Last weekend at Bellaugello was a real delight.  For the first time at Easter all our guests at Bellaugello Gay Guest House were Italian so I had to switch my brain permanently out of English into Italian, always good.

The weekend kicked off with the “Processione di Cristo Morto” in Gubbio our local town.  This was the subject of my last post, if you have not seen it then check the video it is mesmerising.  On Saturday the guys headed into the sauna to sweat away their cares and then we dined together, seated in front of the roaring fire around our antique family table, rounding off the meal with some of my home-made limoncello and a raucous conversation.  On Sunday the breakfast table as well as the usual home made breads, cakes, yoghurts and jams was filled with local specialities, prosciutto and affettati, the rich Crescia di Pasqua, a delicious risen cheese loaf, speciality of the region and of course there was also sweet cake and hard boiled eggs to decorate and eat, plenty of caffè and mysteriously arrived easter bunnies and chocolate.

Then, late morning, as tradition dictates we headed off across our beautiful sun drenched valley to lunch with friends on their organic farm.  My friends host a fun lunch with egg rolling, the object apparently depending on whether or not you wish to get married or pregnant, being to smash or not smash your egg.  I never quite remember whether to find love the egg must remain whole or not, so one year I pitch it low and it stays intact, another I toss high and it breaks, but for me every year ‘rien ça change’!

Lunch was as ever magnificent.  The family cook and guests bring food from their homes to share with fellow guests.  One of Bellaugello’s guests brought the most delicious ‘arancini’ from Rome.   On Saturday when he arrived at Bellaugello they were still warm and so so fragrant.  Quickly re-heated on Sunday they were much appreciated by all.  For me you can keep your smart hotels, mega-yachts and pretensions.  Being able to share with my guests occasions such as this lunch in the dappled shade of the Mulberry tree with warm welcoming, generous, caring hosts, who cook and host with love, always welcoming strangers into their home with open arms is really special, something no amount of money can buy.   It is a really relaxing and convivial occasion, together with a delightful group of people from many countries, my guests from Bellaugello are made to feel welcome, and an integral part of the occasion.  In today’s hectic and suspicious life that is, I suggest rare, and for me, one of the greatest benefits and joys of living in this quiet untroubled corner of Europe.

On Tuesday the weather turned and long awaited rain was delivered.  The rain was hard and driving, the wind turned north easterly and for a while the temperature dropped dramatically. I awoke on Wednesday to snow on the Apennines, quite a shock not only to me but to the tender shoots springing up madly in gardens and fields here.

By the afternoon the sun had returned, bringing with it real warmth and I spent a delicious time cutting the lawns and tidying around the garden.  Tonight is forecast to be cold, I know there will be many a farmer walking well before dawn and heading down to their vineyard to light small fires to keep the chill away from the setting fruit, it’s the way they have always protected their vines.  I myself, viziato, will still be tucked up warm and cozy in bed!

This weekend there is a wine festival in Città di Castello, a historic town a bit further up the Tiber valley.  We plan to head there and sample the array of wines from young and innovative producers from all over Umbria.  Please someone call me a taxi!

At Bellaugello Gay Guest House we are busy getting ready for our opening on 24th March for the coming season.  As always after a winter repose there are always lots of jobs to be done and one of them is the road.

An early telephone call announced the arrival of the first truck heavily laden with ‘stabilizzato’ the material dug from the quarry and used to make the foundation of the dirt roads.  Quickly out of bed, eyes still bleary I threw on some clothes and went up the road to direct the unloading.

Stabilizzato #BellaugelloRoad foundation #Bellaugello

 

Seventeen tons of gravel and dirt…  Tomorrow we start filling in holes and levelling the road ready for the top coat of red which has yet to arrive.  I am going to be so fit, and so tired!

This week the English speaking Italian newspaper ‘The Local’ featured an article on “Five crazy Italian festivals nobody should miss” and our local town of Gubbio with its annual “Festa dei Ceri” or race of the candles is up there with the best in the video:

….and to my mind the Calcio Fiorentino looks like another good reason to be staying at Bellaugello Gay Guest House in late June.

