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Re-entry…

18 Aug

And it feels so good!

In Italy, August 15 is both a national holiday, Ferragosto, as well as a religious one, Feast of the Assumption. For many Italians, it is also the unofficial beginning of the summer holiday season. Parts of Italy effectively shut down until September, as people head to the lakes, countryside or a coast, or to towns like Cortona which are filled with events.

Since I can’t say this very often, I need to share that our trip over was incredibly smooth.  Flying time was only 8.11 hours and touch down to gate took less than five minutes.

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We arrived to the welcome arms of Carlo and Fernanda and to a delicious homemade lunch.

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Afterward, Carlo accompanied us to check the orto (garden) progress, but lunch and the basket on the counter were a positive telltale sign.

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Although May was cold and rainy, warm sun and sufficient rain since then have made for vibrant green colors, strong vegetables and very huge and happy sunflowers.

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And then on to our house and the familiarity of the view.

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The next night, we were ready to roll and attended the Ferragosto Sagra Della Bistecca, or steak festival, in the parterre with some friends.

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Before:

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During:

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Our table:

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The food… and yes, we did split them!

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The fountain was flowing and the Ol’ Boogies Rockabilly Band was playing,

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so we decided to start dancing,

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while everyone else was in the food queue. Good we came early!

After a lot of dancing and good laughs, and nearing 11 PM, the two guys on the left headed to town to get some Tuscanos, or small Italian cigars,

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while the rest of us stopped by the DJ station. The dance area was empty, so we moved right in.

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Before long, we attracted a large crowd and were soon doing the Macarena!

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I even bought one of the flashing balloons.

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Once the dance area got too crowded, we headed back into town to find the guys. Naturally, we found them at Tuscher with Massimo!

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We joined right in.

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It was 2 AM before our heads hit the pillows.

The next night, Fernanda had us over for dinner. We tried hard to convince her we should go out, but she insisted and treated us to a delicious aperitivo spread including her homemade liver pate. This was followed by roasted pepper risotto, and then stuffed zucchini from the garden and meatballs. Dessert was gelato topped with her homemade cherry sauce. We ate al fresco and my phone was inside, so no photos except one group selfie.

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When we got back to town, a big band was still playing in the piazza.

The next day, Len and I had a Tuscher Sunday, although it was only Saturday. After a long walk, we stopped by for a mid day vino. A bit later, a first old friend stopped by, then another, and so on, until eventually a few of us went to dinner.

And that’s how it goes in Cortona… Food, Friends and Fun. Repeat.

Should you miss one sagra, there’s another right behind. Out with the bistecca on Friday and in with the Porcini on Saturday, although we opted out. Enough sagras for one weekend.

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But as for friends and fun, there’s never too much. In the words of Cyndi Lauper:

Oh girls, they wanna have fun…

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

Cortona Medieval Marriage and Joust

24 Jun

Our last weekend in Cortona was filled with traditional Medieval customs, celebrated annually by the locals.

Saturday evening, the town reenacted the 1397 marriage of Francesco Casali, Lord of Cortona, to Antonia Salimbeni, a noble woman of Siena, complete with flag-throwers, musicians, and a drawing for the shooting order for Sunday’s crossbow competition.

But let’s step back for a moment. Our great friend, Ivan, (Il Pozzo Galleria) has acted in the role of Francesco for as long as anyone can remember, along with his daughter, Marta, who annually serves as the lovely Antonia. We stopped in to see Ivan midday and were fortunate enough to experience not only the intricate detail of their costumes but also the weight.

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And then this… gym shoes and all!

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It’s hard to describe the beautiful detail, complexity and weight of these costumes, and true to form, the evening would be the hottest of the year! I was sweating just thinking about it. But on to the evening…

Drum roll, please!

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This year, the bride-to-be arrived in a chianina drawn carriage, much to the delight of the patrons.

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After being helped out of her coach by her lord in waiting,

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she was introduced to the appreciative crowds.

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As is customary for all important Cortona events, traditional flag throwers accompanied the ceremony.

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but as if on cue, in came the flame throwers, so it was a perfect ending to a wonderfully entertaining evening.

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As the people dispersed, we bumped into a very hot, tired, but always happy to greet people with a smile, Ivan. 

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Sunday was another hot day, both weather and competition wise for the Archidado. Peccioverardi won after 4 playoffs, 24-23 over S. Andrea.

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Afterward, they paraded around town for their well-fought victory march, carrying the near bulls-eye arrow.

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One final thought about the weekend…

Each year, Ivan tells us it’s his last, yet for those of us who know him, it’s hard to imagine that anyone else could fill his shoes!

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medieval Market Cortona

4 Jun

June arrived in Cortona and brought along not only warm sunny weather but also the first of several annual summer festivals. Last weekend was the Medieval Market filled with games, costumes, food, shops and entertainment. Here’a a sampling…

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And of course, great sunsets,

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and great friends!

