The town of 200,000 olive trees

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.

20140129-135712.jpgWind your way up the hill through a myriad of olive trees, you are in DOC olive oil country

20140129-141508.jpgand enter the town. You find ample parking and easy access to the centro storico.

20140129-143146.jpgA short walk brings you to the town theatre, still very much operational with productions throughout the year, judging by a quick perouse of the programme some quite alarming and cutting edge.

20140129-143803.jpgAnd 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.


20140129-143944.jpgWalk 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

20140130-060938.jpg 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.

20140130-061141.jpg 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..

20140130-062311.jpgThe 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

20140130-062545.jpgSatiated I walked back down through this enchanting town to the car, open doorways inviting me in to see some of the jewels within



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…



A really beautiful day, filled with experiences that will stay with me for a long time, and a visit to be recommended to you guys staying at Bellaugello Gay Guest House

The sun is back after the rains

Last weekend the weather was really terrible.  however the rain was much needed and nobody with a large umbrella seemed to mind the soaking.  Today we are back to sunshine, the air is clean and refreshed and the autumn colours are just turning those honey golds so characteristic of Umbria.  Although not blogging I have been up to a few things, so to give you an insight of my days here goes;

I want to cover the pool and garden at Bellaugello Gay Guest House with a wireless internet signal, let’s face it everybody now has an iPad or Kindle.  I have been out researching WiFi antennas.  The proposed antennas are quite small and discrete.  I am told they have a range of up to 5kms – should be more than adequate!  I just need to clamber onto the roof to find the best point for the antenna and how we can discretely run the cable.

The other day a frenetic beeping of a van horn signalled the arrival of a box of samples for a new range of soaps and gels from Erbolario Toscano for me to test.  I would like to keep the Arran Arromatics lavender products we currently use, but I have big problems with the carriers not delivering so am looking at alternatives.  Erbolario Toscano is a high quality range of products using olive oil which is produced near Lucca in Tuscany.  Lightly fragrant and with an attractive artisan packaging, traditional Italian, the soap is really good I am really inclined to go with them for the suites for next year. (make the place more Italian hehe!!)

I am looking at an iPad mini.  I am a keen reader, I read in bed to send me to sleep however before the iPad mini  had thought to buy a Kindle Paperwhite.  I checked the reviews and was convinced, Paperwhite is the right model, the price is not bad and the book selection more than adequate, with the advantage that I will be able to buy English language books here on an Italian Amazon account.

Ok so proceed to buying process – NONE available in Italy until FEBRUARY 2013!!!!!!!!!!!!!  British Amazon has delivery for w/c 14 December aargh.  I heard on the BBC Brian Sewell being interviewed about his latest autobiography and I want to read it now, by February I will have lost interest.  Three months wait I think not.   So I thought why not an iPad mini?  I have other Apple products they could all sync together.  Ok they are more expensive than a Kindle but they also do more, I could use it for music in the dining room, checking emails and blogging, stream movies and yes, read books – oh I can justify it on many levels!  Delivery 2 weeks – that is reasonable, BUT NO ENGLISH FILMS on iTunes Italy so NO point in paying more. I REFUSE to watch Skyfall with Daniel Craig dubbed into Italian

Continuing on the same theme, I am looking at replacing my computer.  As an Apple man of long standing, indeed I have never owned a pc and still have trouble working on one I thought to a desktop iMac.  Wow how the prices have shot up starting €1,400…..  Anyway it must be done so onto my Apple account to discover delivery….   NOVEMBER are we not already in November?

A friend of mine in the UK has a company car.  Last spring his company car was due for renewal.  His car of choice is a Mercedes and being of precise nature he specified color, trim, wheels, engine etc and returned to work in hot anticipation of the new baby arriving.  Scheduled for late July in time to drive over to Italy for a holiday at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, the car when it finally arrived in late August was wrongly specified, and Mercedes wanted another two whole months.

