One good bit of news (possibly the only one) coming out of the UK this week was the announcement by British Airways of direct flights from London Heathrow to our local airport of Perugia.  Your journey to Bellaugello Gay Guest House just gets easier.

Flights are on Monday, Thursday and Saturday from 2nd July to 31st August 2020.

I just checked the BA website and currently prices are as low as 33€ each way.  For your comfort there is also a business class section.  Bellaugello is booking up already for July and August so get your reservation in soon.

Bellaugello Gay Guest House is an easy 45 minute drive from Perugia airport.

Click on this link to book Bellaugello: BOOK BELLAUGELLO

Click on this link to book British Airways Flights: BOOK BRITISH AIRWAYS

The skyline of Florence, that magical Tuscan city, is dominated by the Duomo of S. Maria del Fiore.  The city is both an arrival point for many holidayers in Italy and a pleasant couple of hours drive from Bellaugello Gay Guest House.   In centuries gone by artists, and spoken word of the nobility on ‘the grand tour’ were the only record of the majestic cathedral and its domination of the city skyline.  Now Instagrammers from all over the world follow the tradition of earlier ‘box browniers’ in snapping this architectural masterpiece.  It never ceases to amaze me just how many millions of photos are clicked away every day.  Most, I guess, never to be seen again.

Snapped from the Piazza Michelangelo on the far bank of the Arno, the view of Firenze is arguably the classic panorama of all Italian renaissance cityscapes.   The cathedral with its terracotta dome dominates.  Famous the world over, it encapsulates the romance of an Italian holiday.  Florence is a compact city to visit.  Although driving is easy, parking a-plenty and traffic rarely a problem,  I choose to take the train.  I love the journey from Perugia, passing the crystaline waters of Lago Trasimeno before heading northwards past Cortona and Arezzo then dropping down  into the Arno valley.

The station of S Maria Novella is a 1930s gem.  Designed by Gruppo Toscano led by rationalist architect Giovanni Michelucci, it is, (apart from the loss of the handy left luggage room now tragically replaced by a McDonalds) thankfully virtually intact.  The building is still surprisingly well maintained.  The clean line architecture, dramatic changes in roof heights, use of glass, expansive murals and a multitude of ribbon-like light fittings engulf one whilst the text of the crisp bronze signs speak of Agatha Christie movies and elegant travel to exotic places.  The station has the advantage of being remarkably ‘downtown’ a hop skip and a jump from the main sights.

Please leave the station by the main booking hall entrance that takes you to the piazza.  This way you avoid the sight of several further McDonalds that litter the side street next to the station.  If you have time cross the piazza and visit the museum of S. Maria Novella, a haven of medieval peace in this bustling city.  Since 1920 the Carabinieri used part of the buildings as their school.  The school is now being relocated so access is possible to the dramatic large frescoed cloister.  The museum often hosts visiting exhibitions, the most recent being on the Botanica of Leonardo, himself born in the nearby town of Vinci.

Walk along narrow pavements competing with the clunk clunk clunk of roller bags interspersed with elegant Florentines, the aroma of real Italian coffee punctuates the air.  After only five minutes you catch your first glimpse of the cathedral or ‘Duomo’.  This is the third largest church in Europe and no matter how many times I visit it never ceases to amaze me.  Yes, I love the baptistry with its colossal Ghiberti bronze doors, but it is the actual dome that draws and stimulates me and I have to climb to the top.

In 1418 The Florentines ran a competition for a design and realisation of a dome to cover what had been for over 100 years an uncompleted open space in their cathedral.  The surprise winner was Filippo Brunelleschi and for the next thirty years the city watched his dome rise.  I can never imagine the ingenuity of the man.  How to raise the largest self-supporting domed structure in the renaissance world, how to source the materials, the craftsmen and to have the utter conviction of his concept.  It blows my mind.

As I turn the corner past the Baptistry I head to the Duomo ticket office and purchase my ticket.  18€ these days, I remember when access was free!  Walk past the splendid facade to the north of the cathedral where there is a queue.  Tickets are timed so the wait is not long.  Enter through a side door to the duomo and you are immediately aware of the huge space.  How must it have seemed to the ordinary Florentine folk six centuries ago.

Through security and to the climb.  420 steps ahead of me, and no turning back.  The first staircase takes one up to the lower gallery walkway below the circular windows that pierce the support for the dome itself.

The climb continues and here I see what really fascinates me, the genius of the construction.

