles three times to honour old “ceraioli”, who then reach out and touch the saint from their window.

At 6.00 p.m. the great race begins. After the three dizzy ”birate” (turns) in the Piazza Grande, the ceraioli rush towards Mount St Ubaldo, and in 8-9 minutes, the Ceri fly along the winding uphill road to reach the Basilica. This is where the incorrupt body of St Ubaldo lies. To renew the promise of everlasting devotion by the citizens of Gubbio made on May 16th 1160, the day when St Ubaldo ascended into the sky, the Ceri, the ancient symbols of medieval craft guilds, are placed at his feet.

What can we say about the origins of the Ceri? There have always been two theories: Some scholars, claim their origins go back to the ancient propitiatory rites that the “Ikuvini” celebrated to obtain the favour of the numerous gods mentioned in the seven Eugubine Tablets. Christianity did not eradicate such ancient rites, but preferred to “Christianise” them. As quoted in the 11th Canto of Dante’s Purgatory, this policy was also implemented in relation to the worship of the “Blessed Ubaldo”. The other theory suggests that the origins lie in the candles and lights that illuminated the whole town on the death of St Ubaldo. It was then that the citizens of Gubbio said prayers and held a wake for their bishop.

It is not appropriate at this point to delve more deeply into this discussion. However, we cannot but, agree with Don Angelo Fanucci: “Even if the Ceri had had pre-Christian origins, since Gubbio has St Ubaldo, and the Ceri belong to him, the history of their origin is of no importance”.  The Ceri, in their deepest significance, are sacred vessels which have always cemented the very strong sense of community of the people of Gubbio. It is this community who, on May 15th, share love, joy, pain and passion with almost a purifying fervour.

Gubbio our local town is a gem a precious medieval gem.  Nestling in the foothills of the Apennines in north eastern Umbria, the town is both beautifully preserved and a delight to visit.  Narrow streets lined with aged stone houses wind slowly uphill towards the cathedral and ducal palace, the summer home of Frederico Duca di Montefeltro.  There begins the long climb out of the city walls to the abbey of San Ubaldo atop the slope of Mont Ingino.  The simple plain abbey cloister exemplifies the unadorned beauty of this little know town.  From the air the little streets and small houses are, like so many Italian towns very visibly overshadowed by the huge monasteries and cloisters, so evident is the historic dominance, control and wealth of the church.

Arriving from Bellaugello you have a great panorama, the town shows itself, proud, erect, bold. Park you car and walk.  These are streets meant to be trodden, wander slowly into the historic town centre.  You pass along cool narrow streets, many houses having a second front door, ‘porta dei morti’ through which legend has it bodies of the dead were removed.  Good Osteria and Trattoria abound, try a ‘Crescia’ the delicious local flat bread filled abundantly with prosciutto or pecorino or braciole, so very good is the food in Umbria.  Climb up to the large open space of the Piazza Grande which offers great views over the cotto rooftops of the lower town.  Supported on huge arches it is a unique space in Italy and home to many pageants and feste that feature prominently in the life of this ‘city of stone‘.

One side of the piazza is delineated by the council offices, the second by a grand scabious facade of an hotel, the third by the imposing Palazzo dei Consoli or city chambers built between 1332 – 1349. This is arguably the building that has the most significance for the town. With its soaring bell tower it is prominent in every photograph, and fundamental to the life of the city, this is where pageantry begins.  High in the campanile announcing significant events the huge bell is tolled literally by hand by a team with skills passed down from father to son, and to whom safety harnesses do not exist,  the palazzo is also home to the extensive town museum.

We climb the staircase and enter this historic building and commence our tour of the museum.  Prominently featured are the Iguvine Tablets, seven bronze sheets dug up in a nearby field in the 1440s.  Written in the previously lost ancient Umbrian dialect and Etruscan and Latin they date from 3rd to 1st century BC. and provide scholars with unique source of translation and daily life and worship in pre-history Umbria.  The museum is home to a large collection of paintings and ceramics.  Historically Gubbio was a centre of ceramicists, Maestro Giorgio being the one to perfect the technique of Maiolica, lustre glaze brought from the Islamic world and now so emblematic of Italian decorative ceramics, think of those souvenirs and plates from the Amalfi coast.

