Coming from the USA? just got easier
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Oh it is all a bit of a shambles
Usually the talk here in the depths of rural Umbria, in the delightful sleepy valley of the river Chiascio that looks southwards towards Monte Subasio and the city of Assisi is of farming. Whether it is the right time to plant a crop, sow seeds, that the weather will get colder next week and water is finally returning to peoples’ wells, of a recipe suddenly discovered and tried and found to be successful, the birth of the first of this years’ lambs, the speed or lack of internet connection, the hopelessness of the telephone network and the state of the overflowing council rubbish recycling bins and of course who was seen out with whom.
One of the delights and things most important to me about living here in Umbria is the warmth and friendliness of my neighbours. I have been warmly welcomed and encouraged in my endeavours and furthermore made many real friends here in the valley and surrounding area – they even mimick my appalling English accent when speaking Italian! (you know I never knew there was no ‘u’ in appalling) it is all done in a positive supportive way. To be an expat living here full time it is all a real plus, there is a tangible warmth. We share bowls of pasta simply cooked with vegetables from the garden or local pecorino, eaten at the kitchen table. When jobs require more than one pair of hands others magically appear.
To analyse the reasons why a bit, (red underscores everywhere – this spell checker is driving me mad this morning, analize, analyze, analyse, ynalisze, I cannot work out is all of a sudden I am dyslexic, senile, or Apple are subtly changing spellings and British English is being re-written or phased out and replaced with iWrite) it is most likely a good thing for someone to buy an abandoned house and farm deep in the rural Italian countryside, and set about its restoration and turn it into a year round home and associated business.
I understand to open a business is commendable, it shows enterprise and commitment, and brings life back into the community, but when the business is not exactly mainstream and is in the midst of an area with very traditional catholic values, life could have gone sorely wrong. But it has not. I am very lucky to be here amongst such supportive people. Life is honest and relaxed, our values are real, there is no great materialism here, we are firmly rooted to the land, and to helping each other. Yes, we all have problems to solve, most are now really suffering from the economic downturn, jobs are precious and scarce, costs are rising exponentially, but there is a sense of a real community and people wanting to live in harmony, and they cope admirably with a gay guest house in their midst. Possibly in some peoples eyes that is a simplistic analysis. To us it is the norm, reality, and is liberating. Ok, if one thinks about it, one does tend to miss out on the mainstream of life, all fads and fashions and celebrity can pass one by, whether this is good or bad time will judge, but for now I wouldn’t change it.
However all of a sudden the locals have become like switched on slick city dwellers. The resignation of Mario Monti last autumn and the upcoming elections have sparked a fire like I have not seen before in my time here in Italy. Talk revolves around who will lead the next government, what their policies will be – reality not spin is being searched for. How the abuses and scandals of the past cannot and must not be repeated.
The recent announcements by Silvio Berlusconi that he is going to stand, will not stand, and now wants to be the finance minister has set the jungle drums beating. In the past here people have not thought of how Italy is seen on the world stage, they either have not had the media access or have not believed, but now they are tuning in, becoming increasingly proactive and aghast and having undergone real pain in the past year are looking for real change.
Over the past year Italy has begun a huge and necessary upheaval. Taxes have risen, cuts are being made everywhere and prices are rising, it affects all of us. The role of people in various civil service jobs is being challenged, their roles questioned. Bureaucracy, the plague of Italian life is increasingly bemoaned, people want an honest pay for an honest day’s work and a simple honest way of being able to achieve that. The way of life is changing, and now having felt the pain, and I speak for my friends, they, like me want to see the job through to recovery and good times. They are incredulous at the prospect of a return to the past, rich getting richer and poor becoming even more downtrodden, lies spun by billionaires whose actions are not seen as being aspirational, whilst the infrastructure crumbles.
After one of Mr Berlusconi’s last anti-gay statements I made the jest that if he returned to power or is worse still becomes the ‘king maker’ I would emigrate – I rarely voice an opinion on Italian politics, a subject which still baffles me, and anyway as a foreigner I cannot vote in parliamentary elections, and I would, for all the reasons stated above, be loathe to leave Bellaugello, but this time I did and was met by a wave (dare I say Tsunami or is that not PC?) of agreement. It seems there will be a mass exodus.
Finally this country is waking up to the abuses and scandals of the past. Let us hope common sense prevails and a constructive fresh government is formed to take this wonderful country that has shown me on a local level such friendship, support and warmth back to stability, growth and halcyon days.
But for now it is all a bit of a shambles.
