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Mille Miglia Cortona 2018

17 May

Cortona was ready…the Mille Miglia was passing through the town for the first time ever and the spectators eagerly awaited their arrival. Although the main viewing area was Piazza Repubblica, where each car was announced as it arrived,

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each car first had to pass through the adjacent Piazza Signorelli, my first vantage point. I was in place as the first car arrived in this three-day Italy event from Brescia – Roma – Brescia.

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Other cars soon followed. Given that I took nearly 200 photos today, I leaned on Len to help choose a good sampling.

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As the cars passed from one piazza to the next, the delighted crowds cheered and waved flags. I love that some drivers seemed as taken with Cortona as the spectators were with them (see driver in the red sweater!).

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And then the parade continued, sometimes in single file 

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and sometimes in clusters.

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Stopping isn’t as easy as one might think – these cars have mechanical, not power brakes.

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An exception, of course, is this Ferrari pace car which Len said was too beautiful to leave out. Ok, ok.

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I decided to head toward the area where the cars were entering Cortona. On the way, I passed this vintage car on Via Dardano.

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Entering Porta Colonia is a rather tight turn, and I was interested in seeing how the drivers were maneuvering. This driver made it look pretty easy as these cars also have no power steering. 

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However, when I passed through Porta Colonia to Piazza Mazzini, I discovered the answer. The usual parking lot had been turned into a wide turning radius, greatly minimizing not only the tight turn but also the chance for scratches and scrapes.

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And then the cars kept coming and coming and coming. Whatever the final count, the original estimate was around 600 – with such an impressive array of makes, styles, colors, and sizes. 

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Not quite sure I could spend three days/1000 miles in this!

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Kudos to Cortona for making its debut in the 2018 Mille Miglia circuit and for a job well done! 

Arrivederci, Mille Miglia, hopefully we meet again.

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

Mille Miglia – 1000 Miles

16 May

For the first time ever, the famous Mille Miglia open-road endurance race is coming through Cortona. If you are a car lover, or just a fortunate spectator, this will be a spectacular treat.

The race took place in Italy 24 times from 1927 to 1957 (13 before the war, 11 after 1947). From 1953-57, the race was also a round of the World Sports Car Championship. Today’s local paper proclaimed that this is the first time the event will come through Cortona,

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and posters are all over town.

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The race was banned after two fatal crashes in 1957, killing both drivers and many spectators. From 1958 to 1961, the event resumed as a rally-like roundtrip at legal speeds with a few special stages driven at full speed, but this was discontinued also.

In 1977, the Mille Miglia was reborn as a “race” for classic vintage cars produced pre-1957. The round trip route is Brescia-Roma-Brescia, similar to that of the original race, and takes several days to complete. 

Here is the route, published by the Mille Miglia official site:

Below are some excerpts taken (and translated) from an email I received this morning detailing some of the logistics. I imagine the times are estimates based on weather conditions and traffic. What is significant, however, is the sheer number of cars, upward of 600, expected to move through the streets of Cortona tomorrow.

Cortona for the first time in its history will be a stop in this race. Everything is ready in the city to welcome this historic passage. About 600 cars will participate in the Mille Miglia 2018. 30 Super Car Mercedes, 100 Super Ferrari Cars and 450 historic cars. Among these, 70% are made up of foreign crews and many famous people. The passage will last for four hours.

In Cortona the reception will be special: the cars will start arriving in the city between 12.30 and 13. The approach path will … enter the city from Via Dardano, Piazza Signorelli, stop for stamping in Piazza della Repubblica and exit from Via Nazionale.

Among the well-known characters at the start, Coldplay bass player Guy Berryman, Oscar winner Adrien Brody, Dutch prince Van Oranje, Piero Pelù, Spanish singer Alvaro Soler and former Formula One driver Giancarlo Fisichella, actress and model Francesca Chillemi, the patron of Prada Patrizio Bertelli.

Per Mayor Francesca Basanieri, … The Mille Miglia is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most famous and celebrated car races in the world, and having brought it to Cortona, even if only as an intermediate stage, is a very important result.

