Sunshine and warmth at Bellaugello Gay Guest House have been the predominant feature throughout September.   It is a month I enjoy;  The infinity pool is deliciously swim-able,  the heat of high summer has warmed the land and the stones of our ancient house, and autumn colours just begin to show their golden ruddy hues.

Early mornings are magical, mist clinging to the valley below whirls and swirls gently.  Slowly it lifts and dissipates to reveal another fine day.

I am particularly sad right now as I am not at Bellaugello.  A long planned short trip to Istanbul to both see the sights and meet a friend has me sitting, not at my kitchen window, but, in a hipster hotel bedroom.  My view through a grimy narrow window has me looking down an alleyway.  So very different to the large views at Bellaugello Gay Guest House.   The strokes of my keyboard are punctuated by the hammering of drills, grinders cutting steels and busy city life.

Flying in, the immensity of the city, a city I had long dreamt of visiting exceeded my imagination.  A massive white city with futuristic skyscrapers punctuating blue skies.  Straddling the Bosphorus, the beginning and meeting of two cultures had always drawn my curiosity.   The road from the airport to the city runs along the shore of the Bosphorus.   The water punctuated with tankers and cargo ships each petulantly announcing the movement of global mass trade.  Lining the shore new skyscraper apartment buildings reach skyward.  Stainless steel and glass, security entrances, irrigated gardens, I’m sure they have awesome views and fine concierge services.  Sadly they are unlikely to be lived in, built solely for investment.  Like ubiquitous street furniture architecture has become globally bland and depressingly uniform.  Another day another city but the same banality.  Simply September is best at Bellaugello.

Banal is not a term that you can use about Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  We strive to be normal, but rarely achieve it.  September has been a red month.  We delighted in hosting a young couple of honeymoon guys from the USA.  Red roses on arrival, petals strewn on the bed,  a private dinner cooked for them and served in their suite.  Romance and a honeymoon crafted with love, you cannot beat it!

Their pampering included relaxing massages on a deck deep in the beauty of the Bellaugello Gay Guest House gardens.  Simply September at Bellaugello Gay Guest House.

Recently I spent a hot day at my neighbour’s organic farm harvesting red grapes.  We worked down the rows on the softly sloping hillside.  Conversation flowed as we plucked juicy red grapes from the vines.  The vendemmia is good this year.  Plump luscious grapes yielded 22˚.  A generous jug of the sweet juice was placed on the lunch table.  With hands sticky from the grapes in the shade of the Mulberry tree we ate truffled pasta.  Simply September in Umbria.

Intensely red burns the wood in our oven during our ‘giro pizza’ evenings.  The oven is fired up to 430˚c and pizzas take a mere couple of minutes to cook.  Guys take their hand at making and cooking their own pizzas.  It is not as easy as Matteo makes it look!   As the fire subsides at the end of the evening I bake bread.  Surely there can be little better bread than organic sourdough baked in a an ancient wood fired oven.  It takes a lot of turning and checking, and as I pull the baked loaves out of the oven I put in the beans.  As in the past the heat of the oven is used for many purposes.  I have discovered the trick with Cannellini beans in a bottle.  This Tuscan recipe, which incidentally nobody here in Umbria seems to have heard of is simplicity itself;

  • Soak 500g of dried cannellini beans then boil them for 45 minutes in salted water.
  • Throw a large pinch of rock salt into a sterilised jar.
  • Add two plump cloves of garlic.
  • Two sprigs of rosemary and two bay leaves fresh picked from the garden.
  • Fill to 1/4 height of the beans with Bellaugello extra cold pressed virgin olive oil.
  • Sit the lid on the jar (do not screw it down tightly) and place overnight in the oven.

As the fire cools the beans slowly cook and absorb the flavour of the oil and herbs and seasoning.  Ten to twelve hours should do the trick.  At Bellaugello Gay Guest House we serve them as an aperitivo or snack to accompany a glass of local Sagrantino that best of Umbrian wines.  They will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.  Simply September at it’s best.

Simply back by popular demand is our breakfast cake.  At Bellaugello Gay Guest House it seems September brought out the sauciest of cakes and deserts.  This time chocolate with gold glitter.

and for a desert rich soft Swedish chocolate cake with a pink sparkle dusting…

Simply September being a bit naughty 😉

And for those of you who follow my blog and were upset at not having seen my cock and reading that indeed I had lost my cock, I have good news;  Recently holidaying in Sitges two Bellaugello guests spotted my cock  or at least wrote “We have a large cock in hand (So to speak)” and they are having it returned to me at Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  I am so looking forward to be reunited with my cock.  Photos to follow upon receipt.  Simply splendid September 🙂

Sitting at my kitchen window overlooking rain falling gently on the beautiful Umbrian countryside it is time for a rant.  This topic has been fermenting for some time and I hope that I can express myself clearly.  “Gay Friendly“, how I so detest that term.  Increasingly any internet research for gay travel is swamped by so called “Gay travel agents and operators” who are elbowing in to the market using the term gay friendly as a justification for their existence.  They are not in the slightest bit interested in equality or gay rights but only in making money.  They do not help the gay traveller find a really gay lodging.  They merely promote any old chain hotel or guesthouse that wishes to be advertised as ‘gay friendly’.  No regard to gay ownership, gay lifestyle or gay choices.  These are not places where gay travellers can relax and be themselves, they still have to keep guard and in many cases be discrete.  Lodgings screaming “Gay Friendly” are thrown by the bucket full at the gay traveller.

