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Journeys : Dec 2012 Jan 2013
From Cortona ... Alice Hansen vows to return to a beautiful hill-town in Tuscany "A re you staying a week, or more than this?" asks the taxi driver, who has lived his entire life in glorious Cortona, a tow n in Italy's Tuscan region. We tentatively reply that we are here for just one night and in the rear-view mirror we see the disappointment in his warm Italian eyes. A glance out the window confirms that we have indeed landed in countryside heaven -- a patchwork of sunflower fields, olive groves and lush greens stretching out before us. Just ahead lies one of the oldest hillside towns in Tuscany. Steeped in history, Cortona was a free commune in the Middle Ages and the birthplace of famous artists including Signorelli and Severini. St Francis of Assisi slept with his head on a wooden pillow at a monastery on the outskirts of tow n. Today, Cortona is famous for being the set of Under the Tuscan Sun and you'd think that hordes of tourists would be flocking to experience their piece of the movie in Tuscan reality. Would there be walking movie tours, Diane Lane tea-towels and costume-clad guides? Not at all. The humble Tuscan village makes no mention of its Hollywood fame and only a faded poster in a window hints that a film brought worldwide attention to this quaint dot of ancient beauty. From the moment we walk through the doors of Villa Marsili we feel as if we have stepped into our ow n private Tuscan home. Our hosts greet us with wide smiles and a detailed story of all that we can do in Cortona -- enough to fill three months. Ar med with our map we venture into a tow n that dates back to the 1300s. Original stone buildings are topped with ter racotta roofing, a vivid contrast against the blue sky. Nar row streets wind their way through the Old Tow n, leading into residential areas where wooden balconies double as clothes dryers. Street names are car ved into stone tablets, but by this stage we have opted for map-less wandering. Back at Villa Marsili we're told that free aperitifs will be waiting dow nstairs at 7pm. We ask what might be a typically Italian drink and are told that 'Aperol Spritz is the fashion of the drink.' Obligingly we choose to be fashionable and within moments a pair of vibrant orange-filled glasses arrive -- a splash of orange liqueur over ice, topped up with prosecco sparkling wine and finished with a dash of soda and a slice of orange. It's a moment to remember -- an outdoor Tuscan setting, Aperol Spritz in hand, looking beyond Misili's bold front gates into endless Italian countryside. There's nothing to do but breathe in the fresh rural air between pleasant sips. Our only Cortona error? Not taking the advice of those warm Italian taxi eyes that silently told us one night is not nearly enough. Cortona scenes Photos: Alice Hansen 14 December 2012 / January 2013 Destinations
Oct Nov 2012
Feb Mar 2013