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Ciao,
Judy

 

My Unintended Language Lesson

29 May

A friend saw me on a walk today and said, “You haven’t posted in a while!” And she is right. “Blame it on the weather and my bronchitis,” I responded, and we proceeded to share funny stories of unintended Italian lessons. Now granted, her newly needed vocabulary, some 30 years ago, was much more exotic, as she was preparing for a c-section delivery of her second child in northern Italy. Mine is much more mundane – that is, dealing with a cold, cough and eventual bronchitis.

I’m sure in my Italian classes with Giovanna we covered many of these words, but I probably wasn’t very interested. I do remember paying attention to “pronto soccorso” or emergency room, in the hope that we’d never have to visit one.

But here I am this year, three weeks in, with a new and unfortunately useful vocabulary:

I have a cold: Ho un raffreddore.

I have a bad cough and I cough a lot: Ho una brutta tosse e tossisco molto.

Every Italian friend we know has said the weather is the culprit. They suggested I visit the doctor who would prescribe antibiotics (antibiotici) and cortisone (cortisone). Hmmm…cortisone for bronchitis? Never heard of that combo before.

After visiting the doctor, he confirmed: “I have bronchitis.” Ho la bronchite.

He also asked the color of my phlegm, (flemma), but I’ll spare you the details, only to say that my extensive knowledge of Italian colors came in helpful.

The prescription was just as I had been told, antibiotics (amoxicillina) for 6 days;  cortisone, which turned out to be prednisone (prednisone) for 5 days; and an awful tasting cough syrup (sciroppo per la tosse) 2-4 times daily.  I did some research and found that short-term steroid therapy does help minimize inflammation within the bronchial tubes. Made sense to me.

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So, for the week I was on meds, I drank tons of water and tea, knocked back hot honey-lemon-ginger shots, skipped all vino, and did my best to stay out of places where I could spread my germs. Over the subsequent days, I began slowly improving, knowing that the bronchitis cough can last a while. And then came last Sunday, finally med free, so we went to Tuscher for lunch.

Being a true blooded Italian, my personal choice of “meds” was simple:

Chocolate banana cake with whipped cream (panna)

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delightfully washed down with vino rosso!

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Still not quite 100%, but getting closer every single day!

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends and Sunshine: A Perfect Remedy

16 May

For the last four days, Len and I have been housebound. Seems as though we succumbed to the Italian “colpo d’aria” or a “hit of air” to our eyes, nose, or ears. In simple terms, we each got a very bad combination of cold, bronchitis, and cough. The other culprit, as the Italians would say, is the weather, and I’d agree. Hard to believe it is May and on some days, we are still wearing down jackets or vests and heavy scarves. But enough already as there is always a bright side.

Each of the last four days, we have received calls and messages from friends checking in to see how we are doing, offering to shop or cook for us, or dropping things at our front door. Seriously, the kindness is almost overwhelming. And today, since the sun was finally shining brightly, Fernanda insisted we go to her house in the country so she could cook for us as we sat in the sun. How could we resist?

The sun was shining brightly, lunch was delicious, and the vistas were spectacular,  

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including the spectacle of her roses in full bloom fronted by a row of lavender.

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The Italians have a phrase for all of this as well…

L’aria di campagna, la salute ci guadagna…  country air equals health benefits.

The day was just what a doctor might have ordered.  Even as we were leaving, I couldn’t believe the view in my rear view mirror. And yes, tonight we are definitely feeling better. 

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Friends and sunshine, a perfect remedy for all that ails!

Ciao,
Judy

 

Easter Weekend In Cortona

22 Apr

Throughout Italy, Easter week is filled with religious and cultural traditions. Each town has its long-held ceremonies, and Cortona is no exception. Children who held their grandparents’ hands as they were first introduced to the Good Friday procession now carry those same heavy and beautifully crafted statues through the streets of town as their own children watch in awe.

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The solemnity of Friday evening fades Saturday morning as people gather along the streets and in the markets to shop for their Easter meal. Friends are greeted with Buona Pasqua and the double cheek kiss as they exchange pleasantries and best wishes while shopping.

One dessert staple is the Colomba di Pasqua, a traditional Italian Easter cake, which comes in various sizes and a few flavors, but is always shaped like a dove.

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On Easter Sunday, although most cook and eat at home with family, there are also many restaurants offering multi-course traditional meals.

And then comes La Pasquetta, Easter Monday, or Little Easter. This is a national holiday when families pack up Easter leftovers, head to parks or beaches for picnics, or stroll around towns like Cortona. And stroll they do. I always need to remind myself to slow down on these days.

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La Pasquetta is a time for relaxation, and a midday Aperol Spritz seems to be the colorful  beverage of choice for many.

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Amid the crowds and festivities, we always manage to find time for quiet walks, alone or with friends, taking in some views that newly trimmed trees now offer,

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as well as the magnificent signs of spring.

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And then, of course, there are the sunsets, with or without aperitivo, no description needed.

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Happy Easter, Passover, and Spring!

Ciao
Judy

 

 

Re-entry!

11 Apr

We returned to Cortona over two weeks ago, and we’ve been busy.  While sometimes it seems as though we have the town to ourselves, 

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the weekends remind us that Cortona is a “happening” place.