We are walking between the inner and outer domes.  Stonework gives way to herringbone brickwork.  Not regular, each brick seems to be deliberately designed and shaped for its specific place, it is extrordinary.  The higher I climb the steeper it becomes until to reach the lantern instead of continuing to circle the dome the route takes one up across the actual structure.

A porthole view looking down the climb with yet more intricate brickwork.  Climb a short metal ladder and I am outside.  The views over the city always take my breath away, but it is the architecture of the actual dome that brings me up here.  Look just how acute the angle of the dome is as the terracotta tiles lead my gaze to the piazza below.

To do this today would be an achievement, to have done it six centuries ago without electric hoists, cranes, high tech steels and cad is truly remarkable.  The stairs leading down pass between the inner and outer shell

before entering the upper gallery which is just below the Vasari frescoes.  You are so close, the skilled perspective frescoing is mindblowing.

The way down gives glimpses of some of many many delights of Florence, here I catch a glimpse of the pretty basilica of S. Croce made famous by E M Forster.

Descend a bit more and I catch a glimpse of a large statue of a seated man gazing skyward.  This is Filippo Brunelleschi the genius architect. His statue is, I guess, one that 90% of visitors to Florence overlook.  He sits in a niche permanently staring up at his creation.  Out on the piazza I walk over and reverentially nod to him.

If you are interested to learn more about this great man and the dome buy a copy of Ross King’s delightful little book entitled “Brunelleschi’s Dome”

I pass by Giotto’s erect campanile (more stairs to climb if you wish) and into a wide street with stores overflowing with ginormous gelati.  Gelato is famous in this Tuscan city and like selfies with Davide is obbligatory!  After five minutes walk I arrive at the Piazza della Signoria, and marvel at Ammannati’s newly restored fountain of Neptune, a celebration of the bringing of fresh water to the city centre.  I am heading to an exhibition in the imposing Palazzo Vecchio, stopping only to take a pic of David’s beautifully sculpted rear.

Ok, it is a copy, the real one being in the Academmia, but it is still impressive as are the sculptures in the Loggia dei Lanzi including one of my favourites, Giambologna’s the Rape of the Sabines, the flowing musclature is stunning.  I note with a certain stoicism that the sculpture is now popularly renamed as ‘the abduction of a Sabine woman’.  Today I post Benvenuto Cellini’s bronze of Perseus with the Head of Medusa.

I am not taking the short road alongside the Uffizzi gallery that runs to the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio, but instead, I turn towards Piazza Italia that huge square bounded by cafés, smart shops and elegant hotels.  Everywhere I look there is art and big big names, and now all of a sudden I am in the shopping zone and Umbrian craftsmanship is on show..

Big bucks are required to shop here..

I walk on by and head past the covered market to ‘Le Mènagere’ my favourite lunchtime haunt in the city.   Its stark design is filled with flowers, plants, a medley of furniture and assorted bric-a-brac.  The restaurant draws beautiful Florentines, and you eat superbly well.  Ask in French, the right waiter, and two foamy Kir Royales made with creme de violette magically appear.

Thus ended my historical morning in Florence.  In the afternoon I was luxuriously whisked away but that of course, is, a very private story 😉

To book your trip to Florence and stay at Belllaugello Gay Guest House, click on this link: BOOK ME IN

I sit at my desk and catch sight of petals cascade from a yellow rose.  This post was not conceived as a lyrical blog about nature, but, as is often the case, nature intervened and walked my thoughts on a different path.  So here we go, come join me for the adventure.    As I scoop the fallen petals up into my hand I wonder at the beauty and diversity of nature.  Just how are these yellow roses yellow?  The rose that, together with red, white and pink ones, the last of the summer blooms in the garden, I had put in a vase to decorate the table for a recent dinner with friends, has opened fully and is now past its best, so the petals fall.  They fall without warning.  One moment the only movement on my desk is the rythmic tapping of my fingers on the keyboard, then, quietly, and instanteneously, another movement, yellow rose petals fall.  Their movement is a destraction, I take them into my hand, and put them into an orderly pile.  Each one tinted from intense deep yellow to tips of delicate creamy sunlight. My thoughts become fixed on the wonder of nature.

Outside my window, whilst the jasmine is evergreen, the wisteria is a painters palette of yellows.  The trees in the garden, festooned green through gold to ochres and browns, let the wind scatter their leaves randomly.  The dramatic colour change has only happened in the past week, ten days ago it was still very green.

