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September Days in Cortona

18 Sep

Autunno, or autumn, is my favorite time of year in Cortona. The days are shorter, the winds are cooler, and the tide of tourism transforms.  It is a calmer time of year that lends itself well to contemplating all that meets the senses.

Parterre Changing Colors©Blogginginitaly.com

Parterre©Blogginginitaly.com

Saturday Market©Blogginginitaly.com

Saturday Market©Blogginginitaly.com

Fall Harvest©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Fresh Porcinis©Blogginginitaly.com

Porcini©Blogginginitaly.com

Lavender Festival©Blogginginitaly.com

Lavender Festival©Blogginginitaly.com

Choco Festival©Blogginginitaly.com

Choco Festival©Blogginginitaly.com

Choco Festival©Blogginginitaly.com

Choco Festival©Blogginginitaly.com

Art Exhibits©Blogginginitaly.com

Art Exhibits©Blogginginitaly.com

And endless antiquities:

Via Santucci, Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Via Santucci, (Our street), ©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Signorelli Arch©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Autumn – The third season of the year, when crops and fruits are gathered and leaves begin to fall.

A good time to take time to ponder.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

My Here and There

29 Jun

Whether in Chicago or Cortona, Len and I try to walk everyday, or as we say in Italian, fare una passeggiata. During our walks, my senses take in beautiful sights, sounds (no ear buds for me), and the vast array of smells from fragrant flowers to pop-up food stands. The differences are striking, from the moment I step outside my door…

Via Santucci, Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

Via Santucci, Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

And not surprising, as Chicago is a relatively new city…1833

©Blogginginitaly.com

Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

While Cortona is an ancient town… 7th century BC.

©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona©Blogginginitaly.com

And while the differences are striking in many ways, it occurred to me that there are some interesting similarities.

Both cities have incredible parks where we take  our walks,

Lincoln Park©Blogginginitaly.com

Lincoln Park, Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

with beautiful fountains,

Lincoln Park©Blogginginitaly.com

Lincoln Park, Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

incredible monuments and memorials,

Lincoln Park©Blogginginitaly.com

Lincoln Park, Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

seating for the weary,

Lincoln Park©Blogginginitaly.com

Lincoln Park, Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

And cats to entertain.

Lincoln Park Zoo©Blogginginitaly.com

Lincoln Park Zoo ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

While Chicago borders beautiful Lake Michigan,

Lake Michigan ©Blogginginitaly.com

Lake Michigan ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona is just a short drive to Lago Trasimeno.

Lago Trasimeno©Blogginginitaly.com

Lago Trasimeno ©Blogginginitaly.com

And both provide relaxing settings for walking and biking.

Lincoln Park©Blogginginitaly.com

Lincoln Park Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

Lago Trasimeno©Blogginginitaly.com

Lago Trasimeno ©Blogginginitaly.com

Now if stopping for ice cream/gelato is your thing, no problem…

Lincoln Park©Blogginginitaly.com

Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

or shopping at a local market.

Lincoln Park Market©Blogginginitaly.com

Lincoln Park Market ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona market ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Market ©Blogginginitaly.com

Need fast delivery? Both locales have you covered.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

Looking for entertainment? Races on foot or on wheels?

hicago Marathon©Blogginginitaly.com

Chicago Marathon ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Bike Race ©Blogginginitaly.com

Or annual traditions?

Chicago Air and Water Show©Blogginginitaly.com

Chicago Air and Water Show ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Archidado©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Archidado ©Blogginginitaly.com

Feeling like spectating or donning a costume?

Lake Michigan ©Blogginginitaly.com

Lake Michigan ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Archidado ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Archidado ©Blogginginitaly.com

And finally, when we need four wheels, …well, got that covered too!

Big City Safety

Big City Safety

Small town parking©Blogginginitaly.com

Small town parking ©Blogginginitaly.com

Ok, ok, don’t ask about such things as tomatoes, wine, cheese, pasta – no contest – but a very good reason to keep returning for una passeggiata in the land of my ancestors.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Italy the Extraordinary Commonplace”

25 Jan

We often read of the demise of Italy as a major producer and exporter, so the following video was made to counter some of these less than favorable descriptions.

Per Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy,

The video “Italy the extraordinary commonplace” is designed to show Italy beyond stereotypes, a major producer of technological goods and the second European exporter in mechanical engineering and automation. 

Since I love visiting Italy, I found this information to be great news. As for the format, well, leave it to the ever creative Italians. Thanks, Anna, for sharing.

Ciao,

Judy

Pitigliano

29 Jul

Often the word “marvel” is used to describe huge skyscrapers…modern marvels built with the latest in technological advancements, built to withstand nature’s strongest elements and built to stand the test of time. This being the case, then what word aptly describes the truest technological marvels that have more than survived nature’s strongest elements and survived for centuries? What word can we possibly use to describe places like Pitigliano, a stunning medieval town dramatically perched atop a tufa ridge?