What ramifications does the phrase ‘gay friendly’ have for the gay traveller?

To me it is an instant turn off.  I will not search any of these websites.  I see the listings as I guess we have no choice but to accept the gays and gay guys have two salaries so are a lucrative market that we should be tapping into. I find the term cynical and want to be no part of it.   When marketing Bellaugello Gay Guest House I actively stay away from such websites.

Open any Google search for gay holiday and the first page or so is swamped with websites that on closer look principally promote ‘gay friendly’ accommodation and have links to the multinational hotel booking websites.  The individual gay accommodations are by their very individuality not featured and are pushed down the rankings.  This is bad for gay travellers. The gay traveller has to search harder and in much greater depth to find a true gay place to stay.

Open a guide such as the ‘Spartacus’ gay guide and again you are swamped by hotels and lodgings that are ‘gay friendly’ huh, that is really all there is in these guides.  They are effectively listings of lodging businesses which will grudgingly or otherwise accept gay guests.  Ok, good so they damn well should.  We are living in the twenty-first century and all can and should expect a decent chunk of harmony.  Whatever reason could they not have for accepting all honest well behaved clientele of whatever sexual orientation especially those who pay their bills?    All too often these ‘gay friendly’ places might be welcoming of gay guests but there is no guarantee whatsoever that the other guests will be equally welcoming.  They are just chain hotels looking to increase income stream.  Increase in guests are numbers for the bottom line.

Why, I ask are lodgings happy to be included in such detestable guides?  Are they afraid that if they are listed as ‘gay’ they will be reviled?  Marked as ‘stay away’ – ‘to be avoided’?

I suggest guides and websites claiming to be for the gay traveller must stop the saccharine publicity.  They should not be a cynical money grabbing marketing tool unnecessarily flooding the travel market but be true to gay.  We need to campaign to change the use and connotation of the phrase and the eradication of such useless websites.

The cheeky imp in me sees one useage:  Turn it on its head; As travel advice for those intolerant homophobic travellers that still remain:  Flag the lodging as a place where you will encounter openly gay travellers.  If your beliefs present you with a problem, then don’t go there.

But NO! this is not interpretation I wish the phrase should be put to.  I want it to be used in a positive way.  I do see a very valuable and valid use for the phrase ‘gay friendly’:

Where lodgings are located in blatantly homophobic places.  In countries where being gay is still (unbelievably and sadly) illegalpunishable by death, or subject to putrid inhumane ‘conversion therapy then such lodging listings are clearly important places of safety.

In fundamental regions of countries with established gay rights but where to be openly gay is a terrifying experience, there is a need for such a list.

Applied in these cases, like government travel advices, a listing of places where gays can be safe is imperative.  Gay guys have to live and work in such countries and these hateful homophobic communities.  They might wish or need to travel within these places.  I suppose that one’s employer might want to make one have to go to such neanderthal places ‘for business’.   That action to me, obviously seems unethical, and cynically supporting homophobia.  However we do not live in a perfect world.  Such employer pressure is reality. So let’s use the term ‘gay friendly’ as a place of sanctuary.

Many will argue such a list could be used by those wanting to perpetrate gay hate crime.  The lodgings will be targeted.  As a gay man living in an openly gay business gay hate crime is always, all be it, far back, somewhere obscure in the back of my mind.   International hotel chains have huge legal and security teams so less need to be paranoid.   I, like all lodgings in Italy have a legal duty to register guests with the Italian police.  Ostensibly one could argue that the lists I send could be used for a ‘gay register’.   When joining gay apps such as Grindr, Scruff or Romeo guys willingly make open their sexuality .  Data recorded in these apps is huge and comprehensive and geolicalised.   Privacy, safety…  rise in fascism… religious fundamentalism… and intolerance….  This is a very interesting subject for a future blog post.  Watch this space 🙂

So let’s be positive, let’s turn the phrase around, let’s change the presentation.  No longer let ‘gay friendly’ be a cynical money grabbing marketing tool unnecessarily flooding the travel market hampering the promotion of real gay lodgings:  Make gay friendly a term in homophobic localities to indicate safety and refuge for the gay traveller.

Who will help me in my campaign?

Oh, and by the way the phrase “Gay Only” is one I detest equally.