This is the time that I am busy in the garden at Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  Raking, sweeping, netting, cutting back, there are leaves everywhere, they need to be moved, and overgrown plants need to be trimmed.  All these are tasks that I enjoy.  To be outside, the air fresh, the sun still with some warmth, the occasional chance to revel in gardening naked and get lost in dreams.  The silence, punctuated by birdsong, and the water of the river Chiascio swelled by recent rains from the Apennines, tumbling over rocks in the valley below, is such a precious gift.  Songbirds make a stopover as they wend their way southwards for the winter. They hover over the cotto roof tiles and peck at the stone walls, intently looking for bugs and insects to devour on their long journey.

The first robins have arrived and are busy looking for worms.  They sit close by, expectantly, hopefully as I pick catepilars off the cabbages and cauliflowers in the winter vegetable garden.  The ‘Orto’ has been a success this year.  Guests ate throughout the summer from our own organic produce.  So rewarding, so good, genuine food as it should be.  Just the other day I picked the last of the tomatoes, aubergines and the first winter spinach.  The butternut squash have grown generously, and it was those in a risotto that we ate the other evening.

The other morning I caught the deer on their stroll through the garden below the infininty pool.  Cute but destructive, they eat indescriminately.   As at one stage I seemed to be growing vegetables solely for the benefit of the deer and hares.   We had to raise the height of the fence around the Orto, and be extra vigilant to keep the gate firmly closed.  No wonder I cannot grow Irises and bulbs on the extremity of the garden, I guess that is no wonder of nature.

I wake to magical sunrises and misty mornings, and capture the wonder of nature on camera.  Follow me on Instagram (@bellaugello) you too can enjoy morning glory at Bellaugello.

At dusk, when I walk the dog along the road we hear the call of the tawny owls and see the bobbing white bums of the roe deer as they scamper in to the woods.  They say there are wolves in the area, I think we spotted one the the other evening, distant, in one of our fields, but in sight, greyish.  It was motionless, then rose and slinked off into the woods presumably in search of its dinner of deer and wild boar piglets.  Certainly the dog did not want to leave my side, and I am glad she did not.  We were both a bit cowardly.

Oh! I cannot leave you on that note, it probably was no wolf but a large white dog, so, please join me in walking through the woods at Bellaugello…

they are wonderful walks, also in spring and summer.  These woods are home to wild asparagus, funghi and fragrant truffles, wild cyclamen and maybe even the odd bear or two 😉

Thank you for being with me on my autumn journey through the wonder of nature at Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  I feel I have just scratched the surface of this special haven.  I have overlooked to mention the pockets full of juniper berries that I pick on my walks, and have drying in antique champagne glasses in my kitchen at home.  So you can garnish your speciality gin, delightful jars of organic Juniper berries will be for sale at Bellaugello next year.   I digress, but did you know that juniper is common and native to Umbria and Tuscany and that for over two centuries the berries have been harvested and sold to the famous London Gin houses, who, in many zones have a commercial monopoly of production.    Also I failed to mention the sloes that stain my hands and jacket pockets red and are now steeping in gin, which will be ready in time for a post dinner digestivo next summer.   There are others, several, some experimental too.  Maybe a blog post about fruit and alcohol is formulating..

So to return to my initial question; just why are yellow roses yellow? Is this another unanswerable question?  Whatever the reason I am gladdened by the fact that they are yellow and that I live in such an enchanting, safe place immersed in the wonder of nature.  I love to share my home with guys from around the world.

Maybe, hopefully,  you will come and stay next year and tell me why yellow roses are yellow…..

Book your stay at Bellaugello by clicking here

Austria just got closer!  Österreich rückt näher! LaudaMotion have announced a new direct flight from Vienna into our local airport of Perugia.  The flights on Tuesday and Saturday begin on 31st March 2020 and will run through October.  Prices on the website today are from €35,99.   This flight into our cute local airport adds to the recently announced Transavia route from Rotterdam to Perugia every Wednesday and Saturday from mid April 2020.  Tickets on this route are today on sale from only €29.  Now we have direct flights from both Rotterdam and Vienna to Perugia, making a Bellaugello holiday or long weekend even easier.

The LaudaMotion flights for 2020 are now bookable online, click on this link: book flights Laudamotion

Transavia Rotterdam to Perugia flights for 2020 are bookable by clicking this link: Book flights Transavia

Bellaugello holidays are bookable by clicking this link: Book my Bellaugello Holiday 2020

I delight in living in and sharing life in an Italian garden filled with lavender.  It is just such a generous plant.  Delicate tufts of slender silvery leaves form a compact bush that in summer are crowned with the most aromatic of flower heads.  Long flower stems float in gentle waves on the summer breeze, tossing their scent to all.  The purple is intense, and attracts honeybees, butterflies and hover-moths.  The lavender never seems to be still.  In the summer we cut some flower stems to dry and hang in the Suites at Bellaugello and take to the kitchen.  I cook with lavender.  All too often our ‘signature’ Bellaugello cake is flavoured with lavender from the garden. I roast local meats on a bed of lavender.  One long winter we experimented and finally found the best recipe for lavender ice cream.  So silky smooth, delicate, gentle, and intense, the ice cream is a popular request.