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While Len and I love traveling by train and bus in Italy, one of the benefits of occasionally renting a car is the opportunity to explore the more remote areas. Situated between Roma and Firenze, and east of Grosseto, the Hills of Maremma in Tuscany is one of those areas. The Hills are filled with non-traditional Tuscan landscapes and amazing surprises around each bend.

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There are several towns in the area, but the most stunning to me is Pitigliano, a medieval town built on tufa or volcanic rock. When you hear medieval, think 500-1500 time frame. Houses and buildings in town are built on sheer cliffs that appear suspended over the valley, and sit above a network of caves and tunnels said to have been inhabited in prehistoric times. Fortunately, there are places to pull over as this is a photo-op must.

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In the 16th century, Pitigliano became a haven for Jews escaping enclosed ghettos in neighboring cities. Today, visitors can still see parts of the ancient Jewish Quarter; a 16th century aqueduct; a few beautiful churches; a 14th century fortress which houses a museum and medieval torture chamber; and sometimes even tour the underground tunnels and caves.

Pitigliano, Italy, at night

Pitigliano, Italy, at night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While only about 300 people still live in Pitigliano in southeastern Tuscany,

English: The Municipality of Pitigliano within...

The Municipality of Pitigliano within the Province of Grosseto, Tuscany, Italy (Wikipedia)

this ancient structure still stands and functions – deeming it not just a marvel, but truly marvelous!

MARVELOUS…A word befitting!

Ciao,

Judy

 

Italian Hill Towns

7 Jun

Just returned from a two-day tour of the Italian countryside in Tuscany and Umbria where the drive was as lovely as the three ancient towns we visited.

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Our first stop was Citta di Castello, meaning town of the castle. Although there actually is no castle, there are stately old buildings and monuments, and of course, in the “larger” cities as least, a duomo or cathedral. The area was an ancient Roman port on the Tiber River and some archaeological remains of the port are visible in the southern part of the historical center.

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Eliza, at Antico Canonico where we spent the night, was most helpful in telling us about the city as well as other nearby towns which we visited the next day. Our “hotel” was originally built years ago as a home for priests. While the door to each unit is the original “cell” door, the apartment behind is simple, ample and clean. Yes, this is our apartment door!

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In the afternoon, we enjoyed  watching the men’s bocce tournament. And in the evening, we strolled the town with the locals.

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The next morning, our first destination was the lovely town of Citerna in Umbria, a tiny hilltop town which boasts of Etruscan and Roman origins and is ranked among the 100 most beautiful villages in Italy. It is the northernmost town in Umbria and while it was severely damaged during WWII, you’d  never know it today.

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The panoramic views as we left town were spectacular!

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From there we headed back to Tuscany to a town called  Anghiari. At first, this appeared to be a “modern” town until we came upon the ancient hilltop walled city. Anghiari is famous for a 1440 battle between the towns of Florence and Milan, and even inspired Leonardo da Vinci to create a fresco in Palazzo Vecchio. Although the original fresco has disappeared,  a sketch of it by Peter Paul Rubens is still in existence.

Peter Paul Rubens' copy of the lost Battle of ...

Peter Paul Rubens’ copy of the lost Battle of Anghiari. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ancient town is filled with steep, winding streets, and on one of them, we came across a wonderful shop called Carabattole. Sitting inside was Marinella, from whom we learned about tombolo, an art not practiced in the US.

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I bought a lovely pair of earrings similar to the ones shown above. Afterward, we enjoyed a simple but wonderful lunch at a local Cantina.

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When we returned to Cortona and talked to some of the locals about our trip, many had not even heard of tiny Citerna. How lucky for us that  Eliza directed us there, as well as to Anghiari. Continuing to follow the road less travelled without agenda always brings us wonderful surprises and new memories as well as the opportunity to share them with you.

Ciao,

Judy

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 www.cortonaweb.net. 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.”

slide-maec-restaurando-la-storia

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

I’ve been in touch with the authors of cortonaweb.net 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: http://www.italymagazine.com

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!

limoncello

italymagazine.com

http://www.italymagazine.com/recipe/how-make-limoncell

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!

Ciao,

Judy

Lucignano

8 Feb

In the grey and cold days of winter, it’s fun to think about some of the beautiful hill towns of Tuscany. Lucignano, a remarkably preserved medieval walled village, is one of those towns. Laid out in elliptical rings, this beautiful town sits 414 metres above sea level and offers its visitors a trip back in time.

