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Il Pozzo

14 Sep

One of the things that makes Cortona unusual is the amount of art one can see in this lovely town. Two incredible museums, as well as many churches, are home to magnificent art and/or artifacts. Surely these are not to be missed.

But once you fall in love with the town, how can you take a piece of it home? That’s easy. Visit Il Pozzo.


Il Pozzo, meaning the well, is located just off the busy Via Nazionale. It doesn’t take long to get caught up in the music and art that fill the senses before even entering the gallery.


And while wonderful art treasures await, so does an unexpected architectural journey.

Meet Ivan, proprietor with his wife Loriana. Ivan is as happy to show you around the building and share its history as he is finding the right treasure for you to take home. He also speaks English quite well!


Paraphrasing and borrowing from their website description,

The voices of the busy Via Nazionale seem centuries of history away…


Visitors can contemplate the medieval ambiance uncovered two levels below the modern-day street, tastefully returned to the light with its ancient aspect and functionality.


One should not miss the unique well “ad ampolla” from which the Gallery “Il Pozzo” takes its name and in which there are traces of the ancient knowledge and architectural skill of the Etruscans ancestors’ civilization.


Here, nothing is left to happenstance and every wall, every nook and every shelf becomes a frame for an interesting detail, underlining the value of the artistic and artisan objects displayed.


The attention and interest of the visitor is fed with the variety of the paintings, photographs, prints, books, engravings, ceramics,


and artisan crafts such as leather-covered books, hand crafted papers, jewels and objects in glass


IMG_0056which are an integral part of the history and customs of Tuscany.


The Gallery “Il Pozzo” can be summed up as an encounter between Cortona and the visitor.


That said, it seems to correspond to the high level of historic and artistic tradition of the homeland of Signorelli, of Pietro Berrettini and of Gino Severini.


Everything here seems to court the taste and artistic sensibilities of the refined tourist of the new century.


This past summer, we found an original watercolor that seemed to have our name on it. Wonderful art has that quality – it somehow speaks to its eventual owner.  Lucky for us, we brought some of ancient Cortona back to our home through this beautiful work by Allesandro Bulli.  Not a day goes by that we don’t enjoy looking at it and reliving a story.


For us, this vividly captures many of our daily stops: morning cappuccino at a cafe, a local enoteca, the grocery store, a bit of the two main piazzas, a restaurant overlooking the historic center, etc.

Whether you are just browsing or looking for something special to purchase, there is never any pressure at Il Pozzo. If you do find something for yourself or for a gift, Ivan will carefully and beautifully prepare it for its journey home.



And, of course, prepare you an espresso while you wait!


So be sure to put Il Pozzo on your list of places to visit in Cortona, and tell Ivan and Loriana that Judy sent you. Your visit will be fun and fabulous, and give you the opportunity to take a little piece of Cortona home with you too. We’re so happy we did!



Cortona Market Set up

8 Jun

If you wake early enough, you can watch the empty Piazza Signorelli come to life on Saturday morning and become the open market.  We have wondered how all the trucks arrive and set up, as the streets leading to the Piazza are narrow and steep. This morning we found out.

A truck that becomes a canopied stall looks like this when closed:


Between 7-8 am, dozens of trucks maneuver through the narrow streets to reach their assigned  spaces. This truck actually made it through without hitting anything!


In an ancient town like Cortona, one might expect market stalls to be rather simplistic. However, that is anything but true. These modern marvels are fascinating. If you have ever seen a factory with automation in full bloom, you’d still be impressed with the robotic mechanisms on these trucks which transform them into stand-alone self-sufficient markets.

As you can see in the video, articulated robotic arms open and move canopies and sides into all directions to become  open-air covered stores. Then the contents are moved outside, whether clothes, shoes, household goods or food.



Gabriella and Luigi, our Saturday roasted chicken vendors, told us about their truck. We learned that there is a factory between here and Firenze that customizes each truck to fit the needs of the vendor. Some  just need canopies, while others, like them, require refrigeration and spit-fired roasters. Whatever the need, the factory can oblige. Some of the canopies are even opened by hand-held remote controls. Incredible!

Like so many other proprietors in town, the “roaming marketeers” are self-sufficient, hard-working people who cater to the needs of their customers. Some set up at multiple markets throughout the week, different towns, different days. Cortona is one of the smaller markets, so it is easy to get to know the vendors. They are helpful and always have a kind word and a smile. A most enjoyable morning and well worth an early start to this warm and sunny day!



Buon Appetito…and Immersion!

1 Jun

A few years ago, knowing that my dream of travelling to Italy annually was about to begin, I began a two-year search for Italian classes. I wasn’t looking for academic credits, or a class filled with grade conscious students; rather, I wanted to join a group of like-minded adults who yearned to improve their knowledge of everything Italian –  the language, food, culture, holidays, nuances, etc. This also meant I needed to find a native Italian teacher, not someone who merely majored in the subject. Luckily, my search finally led me to Giovanna Dimetros. I must admit, her Greek last name puzzled me at first, until I learned it was her married name and she’s actually a native of Tuscany. Pictured below are Giovanna (left) and two classmates who hosted a dinner for our class last December at Giovanni’s (right) house. As you can see, we are big on immersion!


