Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cortona

Charming Cortona

Bountiful blue skies, fabulous fountains, valley vistas, Texas-sized gelato... even "chicken gardening." The good life doesn't get much better than this, folks. Pat yourself on the back ~ you've just made a wise decision to stop in beautiful Cortona on what may be your most treasured Italian getaway.
Arriving To Cortona:

From our stay in nearby S. Albino, we arrived via car rental with a short and beautiful one-hour drive in the countryside. We traveled through Gracciano, popped over the A1 Autostrada, then through Centoia, Camucia and at the end-of-our-stop... Cortona.

We've arrived at cities in a variety of ways (boat, plane, train, car and scooter), but the arrival at the hilltops of Cortona is one of the most mem-
orable. Cortona is stately situated above the valley below and as we wound our way up to the village's outer walls, we found this village a truly unique experience.

Suggested Stay:

Like the movies we've watched countless times, you can never get enough of Cortona. Francesca, you're a lucky lady! Cortona will make a great home base stay if you're in the area for a week... or hopefully, longer.

Must See | Do:

Gelateria Snoopy ~ Piazza Signorelli, 29 ~ Everyone's childhood favorite is also the inspiration for this tasty gelateria that's in the heart of Cortona. Our travel friends summed-up Snoopy's as "big scoops, low prices... need we say more?" We found out after our return that they scored hand-painted keepsake ceramic gelato bowls for just 1.5 € each (while we only got paper cups and cones), so if you visit Snoopy's, hit them up for the ceramic bowls... they are really awesome.

Ceremiche L'Etruria ~
Piazza Signorelli, 21 ~ This charming ceramics store has some beautiful hand-painted pieces. This is where I found my awesome ceramic holiday ornament and an assorted collection of miniature churches and houses.

The Memorable Fountain ~ If you've seen the movie "Under The Tuscan Sun," you'll undoubtedly remember the scene near the movie's end that's a tribute to La Dolce Vita. So topping my itinerary, my friend urged me to visit "Katherine's Fountain" on our visit and after an hour of walking the quaint and hilly alleyways and no fountain, I was convinced I couldn't find Italy, if I was standing in it!

We stopped in a charming leather shop (see below) and asked the British storekeepers for the fountain's whereabouts. In a nano second, I realized that this was playing out like a scene from Pee Wee Herman's Big Adventure where Pee Wee embarrassingly learns there isn't a basement in the Alamo. And I learned the raw and real way that the fountain from the movie, while rumored to be a gift to the citizens of Cortona, was actually a short-lived prop that was disassembled after the movie wrapped-up.

So while you won't find "that fountain," you can find another fountain that is equally majestic in the heart of Cortona's Public Gardens. You can easily reach it by heading out of the village proper via Nazionale an onward via the Passeggiata Pubblica. Here's a handy online map I found that will help guide you. Take note of the giant trees that line the roads here... every one of them marks the local lives lost of World War I and II. Sobering.

T-Nobile ~ Via Nazionale, 7 ~ Note that this is T-Nobile ("No-Bill-Ayyy") and not a "T-Mobile" hotspot. This is a leather shop that has a great and affordable selection of wallets, purses and belts. We scored new wallets and a belt here which prove to be holding up quite nicely.

T-Nobile is also the shop that set me straight on the fountain story, mentioned above. One saving grace from the disappointment on my face was that the store owner told me that while the fountain didn't exist, the home of the Under The Tuscan Sun author, Frances Mayes, did, and it was just a "brief walk" through the park and around the tennis courts. And while her home wasn't in the movie, we learned the house used in the movie was inspired by Frances' house, so we knew we had to go for a peek.

Salivating at the idea of
seeing her home, we headed out the door, new leather goods in tote, for Frances' casa. We walked. We past the fountain and about 10-15 minutes of walking later... the tennis courts... then more walking... and then we were convinced we were lost.

The shop owner said it was the "third house on the left," but all we saw was greenery and a seemingly never ending road. At least 3 times we thought about turning back, but we forged ahead.

All of a sudden, a bend in the road gave a peek-a-boo view of a terraced garden and - I kid you not - dancing butterflies and flowers galore. I felt like I had walked into a real-life Thomas Kincaid painting.

Rounding the corner revealed a grand 2-story house that had the most unique "frescod" paint color. We were mostly sure this was it?

Turns out,
it was! We found out *after our return home* that we indeed found "the" former home of Frances Mayes, and here's a picture to prove it.

Porta Montanina ~ If you love an easy walk, then you've come to the right place! Cortona is a beautiful walking town... and while in search for the fountain that didn't exist, we stumbled upon this delightful passageway located near Cortona's northeastern fortress walls.

Walking through Porta Montanina reveals wonderful valley views and we found ourselves not he only ones basking in the Tuscan sun.

So there I was... meditating in the sunny outskirts of Cortona, when all of a sudden SMOKE! I snapped into action to save the village and the people of Cortona. I ran in the direction of the smoke... and then I found this.


In Italy... you just never know what whimsies are around the corner... even if they're in the surprising blend of of a farmer, a chicken and a fire.
And Italy did have more surprises in store for us! So even though we could have spent many a day in Cortona, we soaked-up the last of the sun's rays that day and headed home to prepare for our next stop... peaceful Pienza.
for the love of : italy

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