Archive | May, 2013

A Day at the Market

31 May

If it’s Thursday, it’s market day in Camucia, the town at the base of Cortona. Vendors of every type gather to sell their wears. Vegetables, poultry, meats, salamis, men’s, ladies’ and children’s clothes, leather goods, shoes, boots, flowers, candy, pastry, spices, household goods, luggage, scarves, lingerie, socks, and just about anything you might need.

We woke to a morning sun, an amazing sight these days, and took the morning bus down the hill to Camucia, a ten minute “switchbacking” scenic drive. We began the day at Vanelli Caffetteria for cappuccino and dolce. They pride themselves on the most artistic coffees and it’s fun watching their artists at work:



Then to the market we went. Most of the men gather at the front, their version of a man cave…


while most women roam the market, a great idea as each group is happy.


Len and I usually begin together, then when Len has seen enough, he heads to the male section.

I think the food is always the most interesting, and the locals happily shop for everything fresh. Feast your eyes:

Porchetta, about four feet long





Formaggio and Salumi




Fresh Porcini, bigger than my fist


Anchovies (Yikes!)


Just picked garlic


And despite all the local cuisine, for those needing an American food fix…


We had fun shopping and bought a few things including several pair of socks since it has been so cold and wet! Waiting for the bus to take us home, the skies opened and it began to hail. Locals say this is the worst weather in 100 years and I believe it. And it’s not supposed to break for another 10 days. Glad we are not having many guests this year.

So, if you are wondering why I am mostly writing about food, it’s because restaurants are one of the few places to keep dry.  The good news is that we are getting to know the locals better, and that’s a big reason we are here. The healthy news for us is that to get anywhere, we need to climb one of the steepest streets in Cortona, coupled with the  35 steps in our house. So, although we haven’t been able to take our usual hikes, we are still getting plenty of exercise. Here’s hoping for the return of sunshine!



Antica Trattoria

29 May

One of the things you’ll rarely find in Cortona’s eateries is absentee ownership. Each proprietor is the essence of entrepreneurship…the first to arrive, the last to leave, sometimes the chef, visible to all, always on the go, and very devoted to pleasing patrons. Meet owner Luca Cuculi at Antica Trattoria, one such proprietor.


For all who were with us last summer, you’ll no doubt remember the wonderful dinners we enjoyed at this restaurant, whether dining inside or al fresco. And last night was no different.

For primo, we shared an order of panzerotti, a hand-made, half-moon shaped stuffed pasta…Incredible!



For secondo, we usually share an entrée, but since Len loves lamb chops and I don’t eat them, we ordered two entrées:


the grilled hen and roasted potatoes for me:

and the grilled lamb ribs with sautéed spinach for Len, which he proclaimed to be the best he has ever had!


To complement our dinner, we ordered Sangiovese.  Fresh, simple, delicious! Grazie, Luca!

We’ll be back for sure!



Cortona Update and Random Event

28 May

Day 6:

Thanks for all your blog comments. It has been difficult to write and respond as we have not had internet in the house till today. Hopefully, it will continue to work!

Summer has yet to find its way to Cortona. Locals are sporting down jackets and boots, while the tourists walk around in their flip-flops, shorts and sweats, shivering while huddled under umbrellas. Yet always with a smile. Although we have more summer than fall clothes with us, we are nonetheless keeping warm. Eating and sampling various vini also helps!

About 10:30 last night, on our walk home through Piazza Republicca, we heard a familiar sound. Einstein, as I call him, had just begun to grace the almost empty piazza with the sounds of his flute. We stopped to listen and visit, as did others passing by. One of the things we love about Cortona is that there is always something happening, whether planned or random.

As I am finally learning to add some video to my blog, here’s a short piece from last night.

Today, we stopped at Tacconi Trattoria on Via Dardano to see friends Graziella and Angelo and to enjoy pappardelle con ragu. Amazing how delicious pasta warms cold feet…that and the pair of long socks I bought next door!



