Archive | June, 2012

Family Fun in Cortona

29 Jun

Yesterday, my brother and his family visited us in Cortona…our last visitors this year.  They are touring the great cities of Italy and came to see us for a day of relaxation. From noon till about 11PM, we ate, drank, walked, talked, laughed, shopped, and even visited a few of the famous Cortona institutions.

We enjoyed a wonderful family style lunch of many different pastas at Trattoria Toscana.

Followed by gelato at Snoopy’s…

And some fun in the public gardens…(the little boys weren’t so amused!)

Dinner was in Piazza Signorelli, at the excellent Antica Trattoria, where we were in the thick of things for viewing the 2012 semifinal football (soccer to us) match between Italy and Germany.

The evening’s entertainment included horns blaring, flags waving, and people, including us, wild with excitement, as Italy proved victorious in a 2-1 win.

A spontaneous parade of cars and vespas erupted through the piazza…


A perfect ending to a perfect day…Perfetto!

And this morning’s papers…


Another wonderful day in Cortona!



Italy Wins!!!!

28 Jun

It’s midnight, we’re exhausted, but the news is wonderful…Italy beats Germany 2-1 and advances to the EURO 2012 finals. My brother and his family were here for the day, so more on that tomorrow. For now, enjoy a bit of what we experienced tonight in the piazza with the people of Cortona!




PICI…the Real Thing!

27 Jun

If you are looking for Tuscan cuisine that is truly authentic, look no further than the pasta called PICI. Pici is the simplest of pastas, made from only two ingredients: 00 flour and water. That’s it, except for the patience of hand rolling the pasta. Pici is eggless pasta that is rolled into thick spaghetti and often served with porcini mushroom sauce or a meat sauce called ragu. Both are scrumptious.


Now, you can buy dry pici at many shops in town including the markets, cafes, enotecas, wine stores, souvenir shops, etc. Or in Cortona, you can buy all types of fresh pasta and sauces from Bottega della Pasta Fresca, the wonderful pasta shop that supplies many of the local restaurants.


But if you are lucky enough to be here with us, you can enjoy HOMEMADE PICI by Benita and Sarah! The girls announced they wanted to give Pici making a try. With flour and water in hand, they made the dough, let is set about 30 minutes, and began rolling the pici in our very tiny kitchen.

The chefs and their dough!

Rolling the pici

We had some left-over grilled chicken breasts, so they used those, fresh tomatoes, olive oil, a little celery and a dose of wine to make their ragu.

They cooked the very uneven pieces of pici, (true sign of homemade), for just a few minutes in salted water.

What can I say? It was DELICIOUS! Seriously, they did such a good job and cooked it perfectly. Unfortunately, my photo isn’t clear, but you get the idea. And the aroma was amazing.  Some freshly grated pecorino, perfetto!


I’ll think I’ll hire them for a pici party when we get home!



EURO 2012 – Italy in Semifinals!

26 Jun

The Italians, and just about all Europeans for that matter, love their football. In Cortona Sunday night, we cheered with the locals as we watched large TVs blaring outside bars in Piazza Signorelli. The faithful had gathered in their Italia shirts and colors to support their team. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect viewing venue.


After a long and hot match, Italy beat England in a shootout. (photos from RAI Italian TV)


Yesterday’s newspaper headlines said it all.

We are Lions, read one paper…


Great Italy, beats England on Penalites, read another.

Great Italy, beats England on Penalties

Italy’s next match is Thursday, 9:45 PM, when they face the powerhouse Germany. Once again, the Italians will bring their passion, hope and probably a lot of prayers to the piazzas of Cortona. Stay tuned. Go ITALIA!!!



Closed in Cortona

25 Jun

Cory’s and the public pool…two things we had heard about in Cortona and wanted to see…both quite a hike up the hill. In June of 2011, we visited the pool and took these photos. The setting was incredible and included a restaurant. Although it was a bit chilly for June, we were surprised no one was there. There had been controversy over the building of the pool – those pro and con, but the pool was finally built and we thought it was lovely, albeit a bit of a challenge to get to by foot.