What is it with the world?  One used to be able to go into a phone store and choose a new phone pay a few pounds and take it home straight away. I can remember walking onto a car dealer’s forecourt and choosing the car from a selection and having it ready to be driven away the next day.  A ten month wait for a Mercedes!  I know times are hard but have Mercedes suffered so much?  I have visions of the workforce reduced to one man assembling the cars under the light of an incandescent bulb hehe!  Yes, I did wait 7 years for the delivery of my Morgan sports car but that was in the 1980’s and very much hand made.  I remember DVDs played any language – buy them in Paris, Caracas, Lisbon or Berlin, they all had a choice of languages, so why in this modern day and age can the Apple Store not have original language films in all countries?  And have you seen their ‘original language’ bookstore on iTunes talk about un-navigable

And to why I have not been blogging lately.  It is all Apple’s fault. I have updated my software to a Mountain Lion, all singing but not all dancing it is now inordinately complicated to upload photos onto my blog.  What was previously a simple process of finding the photo, choosing and uploading is now impossible as the small dimension extensions have magically disappeared.  Now to upload a small format photo I have to export it from iPhoto and put it on the desktop, so duplicating it and taking up more disk space and then find it again and upload to WordPress, and as to videos, no way have I mastered that.

To give you and example, recently we went up into the foothills of the Apennines behind our local town of Gubbio, within 20kms you find yourself in the Monte Cucco Regional park a wonderful place for hiking, well marked tracks meander hills and valleys  that are like entering a land that time forgot.  Stupendous scenery, isloated villages, smoke curling limply from soot blackened chimney pots, old men (and some cute younger ones) standing outside the only bar, I expected the only cigarettes available to be Gauloise untipped.  Here and there a lonely church or ancient monastery clinging to a craggy outcrop high up on the valley wall, and Chianina cattle wandering freely in the upper pastures, their bells jangling.  It was all happily reminiscent of the film “the Sound of Music”.   I half expected a Christopher Plummer lookalike to come tripping gaily down the mountain.  But no it is actually 2012 and amongst all this nostalgia there was a 3G phone signal, and with my iPhone camera I could take video and record sound which I di to upload  through my WordPress app.  But no, the video would not upload to my phone, and back at home synced with computer it still does not upload, indeed iPhoto mucked up the format, and I wasted hours trying various ways to share the delightful sounds with you all to no avail.  To my mind technology should be simple and efficient.

Back to business, I am making a few alterations to the dining room and kitchen at Bellaugello and was out shopping for internal doors yesterday.  I need two plain doors, smooth un-remarkable.  The quote came in this morning €187,00 + iva each and that is just the doors, no handles…..  My friends in the south of France posted recently on Facebook photos of delightful antique double doors for their drawing room that they picked up in an architectural salvage yard, cost €300,00 including brass handles and finger plates.  To add insult to injury there is a lead in time of ten weeks for these unremarkably dull but expensive flat doors.

Ok this has turned into a rant which was not the intention, I leave you with a photo of one of the cattle, you will have to make the sound effects yourself, just hit a saucepan lid or two together to imagine the delightful sounds from the bell, I am off to string two empty baked bean cans together, I need to speak with my neighbour over the hill!



Return to normality

After a chilly night the sun has found its strength and today the guys are basking in 37˚c of heat, with a light breeze it is a beautiful day.  The blue sky is reflected in the infinity pool, and after the past few days of lower temperatures the pool water is beginning to climb back toward 30˚c its norm for the summer.

Yesterday was a day for exploring, visits to Urbino in neighbouring region of Le Marche, the Ducal Palace and Raphael museums must see places.  Some went to Assisi, following the panoramic ridge top road that runs from Bellaugello Gay Guest House through several pretty villages and arrives in the town from the Monte Subasio side.  From there they took the easy route to Spello, that beautiful Umbrian hill top town as ever bedecked in flowers.  Guys also discovered the delights of nearby Gubbio, the medieval city with its cable  way to the top of the mountain that overshadows the city, and thence a gently walk back down through the wooded hillside and into the town passing the ducal palace and main square, and bars a plenty for an early evening aperitivo.

Some of the guys made it to my friend Renza’s workshop in nearby Santa Cristina.  Renza hand dyes her yarns before hand weaving and make the most wonderful scarves and accessories.  Her yarns are silk, cashmere, cotton and wools, all naturally dyed.  Renza was not at home but my dear friend Paola kindly walked up the road to the workshop and showed the guys around and assisted with their purchases.

Here the woodsmen are along the road and are cutting vast piles of wood into pieces to fit in the boiler and fireplaces.  This spring we cut some hectares of our woodland and some of the wood is destined for our wood burning boiler to keep us toasty warm this winter, the reminder they will be selling.  I love the idea of locally sourced fuel and minimum transport.