October is the time of year when we wake to magical misty mornings.  Sunrises are a multitude of reds, oranges, pinks, and golden yellows that give way to often cloudless days.

I spend endless pleasurable hours in the still warm sun pruning the many lavender bushes in the garden.  Dodging between breakfasts and chatting to guests soaking up the sun, I take up my secateurs and begin to prune back the flower stems that have given so many guys such heady pleasure throughout the summer.

Ok, I am making lavender seem like the perfect all giving requiring nothing plant.  That is not quite true.  It does like to be looked after.  The first three years after planting it received copious water.  I installed a drip system.  Lavender, although perennial, does not last forever and slowly I am replacing and replanting the original plants that are now very woody.  The wood is so fragrant burnt in the fireplace which I am now lighting, not because it is cold, but to give cheer to the breakfast table.

Lastly lavender needs to be pruned back each autumn.  So to return to my starting point that is what I have been doing.  I love my garden, and as I work amongst the bushes I talk with them.  My garden gifts me and my guests such enormous pleasure, so as I prune, I also thank it.  I prune using secateurs.  No! I hear you all shout! you should be using a hedge trimmer…  No way, far too harsh.  Instead I dart in and out, balance precariously on the ‘greppo’, slip a bit here and there, and  snip, snip away.  As I snip the dog decides on the pretence of wanting a drink to surreptitiously check out the guys in the pool 😉  Dear dog it’s too early the sun is just coming up and the mist is still in the valley.

October is a great month here in Umbria.  The sun is still warm enough to lay out in.  Indeed it was a toasty 27˚c earlier this week and guys were poolside and I was gardening in just a pair of shorts.   During one of the rare cloudy moments the Aperol Spritzes came out, a pause from work.   It does not need to be summer to drink Aperol!

I am also proud of my garden and this year especially my lawn.  It is green, and has been all summer.  A huge feat and satisfaction for me.  It may not be up to Wimbledon Centre Court perfection, but it is green!  If you look carefully you can see the now pruned lavender lining the path.

Following on the green theme a couple of pics of the Specchio Suite.  This suite has green gres flooring, a green painted bathroom with double shower, and a bedroom painted green overlooking the pool and with a bed large enough to sleep a ‘thruple’.

As well as the bedroom and bathroom, there is a living room with sofa, a fully equipped kitchen corner and dining table and chairs, and outside a private covered terrace.  This winter the living room of the Spechio Suite is to have a ‘make over’.  I am thinking shades of grey, more contemporary.  I am resistingthe urge to make it ‘loft’ or ‘hipster’ style but the new theme will be more ‘today’.   Along with a new kitchen planned in the Giardino Suite, the rejuvenation of the Specchio Suite is one of my many exciting winter projects.  More about them as they progress..  Keep reading guys!

Occasionally, I do urge myself to take the odd day off and out, there is just so much to see and do in Umbria and le Marche.  We really are spoilt for choice and variety.  Last week I headed south in Umbria towards Foligno to the village of Rasiglia.  This is a magical village.  It is so, so pretty.  An Instagram paradise.

Nestled in a narrow valley on the edge of the Apennines, like the water that cascades through it, the village seems to tumble down the hill.  A helter-skelter of houses and buildings, each one different and unique, all abut each other as they line the sides of the many streams that flow through the village.  They are there because of the bounteous water.

Cleverly restored, thankfully not over-restored, Rasiglia is a village where happily, people still live.  In amongst the many streams you will see the mill buildings.  By ingenious means each mill receives a supply of the crisp water that tumbles from the Apennines.  They used to weave fabrics on huge looms, grind corn, work wood, dye cloth, and make paper.  A large selection of the many old mills are now open for you to glance through the door.  Some mills were very small, others employed a few tens of people.    The flour mill with its two grindwheels is still in use and you can purchase stone ground flour made from local organic grains.

An ingenious number of sluices and spillways throughout the village divert the water to each and every mill.  Today one of them has been converted to a small Hydro-electric station.  Genius!