Wow, there is a strange bright light coming through the window…can it be the sun?

Better run!



Taverna Pane e Vino, Cortona

27 May

Pane e Vino. Bread and Wine. Food and Italy. Judy and Len. Some things just go together.

So what are these, you ask? Cheese stuffed gnocchi with fresh sautéed artichokes and sun dried tomatoes. And yes, they are as good as they look!


A sampling of bruschetta


and some thinly sliced zucchini with cannellini beans, shaved pecorino and lettuce.


Taverna Pane e Vino is located in Piazza Signorelli in Cortona. The covered entrance (beyond the arched glass door) serves as an open market in the morning which disappears later in the day to become the entrance to this local restaurant at night.


The owner, Arnaldo, and Len talked about a few events they will be hosting this summer.


All is a day’s work!



Fett’ unta on Via Maffei, Cortona

26 May

In Italian, the word “merenda” means afternoon snack. Fett’ unta is a new small eatery in Cortona, just opened a week, serving light lunch and dinner as well as afternoon snacks. We watched them doing construction at this location last summer so we stopped in today to sample the local cuisine. As for the name, if I understand it correctly, unta means “greased” as in greasing something with oil. Since literal translations rarely work, I’ll go with drizzling olive oil on your bread or panini, etc. At any rate, the food we ordered was delicious.

We shared two different bruschette:

Pear, cheese and walnuts; Mozzarella and roasted tomatoes


Then we each ordered a hearty local soup as summer has yet to arrive in Cortona:

Orzo, artichoke and pecorino


And pearl barley and beans


Meet the owners, Ulisse and Antonio


and check out their website at

Better yet, stop by when you are in town and they can make you a fresh prosciutto panini!




Destination: Cortona!

24 May

Arrived yesterday, a bit tired and jet lagged, and encountering some internet issues (hopefully temporary), but nothing some great food and vino can’t cure!

In the meantime, click to see my shortest post yet!



Italy Info Worth Reading

10 May

Whether or not you have travel plans for Italy, reading and learning about the country and planned events can be great fun. Several people have asked what sites I follow, so I thought I’d share a few.

If looking for Cortona specific information, check out This site provides information on everything from weather to local events, podcasts, restaurants, accommodations, history of Cortona, maps, wedding planners, tours, wine shops, etc. While not all-inclusive, it certainly covers a broad spectrum of interesting and useful information about Cortona.

The website was started in 1999 by a few locals just for fun, and with sponsorship, has grown over the years. It is well-written and informative. The following picture and caption from the site’s front page describe Cortona’s amazing Etruscan Museum, or MAEC, which is definitely worth visiting:

“A journey back 2700 years Restoring History. Dawn of the Etruscan Princes.”


Un viaggio a ritroso di 2700 Anni Restaurando La Storia. L’Alba dei Principi etruschi

I’ve been in touch with the authors of and look forward to meeting them this summer!

For reading about Italy in general, a site I enjoy is an online magazine called Italy Magazine:

Its byline reads: “Since 1999, the n.1 magazine for lovers of all things Italian.” Like me! Included in the magazine are Italian current and cultural events, travel tips, accommodations, properties for sale, festivals and recipes such as the one below on how to make limoncello.  Hey, something fun to try on Mother’s Day, which by the way, is also celebrated on the second Sunday in May in Italy…
Tanti Auguri Mamma!


So sit back, relax, and take some time to explore these wonderful, ever-changing and totally free sources about Italy.

Happy Reading and Enjoy –  Buon divertimento!



Illy on My Mind

2 May

This morning, as we drank our cappucino, Len and I talked about  just how good the coffee is in Italy.

English: Cappuccino Loves Italy in Florence, I...


A short time later, when I dropped him off at work,  this was parked on the street in front of his building…

Illy to Go!

Illy to Go

And these two lovely ladies were more than happy to share the goods…



a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it.

Works for me!



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