Warm sun yesterday found me once again in the garden. A second cut of the lawns, a thorough clean of the swimming pool, no, the pool is not open, the water is far too cold, however I spent a delicious hour sweeping the pool with the sun on my back. Pushing the brush back and forth, the crystalline waters sparkling, it was tempting to strip off and take a plunge, but the water temperature said no! however with the sun forecast to continue we might get into the pool in time for Easter!
The fruit trees, plums, apricots, apples and the almond trees are in full bloom, hyacinths planted deep in the soil in the pots have burst forth, their blue fragrant blooms bursting up to the sunlight, daffodils – those not yet eaten by the Istrice are swaying in the gentle breeze. Wild flowers abound, the garden offering so much, and making a heavy day of maintenance thoroughly enjoyable.
A night of rain drumming on the coppi, those enigmatic terracotta tiles that make the roofs of our houses here in Umbria. Constant, repetitive, un-ceasing, rain tapping, clattering, pattering on the roof of Bellaugello Gay Guest House meant that I awoke – did I really sleep much? I dunno, anyway I got out of bed to a very soggy world
The river Chiascio in the valley below the house was running a creamy toffee colour, full from bank to bank, carving away yet more of those flat alluvial fields that form it’s margins
So, yes it was to be a morning of drain cleaning, no not sewers, but roadside ditches and drains. On with the wet weather gear, stout boots and out with the Ape, and trundle along the road which had suffered badly from the deluge
Having cleared most of the channels and encouraged the water or run along the side of the road, not over the top washing the surface away, I set off out of curiosity to see how the landslide beyond the house was, whether the rain had made the lower road once again totally impassable. Fifty meters beyond Bellaugello, changing gear, the clutch cable broke, the handle flapping limply like a broken tree branch in the wind. No gears, no forwards, no backwards… No option but to get put and push! Luckily an Apetto is light and I am strong, so now it sits, forlorn, waiting a bit of sun for me to get underneath and replace the cable. As a contadino I discover there is always some little job to do and a new skill to learn.
A mere hour and a half by car from Bellaugello Gay Guest House brings you to the Umbrian hill top town of Trevi. As with so many Umbrian towns the houses cling tightly in ever decreasing circles to the hill top, at time it seems as if like suckers of a tree they have actually sprouted from the hilltop. Some cling precariously, others more imperial sit happily in the midst of narrow streets and lanes.
And then through an arch and enter the main square, Piazza Mazzini, a large piazza framed by mis-matching buildings all softly intonacatoed in agreeable pastel shades, it seems Trevi is not only the town of olive oil but of magical gentle stuccoed buildings.
Walk ever upward, why is it when visiting any town for the first time though I am not in the slightest bit even remotely religious, I make a bee line for the cathedral? Dunno, but I do, perhaps it’s the decadence, the technical feat of the long constructed architecture, I do wonder just how did they build that? Or maybe the speranza of incense from the thurible drifting lazily into lofty vaults, or better still an organ voluntary or Gregorian chant – I can’t remember when I last heard that. So up winding lanes, washing hanging from lines high above my head
And to the cathedral square, enter, each one is different. The duomo in Trevi is not to my taste, plain baroque, and lo! and behold! I have just missed the patron saint S Emiliano’s day by two days… He is still shining brightly.
Back down in the town I am reminded by the blue sign that as I have yet another set of forms to send in to some official office I need to go to the Tabacchaio to purchase two of those delightful little government taxes ‘Marca da Bollo’ the little stickers one needs to have for every official document. The helpful cheery guy behind the counter seemed like the right person to ask for advice on where to have lunch ‘cuccina casareccia’ local cooking please. He directed me to ristorante Maggiolini, and a great advice it was. A warm welcome, and great lunch. I learnt that Trevi farmers cultivate a special type of celery and ate a beef tagliata with Black Trevi Celery sauce, light fragrant and deliciously different. The photo does not do it justice..
The restaurant owner saw me tapping on my iPad, I was starting this blog post and smilingly he offered me the wifi code, an all too rare gesture in rural Italy. A local desert of crushed amaretti soaked in rum and covered with chocolate finished my indulgent lunch
And so to the last and finest jewel of the day. As I wound my way down the hill I was astonished to see a flock of sheep grazing in one of the olive groves, I have always wondered how they manage to keep the grass so trim in the groves, now I know. I stopped the car and got into conversation with the elderly shepherd who turned out to be a farmer and a big one at that. Unlike so many itinerant shepherds here in Umbria he is not Sardinian he is Umbrian, living in a village just 5km south of Trevi under the shadow of Monte Serano, and has a flock of some two hundred and fifty sheep. He is carrying on a family tradition. He worked five dogs simultaneously and managed to keep all off the roads and firmly under the trees. He told me that he walks all the olive groves, as the title states that’s some 200,000 trees, a fine life, and I bet that his lamb tastes stupendous…
One of the world’s largest multinationals seems to be having staffing problems at the moment here in Italy.
