Blogging as ever I find myself sitting in warm sunshine which streams through my kitchen window. My view is huge, commandingly southward over the slightly hazy Chiascio valley. The air is softened by the lightest of mist and radiant with gold, orange, and red hues that put me in a reflective mood and so at this time of festivities for the first time in my many years of blogging I thought to blog a recap of this past year.
The first thing that comes to mind is the abundant sunshine, the balmy heat, warm breezes, working with the sun kissing my body, and at the same time, a considerable lack of rainfall. Last winter was dry, just a slight dusting of snow came for for a couple of days to Bellaugello and negligible rain. The drought that was to continue throughout the year, even now the rain is scant, but thankfully enough to replenish the ground water springs. It has been one of the driest years for many, perfect for those wanting a sunshine holiday.
At the invitation of Bellaugello guests who have become friends I grabbed a week away and headed to the Netherlands and then on to Denmark. It was stunning to visit guys in their own homes and to get to see something of their countries. One day in the Netherlands we were five Bellaugello couples and Alec together. I was taken to museums, restaurants and concerts, even going backstage in the Copenhagen Opera House, in both countries absolutely spoilt rotten.
After a busy time tidying and preparing in the garden and grounds spring saw our first guests of the season, as ever Bellaugello opened in time for the Easter holiday.
On the evening of the Friday of Easter Gubbio, our local town, medieval and traditional is mystically engulfed by the haunting chanting of the hooded singers, part of the procession of “Cristo Morto“. Their chant and the clacking of the “battistrangole” the hand held wooden clackers goes right to your soul.
By tradition the Sunday is a day when we always head over to a neighbouring organic farm to join in the fun at their Easter party.
We roll eggs down the hill and a devour big lunch, guests from Bellaugello bringing gifts of food from their home region to share with others. Local organic food always features here as indeed it does on the breakfast and dinner menus at Bellaugello.
In early April I said goodbye to a good friend. Jenny my Cocker Spaniel who had been part of my Italian adventure from the start at the age of fifteen died. Adored by guests, she had enjoyed a spectacularly happy life here at Bellaugello, after all it is a beautiful place to live and work. Ever spoilt and never keeping still, her life was driven by search for food. She had her evening routine of patrolling the terraces of the suites where guys were taking their Aperitivo in the hope of being given a crumb or two, and failing crumbs on the first visit would circle the house and begin all over again. In the absence of food she amused herself in moving rocks!
As April headed into May all was excitement in Gubbio as the final preparations for the “Corsa dei Ceri” or “Race of the Candles” is held on 15th of the month. The race involving three ginormous ‘phallic’ ceri is comprised of three teams, all dressed in white pants with depending on which saint’s team they represent black, blue or yellow shirts. The festa is taken very seriously. This is medieval pageantry at its very best. You probably have not heard of it because the race is run by the town for the town, which on 15th of May the town is packed solid. All are welcome to watch the day’s events unfold. We from Bellaugello are always in the main square for the “Altzata” the moment the teams depart, it is an amazing experience. For more information here is a link to the Ceri website:https://www.ceri.it/
As I wrote at the time, in plagiarising Oscar Wilde; “To lose one dog may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness”, and so it was in May that I said goodbye to Bobby my rescue English Setter. Bobby had come to Bellaugello some three years ago. I discovered him on a very wet day in a very distressing condition and brought him to Bellaugello. Although already an old dog he was full of life, loyal to a fault, and followed me like a shadow. He gave me joy and I believe being here with you all gave him joy too.
May soon headed into June and we welcomed a Yoga teacher from Rome who had us stretching and reaching places and using muscles that at least I did not know ever existed. The grounds and nature at Bellaugello are a wonderful place to practice yoga.
With the infinity pool basking in hot sun it delightfully welcomed back many returning together with several first time guests. The pool and terrace is the place to relax and soak up the sun. The pool system makes natural chlorine, so easy on the skin and eyes and at fifteen metres in length it is great for some serious lap swimming, or for those of you just wanting to be lazy just to dip in and cool off.
June is the month when we really begin to eat fruit so generously given to us by the gardens at Bellaugello. This year we harvested a bumper crop of Apricots and Figs, and for the first time our own juicy melons. I find myself busy baking pies and cakes and making home-made conserves for the breakfast table. The guys cut fruits to make fresh juices. Seasonal foods still predominate in Italy, you eat well.
Summer dining at Bellaugello is on the terrace, under the stars. In June we are visited by fireflies, they dance around the garden their small green lights flitting mesmerizingly among the lavender and rosemary bushes.
But Oh! I cannot ignore the pool it is such a delight, like a magnet to metal or moths to a flame it keeps attracting the most beautiful guys!