It was a quiet day, actually raining which made my visit all the more fun.  I discovered a tiny Osteria, the kitchen no larger than a shower cabinet, filled with a portly chef who cooked the most exquisite strangozzi with ricotta and fresh truffles.  Depending on the route chosen, Rasiglia is a one hour drive from Bellaugello.  You can do as I did and take the back roads passing through villages such as Capodacqua, again water everywhere and on to Norcera Umbra, the majestic sleepy hill town famed for its mineral waters…

which, if you believe all that is written on the plaque, the waters of Norcera Umbra are all you need for a fit, productive and healthy long life!

Oh there is just so much to explore…

BOOK BELLAUGELLO, Click this link

One of the first things I do when I rule the world will be abolishing cell-phone weather apps.  We are all, (yes I include myself) obsessed with cell phone weather.  We check our phones constantly, and I know that guys who have booked a stay with us, or are thinking of booking their holiday here @Bellaugello Gay Guest House download and check the weather apps constantly.  The problem is that invariably the information on the Apps is incorrect.   Checking the Apps in late August showed a depressing list of clouds and storms throughout the first part of September.  It simply is not true.  Quite Simply September @Bellaugello Gay Guest House weather has been, and is, marvellous and sunny.

I admit we do need rain.  My garden and guests require water. Part of my world ruling programme will be to have it rain softly and gently most nights from 2am to 6am.  Thus the plants are happy and wake refreshed and we can enjoy lazy sunny days poolside, and I can move my office outdoors onto the terrace.

The terrace is where guests congregate for daily breakfast and our dinner evenings.  We sit together at one table, a table of local wood constructed in our local town of Gubbio by Mario and Fabio.  How many stories this table will be able to tell, of the great guys who sat at it and enjoyed so many good times.  Of the guys who shared, tales, happinesses and woes, and all life experiences.

September has not simply been a month of abundant sunshine, but also my garden and grounds filled with fruit.  Walking the dog I find myself picking up a basket and collecting blackberries from the hedgerows.  This year they are luscious and delicate, and went well in my newly invented ricotta and lemon pudding.   Venturing less far I picked what I thought were wild black plums but, joy of joy turned out to be damsons.   A huge basket-full hardly dented the load of the boughs hanging low by the weight of the fruit.

Washed, picked over and simply cooked with some sugar, I yesterday, finished off making twenty one kilos of this deep ruby intense jam.  At Breakfast today it was on the table.  Nothing beats fresh made jam of marmalade, it so compliments our popular homemade sourdough and soda breads.

Next forage is back to the damson tree for fruit to make damson gin.  I already have damson and plum liqueur basking in the sun, maturing in jars on the terrace niches.

It’s ironic but everyone is asking for the recipe for my fig marmalade, which sadly, I only managed to make a few jars of as the fruit was damaged by the one rain storm that we had.  These jars are now precious and will only come out upon special request.

Meanwhile back in holiday mode, whilst the kitchen is busy our infinity pool has been much used.  Guys sunning themselves, lazing, and splashing about.  Every day I am still blown away by the never-ending huge views over the pool, so beautiful.

Ha! dear reader, I guess you were expecting a peachy butt pic, but, no! not this time!

We have barbecued, meat from Gianluca my butcher, and salads from the vegetable garden.  We grilled and salted watermelon (strange, but hey! I am open to new experiences) and sat late until the contents of every possible liqueur bottle has mysteriously evaporated.  We played many games of ‘Uno’.  It is delightful how such a card game is so easily translated to any culture and language.  We laughed, and selfied, and Instagrammed, said ‘hello’ to new guests, and ‘ciao’ to others, so sad to leave…but delightfully promising to return.

And we delight @Bellaugello Gay Guest House in the news that Transavia is opening a new route for 2020.  Twice weekly direct flights from Rotterdam to our local airport of Perugia are bookable from 17th September 2019, that is next Tuesday, so get booking your Umbrian Gay Holiday 2020.

Voor 2020 vliegt “Transavia” twee keer per week rechtstreeks tussen Rotterdam en onze lokale luchthaven van Perugia.

Boek nu op de Transavia-website

Increasingly I learn that guys just want to relax.  You have stressful, time consuming jobs and the chance to unwind and recharge is hugely important,.  To laze and empty your mind, to plan the next stage of your lives, to catch up on some long wanted reading…   that is what we offer at Bellaugello.

To enjoy the purity and honesty of life, get back in touch with nature and one’s soul, relish in the oft overlooked details that are so very important to life, and simply, breathe.  Simply September @Bellaugello Gay Guest House.