Yes, unsurprisingly we still have snow here in Umbria, central Italy, at least places like Gubbio, Gualdo, Norcera and Norcia in the foothills of the apeninnes.  The cold wind continues to blow from the east, and the road to Bellaugello Gay Guest House is blocked by a snowdrift.  So, to quote a line from one of my favourite Eartha Kitt songs ‘no-one was allowed to come in and no-one was allowed to leave the hotel’ – by car that is, however it did not stop me accepting an invitation to lunch at good friends’ farm on the other side of the valley.  I have been blocked in for almost a week and done little but eat to excess and sip on delicious Sagrantino di Montefalco, the ruby rich wine of Umbria, so a good walk and the chance of a chat face to face with a human being was not to be sneezed at, on with the winter gear, and armed with a pair of walking poles off I set for the 1 1/2 hour trek across the valley

Bellaugello Gay Guest House sits on a south facing elevation at some 500 meters of altitude, which has meant that we have not experienced the very worst of the weather, however the road through Valdichiascio has some parts that are completely open to the east, and the altitude rises to some 630meters and with wind straight from Siberia, it is no wonder the road soon gets blocked.  Yes somebody is paid to clear  the road, but they are not always as assiduous as they should be.

The road side is littered with wonderful wind blown snow sculptures

I had just turned into the track leading down to Pratale, the farm to which I was invited to lunch, and to which some of you guys who have stayed at Bellaugello have also been fortunate to visit when I saw Martin and his faithful Camargue horse Papu on snow clearing duties.

And so on the way back down the hill I hitched a ride – or rather was asked to add my now considerable weight to the plough to better clear the track.  I used to be a very keen skiier, but this was a new and slightly alarming experience and not the most dignified way to arrive for lunch

A warm welcome awaited, lunch in front of a blazing fire, divine home-made sheeps’ milk mozzarella and pasta rich with sauce, all from home grown ingredients, washed down with organic wine from the Pratale vinyard.

On the way back up the hill, no offer of a lift this time I noticed! I passed close by the donkeys and sheep sheltering beneath the snow covered olive treesAs I walked past the sheep, the lambs ran to keep up with their mothers, some leaping high into the air, it always amazes and delights me how they can just spring so high in the air and then run off with a skip and a jump.  The route home took me to stop off at two further houses, a chance to catch up on valley news, discuss the various calorific values of different types of wood and efficiencies of various wood-burning stoves, lack of water in wells, lack of road maintenance, and at Monica’s to be once again spoilt with tea and delicious home-made cakes.  My 3 hour walk which was supposed in part to be burning off the excess calories of the past week, ended up being a gourmet trek, what an utter delight!

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