As summer progressed I found myself away from the business for a night. No I was not off galavanting, but a persistent pain in my chest had finally forced me to go to hospital, and yes, despite being told not to, ever thinking all would be fine and quickly resolved I drove my self there. No, it was not. Tests were conducted and they kept me in overnight, grrrr…. I had come unprepared, and was very much on my own, no family support network for me, it was tough and I was not at all happy.
Frustration, feeling unwell and not wanting to be in hospital I was stuck there for over thirty hours, barely a drop of water and a telephone with no charge, I could not bark commands to anyone! When they finally released me I got back home and hosted one of the Bellaugello dinners, guests come first, work goes on, it is work I adore.
Rarely but just sometimes for pleasure I manage to tear myself away from Bellaugello, and this summer there were three occasions. The first a seminar for Gay businesses hosted by Google Milano, and my first time to Milan since I have been living in Italy. An obscenely early start, the train from Terontola to Milano, breakfast in a chic bar with the cutest barista, a beneficial meeting and then on my way home getting off the train at the wrong station… how had the managed to so radically change the piazza in a day? durrr…..
My second outing was with all the guys from Bellaugello as we clambered into a minibus and headed over the valley to the Sagra di Polenta e Salsiccie at the village of Carbonessca. Now Carbonesca is just over the river from Bellaugello, hidden by a small hill and what you would consider a ‘two horse town’, blink and you miss it, but for two weeks in summer it runs the most amazing sagra culminating on a Saturday evening with live music and dinner of Polenta and sausages, red and white wine, water all in a never ending supply for the huge sum of 12 euro. Kitch music, a great singer (almost as good as one of our guests) and lots of dancing, Bellaugello guys performing a hilarious line dance, a superb evening, and one that the guys had said if they had stumbled across they would have driven past and not known how much fun they would have missed, some are even booked back next summer for the same week just so they can go again! Such is the joy of a holiday at Bellaugello
The destination for my third evening way from home was a couple of hours drive to the town of Macerata in neighbouring Le Marche where in the summer the town hosts the Macerata Opera Festival in the magnificent setting of the Sferisterio. Here is a link to the 2018 programme: Sferisterio Macerata 2018 For opera lovers this is a “Must do” event.
As they say, ‘meanwhile back at the ranch’ Bellaugello had been invaded by a family of pink flamingoes….
clearly heading poolward…..
At Bellaugello we are a small team, all dedicated to ensuring your holiday is the best. This year all the way from Puglia I had the pleasure of welcoming back Mauro who is known to many guests from his time here in 2016. Mauro is a real nice cheery fun guy to have around and somehow manges to keep me in order, most of the time!
As Summer headed into Autumn, an at first timid visitor became more courageous and regularly at five o’clock came to be fed. Clara as one guest called her was a delightful visitor to Bellaugello. Ok, I reluctantly admit she was possibly responsible throughout the season for a series of Havaianas that went missing overnight from terraces, but she was much admired and revelled in the company of our guests.
Late October and I find myself up a tree, several trees to be exact as it is olive harvesting time. We harvest by hand, nets are placed under the trees, we climb ladders or up into the tree branches and pluck the ripe fruit from the slender silvery green leaved branches.
We then take the fruit to a mill or ‘frantoio’ in Gubbio where the olives are ground by huge stone grind wheels and slowly turned into the most beautiful extra virgin cold pressed Bellaugello Umbrian olive oil. You will find a gift bottle in your suite on arrival, and we have larger bottles for you to buy and enjoy at home.
So December arrived and on the evening of the seventh with a signal from the International Space Station the “World’s Largest Christmas Tree” was magically lit up and so a month of Christmas celebrations began in our local town of Gubbio.
Gubbio rocks at Christmas, craft market, fireworks, live music, life size medieval street scenes, a skating rink and a ferris wheel, fun for all.
Wow! a marathon post, but just a hop skip and a jump skim through my memories of 2017 at Bellaugello. There is so much more I could have mentioned, written of the many many guests who have become friends and have returned once again for their holidays, of the new friendships made. The delightful days when guests chatted feely and openly at breakfast over another cappuccino, the hilarity in the swimming pool, the odd queen or dowager duchess or two, witnessing the romance of newly-weds, the enjoyment poolside on the new day bed, the countless photo opportunities, brave midnight swims, romantic dinners enjoyed by couples on their private terraces, the relaxing in a clothing optional environment, couples lazily reading a book in a hammock in the shade of a large fig tree, many a relaxing massage on a terrace deep in the garden, dappled sunlight, birdsong and capable professional hands easing away the cares of a chaotic world. Museums that were visited, hill top towns perused, vineyards explored and wines tasted, concerts attended and Umbrian restaurants that fed guys well on truffles, boar, home made pasta and wild mushrooms. That and much more is Bellaugello of 2017.