Cortona

This morning we went to the Comune via the police station, to register that we are living in the town.  For no particular reason, other than we can, we get a stamped piece of official paper. And the more of those we have the better.  After a pleasant lunch at New Castle of baked eggs with black truffle, toast, a glass of red wine, tiramisu and coffee for the princely sum of 12 euro we headed back to the house.

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Another freezing cold day with winds from the North bringing the coldest weather the region has seen in fifty years, according to local TV.  The sky was so blue and the sun shining so we thought we would look at the map and choose a nearby town to visit; one that was not too far as it was already three in the afteroon.

We chose Cortona which is a hilltop Tuscan town, just past Lake Trasimeno. Having parked in the car park at the bottom of the hill, a series of escalators took us to a small piazza and an amazing view of the Chiana valley, the lake and the distant mountains. We walked along the main street to the town square.

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There are quite a few galleries here with paintings and sculpture of varying quality.  One gallery in particular was full of beautifully sculpted wild boar and a chicken all made from wire mesh or simply outlined in fine wire; another had huge bronze globes with delicate olive trees sprouting from the top and on closer inspection the trunks of the trees formed by the bodies of an entwined couple. Yet another gallery held a table covered in beatiful glossy apples, an intricately carved key, stylized horses and perfect models of dining tables, all made of wood.  There are also numerous jewellery shops with windows full of glittering antique jewels with precious stones and huge baroque pearls.

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Many of the shops and coffee bars boasted that they were founded in 1937, which seemed curious, apart from one whose window was full of Damien Hirst-style diamante encrusted skulls.  This turned out to be a very exclusive retailer of food and wine.  Precious looking jars of pates and jams as well as walking sticks and ornaments of skulls, shared their shelves with beautifully labelled bottles wine.  Called “Maledetti Toscani” (Those Damned Tuscans), it proclaimed it was founded in 1845; next time we visit I want to go in and find out more.

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We stopped for some refreshment in a bar before leaving, and found that it specialised in teas and tisanes of all sorts.  A list of several pages featured blends with intriguing titles such as ‘Happy Elephant’, ‘Wife of the Emperor’, ‘Fire in the Jungle’ and my choice ‘Kirkade Mother Earth’.  This contained hibiscus, tea, sunflower seeds, pink peppercorns, cardamon, vanilla and honeybusch (whatever that is).  A pot of hot water, an infuser, a jar of said tea and a plate of biscuits were duly delivered and all for €3.50, which was very cheap for what felt like being part of an ‘installation’.  “What was the tea like?” you may be asking, well OK, if a little medicinal. A good brew of Yorkshire Tea, strong enough to stand a teaspoon up, would have have been preferred.  The biscuits were good though. The building was magical from outside and I would still recommend it as an experience. Although you would be spoilt for choice along this street as there are several interesting and long-established coffee bars.

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Their motto is: “L’amore comincia con un sorriso, cresce con un bacio e finisce con un thé” (Love begins with a smile, grows with a kiss and ends with a cuppa)

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We were only in Cortona for a short visit but as the sun set it cast a wonderful golden light on the buildings and the distant hills.

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We had to rush off as we had a dinner invite with E. in her lovely farmhouse.

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