On water

Here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House in Umbria it has been raining of late.  I have mixed feelings about rain; on the one hand I am sorry for the guys staying as they dodge the narrow streets of Umbria’s delightful historic hill top towns umbrellas clashing with umbrellas, whilst on the other hand the water is certainly needed, both for my garden, and more importantly for my neighbour’s animals. Plants are visibly greener and refreshed, thankful for the new rains, fields in the valley below Bellaugello are daily turning from earth to vibrant green and my newly sown lawns are beginning to look good.

Today is another day of big bold billowy grey cumulus slowly drifting up from the south west, there are intermittent patches of blue, enough as in the old English saying “to make a pair of tar’s trousers’, for those who are not familiar with the word ‘tar’ it refers to a sailor in the days of olde when wooden sailing ships were tarred to keep them watertight, trousers were blue, think Jean Paul Gaultier… it is a phrase I have always rather liked,  so positive, and yes, the blue patches are getting larger.  Anyway back to today and water.  I stumbled across some photos and thought to continue the water theme by posting some photos of the ancient Roman terme – hot water springs at San Casciano in southern Toscana.

Of course you can go ‘smart’ there is a large glitzy spa resort in San Casciano, a rather less glitzy but still chic resort where we go in nearby San Rapalano, indoor and outdoor pools and decent restaurant, however my terme of choice is these ancient Roman baths on the roadside below the utterly delightful small town of San Casciano.  Both San Casciano and Rapalano Terme are within two hours driving time from Bellaugello.

The water is hot, not overly sulphurous, and as the sun goes down and the stars begin to appear the ancient pools become quite magical.  The hot water bubbles from a spring on the other side of the dirt road and enters the first of three baths. As you see from the photos there is no changing room, no café, no bar or piped music, only a couple of benches, one lightbulb and the sky.  Sometimes there are several other people, sometimes few, if you are lucky you can sometimes have the place to yourselves……..

Glorious mornings in Umbria, all things outdoors…

The dogs woke early this morning, in good time for me to snap this photograph from my bedroom window of the sun rising over the Appeninnes.  Recent nights have been cool with frosty mornings. It did try and snow yesterday, those lovely wonderously large flakes that float gently earthwards and do not settle, gave way to blue skies and glorious sunshine throughout the day here in Umbria at Bellaugello Gay Guesthouse.

This means life for me is not a holiday as there is no possible excuse for not continuing outdoor work.  I have been tidying in the garden, preparing ground for yet more fragrant lavender plants, preparing ground for seeding new lawns to the west of the house, and acting macho as a lumberjack, felling trees for next winter’s firewood.

Last Saturday saw me down on the big field with Etain and Monica and Valentina picking cicoria.  I have often wondered why here in Umbria you so often you see figures stooped in fields obviously gathering something, well now I know what and why.  They are cutting cicoria – wild chicory.  It is a local delicacy here, the leaves are similar to a dandelion.  We had a delightful afternoon in the sunshine, catching up with news, exchanging recipes and learning from Etain about some more of the local traditions.  

The cicoria requires a series of washings and changes of water, it is then boiled, drained and tossed in olive oil infused with garlic and served as a contorno.  The taste is slightly bitter and not unlike spinach. Valentina who hails originally from Modena told us that in her home region they also add pancetta to the cicoria, recipies vary so much from region to region here in Italy.   I brought a flask of licorice tisane and we tucked into carnevale cakes that I had bought that morning in the nearby village of Piccione. In Piccione (commune di Perugia) they are know as ‘Strufoli’, indeed that is what I bought, but on seeing them Monica exclaimed ‘ah castagnole!’ Monica is born and bred Eugubino (from Gubbio) and here in the bakers in the commune of Gubbio they are know as ‘Castagnole’ the same beignet/doughnut type of pastry, for the same festival but in two different communes that border each other two totally different names, that is yet another example of Italy’s traditional delights that we fight hard to preserve.

The time taken in picking, preparing, cleaning and cooking is all worthwhile when you get to savour the final product.  Glad to keep some of the local traditions alive and to have unravelled a mystery of the figures in the fields, I shall be serving wild cicoria as a contorno this summer.

Sunday was a day of rest, a trip with friends to my favourite southern Tuscan town of San Casciano dei Bagni where we had a delicious lunch of home-made hand-cut tagliatelle with a fragrant delicate sauce of cinta senese, made from the local wild pig. The sauce bursting flavours in the roof of my mouth.  We then walked through the ancient hill top town and down to the Roman Terme.

San Casciano has 86 hot springs and as well as a very smart resort hotel, there are delightful ancient Roman baths, very simple, basic, and utterly divine, it is to these we headed.  The water is toasty warm and not too sulphorous.  We spent a couple of hours just soaking and relaxing.  San Casciano dei Bagni is a one and a half hour drive through beautiful countryside from Bellaugello Gay Guesthouse.

Terme – San Casciano

Here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House we have scheduled for tonight our first trip of the autumn to the Terme at San Casciano.

It now seems an autumn ritual, the visits at sundown to the old roman thermal baths that sit quite simply below this beautiful Tuscan town.    The walk through the quiet town, across the piazza and down along the dark woodland path, the anticipation of who might be at the terme, how busy it will or will not be, putting rucksacks on the simple benches and the quick change into swimming trunks before entering the tepid waters of the ancient terme and delighting in its pleasures are all part of the ritual, which will last more than a couple of hours..

Evenings here in Umbria are now decidely cool, and a long soak in the warm thermal waters is just what is required…

Thermal Springs

Oh it was insanely early, well before dawn, but we just had to divert to San Casciano and the ancient terme.  Well below freezing outside but wonderful hot water, just what was needed…

A wonderful winter jaunt!

A night at theTerme

We took off last night and headed to San Casciano, a delightful small town where hot waterquite simply bubbles out of the ground.  We stopped off for a chat and something to eat at the delightful bar ‘Il Saltapicchio’ in Citta della Pieve.  The charming owner and chief barista Leonardo,  welcomes gay clientele,  and is indeed organising specific gay themed evenings. – the next being a drag night on 9th. January.

As well as the inevitable high-end spa resortat San Casciano, there are a selection of free public spa baths, and that is where we headed for.  Parking in the town (the police do check the road near the terme where parking is prohibited – at least that is their excuse for coming slowly down the road!) we walked down to the baths.

One light, three park benches, three simple baths, and delighful hot water. in the ancient baths set by the side of a quiet shady strada bianca  The terme are a popular well frequented meeting place, gay hetero mixed,  depending on the time you arrive…

Trips to the Terme are a regular winter activity for our guests at our gay guest house.

san cascianoalec at the terme