The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, and currently on loan from the museum in Montepulicano, Tuscany is the “Ancient Instruments of Torture and Death” exhibition.  Naturally ‘curiosity took the better of the cat’ and I just had to have a look.  The exhibits are well described and displayed, and without exception are vicious and sadistic, examples of state and church brutality.  As I wondered from exhibit to exhibit I could not help but wonder what sort of evil mind invented these tortures,  how inhuman were the organisations that forced the infliction of torture, and what sort of person would send in a c.v. to apply for the job of torturer.  These are exhibits of institutionalised torture, failure to obey or you will be painfully tortured and even die.  The descriptions are graphic, the pain and degradation must have been unimaginable.  There is no element of choice, inhuman.

Thankfully most of these instruments of torture have long been abandoned by church and state, but searching my mind I must admit sadly and unacceptably in some instances they have been replaced by other more modern forms of torture, both physical and mental, plus ça change.  As I wandered aghast from one instrument to another it came to mind how these ‘gadgets’ have been adapted and adopted by S&M practitioners.  Walk through the average gay store (and I am sure any hetero sex shop) and there at the back is inevitably a huge range of ‘gadgets’ that are clearly based on the medieval instruments of torture.  There is to me, one fundamental and acceptable difference, S&M practitioners do so willingly and the gadgets are now used  for ‘pleasurable pain’ and voluntary subservience.  Like architecture or literature starting with few basic ingredients there evolve many variations and adaptations, and I am sure the exhibition will, for various reasons be of interest to some of our guests.

The exhibition runs until 1st May admission is €7  Read more from this link: Gubbio Civic Museum

Thursday 7th of December was the day.  The setting, the International Space Station linked to a medieval town in central Italy nestling on the lower slopes of Mont Ingeno.  That town is Gubbio our local town.  Settled in pre-history there runs throughout the town a strong sense of tradition and bond of loyalty, but that does not mean that the Eugubini are not open to a bit of change and progress and boy they certainly do know how to party and to invite celebrities!

So it was at dusk on last Thursday this surreal technological link took place as a signal from the International Space Station circulating some 350km above the earth was sent by Italian Astronaut Paolo Nespoli all the way down to deepest Umbria to switch on the 460 lights that make up the “World’s Largest Christmas Tree“.  Gubbio was packed solid, hotels, bed and breakfasts, agriturismi, and private homes all welcoming visitors from all over the world to witness this great switch on.  We from Bellaugello Gay Guest House were lucky to be invited to a private home to witness the event, great hospitality, wonderful apri-cena, and seemingly endlessly flowing prosecco and to boot a first class view of this tree which rises from the ancient city walls to the top of Mont Ingeno.


More than 460 lights are lit using 8,500 metres of cable stretching 650metres up the hillside.  It is a gargantuan task undertaken by a squad of 50 volunteers who start erecting back in October.  But such is the strength of the locals or Eugubini, they love a huge project and to do things together.  Gubbio really is a blend of the traditional and modern as this wheel spawned doubtlessly from the London Eye and landed in the lower Piazza and the following event goes to prove.

The next big date for the Eugubine calendar is May 15th when the annual ‘Corso dei Ceri‘ or race of the candles is run.  The first Sunday of May the three wooden phallic ‘candles’ are processed down from the church on top of the hill, seen to the right of the star in the photographs, and left in the Palazzo Ducale until the morning of 15th May when the three teams each representing  a saint; Ubaldo, Antonio and Giorgio, meet in the Piazza Grande in the ancient historic centre of Gubbio.  The Ceri are brought out of the palazzo horizontally and mounted in their H framed holders and after a dousing in wine they are raised vertically and processed round the town.


And then following a large and lengthy lunch, it is Italy after all, the Ceri are raced back up Mont Ingeno to the church of San Ubaldo.  This amazing day is the culmination of a year of planning, and is an event held by the locals for the locals, but one which you are welcome to attend.

We at Bellaugello always are in  town for the Altzata the town is seething with hot guys in white pants, an occasion not to miss!  For more information check the website: Click Here – Festa dei Ceri, Gubbio and Book Bellaugello: Book Now or enquire