If you would like more info, from the years of history to this year’s event, this site is well worth visiting: http://www.1000miglia.it/MilleMiglia/ 

As for me, tomorrow will be a photo-op dream.

Just hope the weather cooperates! Stay tuned.

Ciao,
Judy

S. Margherita Festival Cortona

21 May

This weekend, the people of Cortona celebrated the feast of S. Margherita, Cortona’s patron saint, and kicked off the two weeks of the Medieval Giostra dell’Archidado.

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Events began Friday night with the Colata dei ceri, or the casting of the candles, a religious practice that dates back to 1325. At the time, wax was collected and used by churches for candle making and also sold as a source of income.

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Locals dressed in traditional costumes of the time and processed into Piazza Repubblica accompanied by drummers and flag bearers.

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S. Margherita was eventually led into the piazza

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and a few events from her life were reenacted.

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If you look closely in the pink part of the photo, you will see a headsman or executioner. After Margherita was willing to sacrifice her life in place a convicted criminal, her followers cried out, “She is a saint!” and the criminal’s life was spared.

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Saturday was the Offerta dei ceri or the offering of the candles. Large candles were carried into the piazza and blessed by the bishop.

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Each quartiere or neighborhood of Cortona was represented in a procession that portrayed nobility, religious and workers of the time.

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Following the blessings, the flag bearers delighted the crowds with their skills.

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Then the candles were taken to the Basilica of Santa Margherita.

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On Sunday morning, several masses were held at the Basilica. We walked up Via Santa Croce…

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where beautiful mosaics of the stations of the cross are built into the wall.

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S. Margherita died in 1297 in a room behind the old church where she had lived the last years of her life. Over the years, the beautiful Basilica of Santa Margherita was rebuilt in her honor.

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Her body is preserved in a silver casket on the altar. She was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII on 16 May 1728.

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On my way out of the Basilica, I turned once again to admire its beauty, said one more quick prayer, and as I headed toward the door, a gust of wind blew it open. Really.

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Such a wonderful weekend and such an interesting way to understand and celebrate this important part of Cortona’s history.

Ciao,
Judy

Pasqua and Pasquetta

17 Apr

Yesterday throughout Italy, families and friends gathered after mass for warm hugs, long Easter lunches and lively conversation. Intermittent rain showers didn’t dampen any spirits, although we were happy we ate inside.

We joined some friends at their beautiful home just past Pergo, a short ride from Cortona. We’ve been before, but it is always a pleasure to return as the setting is incredible.

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Len, of course, needed to check out the 1975 Fiat 500 parked in the drive.

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The house, built in the late 1700’s, was originally a farm-house, but is now a beautifully restored/renovated home with guest house, covered pool, garage and incredible 360° views, (and it is on the market as grandchildren live too far away!)*

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We began on the terrace with a Prosecco toast.

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Then lunch was served in the dining room.

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Unfortunately, I missed taking photos of the delicious chicken with gorgonzola lunch, but desserts included a traditional Easter colombo – a dove shaped cake…

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as well as fresh strawberries and cream on sponge cake.

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After a few attempts, we even managed to take a timed selfie.

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Afterward, some of us took a leisurely stroll around the property, admiring the views…

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while others retired to the terrace.

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Many thanks to our gracious hosts, shown in a photo I took of them on our last visit.

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Pasqua and Pasquetta, Easter and Easter Monday, two holidays in Italy, the first religious, the second not. Once again today, Cortona was packed with people. In fact, both yesterday and today, there were traffic jams.

But today, Pasquetta, is a day set aside for relaxation. All the solemnity and preparation of Easter are over, and it is a day to relax, except, of course, for restaurants and retail shops who serve the masses of people enjoying a day off.

Strolling is the norm, so strolling we did. The park was filled with people,

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taking in the views.

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Others were enjoying entertainment in the piazzas, including the Old Florence Dixie Band,

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and just appreciating the beautiful day.

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Between the park and the piazza, we found an empty park bench and literally put our feet up as we took in the view.

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Late afternoon, we headed home for a brief riposo (rest) before meeting friends for dinner.

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And that’s what one does in Cortona for Pasqua and Pasquetta, a perfectly lovely few days.

