Sunday, October 24, 2004


It is Sunday here in Cortona. It has been an eventful and very full couple of days since I wrote. Yesterday we woke up to a foggy morning, much like those we have in Santa Cruz. We walked into town for our usual breakfast and browse around in lovely shops and places. Then we returned to the house, after a good lunch at a trattoria, where we spent the afternoon sitting out in the garden painting water colors, talking with our hosts, and enjoying the splendid sights and sounds and smells of the villa. There was the old granny feeding the chickens and the feral cats and the poor locked-up dog. The grandfather working in the vineyards above us. The father, Valerio, painting on his porch (he is quite a well-known artist in these parts, and has been filling our ears with stories of the art world in this area). The mother, Franca, was buzzing around doing laundry, driving on errands, cooking, and just a big bundle of energy. She invited us to have dinner with them again last evening. Since we had already had a generous pasta lunch, we knew it was time to climb some hills in preparation for the next big feeding frenzy.

We climbed up through their vineyards, through their olive groves, up and up, until we came to a small road that went back into the valley behind Cortona, climbing all the way, past spectacular private villas and wonderful farmhouses. We finally came to a main road that led back into the town of Cortona, at which point we turned around and came back down. Last evening we were fed like queens again, and had a wonderful evening with just us and the family laughing, trading stories, and making our way in two languages. Franca made 5 kinds of pizza in her own wood oven. We had tomato-mozzarella, foccaccia with rosemary, pizza with wild mushrooms, pizza with roasted onions, and pizza with five cheeses. Of course she threw in some salami slices, a jug of wine, and a giant cake to top it all off. Again, we staggered away from the table, and it was too late and too dark to go take another walk, so we sat up and played Spite & Malice and waited for the meal to settle.

This morning we took off early on another major hike that took us way back up into the mountains above where we are staying. There was an old stone Roman road back in there, and I think we climbed for at least 4-5 kilometers. It took 2 hours to reach the top, and another hour to come back down. All the while we were trying to flash neon colored clothing and make loud noises, as the woods were full of the cacciatore (hunters), including the grandfather from our house. Apparently on Sunday going hunting is the thing to do. We were thankfully not shot, and arrived back in Cortona at about 1pm, just in time for our second lunch at La Grotta, a divine little trattoria we have been frequenting. Tired but deeply satisfied, we walked back down to the farm, where Franca was waiting for us. She wanted to take us on an excursion to see Bramasole, the home made famous by Frances Mayes in her books, Under the Tuscan Sun, etc. So we set out in her car to drive there. On the way up, we passed a commotion on the side of the road, and there was grandfather and his cronies with their triumphant catch of the day - 4 wild boar (chingiale) taken on their hunting spree. They were so proud, were eating sandwiches over the carcasses, and we got some choice photos of them!

Next it was off to Bramasole, which is every bit as spectacular as described - a pink villa perched on a steeply sloping hillside, with terraces of beautifully landscaped trees, vines, and flowers all around it. In fact, there were crowds of people walking past it and the locals say that Frances Mayes is so tired of people coming and gazing and even knocking at her door, that she is moving further out into the country. She has bought another house further away from town. We walked back to Cortona from her place, leaving Franca to go off on her own. The walkway to town is one of the most beautiful walks I have ever seen, high along the edge of the mountain, with breathtaking views out along the valley. The roadway is closed to cars and is lined with ancient cypress trees all the way for probably a mile and a half, on both sides. Spectacular!!!

Tomorrow we reluctantly leave Cortona and head down to Lazio. This has been such an utterly delicious and sensually delightful place to spend time. We will miss our Italian hostss very much - they are completely charming!

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