Why were the rules in English only????

We had also driven past Cory’s and the setting was amazing. Cory’s offered a few room accommodations or simply dinner on the veranda with an incredible view. This year, we thought we’d try it for dinner.

View from Cory’s

To our surprise, we found both closed. Abandoned might better describe what we saw at each location. Who knows whether politics or the economy or both played a part, but it is always sad to see something lovely lose its lustre.  Instead of taking any new pictures, I decided to leave memories intact for those whose Cortona memories include these places. Gossip has it that the pool may reopen, but only time will tell, and for sure, not while we are here this summer.



My First Ticket!

24 Jun

Fortunately, it was only a parking ticket. We always park along the etruscan wall nearest Porta Colona, the closest entrance to our home.

Porta Colona

This time, we had to park further up along the curve. A tree branch hanging over that part of the wall actually covers much of the no parking sign, so we never saw it. I must admit, however, that I didn’t feel bad paying the 39 euro, or about $50, as we always get to park for free in Cortona.

So, chalk this up to a new experience. You pay for your ticket at the post office, which is a beautiful old building that I had not seen before. Few craftsmen could build that arched brick ceiling today.

And speaking of the post office, meet the postal carrier. She can fly on that thing!
In addition to regular mail, private carries can be seen in their trucks. Note the decal on front.
Despite all the technological advances, many people here still rely on old fashioned pen and paper. Nice.

Cortona Cimitero

23 Jun

Cimitero della Misericordia

I have always loved old cemeteries. The walls hold stories more plentiful than any library – true stories of happiness and sadness, comedy and tragedy, lives fulfilled and lives cut short, and for some, a hope to reunite in the future.

“God, as you united us on earth, unite us in heaven. So  be it.”

The Cortona cemetery is one of those old places that is filled with love, passion, respect and hope. Faces adorn the graves, not only names and dates. Fresh flowers and candles are plentiful, and the quiet peacefulness is broken only by the birds that fly overhead.

The cemetery is situated halfway up the hill to Cortona, providing incredible views of  both the city above and the valley below. Once through the main entrance, the cemetery spreads in every direction. Some of the markers are simple, while others display drama, passion and art as only the Italians can do. Who ever thought of a cemetery as a museum?






Jugs and water spouts are plentiful for maintaining plants, and there are no rules governing the display of flowers, candles or mementoes! Hey, sibs, maybe here?

Riposi in pace! (Rest in peace!)



The Road Less Travelled

22 Jun

The views from Cortona are as wide and deep as the eye can see. From almost any point around the city walls, you need only to look out to see the scenes that painters and photographers try but fail to capture. Not that their art is poor; on the contrary. It is just that the manicured hills and valleys are so colorful and alive that static art never quite seems to do it justice.









When you study the hills and valleys, you notice they are made up of tiny towns, lone houses, working farms, well-tended vineyards, olive groves, and miles and miles of winding roads. Who lives there? What kind of life do the people have? How connected are they with each other, the nearest city, or the country they live in?

Homes scattered throughout













We decided to spend the day exploring. With no destination in mind, we drove to the top of Cortona and headed northeast.


SDL photo

The paved road unfolded before us like a loosely coiled snake. We followed it higher and higher into the blue sky, curling around the  hills that were painted with yellow and red flowers, always  marveling at the slide show nature was providing.


BNG photo

With cameras in hand, Benita and Sarah could ask us to stop whenever they wanted, and as long as I could pull over. Nature was their focus; the vistas were mine. Stopping for me was also great because as the driver, “eyes on the road” needed to be my constant mantra!


Occasionally we came across a few tiny towns, clusters of a dozen or so homes. Often, however, we would encounter a lone farmhouse, a few cows, but never any people.