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Ciao,
Judy

*Note: Many have asked me what the inside of an Italian house looks like. If interested, you can see more photos via the listing link below.

http://www.abodeitaly.com/property/68c/tuscany/casa-giordano-piazzano/arezzo/farmhouses-and-count/4-bedrooms

 

 

Buona Festa di San Giuseppe! Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

19 Mar

Today is the feast of St. Joseph, patron saint of the family, and it is a feast day celebrated by Italians everywhere.  It is also Father’s Day in Italy.

Most of the rest of this post comes from a previous one, but the thoughts and sentiments are the same.

Growing up in a neighborhood filled with many Irish and Italian families, I was always happy that the Italians also had their day in March to celebrate.

Joseph the Carpenter, 1642, Louvre, by Georges de La Tour

Joseph the Carpenter, 1642, Louvre, by Georges de La Tour

Of course, not quite as loud or rowdy as St. Patrick’s Day, we nonetheless celebrated the feast of St. Joseph with a food fest. And while the Irish had their green beer and accessories, the Italians, often sporting something red, had their zeppole, a cream filled fried pastry that originated in Napoli.

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According to my fellow blogger, MariaGiovanna, (Sharing My Italy) the “Zeppole di SanGiuseppe” originated in Naples, Italy, “where the first recipe was put on paper, in 1837, by the famous Neapolitan gastronome Ippolito Cavalcanti, Duke of Buonvicino.”

Fortunately, you don’t have to be in Italy to enjoy a zeppole. In Chicago, they can be found in authentic Italian bakeries such as Ferrara Bakery on Taylor Street. Light, airy and filled with cream, it is fun to see the smiles they generate on those wiping the cream from their lips.

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At this time of year, Ferrara’s and Italian bakeries everywhere are busy filling and selling hundreds of dozens of the cream filled gems.

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So, to those looking to get beyond the grey days of winter, here’s an idea – participate in a St. Joseph’s Day custom by sharing some food with the needy and with some friends, and, of course, be sure to bring some zeppole!

And a very Happy Father’s Day to our Italian friends.

Ciao,
Judy

Medieval Jousters on Horses in Cortona

22 Oct

For days, we had heard that the horses were coming, yet no one I spoke with knew why. Today, as with many days in Cortona, we were surprised and delighted with a colorful Medieval spectacle.

As overheard in the piazza, the nearby city of Arezzo has been highly victorious in jousting competitions this year. They came to Cortona today, dressed in their finest and with their victors high on horseback, to give thanks to their patron saint, Margherita. One of the participants told me this was a festival of adoration to their patron saint in appreciation for their success this year.

From our house, I heard the drummers and arrived just in time to see them enter the piazza from Via Roma.

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A few minutes later, the horses and jousters appeared in full matching Medieval regalia.

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Once the horses took their places,

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the flag wavers entered and all watched as they performed.

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In Italy, flag waving and throwing is a skill learned by the young and perfected over many years. It is an important part of many of the Medieval festivals and ceremonies, and one that requires years of practice.

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When the performance was finished, they joined the dignitaries on the grand steps of the Municipio for the speeches of gratitude.

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Following the ceremony in the piazza, the parade moved down Via Nazionale, the main and only flat street of Cortona.

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Their ultimate destination was the beautiful Santa Margherita Church at the top of Cortona –

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where the saint lies in glass at the foot of the altar.

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In towns and cities all over Italy, ancient customs live on in the hearts, minds and practices of the people who received them from their ancestors and pass them on to future generations. It’s easy to get caught up in the pageantry and imagine days gone by. No matter how often I see one of these, it’s always quite a spectacle to behold.

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Ciao,
Judy

Note: Click on any picture to enlarge.

 

 

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

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Saturday Market©Blogginginitaly.com

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Fresh Porcinis©Blogginginitaly.com

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Choco Festival©Blogginginitaly.com

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Choco Festival©Blogginginitaly.com

Art Exhibits©Blogginginitaly.com

Art Exhibits©Blogginginitaly.com

And endless antiquities:

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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.

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

Ferragosto

15 Aug

Ferragosto is an Italian holiday celebrated on August 15 and coincides with the major Catholic feast of the Assumption of Mary. For many Italians, it is their summer vacation period and a time when many places of business also close their doors for vacation.

