Temperatures this month here in Umbria are soaring to the high thirties, the infinity pool water has reached a delicious 30˚C and is greatly appreciated, the pool refreshingly well used. Fortunately sitting at 500m we benefit and enjoy a cooling breeze, at the moment coming up from the south, and making it joyous to be here at Bellaugello. The guys have been reluctant to send me their pool photos, so I post one of a guest from last year who is returning this summer and whose photo I had promised to post but did not. I am sure you will agree it is well worth the wait.
The heat has brought out the lavender, its perfume strong and heady, the purple blooms heavy with bees dance languidly in the soft breeze. It has also made our gardens very productive, fresh fruit and vegetables feature on our breakfast and dinner tables. Now is fig and apricot time, and I have lost count of the tens of kilos of apricots the two trees have generously given to us for which I thank them. We have spent much time in a hot kitchen making marmalades and jams, the fragrance of simmering fruit percolating through the house. Apricot and Lemon, Wild Plum, and Fig with Ginger were amongst the recipes that we made.
Together with home-made bread, yogurts and cakes, these fruits feature on our breakfast table, to me an essential part of guest house life. Our table is large. On sunfilled mornings guys sit together drinking coffee and chatting, breakfast is a very sociable time, a time to get to know your fellow guest and to be refuelled for the day ahead. Be it a lazy sybaritic day poolside or one of exploration, maybe a visit to a museum to admire renaissance paintings, a slow walk round the quiet narrow streets of a medieval town, or a trip to Perugia our regional capital which is currently in the throes of their annual music festival “Umbria Jazz“, choices here are great, adventures are recounted and shared, new friends are made, and even as happened this week acquaintances revisited, guys who had met elsewhere by chance also happened to booked here at the same time and just picked up the conversation wshere they had left off.
I am so fortunate to have so many returning guests to Bellaugello. It is lovely to welcome them back as friends, to welcome friends of theirs for the first time, and to be reminded that they return here because we do it ‘right’. I hear horror tales of other guest houses, unfriendly, unwelcoming, unclean and sad, I can even begin to raise my stumbling self esteem somewhat, which after all must be real good.
The vegetable garden are producing but I see the first signs of too much heat. We water daily, but plants are thirsty and like me beginning to wilt. My assistant asked me “Alec are you coming to the pool?” – “No, not now, I have work to get on with indoors” and even if some of the work is really unpleasant, I am happily here indoors sheltering from the heat. Early this morning I was again down in the vegetable garden, the best time to pick the zucchini flowers that burst into life early morning, to be cut, cleaned and kept for dinners. We delight in our dish of deep fried zucchini flowers, Isabella my cook has perfected an airily light crisp batter, it is far from calorie free but the flowers are swiftly devoured.
I am back into my gazpacho phase, soft ruby red tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers from the garden, a hint of pepperoncino and chilled for a few hours before serving, the vegetables fresh and flavoursome the real slow food and la bella vita, part of what an Italian holiday is all about.
Late last night, after we had cleared away the dinner and I had done my rounds tidying up and checking everything was ok, exhausted I went to the pool to turn on Cyril and lie on a sunbed and try my breathing excercises. The moon was full, the sky inky black, the moon reflected on the pool, there was not a sound, the warm sirocco stilled, even the cicadas had turned down the volume. Ten minutes of peace, my time…