It’s been snowing!

Glorious day here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, our first snow of the winter 2011, looks like it’s going to be a white Christmas…

the approach of winter

Not that it has been especially cold, but I have had the heating on here for a few weeks now.   I just love walking around with toasty warm feet, the joys of underfloor heating!  The sun still shines bright, but the evenings are decidedly cooler, so heating ever more important.

Today has been a day of rest (for me at least!) from the olive harvest and so time to catch up on indoor chores – I still have mountains of leaves to rake up but they can wait a day or two!

This afternoon I joined friends at a local farmers’ produce market, wonderful healthy looking vegetables, several cheeses including a pecorino laced with truffles, and a couple who have restored an old watermill and are now grinding corn and other grains producing a fabulous range of flours, they will be in my store cupboard.  Being a bit of a glutton I ended up by the wood oven feasting off fresh home made pitta style bread liberally doused with new olive oil, sheer ambrosia.  As I drove home to check on Edo who is still weak, the drive was a delight, the autumn foliage intense, the sun sparkling on the newly ploughed fields and that special autumnal light that intensifies as the sun begins to set.

This evening I went to the boiler house to check on the wood and pellet biomass boiler that great leviathan that heats the house to discover that whilst it is working perfectly the display on the control panel has all but vanished… I cannot read a thing, the display is too faint.  Evidently they are not using Kindle E Ink!

At least the house is good and warm, but I have added to my “to do” email list to write for a repair or replacement to Gilles in Austria the boiler manufacturers – new potential customers beware!

Now my thoughts turn back to nicer things and the Quince Jam I am in the process of making.  Whilst quinces are not my all time favourite fruit they have the most heavenly aroma and make delicious jam.  I am using a new recipe from a friend here in the valley, co-incidentally the quinces or melacotogne as they are called here in Italy were a gift from her, and as I write the sitting room is filled with the perfume of quinces bubbling on the stove next door in my kitchen, I had best go and attend to them, I want to adapt the recipe and reduce the cooking liquor to further intensify the strength, and maybe add some nutmeg too??

Tomorrow we head off to the Frantoio to press our olives.  The olives look good but for us the quantity of olives is down this year, still there will be enough for our cooking needs for the year and to have some bottles for sale for you guys to take home as gifts or souvenirs which is all I require.   I am joining my olives with friends from here in Valdichiascio, neither of us use chemicals or pesticides, the trees grow naturally and going to what for me is a new frantoio.   The olives will be pressed at an old fashioned traditional mill using actual stone grindwheel and wooden separators as seen in the photographs of the post this summer on the tour of the Abbazia of Montelabate.  I cannot wait until tomorrow evening to light the fire and sample bruschetta drizzled with Bellaugello virgin olive oil 2012



The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year

The newspapers, internet reports, radio and television are all blaring full of the crisis facing the Euro and the deepening European financial catastrophe, but somehow this morning here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House it all seems a long long way away.

The view from my kitchen window is of peace and serenity, mist hangs over the Chiascio river with strata clinging to the countours of the wooded hillsides glorious in their autumnal colours.  There is virtually no breeze, no rustling of leaves, the only sound that of birdsong, peace perfect peace!

It is surreal to be in this oasis of calm, I am listening to the news from the BBC in London and am reminded that today at 11am Britain remembers the dead of two world wars.  This year as every year the Queen will be a t the Cenotaph for two minutes silence at, 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year which this year is is particularly poignant not only for its palindromic numbering but also as it is the first with no living survivor of the 1914-1918 Great War.  As I write in times of such loud economic turmoil and noise, my kitchen window is still open, wafting in over the silence is birdsong, I am imagining the fields of Flanders, the silence of the armistice, did the birds sing there on this day so many years ago?

The tranquillity of Umbria is cure for my soul…..

The census – time for a rant!

I can well understand that governments require population surveys to better understand their populations and plan for the future of their nations, ISTAT has just last month sent census forms throughout Italy.

Among the various usual questions was one about internet connection.  From memory it ran somewhat like this:

Do you have an internet connection Yes/No

If yes, is it provided by:

A  Fixed line telephone


C  Dongle key

D  Closed private network

They missed the obvious and most important question: Does it work?

If you live in a city then the answer is probably yes, but in the countryside……

When we arrived here in Umbria we tried with TelecomItalia fixed line which promised 7mbps (it took a year to connect over existing then renewed cables)  Owing to the distance from the exchange and their insistence on old fashioned copper cables it arrived at an average slowness of 300kbs haha!! so at the first opportunity I switched to TECHNOADSL a company who promises 3mbps using a line of site transmitter south of Bellaugello and an antenna mounted on the roof.  This speed is less than that promised but never realised by TelecomItalia, and so more likely to be achieved…or is it???