Occasionally, however, there are “happenings” we’d rather avoid.

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We managed to get “fined” on a 10 minute bus ride from Camucia to Cortona. Longer story shortened, our to-and-from rides were all on one ticket, which we validated each way. However, we didn’t realize, or frankly just forgot, that we had to validate the single ticket twice each way, and consequently, we were fined by the very occasional inspectors who boarded our bus one stop from Piazza Garibaldi, our final destination. Yes, we paid for both of us, and yes, we thought we had correctly validated the ticket, but none of that mattered. Word to the wise: validate, validate, validate, or pay 60 euros!!!

But as always, our days and nights are filled with great friends and great food, some  shown here.

During our second week, we spent several days in Lucca. Although it rained each day, we were able to walk the wall, do some sight seeing, visit with a friend, and find some great restaurants.

On the way back, we stopped in Firenze as we had been invited to visit the Carabinieri Training School. Len just couldn’t resist.

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A few days ago, we drove with friends to a medieval town in Umbria called Narni. There are hundreds of towns like this in Italy, each with its own history and legends, and usually an interesting fact for which they are known. For Narni, it is being very close to the geographic center of Italy.

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On Monday of this week, we picked up our car, this time a Fiat Panda.

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The weather has not been great, but mostly I feel like her… I’m here and I’m happy!

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And today, before the rains fell, we drove through the Tuscan countryside, as if driving through a painting, and witnessed, once again, the stunning landscape and the ever-spectacular views that always bring a smile to my face. 

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Ciao,
Judy

2018 in Review

31 Dec

A great way to look back at 2018 is through my photos. For me, they paint a picture of wonderful times spent with family and friends. Each picture brings a smile to my face and each memory reminds me of how lucky I am to have these people in my life.

A look back at 2018…

Florida in winter

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Summer in Chicago

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Thanksgiving

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Key West Destination Wedding

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Christmastime

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Cortona and all around Italy

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As we end another year, many thanks to family and friends, pictured here and not, who continue to enrich our lives as we create the future together.

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From Chicago to Cortona, from our hearts to yours,
our very best wishes
for a healthy and happy 2019!

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Happy New Year! Buon Anno!!

Ciao,
Judy

BOCCE Cortona

24 Aug

When we lived in Austin, we actually had a bocce set. As I recall, non of us knew the rules, so we made them up depending on who and how many were playing. And that held true until yesterday, when we learned to play bocce at the hand of a champion!

Many years ago, we are told, Cortona had a bocce court in/near Porta Colonna, before it became a parking lot. Today, however, bocce is played just outside of Cortona in Tavernelle.

There we found  BOCCIODROMO Communal, or the community bocce dome. Not just any dome mind you, but a semi professional one that held the special olympics some years ago. And according to the Special Olympics website: Next to soccer and golf, bocce is the third most participated sport in the world.

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Inside are three bocce lanes made of cement and covered with a special resin. Championship banners and trophies of all sizes adorn the walls.

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We were graciously met by Lidio, a local champion, who proceeded to demonstrate several methods of tossing the bocce.

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We divided ourselves into two teams and learned basic rules as we played. First team to 12 points would win.

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I must admit, I was hooked. Although the basic principle of the sport is to roll a bocce ball closest to the pallina or target ball, there are so many styles and strategies as well as a great deal of competitiveness at play.

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And the more we learned, the more competitive we became.

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Lidio even helped with measuring who was closest to the pallina.

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Unfortunately, I was not on the winning team, but it was such great fun for all that these two characters decided to play one more time while Lidio gave some of us more advanced instruction.

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Many thanks to Lidio for his time, instruction, and most of all, patience,

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from his new BOCCE fans!

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Ciao,
Judy

How Does our Orto (Garden) Grow?

17 Aug

With warm sunny days, sufficient rainfall, and tender loving care, “our” garden grew from this at the end of April…

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to this in August!

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After giving a thumbs up to the garden’s success, Len decided to take in some sun and enjoy a Toscano, a small Italian cigar (that actually doesn’t smell bad),

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while Fernanda and I were ready to pick, baskets in hand.

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We filled our baskets with three of the four varieties we had planted…

Ciliegino (Cherry)

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San Marzano

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Camone

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and the not quite ready, Cuore di Bue (Beef Steak)

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We also picked susine (plums) from the brimming trees that not only keep the orto from scorching in the summer sun,

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but also provide fruit for delicious marmellata.

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Then it was time for our “casual” county lunch ~

Our Al Fresco Menu included:
freshly cut prosciutto and sliced melon;
hand-picked tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and garden basil;
just cooked porchetta from the market;
cannelloni beans sautéed in fresh tomatoes;
Toscana Rosso di Montalcino

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Talk about farm to table –  and so much more rewarding since we are the planters, pickers and very fortunate eaters!

After lunch, it was time for some serious relaxation.

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Little did we know two years ago how incredibly rewarding this small garden would be. How does our garden grow? Well, we may not be experts, and the local farmers still offer much advice, but for us, everything about the orto is perfectly wonderful, perfectly delicious, and so proudly our own doing. We just can’t help but smile!

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

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