Simply put, Giovanna’s classes provide me with more than I had hoped for. Each session is interactive, dynamic, challenging, and filled with great camaraderie. Of most importance is Giovanna’s desire to have us learn and understand what she teaches, not just memorize.

My goal was to reach a point where I no longer felt like a tourist in Italy, and while my learning will be a lifelong pursuit, I’m now comfortable conversing with locals who speak no English at all – a great tribute to Giovanna!

In our book, Unit 5 is called Buon Appetito, and we learned how to prepare a shopping list, go to market, and make lunch or dinner. Today in Cortona, we did just that. Our list included roasted chicken and turkey, cheeses, tomatoes, basil, bread sticks and vino.

While we order the roasted chicken weekly, our favorite “chicken lady” had a special this week: roasted and boned turkey leg with herbs. No antibiotics or preservatives…just incredible flavors and a heavy dose of fresh sage leaves and dill rolled inside. How does one have the patience to bone a turkey leg????


We carried everything home and set out our feast. The only thing missing was all of you, and we could have fed all of you! Good for us we like left overs.

Mozzarella fresca e pomodorini


Grana Padano Parmigiano


Boned roasted turkey leg (left)  and roasted chicken (right)


Una vera festa…A true feast!


Even the constant rain decided to pester others today


and granted Cortona a rain-free and sometimes even sun-filled day…


Listening to Andrea Bocelli as I write…Perfetto!

And to my Italian class:

Vorrei che tu fossi qui per andare a fare la spesa con me e gustare un delizioso pranzo. E sto anche usando il passato e il futuro bene!

Ci vediamo a settembre! Ciao, ciao,


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!




11 Jul

With deference to Goodnight Moon, my farewell ode to Italia 2012:

Arrivederci salumi, cheese and wine

Arrivederci going to dinner at nine

Arrivederci shopping at the markets in the street

Arrivederci greeting every stranger I meet

Arrivederci pastry and cappuccino in the early morn

Arrivederci basil from a plant freshly torn

Arrivederci best mozzarella I will ever taste

Arrivederci appreciation of life at a slower pace

Arrivederci  sunflowers growing strong and tall

Arrivederci lovely shops, not ever in a mall

Arrivederci gelato –  the source of smiles galore

Arrivederci  flowers adorning every window and door

Arrivederci graceful ladies walking arm in arm

Arrivederci vistas of the land people farm

Arrivederci homemade pasta in every size and shape

Arrivederci beans that only Italians know how to make

Arrivederci tomatoes, bruscetta and cheese

Arrivederci pizza prepared to please

Arrivederci piazza life where people sip vino and talk

Arrivederci evenings’ activities we find on our walk

Arrivederci shoes, scarves and fashion

Arrivederci simplicity filled with passion

Arrivederci antiquities that stretch the soul and mind


Arrivederci art and architecture, every imaginable kind

Arrivederci friends, old and new, from far and near


Arrivederci Cortona, Italia, till we see you next year.

Many thanks to all who made our trip so memorable.

While this marks the “physical” end of our 2012 Italian adventure, it is not the end of the blog… come back for much more!



A Simple Life

2 Jul

In Cortona, shopping for one’s daily needs is simple…no megastores, no supermarkets, and no chain stores. What does exist are merchants who tend to specialize, thus offer great quality at reasonable prices. Meat and poultry are generally purchased at the macelleria, or butcher shop, and there are a few in town. Fish and seafood is less easily available, but the fish monger comes to town once a week and fish is available at the Saturday market.         Bread can be purchased directly from the panettiere, or baker, as well as local venues he supplies early in the morning. His shop is directly behind our house, so just about every night we fall asleep to the scent of fresh bread baking in the ovens.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are available at a few locations…two stores and one pop-up market only open in the morning, spread out in an area that becomes a restaurant later in the day.


Dry goods, canned goods, deli meats and cheeses, paper and cleaning products, frozen and dairy items, etc., can be found at one of the two markets in town: Molessini and the Mini-Market.

Pharmaceuticals, baby products, healthcare items, etc. are available at the local Pharmacia, and they are easily identifiable as they have a green cross in front.

The Tabacchi or tobacco shops sell newspapers, magazines, bus and train tickets, maps, gum, candy, and an assortment of tourist items and toys.


Bars, cafés, and enotecas offer everything from morning coffee and pastry to light lunch and dinner with full bar, and I mean full.  You can sit in or out.


The best part is that you buy only what you can carry as you walk everywhere. That of course means that everything you eat is fresh, and so delicious. Makes grocery shopping fun!

Not to be left out is the gelato. Ice cream is available at two gelaterias in town…a great way to stroll and end the evening.

How I am dreading “super” markets back home. Super is definitely not always better, just big, big, bigger! Is there a future for “Simplemarkets” in the US? Probably not, but a good reason to travel!



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