Wow! what a busy, joyous and merry festive period we have had here at Bellaugello.  I have been surrounded by delightful people and participated in lovely events.  My mantlepiece is adorned with cards, for which a huge ‘thank you’.

Luckily I have not received one of those gushing odoius “round robin” letters, you know the type that glow with the bountieous good fortune that other families seem to have and require to share with their poor friends…  “We have new neighbours; George and Amal are moving in to the small house next door to ours…  they flew us in the LearJet to the Oscars.  Dahling Milly having passed all her school exams A++++ has been invited to study at Harvard gaining a scolarship (highest ever marks in the entrance exam).  Our golden twin sons Max and Olaf got married this year to Chuck and Vladim – also twins and famous models, you will see the four of them in the new Dior campaigns.  Little 15 year old Justin has, from his bedroom launched a new internet company that is going global and already valued at $5000 billion, dear Hugo was knighted in the new year’s honours list, he is now a belted earl,  and Maud having recovered from her previously thought incurable illness is now trekking backwards on her hands up the Eiger” etc. etc.  I do so hate those, why can these people never do anything worng or have bad times or just be normal? and so I will not do the same, but treading gently on the words, write you merely a brief recap of some of what has been going on these past ten days and some of what is to come here in delicious Umbria, that is afterall what my random jottings are all about.

The weather has been unseasonably warm, to the extent as regular readers will know that we ate Christmas lunch in the sunshine outside on the terrace, and he now reveals after lunch played ‘cards against humanity’ a game that I find hillarious but possibly was not quite approved of by all, hey ho!  Whilst the sun is hot the nights are chilly and the underfloor heating kept us all toasty warm.

This year for the first time I was joined by some of my family who travelled over from the UK, a triple celebration, Christmas, new year and a cousin’s 50th birthday, phew a lot of partying.

The big birthday was celebrated on 29th and late afternoon I drove the family into my local town of Gubbio where you will find the “World’s Largest Christmas Tree” at this time of year the entire hillside is illuminated.  Taking the funivia up to the top of the hill behind the beautiful medieval city, they were blown away by the twinkling lights of the city far below.  We headed into the church of S Ubaldo the patron saint of the city, the 12c saint in a glass coffin atop the main altar.  Definitely a bit spooky, but part of the history of this special town.

Notable too are the famous “Three Ceri” or 300kg wooden candles which for fifty weeks of the year live in the church before being processed down to the city on the first Sunday of May to await the 15th of May the day of the “Festa dei Ceri” when they are erected and raced round the town by men in white pants and yellow, black or blue shirts before in the evening being run back up the hill.  Undoubtably this festa is one of the most splendid medieval festivals in Italy and a great reason to visit Umbria and stay at Bellaugello.

Walking across the delightful cloister we popped our heads into the museum to be welcomed warmly by the lady behind the desk who so carefully wrapped the souveniers chosen by my cousin’s children and gave us an explaination of the exhibits.  This is a museum that I had not previously visited, but will recommend to guests of Bellaugello, the displays are bilingual and explain clearly the history of the town and the festa of 15th May each year.

After an aperitivo we walked down to the city under the christmas tree, the path and trees gaily lit by the coloured lights strung over the hillside.

Gubbio from under the Christmas Tree #Bellaugello

In company with friends both local and global we dressed in black tie and national costume for the Bellaugello Scottish Italian Cenone of 31st December.  Sitting down in candlelight at eight pm we rose nine delicious courses later at eleven thirty pm just in time to head out onto the terrace to bring in 2016 with ‘Franciacorta’ and paper wish lanterns which we launched into the inky black windless sky that was as if by command encircled by fireworks from the villages that surround the valley of the Chiascio river so well overlooked from Bellaugello.

As you can imagine there was lots of food eaten and wine imbibed, culminating in a very late brunch on 1st of January, yes, we brought in 2016 in style.

