Such a delight to be in the garden here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House in peaceful Umbria, Italy, few sounds punctuate the serene silence… the chattering of the river Chiascio down in the valley below the house, birdsong, lots of it, they are busy collecting material for nesting and bees, an amazing number of busy bees. The almond trees are in bloom, there are both the blue and pink rosemary spike flowers topping the deep green of the hedges swaying gently in the warm breeze, the red plum tree is about to burst forth and the old majestic apricot trees are heavy with delicate pinky white blossom each filled with numerous honeybees.
Heated by an intense sun and set against a deep azure sky I am increasingly aware that the 2017 season is about to begin, and so gardening and maintenance are still high priority, it must all be done by the time we open in early April. Why not join us for the Easter holiday weekend? there are still suites available including the new look Specchio Suite now with soft sage green bedroom walls, now even more romantic…
The past several days of glorious weather got me back into the garden here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House. The garden is huge, it seems as if every year it physically grows, by that I do not mean the plants but the actual garden itself, it is as if a metre stretches itself, thus increasing the workload. However days spent in the garden are for me pleasurable.
Blowing spring leaves from under the huge fig tree the first primroses and violets are already in bloom. Cheeky wee violets show timidly from their deep verdant foliage, yellow primroses stand proud and erect, trees are beginning to show bud and the fruit trees the first signs of blooms, all heralding the onset of spring. Days are getting longer and time before we open on 8th April is getting shorter. I discover I am not the only one working in the garden, there has been an istrice or porcupine busy. These devils devour all tubers and bulbs. Two years ago they ate all the potatoes, this spring they have demolished what was left of my irises, several daffodils and my prized alliums that were looking promising.
Up on the roadside until I manage to burst the tyre I barrowed loads and loads of leaves uphill, burning the dry ones and tipping the soggy ones over the greppo. A real satisfaction to see the entrance roadway at least half cleared, and the smouldering leaves taking me back to childhood working in the garden with dad.
Even at this time of year the variety of colours never ceases to amaze me. Rosemary is flowering, pinks and purples, bees buzz busily already seeking nectar, energetic song birds gaily coloured flit from branch to branch checking out possible nesting sights, my lawns are growing in clumps of varying shades of green through yellow, there is a myriad of colours all around, which took me to thinking about other places full of colours and my mind came to rest on the “Festa dei Ceri” the race of the candles run every 15 May in our local town of Gubbio. This event traces its roots back to pre-christianity a fertility festival, and is the reason our city still exists. Nothing in Gubbio comes before the Ceri.
Early in the morning there is a buzz in the town, like wasps to a honeypot the streets are filled with people in white pants all heading towards the centro storico. Some wear yellow shirts, some blue, some black, all adorned with red sashes and neckerchiefs, they are the participants and team supporters. Others are dressed ‘normally’ the spectators and tourists. Cramming into the Piazza Grande that magnificent space half way up the town, the tension rises as the ceremony commences. The Sbanditore or flag throwers arrive, dignitaries, men on horses, trumpeters, all resplendent in traditional costumes, and then the Ceri themselves it is a veritable orgasm of colour and tradition. The crowd in fever pitch, supporters and ceraioli the guys who will actually carry the three ceri await the appearance of the ceri; San Ubaldo the patron saint of the city, San Giorgio, the saint of the merchants and city dwellers, and ours San Antonio the patron saint of the farmers and country-dwellers, are carried horizontally (and at a run) out of the maginificent Palazzo dei Consoli, the appropriate saints are attached to the ceri and with a blessing from the bishop and baptism with a ceramic pitcher of wine, the ceri are erected to the vertical and the run around the town really begins. It is amazing to witness. Here is a wee video that I shot last year of the actual ‘alzata’.
The ceraioli pause for a huge lunch before in the early evening starting all over again and the race begins. Relay teams carrying the three ceri literally run through the town before racing up through the top city gate and up to the basilica of Saint Ubaldo on the top of the hill behind the town. Hot sweaty work, muscles bulging, determination on faces, it is a serious event which you really should witness at least one time in you life, and Bellaugello Gay Guest House is the place to stay.
Easter is a special time here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House. We mix tradition – the ‘Processione del Cristo Morto’ with contemporary, lunch and egg rolling on a neighbouring organic farm. Most guys arrive on the Thursday when we offer a welcome aperitivo in front of the fire, a chance to meet your fellow guests.
On Friday late afternoon we head into our local town of Gubbio to witness the enigmatic ancient ‘Processione del Cristo Morto’ the haunting traditional procession of the ‘dead Christ’. We watch as the candlelit procession wends its way through the historic centre of the medieval town, deep mysterious chanting and the clacking of the ‘battistrangole’ herald the arrival of the dead Christ carried high in the procession. We head off to one of our favourite restaurants ‘Ristorante dei Consoli’ where there is a table booked for Bellaugello Guests, the procession passing down the street, a great chance for more photographs.
For more information on the procession click the link to a YouTube video:
Saturday is the perfect time to relax, you have enjoyed breakfast at Bellaugello in the company of your fellow guests, then maybe enjoy a sauna or walk with your loved on on the many winding tracks from Bellaugello, returning in time for a four course dinner around our antique family table in the dining room warmed by a roaring log fire.
At Breakfast on Easter Sunday feast on local specialities including the ‘colomba’ the dove shaped sweet bread and the local ‘crescia di Pasqua’ a risen yeast bread filled with cheese and best eaten with local prosciutto. This is a chance to paint your hard boiled eggs which we will take to our dear neighbours on their organic farm where they generously host a relaxing convivial lunch party for friends, neighbours and guests from Bellaugello.
This lunch is a long standing tradition of our hosts, on their peaceful simple organic farm, which for many years we have all been invited to participate. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, we will not be the only people from outside the area, everyone bringing a gift of food to share from their local region it is a cosmopolitan occasion.
