Boys day out

A great joy to me here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House is when the house is full and one of my guests or even myself suggests an activity and everyone is in agreement, and it becomes a group activity.

Thus it was earlier this week when a suggestion was made for a trip to Casteluccio and the Piano Grande and the pork town of Norcia, and everyone decided to come along.  For those of you who have not hear of any of the above places, let me give you a bit of an explanation.  All three are situated at the foot of the Apennines in the Sibiline National Park, the glorious high hills where the regions of Umbria, Le Marche an Abruzzo meet.  Casteluccio is a very small town at 1300 metres above sea level.  Built on a rocky outcrop it overlooks the ‘Piano Grande’ a vast flat expanse of what is also known as Pontius Pilate’s Lake.  Casteluccio is famous for lentils, here they are expert in the organic cultivation of these little brown gems, which form the base of so much Umbrian cuisine.  The Piano Grande stretches for kilometer after kilometer, is almost flat and is surrounded by some spectacular mountains that roar skywards.  Norcia sits five hundred meters lower and is the meat capital of Umbria.  A delightful town full of pork butchers.

Setting off from Bellaugello we headed along the foothills of the Apennines, and steadily climbing, our convoy passing through fields of potatoes at Colfiorito, and on upwards through winding roads along wooded hillsides and onto to the Piano Grande.The Piano Grande seen from CasteluccioPiano Grande Infiorata, seen by the guys from Bellaugello Gay Guest HouseA lunch stop at a restaurant in Casteluccio owned by a couple from our local town of Gubbio, was a long drawn out affair, not because of the excesses of food, but the length of time to get served, was nevertheless enjoyable.dining at Casteluccio di Norcia, the guys from Bellaugello Gay Guest HouseAs we discovered Castellucio is a sleepy wee town…busy foo stalls at Casteluccio di Norcia, Umbria

And so the the Piano Grande itself, a bit of light relieflight reliefbefore heading across the amazing wild flowersInfiorata piano grande norcia, umbriathe piano grande casteluccio sibylline mountains in flower, umbria, abruzzo le marche,the Piano Grande, Norcia Casteluccio, infiorata 2014The Bellaugello team at the Piano Grande, UmbriaPiano Grande in flower Casteluccio di norcia, photographed by BellaugelloPiano Grande, Norcia infiorata 2014
and on to Norcia, home of prosciutto, salame, sausages, pecorino, lentils, and all gastronomic things intensely Umbrian.  A delightful walled  town, this day sparsely populated, Norcia, the main piazza photographed by bellaugello gay guest houseexcept by handsome guys..Gelati in Norciaand lots and lots of prosciutto

prosciutto hanging in a shop in Norcia UmbriaAll in all a thoroughly great day out!



Bygone values – real friendships

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!