The Feriae Augusti, from which Ferragosto takes its name, comes from the “Festivals or Holiday of the Emperor Augustus” which was introduced in 18 BC.  The Feriae Augusti linked the various August festivals to provide a longer period of rest, called Augustali, which was felt necessary after the hard labour of the previous summer weeks.

Crowds flock to Cortona for this holiday, as they can enjoy live bands in the piazzas, various exhibits, and most of all, the Sagra della Bistecca held in the public gardens. This year numbers 57.

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Large open grills, built for the occasion, become the center of attraction in the public gardens. Those tending to the grills are seasoned veterans, and know just when to turn the bistecca. Seared on the outside, very rare in the middle.

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For 28 euro, you get a bistecca, potatoes, choice of beans or tomatoes, a peach, and some vino.

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Family and friends come together at long canopied tables to celebrate the holiday and share stories and laughter.

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Like every festival, there is music, even if just one man and his many accouterments.

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After dinner, many walk through town to marvel at the ancient city’s beauty.

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And if your family is like mine, and a peach doesn’t quite qualify as dessert, it’s time for gelato.

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Even the weather contributed to the weekend’s success  – bright blue skies, hot sun, and low humidity.

If you are thinking of Italy next summer, remember Cortona and Ferragosto.

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And if rare bistecca isn’t your thing, coming next weekend: the porcini festival!

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

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Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

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

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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,

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Lincoln Park, Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

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with beautiful fountains,

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Lincoln Park, Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

incredible monuments and memorials,

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Lincoln Park, Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

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Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

seating for the weary,

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Lincoln Park, Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

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Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

And cats to entertain.

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Lincoln Park Zoo ©Blogginginitaly.com

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Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

While Chicago borders beautiful Lake Michigan,

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Lake Michigan ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona is just a short drive to Lago Trasimeno.

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Lago Trasimeno ©Blogginginitaly.com

And both provide relaxing settings for walking and biking.

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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…

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Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

or shopping at a local market.

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Lincoln Park Market ©Blogginginitaly.com

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Cortona Market ©Blogginginitaly.com

Need fast delivery? Both locales have you covered.

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Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

Looking for entertainment? Races on foot or on wheels?

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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

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Cortona Archidado ©Blogginginitaly.com

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

Big City Safety

Big City Safety

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAMPICHIANA 2016: Mountain Bike Race

4 Apr

In keeping with my theme that one never knows what to expect in Cortona, yesterday we were entertained by RAMPICHIANA, a large mountain bike race which was held in Cortona.

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Not sure of the number, but it seemed like a few thousand cyclists, in colorful gear and sponsorship, descended upon Cortona. As we got our morning coffee, many were walking, strategizing and warming up on Via Nazionale.

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There were three categories in this 12th edition of the race:

The LONG race was 45 km, or about 28 miles, through the streets and hills around Cortona, with 1600 meters (about one mile high) of altitude. The race started at 10 am

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with the elite cyclists getting ready to begin.

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They were followed by the second group

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and all headed down Via Nazionale toward Piazza Garibaldi, where they seemed to explode into a mass of colorful streamers.

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The MIDDLE race was 30 km with 1100 meters in altitude. The SHORT race, for non-competitive cyclists and minors, took 45 minutes with less altitude and challenging curves. It was as close as I have ever been to a cyclist race, and everyone was caught up in the buzz as they flew by.

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Good weather brought out the cheering spectators.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

As we walked around town, we caught a glimpse of riders at various parts of the race. For those who know the town well, imagine riding UP Via Guelfa on a mountain bike when we are challenged walking up Via Guelfa on foot! And this is after riding over 20+ miles in the hills.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

We met a lovely couple from Pennsylvania who asked, “Do these things just sort of happen here?” “Yes,” I said and smiled. “It’s part of what keeps us coming back.”

The race ended in Piazza Signorelli, with the final curve leading from Piazza Repubblica.

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We were right there when the first woman crossed the finish line.

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Complimenti!

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A good day for both riders and spectators…

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and a well-deserved rest for a job well done!

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Ciao,
Judy

 

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