For some strange reason not reported here in italy but widely reported in the UK press and the BBC from where I learn of a nun in southern Umbria only discovering she was pregnant when out popped a baby, I now read of a young priest threatening to commit suicide “because my boyfriend has left me”
Click the link to read more:-
Gaiaspia blog – Giovane prete Mignacca il suicidio – ” il mio ragazzo mi ha lasciato”
And if the pictures are anything to go by he is just too cute! Maybe I can bring him to Bellaugello Gay Guest House and save him!!!
Trying belatedly to get into the Christmas spirit – festive not alcoholic, I’m feeling really irritated today. I looked online to see where the Christmas Carol Concerts are being held in the region. Nothing like a good sing-song and a bit of mistletoe and holly to get me feeling festive.
To my annoyance I discovered that last Thursday 19 December Andrea Bocelli was leading a carol concert in the splendid and appropriate setting of the Upper Basilica of San Francesco in nearby Assisi, and I knew nothing about it and have missed it.
Logically living in the commune I have been following the events programme for my local town of Gubbio. Somewhat depressingly uninspiring, the programme lists events such as a cooking course, a taste and sample of local delicacies – but only for those staying in the town one night minimum and on presentation of a ticket, naturally the “Christmas Market in the Piazza Grande” and tonight (previsto) a concert under the tree at the church of San Domenico. This information being circulated to operators as early as the 18th. of December, well in time for us to do our marketing and bring in tourists in their droves….No, it’s not a shed sale…
Such is the strange ways of tourism promotion in this part of Italy that each town publicises only their own events and pays no attention whatsoever to events in neighbouring cities, towns or villages. What stupidity, why not share and jointly promote? I know many of you guys would have loved to have stayed at Bellaugello Gay Guest House and travelled the scenic route to hear Bocelli sing in nearby Assisi. Alas you and I have missed Bocelli, so near yet so far.
So I will listen to a recording of the concert and tune into Raiuno on Christmas day at 12.25.
A very personal post today.
All was so very good this morning at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, a still quiet dawn, the mist slowly lifting to reveal a clear blue sun filled sky, revealing autumnal reds, golds, ambers and oranges in the woodlands that hug the valley sides below Bellaugello, the sort of early morning I just love. The wispy mist breaking away and giving substance to the cobwebs spun magically between blades of grass and in low hanging tree branches, sparkling in the ever strengthening sun. Swarovski does not come close. So near to Christmas a day bringing friends and families back to the valley to be together and celebrate, today should have been a perfect day but alas not.
This is a blog about my life here in Umbria central Italy, running my Gay Guest House. Much I write about is based around the business, what I get up to, the highs, the lows, the great guys I meet, my series of Bellaugello Backs, Dinner table decorations, and several nonsensical events, but it is also a blog about what affects me and life here in rural Umbria. Most of my blog is light hearted, there is the occasional rant – often much deserved and about the inordinate Italian bureaucracy, the inefficiency of state systems, the challenges I face, and things that irritate me, but this post different, and is a difficult one.
The phone rang, a good friend….. informing me of the death of my neighbor’s son. Killed in a road accident on his way to work this morning. I am still in shock. For those of you readers who have been to Bellaugello you will know his house, maybe passed him working on his tractor, his home the white farmhouse just over the hill from Bellaugello. Roberto, a forty one year old father of three young children died this morning, his car hit head on by a drunk and drugged up individual driving a Mercedes too fast and who survived..
It cannot be true, but alas it is.
Roberto lived with his wife and kids, and in the traditional Italian way of family life. In another part of the house lives his father, sister, her husband and their son, a close family who are superb neighbours and good friends. Roberto was quite simply a nice guy, ever smiling, always willing to lend a hand, passionate, humorous, un anima favolosa, per me è stato un onore averlo conosciuto.
Today is his youngest son’s 3rd Birthday
The sun is shining it is still pleasantly warm and I have just spent the past couple of hours at Bellaugello gay guest house sweeping up a never ending supply of leaves from the lawns. It is hot work, even in only a pair of shorts and sturdy boots.
There is not a breath of wind, the blue tits flitting noiselessly from branch to branch on the pomegranate tree, Jenny lying dozing on the lawn, even the river in the valley below has fallen silent on this the day of All Saints, a holiday here in Italy which is celebrated by visits to the family.
Of course the autumn fairs are now busy, the Truffle Fair in our local town of Gubbio and the Sotto Bosco fair in the closely town of Montone. We are heading over to Montone tomorrow in the search of chestnuts to roast on the fire, delicious cheeses and the last of the fruit to make into marmalades for the guys’ breakfasts next year.
Yesterday I was down below the house clearing some of the undergrowth, doing manly work with the strimmer with the vicious disk head, it was heavy work but satisfying as I came across olive tree after olive tree each heavily laden with ripening fruit. Some of the trees, their branches hanging low heavy with fruit. They will not be easy to harvest I guess it will be a pocket and bucket job, the land is steep and my clearing insufficient to get the nets down but there are olives a plenty and after last year’s poor harvest, we will be picking everything so there will be beautiful virgin cold pressed Bellaugello olive oil for you guys to purchase next year.
I am at home at my kitchen window, overlooking the sunny Umbrian countryside, a break from gardening, and waiting on new arrival, a guest driving up from Rome, someone else to enjoy the Bellaugello experience.