For further information about staying at Bellaugello over Easter click on the ‘Deals’ page on the website. Prices for a four night stay are from €750,00 for double occupancy of a suite.
If you wish to join the Easter lunch party on the organic farm, and I hope you will, I ask that you bring some speciality food and or wines from your region or country or home to share with fellow guests.
TO BOOK: simply go to the ‘Book Now’ button , that annoying pink tab on the left of the page, enter the dates check-in 13/04 and check-out 17/04 and in the comments box write “Leap into Spring – Easter in Umbria” that way we will pick up your request to participate in the weekend. Final price is dependent upon suite chosen, a supplement of €90 per couple is made for the non-optional items described in the ‘deal’. Of course you can add additional nights either before or after the weekend.
For those of you who are curious to learn more about the ethos of Pratale Organic farm, living by the seasons, respecting nature, and being totally connected to the ground she and her family cultivate, here is a link to an interview in Italian with Etain
After a warm spell with new flowers bursting forth in the garden last week winter arrived in Umbria. As well as snow we were sent a cold Siberian wind, biting, cold and intense. It is at times like these that I am so grateful for the underfloor heating that we installed throughout the house. One can simply laze on the floor and be toasty warm.
Bellaugello is looking magnificent under a blanketing of crisp white snow,
Even with the salt water in the pool I have been out breaking the ice, admittedly a thin sheet, but nonetheless ice. I too have been feeding the birds. Strangely enough wild bird seed has prtoved hard to come by, it seems that here there is not the northern european culture of feeding the birds, yet to me it gives great joy when with frozen ground they come so readily to the bird-feeder swinging languidly in the branches of an apricot tree.
Meanwhile us locals have discovered the existence of European funding for road repairs, so we have earnestly been collecting signatures and last Tuesday handed a petition with over one hundred and twenty signatures, yes we visited every house in the ‘valley’ and all signed. So the request now lies with the comune of Gubbio, and they have acknowledged our request and hopefully will make the appropriate requests for the use of funding for our road which currently looks beautiful:
Umbria is a delightful region in the centre of Italy. One of those increasingly rare places where you can find real peace and “simply switch off”. I was talking with guests from the Netherlands the other day and having booked again for this year they were reminiscing about their holidays. Amongst reasons like ‘being spoilt’ ‘feeling like being at home’ ‘meeting other great guys’ ‘the convivial breakfasts eaten together’ and ‘wonderful dinners served under the stars’ they repeated just how much they appreciate the peace and quiet, and how restoring they find it.
If you want to be part of the Bellaugello experience it’s quite simple, just click on the ‘Book Now’ button on our website and reserve your holidays with us.
She has worked here since we opened, been the mainstay of the Bellaugello team, kept me in my place, kept me sane, done her job incredibly well and beyond all become a great friend and confidant. Turning up for work day in and day out I’m sure Daniela knows more secrets about Bellaugello than I do!
A smiley face peeks into the kitchen with a cheeky ‘bonjour!‘ admittedly the only word she know in a foreign language 😉 if we are really lucky the bonjour is accompanied by a home made cake baked in her wood fired oven, for she is also a very good cook. Then down to work, up stairs down stairs, counting, taking, putting, replacing, making, replenishing, polishing, shining, mopping, slopping, smoothing, reloading, separating, ironing, folding, oh how the list goes on…
I look back to her first few weeks, how she coped with naked guys wandering round the pool, wondering how should I react, and my laughing with guests that as married her husband should be really concerned by her working in a place full of hot guys, but Renato is probably the happiest husband in the area, knowing she would not be harassed! Now Daniela is hopelessly blasé about nudity and all the comings and goings here, she delights in returning guests who kindly remember her too.
Her job is really important demanding precision and a keen eye for detail, I am a pernickity boss with a penchant for control freekery, I demand high standards and her job is repetitive and at times I know can be dispiriting, but rain or shine she does it really well and she is a very valued member of the team and embarrassingly for me very few of her photos appear on my blog.
Time to put this right and say on behalf of many many guests and of course myself a huge ‘brava!‘ ‘grazie‘ and thank you!Daniela. You may feel your work here to your ears is sometimes unsung, but as evidenced by the many TripAdvisor reviews complimenting the cleanliness of the suites but I assure you it is not, your work and commitment is really appreciated by many.
The house shook at 03:36 this morning, and then again one hour later. Two earthquakes in the south east corner of Umbria rocked the town of Norcia and its surroundings, the tremors felt as far away as Napels in the south and Venice in the north.
It has been a very strange and unusually busy day, I have been overwhelmed by kindness. Emails, texts, whatsapps, facebook messages and telephonecalls from all over the world from past and future guests, friends and acquaintances have been pouring in thick and fast. I have been busy replying to all, but if I you have not yet received my reply, then apologies the quantity of messages are considerable. I feel so very fortunate to be so loved.
We were indeed very lucky, the house at Bellaugello swayed a bit early this morning, the crystal tinkled and pendant lights swayed, some guests even slept through undisturbed. Fortunately for us and my neighbours no damage and today with guests in the sun-drenched pool it truly seemed as if nothing had happened.
It is very different in the south of Umbria around the town of Norcia where there is significant damage and loss of life, there are still people unaccounted for. It is hearbreaking to see the photos and video, towns I must admit to not knowing well but still adoring.
If you have a holiday booked, then do come, we are open as usual as is Umbria. Umbria needs you to be here, not to stay away, life has to go on and your support will be much appreciated. On a humanitarian note the local rugby club in Gubbio are collecting clothing, water, food and blankets to send to the affected area. The rescue services are concentrating on the area around Norcia and although many residents are displaced it looks very unlikely that they will be looking for us to take in people who have lost their homes.