Talking of trees, I took a look at my olive trees and sad to say they have suffered with the arid conditions as have those of my neighbours, it looks as if it will be a poor olive harvest this November.  There is talk of a poor harvest throughout Italy, prices of oil set to rise steeply.

And finally, work on the dirt road is underway.  The Commune of Gubbio have now scheduled a repair to the public road that runs past Bellaugello Gay Guest House and on to San Andrea below in the Chiascio Valley.  The old surface has been scraped, and stabilising material is arriving, all be it slowly it is arriving.  They have over 2kms of road to repair, a big job, I will keep you posted on progress.


Gardening and the post!

As you will have read the past week has been utterly glorious here in Umbria.  Temperatures reached 18ºc and azure skies and big sun filled the days.

I took advantage of the beautiful weather to get into the garden here at Bellaugello Gay Guesthouse.  A big tidy up took place, and I also started on the trees to the east of the house, and worked on the new main entrance steps leading down from the car park.

We have constructed a flight of steps in a very organic way using wood poles, they look utterly delightful and once planted with rambling roses and rosemaries will merge into the hillside.  These steps lead directly from the car park area to the upper terrace accessing the Diva, Duca, and Specchio Suites, with further large steps leading to the dining terrace and Giardino suite.  The steps have meant a bit of re-orienting of lawned areas, which will be seeded in march when the risk of big frosts is over.  Add to that new lighting (discrete and not too bright) leading from the car park down to the sauna and the next phase of my original garden scheme falls into place.  I have calculated the next lavender plant order and will soon be off to the Vivaio to collect the plants, more fragrance, hurrah!

Last night the weather changed and I woke to see the Appeninnes covered in a dusting of snow.  It is trying to snow here at Bellaugello but very half-heartedly, so unable to get into the garden I headed to the post office and pharmacy in nearby Scritto.

The guy in the post office is always really helpful.  Not only for that reason do I use that post office, but the fact it is in my nearest village, there is rarely a big queue and I hope by my little business it will help contribute to keeping the office open, and thus retain life in the local community. Today I was greeted by the news that postal charges overseas have risen.  Now 75cts for a letter, so I had to add postage to my pre-stamped mail.  I was also given a bill for parcels of oil and jam that I sent two weeks ago.  It seems the day I posted them the prices went up, but the post office computer was not then updated.  I sent small tins of Bellaugello organic olive oil to friends back in Scotland and paid €19.00 per parcel for postage. Today I had to pay a surcharge of €2.00.  Inflation hits rural Italy!!

My good friend Penny called and suggested I come over next week to raid her garden.  Penny has a large house near Umbertide and over the past fifteen years has created a halcyon english-italianate garden.  She has abundant roses of all descriptions and fragrances, and next week the moon is in the right phase to take cuttings, so secateurs in hand I will be adding to the gardens here at Bellaugello gay b&b.  I love roses rambling through other plants and climbing trees, mix them with clematis and the effect is stunning.

Peace in Umbria

It was another lovely day, sunshine and lots of it.  The birdsong filled the air and all felt very peaceful.  I finally got into the vegetable garden here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House and was busy cleaning the weeds, which after the rains have become very large and prolific.

It was good to feel the warmth of the sun on my body and at the same time to be doing something constructive.  It may be late but finally the beans and tomatoes are planted.

This evening for the first time this year it was warm enough to eat outside and I tried out a receipe from a modern Tuscan cook book and made invlotini stuffed with lime, avocado, yellow peppers and celery, accompanied by a lime dressed salad with leaves from the garden and our own Bellaugello olive oil, rather delicious!

Tomorrow  I will head down to the vegetable garden once again and finish cleaning the rows and plant the remaining courgettes, then an hour of relax and rest and doubtless continue on my tan!

Olive Trees

We had a good olive harvest last year.  Usually olives follow a pattern of one year good one year bad (how Orwellian is that?). Today we went exploring and to my delight discovered that the trees are heavy with young fruit.  Maybe not quite as much as last year, but it is still early days, we harvest in November or December.

We also started work on clearing a further line of trees.  These trees once formed part of a traditional olive grove, planted with olive trees every six metres with lines of grape vines in between and guelder roses at the end of the lines.  Ok so far?

Well all the plants survive but not in the correct places, so today began a great clear-up, cutting back rampant vines and creepers and pruning mountains of wild thorny roses.  Yes and the olive trees looked in good shape and will be brought back into production with a good prune this winter giving us further supplies of our own olive oil for our kitchen.