Despite Hollywood success with Under the Tuscan Sun in 2003, “Cortona kept its soul: there is nothing forced or false about the rhythms of life here.” – Tuscanynowandmore
Cortona is in Tuscany, 212 km from Rome, and 63 from Siena.
I arrived in Cortona on a very hot May-day with 32°C. I was driving up the hill to reach the city. It has an elevation of 600m (2,000 ft) and embraces a view of the whole of the Valdichiana. I passed by the Renaissance church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio and I parked immediately to take a better look.
Santa Maria delle Grazie is reigning there with the valley at its feet, impassive to infinite glimpses of time. I stopped on the side of the road to take photos and one Italian driving a new Mercedes stopped to tell me e “you are a bad girl“. Maybe bad, but photos were at leas good.
eat & drink cortona on Via nazionale
Cortona was waiting full of people sitting at its tables, on Via Nazionale, its only flat street, as it was lunch time, therefore siesta time.
An expression I often heard in Italy and it just says so much about the Italian life style is „con calma“…which means „without a hurry, take it easy, enjoy“…They say: let’s have a dinner con calma, let’s drink a glass of wine con calma. So everyone seemed to have understood that about Italian culture and they were eating con calma their prosciutto crudo with rucola, pasta a pomodoro, panini with mushrooms, buffalo cheese and fresh ham and many of them were very happy only with an ice-cream. I tried a huge panino with prosciutto, fresh pecorino cheese and hot sauce…so much for my vegetarian moments .. and then an ice-cream with cheese cake and fondante.
I talk about food, yes I do, because Italy is so much about food and flavors. It wouldn’t be Italy if you didn’t gain 3 kilo in one week and could resist eating fresh bread, pasta or anything else that revolves around cereals. If you plan to resist carbs in Italy, better choose some other destination.
Cortona is leading you with kindness and patience on its narrow, steep streets. As always, the first time I see a place I just let my shoes guide me, I want to have the first impression and I do not take a guided tour. All I do, is stop in front of the fist souvenir shop that comes my way, and take a look at a calendar with pictures of the place. I can see in there what they love to show case the most and I pick what I like to see from there. It’s a start…but the best part is the sights you discover by indulging your legs to take you where your senses want.
views of cortona
One of my favorite part of Cortona was the view from the bastion of Fortezza Medicea Girifalco, across hills and farmland to Lake Trasimeno, in Umbria and the plains of the Valdichiana.
Italy’s fourth-largest inland lake, Trasimeno saw one of the bloodiest battles of ancient times, in 217 BC, when the Carthaginian armies of Hannibal ambushed the Romans and killed maybe 15,000 of them on the lake’s northern shore (source:tuscanynowandmore).
The second best in my eyes was the Church of San Francesco. I am not the biggest fun of religious buildings. And I do not think I would volunteer for a churches tour of Europe. But, every now and then, there is this church I set foot in, which has good vibes, and makes me take one step further into its depth, and one more and another. And only a church that has a good energy, holy, creative can have me visit it from door to altar. San Francesco in Cortona, and the Sant Antimo Abbey in Val D’Orcia are one of those.
What I have missed, but strongly advise you to see are Le Celle (The Cells), this Franciscan hermitage which is just five kilometres from Cortona at the feet of Mount Sant’Egidio. In 1211 St Francis along with a few of his followers built the first nine cells of the hermitage and the place has taken the name of Celle ever since (cortonaguide). Advisable would be to avoid hot days, as the road to the cells is on foot only and it is not flat. The convent is able to offer lodgings to those contemplating a vocational life and who are willing to take part in all of the community’s activities.
Life offers you a thousands chances….All you have to do is take one.
author Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun
And so it looks when you have no assistant, friends, fans or strangers approaching you. You end up selfiing yourself.