Packed and on the move again. August 17 … 10:25am we’re off! Hi-speed train 1st class 9419 leaving Venice for Florence and then switch to a ‘normal’ train for Arezzo, where we pick-up a car. From there we find our way to the rental suite in Cortona. Remember the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”? ….. yes, we’re going there for a Tuscan cooking class and a taste of local hospitality mingled with some exploration.
We figured out how to work the “magic” box in Florence that allows us to board the train to Arezzo. Since the only time we use a train is in Europe and we’ve never bought tickets here before, it’s a whole new experience. Even loading luggage onboard is different. At least we’re not loaded to hunt bear like the three Americans getting off at Florence before us. Two women and one man (staying for two weeks) had two large suitcases between each of them. One lady had brought 8 pair of shoes! I thought one medium suitcase and a backpack each was excessive for us during our 4 weeks. Go figure …….
Well, regardless … large or small, when you have to do a deadlift in a small isle way of the train it feels very heavy. Brian almost threw his back out lifting the luggage onto the over head racks and then taking them down. We’re both semi-wrecks right now because of the walking, all the stairs especially in Venice as every bridge has stairs and now Cortona, as every way is up! In the end we’ll be much healthier. It’s just that the journey can cause some achs and pain, but don’t get us wrong, for what we’ve seen and where we’re going it is worth it!
When we arrived in Arezzo it was more heavy lifting, down the arrival platform to the underground corridor and then up more steps into the station. We decided to buy our tickets for the next leg of our journey, because the original train scheduled for August 21 in Pisa only allowed 14 minutes from arrival to departure. We now have just over an hour for that change – it feels much better for our pace, after all this is “pursuing dreams” not “the amazing race”.
The gentleman who looked after us with our car rental at Europcar in Arezzo was gratiuos and extremely helpful. He even helped us with a GPS unit, set specifically for english. Most of the units are italian. Turned out to be very helpful on our first drive to Cortona.
I’m sure we have alot of italian drivers shaking their heads at the slow tourists and the 1 or 2 wrong turns Brian made ….. but we got to Cortona in one piece!
We finally met our host, Mirko a musician no less and his mother Vanna. It was great talking to them.
Gerda has already schedule to take a Tuscan cooking class. Can’t wait to taste how it turns out.
Well the suite is even better than we had dreamed.
It will be a great, relaxing stay. So quiet and peaceful.
As you can see the sunsets are quite stunning.
Our first meal, recommended by Mirko, was at the restaurant “Trattoria Dardano” run by
Paolo Castelli. We got there early by italian standards (just after 7:00pm) so it was partially empty. By the time our wine came the place was full. We had a meal of special flat noddles, mushrooms and white sauce; a plain salade; and a second dish of grilled lamb. One of the best meals todate in Italy! I’d have it again. The meal was topped off with tiramisu and an expresso. Fabulous.
After dinner, we definitely needed to walk it off, such is the guilty pleasures while pursuing dreams.
Around 10:00pm as Brian worked on the pictures & blog we could hear what sound like a military band. After 20 minutes we decided to scout it out. Turns out it was a group of young adults (students?) practicing “flag throwing”. Amazing to watch them. We got a short video of them – other than the costumes it was like what you see in a movie.
Day 2 ….. slow start, expresso & latte with croissants. Pick a spot to visit by car – San
Gimignano (a medieval town with only 13 of the original 72 towers remaining) that should be interesting. Setup the english GPS and hope it works. After a few false starts going the wrong way, we finally got on the right track. GPS can be frustrating, but when it works it sure can save you. Without it we would have been soooooo lost. We didn’t have a detailed regular map good enough to get us there. GPS said 90 minutes – we were there in 95 – of course we stopped to take a few pictures.
We had an uneventful return, other than not knowing what all the beeps and alarms the car or GPS was giving us – for all we know it could be telling us that we had gone through multiple speed traps. We’re wondering what we’ll come home to, as traffic tickets take several months to process and then be forwarded by the car rental – stay tuned for the results.
After figuring out how the clothes washer worked, we managed to get 3 loads done! Then off to dinner just before 8:00pm. We spent over two hours in conversation over a couple of glasses of wine, an amazing salade, truffle spaghetti and a deadly meringue, cream, chocolate desert. The name of restaurant is Teatro Signorelli.
We could too easily get use to this life style!
We thought we had seen all there was to see in Cortona, not so ……. now I think we’ve seen everything!
An out-door escalator, from the parking lot up to the back gate.
After revisiting several of the stores, we had our expresso and croissants, then off for more exploring.
From Nazionale street we went up S. Margherita street along the wall all the way to Santurio S. Margherita (church). After a short rest we then went to the highest point called “Fortezza Medicea Di Girifalco” a fortess dating back to the 14 century. They are just starting to fix the site so we had limited access, but got some incredible shots from the rampart walls. It’s always impressed me how well they built these structures back then.
The walk down was much easier than up, but took just as long.
More checking out the local artists, a bite to eat and refreshments, this time beer. Watched a wedding gather, no bride yet, so back to the suite because it looks like rain. Made it back just in time!
Special Tuscan cooking lesson starts at 5:30. Gerda has been looking forward to that since we arrived.
Well she couldn’t contain herself once Vanna started showing her how to bring all the simple ingredients together, prepare and cook them. It was fun watching them pull together a fabulous meal. Mirko tried to show Brian how to play a few cords on the guitar, no use ……. Brian has fat fingers.
When Vanna and Gerda were finished, we had the best meal so far in Tuscany (and Italy) – brochette, pesto spaghetti, eggplant parmigiano, balsamic chicken and tiramisu washed down with red wine.
Finished off the last bits of window shopping. Gerda got three windows and I got one. Hopefully they don’t break in our luggage.
The final tour involved a chicken, a monk and a bucket of water. Just kidding although we went to a Franciscan monastery. Next we found Bramasole from the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. That took way more time than it should have. Apparently the owners don’t want it marked – too many gawkers. So we passed it three times before we figured out it was the one.
Finally we went to a resort area on a lake 15 km south of Cortona and visited a castle called “Castiglione del Lago”.
Just the final ‘good-byes’ left. Mikko and Vanna have been a delight to talk with. They showed us the other suites. They have done an amazing job.
This has so far been the highlight of the trip. We will come back in the future with friends – maybe during the Giro d’Italia (the Italian version of the Tour de France cycling)
Thanks Mirko and Vanna for your wonderful hospitality! We’ll see you again.
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Until then here is the english version of a poem about you and your town – so welcoming:
fills the air with it’s golden light
filters all with beauty
coloring the why
do we need an answer
for all we see and feel
tortures mind and heart alike
can this all be real
for what is it the heart sees
when you let it rest
bringing out the truth is
what it does the best
so gather all around you
those you wish to share
colors of the Tuscan sky
expressing how you care
if moon and sun can share the light
imagine how it feels
sharing bright emotions
friends can only feel
….. and what are friends but people
we have yet to meet
travelling on your journey
make friend to all you greet …….
Image and poetry by Brian Cobbledick, Cortona, Italy – August 20, 2015
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Stay tuned for the next leg of our jourbey as we move into the Cinque Terre countryside ………..