Back to the land
Silence, but has the world really stopped……
It’s really beginning to feel a lot like Christmas
It might not be snowing, indeed it has been sunny all day here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, but the mood in Umbria is decidedly Christmassy.
The roadside houses are festooned with multicoloured lights, the ancient narrow streets in the Umbrian hill top villages and towns are decorated with lights, shops filled with colourful seasonal displays and talk of who is doing what for the holidays.
One of the delights of Italy are the traditions, the wonderful winter markets, where you find an abundance of craft items and of course excellent local foods and produce. Down narrow lanes old creaking garage doors normally firmly shut and bolted are now open revealing extensive nativity scenes.
In Gubbio our local town they really get into the Christmas spirit. A whole ‘quartiere’ of the city has been taken back in time several centuries and the streets are re-created as they were many many years ago, it is eerily like stepping back in H G Wells’s Time Machine, lifesize figures hug the walls,stoop over cooking pots or shepherd animals, and of course the “World’s Largest Christmas Tree’ burns brightly on the hillside dominating the town. Prime Minister Monti turned it on, let us hope that he or someone economically sensible is still here to do the same thing next year!
Here at Bellaugello I have been cooking madly, and of course ‘feeding’ the Christmas cake with liberal doses of whisky. In between times I have been taking advantage of our wood fired Finnish dry Sauna and working up a real sweat. Tomorrow I am off to find Christmas trees and start decorating the house ready for the festive season. I brought several decorations back from my travels to Sweden, they look great here and with my already extensive collection of decorations the house will look superb.
What fun we are going to have! [subscribe2]
Colour in the garden
A semi organized visit yesterday, in that the guys had sent an SMS, stating that they were planning to call in on their way back to Holland in the afternoon, but having sent the SMS to my fixed line it resulted in my not receiving the message and being horribly unprepared when they showed up at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, here in the beautiful Umbrian countryside.
I was expecting them, at the end of this week, the day had not been precisely fixed, the visit had been arranged, but stupidly I did not contact them, instead left it to them to contact me, hence the misunderstanding. I planned to cook a batch of my lavender cup cakes for them to take for the journey home. Instead they caught me dressed in ‘workie’ clothes busy putting a coat of wood preservative on the outdoor woodwork. I was scruff personified, not expecting visitors, I was taking the opportunity of sunshine and a deserted house to get on with maintenance work, how embarrassing!
I swiftly took them up to my kitchen and set about making Scotch pancakes, those easy and quick but delicious cakes, thinking they were passing through today not yesterday I had nothing prepared. We sat at the table in my kitchen overlooking the vast panorama to the Apennines and Monte Subasio, the hill that hides Assisi from my view, and whilst the coffee brewed and pancakes were cooked, three packages were revealed.
I am the lucky recipient of a very large quantity of Tulip bulbs from Holland, such a generous gift. Today I went to the agricultural supplier in Gubbio and bought two sacks of compost and am now off into the garden, once again it is a beautiful sunny day, and will plant lots and lots of pots of Tulip bulbs.
The gardens at Bellaugello Gay Guesthouse will be a riot of colour next spring. A big “Thank You” to the guys from Almere
Aaah! what a wonderful day
The sun has been shining brightly all day. This morning the guys once again awoke as if in an airplane above the clouds as mist hang low in the Chiascio valley below Bellaugello Gay Guest House.
The sun has been really hot all day, still a day for perfecting that all over tan at the infinity swimming pool. Now it is evening and fires are lit, wine corks are popping and conversation is flowing.
Inevitably turning to food we are all looking forward to the coming weeks, with the annual Truffle fair in Gubbio over four days starting on 31st. October and the Woodland Food Fair in nearby Montone – yes that delightful town with the stunningly beautiful war memorial sculpture. The fair is for four days and starts on 1st. November.
You will be able to sample chestnuts, mushrooms, truffles and a whole host of local delicacies. Owing to a cancellation we have a couple of Suites available, so come on why not join us in these food extravaganzas? email:firstname.lastname@example.org for booking.
Colours and crafts
Having read my previous post on a visit to my friend Renza’s weaving studio the guys who actually visited having now returned home, kindly emailed me some fabulous photos they took of their visit which they have said I could share with you for which, thanks guys.
I love the colours and tones of the photographs, they show Renza’s work off really well and give a perfect impression of her workshop. I might add that the hand dyed and hand woven scarves they guys bought are also really rather nice 🙂
Renza’s workshop is at nearby Santa Cristina, a scenic drive from Bellaugello Gay Guest House