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A Villa in Tuscany - Part 2 of a series - Cortona
This is a continuation of A Villa in Tuscany - a series - a trip that my husband Craig and I took along with two other couples in 2006. For a week, we shared a villa near the town of Buonconvento, and it was a truly enjoyable and beautiful experience. In Part 1 we took in our closest town of Buonconvento, a lunch in Montalcino and then back to the villa for an evening happy hour with our hosts.
Day two waking up in Casa Rasa
Today we are going to be visiting Cortona. I am kind of excited about this because this is the town that Frances Mayes talks about in her book "Under The Tuscan Sun", which I had read of course.
Cortona is a commune in the Province of Arezzo in Tuscany. It is an ancient town founded by the Etruscans and has many legends going back to the classical era attached to it. One such lengend has it that 800 years after the Flood, Noah while navigating the mouth of the Tiber River enters into the valley of the Chiana. Liking this place more than any other in Italy, because of its fertile land, he stops and lives here for thirty years. An offspring of his named Crano arrives at one of the hills, loving the altitude, the amenities and the air of tranquility proceeds to build the city of Cortona - two hundred and seventy three years after the Flood. In fact a Greek historian affirms this as the third city in Italy to be built after the Flood.
Once again, Cortona is yet another medieval town with steep narrow streets sitting 600 metres high on a hillside looking over the whole of the Valdichiana - an area extending about 100 km - consisting of hilly terrain and watershed. I have seen it written that nowhere in Tuscany can you find so much evidence of so many centuries of history in one small community. Indeed I recall reading in Frances Mayes book about how exciting it was for her to walk around the landscape and all of a sudden come across a hidden or overgrown Etruscan road from ages ago.
Driving up the winding road to Cortona we find a place to park, heading the rest of the way up the hill to the town itself on foot. Of course I have my camera at the ready, snapping one of the first scenes I see - the big yellow bush outside of a residence, with the ever present line of clothing drying outside of a black shuttered window. Wherever we look flowers seem to be growing out of rock face. We continue along our way checking out every nook and cranny, but then all of a sudden we are looking out over the landscape and see what looks to be a huge walled in community down below.
Closer scrutiny tells us that it is a cemetery, completely encompassed by walls and various buildings with what looks to be two main entrances. I have since found out that this was decreed by Napoleon to prevent diseases from spreading. What a sight it made, sitting there in the valley, surrounded by gently rolling hills, dotted here and there with ochre colored villas.
We spend a bit more time and then break for lunch. After that Joe decided that we should go for a drive, in tandem with our two cars and he is going to try to lead us to Bramasole - Frances Maye's villa. He and Sandy had taken it in on one of their tours and he thought he could find it again.
Not expecting too much we followed them along winding roads, but then all of a sudden he stopped and there and behold up a laneway we had just passed was Bramasole. We parked our cars and strolled up to the gateway to have a look and take some photos. Just as I was wondering how she felt about people like ourselves driving by and stopping, Joe commented that they had learned she did not live there anymore for that very reason. I am sure one could get very very tired of tour buses stopping and gawking at any hour of the day, so I was not at all surprised.
Heading Back to Casa Rasa
We spend a bit more time roaming around the countryside before heading back to our Villa and happy hour. Before too long we are back in Buonconvento at the Co-op store picking up a few things once again that we need for that night. We are already in the mode of the "Italians", picking up fresh ingredients daily for that night's dinner. Last night we ate out but tonight Sandy and Joe are going to prepare dinner, with Louise and I doing appetizers.
Back at the villa we are all wandering around doing our own thing. Al looks comfy sitting out on the loggia reading a book, some of us are poking around in the kitchen putting groceries away, and finally some of us wander out to the chairs to sit with a cold glass of water and stare at the scenery, each lost in our own thoughts. We would end up doing this every day, late afternoon, at our villa. I look up and see Sandy perched at one of the arched openings in the loggia, water colours close by, and I know she is sketching the surrounding scene. We've nothing to hurry for, just to enjoy a peaceful moment before dinnertime.
Eventually Happy Hour is calling us back to the villa. In the kitchen Louise is busy making one appetizer while I am chopping tomatos for our Bruschetta. Sandy is happily sitting on a bar stool watching us with a glass of red wine in hand. Appetizers finally ready, the guys join us and we all make a toast to our second day in Tuscany.
An hour or so later it's Al, Louise, Craig's and my turn to sit and watch while Sandy and Joe get busy preparing a lovely roast chicken dinner, with roasted veggies and potatoes to boot. What a lovely scrumptious looking photo they make sitting side by side in their tray on the counter.
All Ready To Pop In The Oven
A Perfect Way to End The Day
In no time it seems we are all seated at the dining table, eating this delicious repast, along with Louise's Caprese Salad while listening to tapes that the Swansons have brought with them from Oregon. Neil Diamond is playing and Sandy and Joe get up to enjoy a little dance around the dining room. While Craig and I love to dance; not so much Al - even though Louise would surely drag him up; none of us gets up - we simply watch and let them enjoy the moment. Sandy has come a long way to be here, Non Hodgekins Lymphoma and all, and they deserve this special time for themselves. It is the good life, and we want it to last forever!
Part 3 of the series next!
Please come back and check for part 3 in this series. Next we go to Siena Market where Craig and I are going to pick up some fresh Salmon for our turn at cooking dinner. Plus we four Canadians have a lovely experience at lunch back in Buonconvento. See ya!