SDL photo

SDL photo

After quite a long ride uphill, we began to descend. We assumed we would eventually be low enough to find a directional sign or city, but as soon as we reached the valley, the road carried us up the next hill.

Olive groves (SDL photo)

We were surprised by the quality of the roads and the stone bridges and guardrails, as we rarely encountered another vehicle. Besides farming, the only other visible business appears to be the agriturismos or farm houses that offer food and dwelling to tourists, none of whom were visible on our journey.

SDL Photo

BNG photo


After several ascents and descents, and several hours of exploring, we came to a crossroad. Right or left? Two cities listed, only one on the map that Len was now reading.  We headed toward Mercatale as it seemed the circuitous route to Cortona. After about three minutes, the road turned to gravel. Hmmm. Sure hope we don’t get a flat!

BNG photo

Fifteen minutes into the drive, with the road getting progressively rougher, we saw a lovely farm and two elderly people in the yard with their tiny dog. The lady was tending to her flowers and I stopped and asked for directions. Yes, we were going the right way, she confirmed in Italian as she smiled. Follow the road up  the next hill and back down through another valley and we would eventually get to Mercatale and the road that would take us home.

I realized as we pulled away that the kind lady did much more than give us directions. She unknowingly answered my questions about life in the hills. I could see in her warm smile and sparkling eyes that she was enjoying life to the fullest. Uncomplicated, unstressed.  She was surrounded by the gifts nature provides, not the noise of the city or the challenges of the economy. She worked with her hands and her heart, and she was happy. I only wish I had taken her picture.

When we returned to Cortona, and looked out at the hills through the setting sun, we saw them from a new perspective. The hills and valleys, the winding roads…they were more familiar now. Although we were only part of them for a day, we were no longer strangers or observers from afar. It’s not often that we take the time to follow the road less travelled, but for Len, Benita, Sarah and me, the day will be one we will always remember.



A Simple Meal

19 Jun

Pork chops cut fresh off the rib by the butcher


Just picked vegetables from the open market

Ladies buying veggies

Mozzarella from the mercato

Always  fresh tomatoes

Carbonella (charcoal) in the grill

One inside chef ….                                                     One outside griller

Add a little vino….Delicious!



Nuccio Parrucchieri: Hair Salon in Cortona/Camucia

18 Jun

When in Italy, do as the Italians do…get a hair cut!

As the summer heat intensified, and my hair hung too long on my neck, I began to inquire about where to go. Nuccio! was the response. Located in Cortona and Camucia are two Nuccio hair salons –   So I dropped in the Cortona salon to check it out.

Nuccio was started by the grandfather and is now operated by his grandsons, David, Francesco and Stefano.

I watched a few of the stylists as they cut and styled hair and knew immediately that I wanted David to cut mine. He squeezed in an appointment for me later in the day and off I went, happy and nervous at the same time.

Simply put, I have never had a stylist analyze the shape of my head and all the qualities/characteristics of my hair before a cut. Granted, I am fortunate to have pretty good hair, but it was as if he was a scientist busy with an analysis. I told him a few things I didn’t want, but left the rest to him. When he was through, it was perfect for me.

Judy and David

After I got home, Benita decided to join in the fun. We made an appointment for her for the following day, this one in Camucia as David would be working there.  Once again, David did his analysis and went to work on her very straight hair, and once again, the result was just what Benita wanted.

Seeing this, Sarah asked if David would analyze her hair…thick and curly. He gave her some suggestions, and she too decided to have her hair conditioned and shaped by the maestro. Once again, great results!

David, thank you for squeezing us in to your busy schedule. Our only problem now is, can you to move to Chicago to cut our hair???  Oh, well, a good excuse for us to return to Italia.

Benita and Sarah…happy!

As for Len, he’s decided to let his hair grow longer and thicker, like so many of the Italian men!

Len and Judy…happy too!



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