This afternoon I took the dogs on a much required walk.  The countryside which following much needed 24 hours of rain, it being the first rain for almost four months was looking lush in the golden sunset.

Valdichaiscio #Bellaugello

Returning home it seems you guys have also been busy, many planning their holidays and booking Bellaugello, our online “Book Now” button making booking so much easier for you all.  I am delighted to see many return guests and several new ones already booked up, the “Bellaugello Backs” photo series will definitely be resumed, and expanded this year, photos are requested.

It is going to be a splendid season here in 2016 which has been reflected once again by recognition by “Eccellenze Italiane” of the quality of Bellaugello Gay Guest House, the scheme reflecting hand picked businesses both in Italy and abroad.  Good to see that a niche busines such as our is recognised.

Eccellenze Italiane

By popular request I am proposing several themed holidays this year.  In May we will once again be offering a “Hiking Week”, glorious walking and hiking with a qualified guide in the Apennine hills.  A proposal for a “Singles Week” will become a reality.  I am looking at some team activities for all to participate in, a chance to get to get to know fellow guests.  And of course back by popular demand a “Cooking and Wine Tasting” week and private cooking courses.

I plan to re-open Bellaugello on 24th March in time for Easter.  We will kick off the season with the “Processione di Cristo Morto” on Friday 25/03 the magical and haunting procession in Gubbio, before celebrating Easter with lunch at a neighbouring farm in the valley to which guests of Bellaugello are always invited.  I just ask that you bring some food from your country to share with other guests and the hosts.  It is a very informal warm, friendly, relaxing and delightful event that sets the theme for holidays in Valdichiascio.

With that before I begin to gush I will sign off for now, the kettle is boiled and I need a cup of tea, so just time to say I look forward to welcoming many friends back to Bellaugello and to making lots of new ones, and with that to wish you all a very successful and happy 2016.

Alec

Last night I was invited out for dinner.  A table was booked at my current favourite restaurant in our local town of Gubbio, the “Officina dei Sapori” and off we set.  Being driven for me is a real treat, and going out in the company of two great guys even better.  We sat at a delightful corner table, full view of the super shiny new kitchen, and dined off the creative winter menu.  The food was awesome, service slick and attentive, and for a Monday the restaurant surprisingly busy.

Returning to Bellaugello Gay Guest House for a nightcap we sat outside on the terrace by candlelight.  So still was the night, stars, not a breath of wind, only owl hoots and in the distance the burbling river Chiascio way below in the valley, otherwise utter silence.  It is at times like these that I am reminded of just how magical, peaceful and utterly beautiful it is here at Bellaugello, and how fortunate I am to be able to share it with so many great guys from all over the world.

This morning we all woke up to a guest house draped in cloud, silent, intimate and slightly magical.  Slowly the cloud lifted, and the magnificence of the view from Bellaugello Gay Guest House is now revealed.

Mist seen fromthe terrace at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, Umbria, Italythe village of Colpalombo surrounded by early morning mist seen from the terrace of Bellaugello Gay Hotel in ItalyReflections on the infinity pool @Bellaugello Gay Vacation Hotel near Tuscany, Italy

The sun is shining, it is decidedly autumnal, but a beautiful crisp clear day.

I am delighted that a good number of bookings are coming in for next summer at Bellaugello.  Several returning guests and several new ones, I am so looking forward to welcoming guests who have been before and now become friends and welcoming new guys to my corner of paradise in Umbria.  Confirming a booking this evening led me to my photos and these taken earlier this year

Sunflowers in the sunshine at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, Umbria Italysummer on the terrace @Bellaugello slip into infinity in our pool @Bellaugello #GayHotel

Already the Diva Suite with its sexy new lighting in the bedroom is well booked for the high season, still some space but do not tarry.  Other suites including the Giardino Suite with its large private sun terrace and outdoor shower still have good availability throughout July and August.  You can book online through the website by clicking of the “Book Now” button which also gives you the chance to check availability and prices before you commit, or if you prefer just email me as before.