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Although Lucignano sits between Siena and Arezzo, it came under Florentine control in the 1500s, when a great deal of construction ensued. Today, one can still see the Puccini’s Fortress; Vasari’s 1568 sanctuary of Madonna della Querca; the Cappucini convent, c.1580; and several churches including Misercordia, c.1582, and Chiesa della Collegiata, c.1594.  In addition, the Museo Civico offers many artistic treasures including the L’albero della vita, or tree of life, a gilded and jeweled tree holding a crucified figure.

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In the village’s website, http://www.comune.lucignano.ar.it,  Lucignano is described as “a pearl of the valdichiana, a small village that represents one of the more extraordinary examples of medieval urban planning for its system of elliptic rings…” Today, the village continues its agricultural and artisan traditions and produces products ranging from olive oil and honey to ceramics and gold jewelry. In addition, should you wish to purchase inlaid furniture or have a piece in need of repair, the skilled artists of Lucignano are ready to oblige.

One of my favorite English signs was this:

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Nice People – Is that referring to the owners or a requirement for entry? It was closed so we didn’t find out.

And this wonderful Italian thought:

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Wine is the poetry of the earth…I’ll toast to that!

Early Sunday morning, the men all gather…

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While the ladies smell the flowers and pick fresh basil for the feasts they are preparing…

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A lovely way to spend a day, enjoying food, friends and family, and of course, the poetry of the earth. Just wish some of those nice people had invited us to dinner!

Ciao,

Judy

Cortona Cathedral, Diocesan Museum and MAEC

2 Jun

The Cathedral

The Church of Santa Maria Assunta is considered to be one of the oldest churches in the city, built on the foundation of an ancient parish church. It is believed that the original church was built on the foundation of an ancient pagan temple dating back to the 4th century. The interior of the church was remodeled in the 18th century. With only outside lighting, it’s difficult to show much of the interior.

Cathedral altar

The Diocesan Museum

Originally built as the Church and Oratory of Gesù, between 1498-1905, the nine room Museum holds some of the most valuable religious art from Churches in and around Cortona. Included in this collection are amazing masterpieces by the local artist, Luca Signorelli, who was born in Cortona around 1455 and died in 1523.

Signorelli: Communion of the Apostles

Signorelli: Lamentation over the dead Christ

Signorelli is considered to be among the most important painters of the Italian Renaissance. The intensity of the color and the detail in his designs are breathtaking.

Also found in the museum is this masterpiece by Fra Angelico, the Annunciation:

Fra Angelico: Annunciation

One ticket buys entrance to the Diocesan Museum as well as the Museum of the Etruscan Academy (MAEC), and it’s good for two days, so we spread our visit. And good that we did as we had no idea how much we’d find in the MAEC. Arranged in chronological order, from room to room, is the history of ancient Cortona up to the Romans, and also more current works. Looking at pieces that are over 2500 years old is mind boggling.  So much and so well preserved! Here’s a sampling.

                                                                                  

Yes, that is gold jewelry, and nothing on the Ponte Vecchio can compare!

We are off to Rome tomorrow for three nights. I probably won’t be writing, but I will be reading so feel free to leave me comments. Mike leaves us next week…he’ll be busy in Rome and even spending a day in Pompeii with our friends Larry and Sandy, who are joining us in Rome. They are scheduled to have dinner in Naples and promise to bring us back a pizza…the best in the world!

So, Mike, farewell to you from Cortona!

Ciao,

Judy

Beware of SOP!

26 Jun

On a whim, we drove to the  train station in Terontola to take a train to Firenze for the day…why not? We bought our tickets and sat waiting for the train. Although my Italian has served me well, a word I did not understand is sciopero.

Apparently, over this weekend, train operators are randomly striking regional trains. Once we understood, we were told the strike did not affect our route…hmmm. After continuous delay updates, they finally announced the train was cancelled…SOP! Unfortunately, we had already punched our tickets, which by law you must do, so the tickets are considered used. Fortunately, I found someone who looked official and she stamped and wrote a note on our tickets. Supposedly we can use them tomorrow morning…will let you know.

In the meantime, we decided to head over to Castiglione Fiorentino, about 16 km away. One the way, we spontaneously followed a sign to an etruscan tomb…can you imagine how old this is??? Puts a new perspective on the word old!

And since I’m talking about Etruscans, we just discovered that there was an Etruscan evacuation right next door to our house. There’s a sign on the building next door, but I only found the site when a tour group came walking along the side of our house. Now we may have nice clothes, but our laundry hardly ranks on the “Things to see in Cortona” list. Look over Len’s right shoulder in the photo at the top of the stairs. I assumed that was someone’s front door. It’s actually the entrance to the excavation site, which is gated and locked. If you click on the description with the blue and yellow banner, it should enlarge so you can read about it.  Amazing!

And to think we live right next door to and probably above some Etruscans.

Finally, grabbed some pasta pomodoro and salad for dinner. So simple, so good. Just wanted to be sure I had a photo for the foodie followers.

Ciao,

Judy

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