As regular readers will know my internet connection is a regular subject of a rant.  I have complained and complained to the company and they do NOTHING.  Indeed speed can reach nearly 3mbps but is normally around 1mbps  For the last six days the speed in the afternoons has collapsed to an average 100 – 200kbs (even the post or international bank transfers arrive more quickly!) and today from 9am until a few minutes ago there was NO SERVICE AT ALL and it is not the first time this has happened,  the irritation magnifies.

-yes ISTAT you omitted to ask the crucial question, we in the countryside are all doomed to excruciatingly terrible internet connection speeds for some time to come

oh and ps… Why did they not ask in the census if solar panels form part of the heating system of the property – odd very odd!


Been a strenuous kinda two days

The news is all doom and gloom, Italy’s debt crisis deepens, our prime minister is becoming a greater source of global ridicule, the flooding and torrential rain in the south of France is washing out good friends who are there on a well deserved holiday break, the cost of the 2012 London Olympics have risen over budget and are almost as ludicrously insane as that of the building of the Edinburgh Parliament, (who honestly believed that you could build a parliament building for £40 million? that’s what the told the Scottish public who then had to fork out nearly £500 million) and a rogue App with spyware has been revealed, now threatening my nonchalant ‘apple is safe’ smug grin.

Early November in Umbria and I am stressed!  After a great season and now preparing for our Christmas and New Year’s Eve Houseparties, the pace is slow I should be relaxed and tranquil, but I am stressed!

Yesterday was one of those clear autumn days that I love so very much.  Sunday afternoon had brought rain, and dawn on Monday morning that special kind of air that is squeaky clean, as if it had been put through a boil wash.  The stupendous views from my bedroom window at Bellaugello Gay Guest House over the Apennines were unusually bright and crisp, the fields in the Chiascio valley below the house all well defined, autumn colours on the wooded hillsides intense, and it all just seemed good. But I was not allowed to spend my day watching the sun move over the panorama, no I had a grotty indoor job to do.

A week or so ago I had noticed a damp patch in the bathroom wall of one of the Suites, and on a cursory inspection discovered that the drain for the shower had been installed off centre and left full of rubble and cement by some careless slaphappy builder.  The off-centeredness meant that there is a split in the outer housing, fine when the water is running swiftly away, but clearly not fine when there is any debris to impede the quick flow of water, hence the damp in the wall AND my day confined inside with a hammer and chisel carefully hacking away at the shower drain and surrounding tiles.

It was heart-breaking! having to destroy one of my beautiful bathrooms, I so love the large luxury bathrooms here at Bellaugello, each one is different, and each has an aspect that makes them all my favourites, so to have to remove a shower drain and destroy tiling was not only highly irritating, indeed very annoying, indeed spectacularly anger making, but it was sad and hard precise work – I did not want to make too much damage.  Result at the end of guddling in the drain for much of the day I have removed the offending crooked tube and now there is a vast crater in the centre of the shower!  I have worked out how to make a precise repair, I have the new shower drain, and luckily I have spare tiles but what colour is the grout??

Today, was a day I have been dreading.  I have been putting off making a phone call or some time and yesterday afternoon was the time when I finally made that call.  The appointment was arranged for eleven o’clock this morning in Ponte San Giovanni near Perugia.

And so at 10.15 off I set to Perugia.  For those of you that have stayed here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House this summer you will know that my dear English Setter Edo has a weak heart and has whilst being very brave, struggled to keep going.  Over the past few weeks he has lost his appetite, I am like a clown teasing him with tidbits, trying desperately to get him to eat something.  Friends have suggested everything from baby food to spam, but he just has lost his appetite and only eats a few small mouthfulls, thus becoming visibly thinner.

So today was the day for a visit to the vet.  Edo is courageous and brave and tries so hard, but he is not well.  Slowly he got into the car, I started it to be met with a welcoming message two lightbulbs were not working, the fuel gauge had gone haywire and to cap it all the petrol stations in Italy are on strike from tonight until Friday…..

So to the vet and he seemed to have to undergo an acupuncture treatment as various needles were stuck into him and bloods taken for analysis.  If he was a human he would be on the list for a heart bypass and kidney dialysis but he is a dog, my baby but a dog.  After the results he was attached to a drip, and slowly very slowly the life giving liquid dripped into his veins.

He was so calm, the treatment took over an hour to complete and tomorrow we must go back for a second dose and an ECG.  He is still not really eating but it is early days and things can only get better.

Believe it or not to add to all my woes I have writers’ block, as I said things can only get better…