It’s Saturday evening, I’m stuffed, partly my own fault and partly just what we’ve done today. We’ve been bloody busy! This may not get posted today as I’m not sure I’ll finish it tonight.
Today we’re on the road again after a little retail therapy at the regular Cortona Saturday markets. Breakfast is the usual downstairs at Dolce Maria, and today she had a beautiful damper with ricotta and honey, as well as the standard fair of scrambled eggs, cappuccino and other delights.
John and Andrew leave at 9 am sharp, they’ve decided to walk up the hill to Fort Girafalco and back again before we leave on the day trip at 11am. They are welcome to it, obviously fitter and more motivated than me.
The regular Saturday Cortona markets are on in Piazza Signorelli and there are a mix of clothes vendors with mainly Chinese stuff and the food and vegy stalls. The clothes are reasonably priced, and reasonable quality mostly but PRC labels is a give away as to their origin. Some purchases are made and the fruit and vegy stall is looking like it could sell us something but the bastards won’t serve Alison or Genelle, they only eyeball and serve the locals so we walk away and they’ve miss 5 Euros worth of sales.
Daniel picks us up at the bottom of Via Guelfa, after straggling down the cobblestone hill like browns cows. The day has warmed up, it’s very pleasant. The first stop is a small farm that is called Trattoria Bistecca, a funny name for a farm, more a restaurant name I reckon. We are met by Ilaria, a 30ish young woman, who can talk better and quicker than Genelle, we also meet her father Lapo ( pronounced Larrpo), and we are advised that he was the sheep man in Under Tuscan Sun the movie, his photo with the movie crew and the main actor Diane Lane, is spread around liberally, in the shed with the sheep, along with 50,000 f…g flies and I later see it again inside their “office”. Lapo’s face is familiar, I think he was only in the movie for 20 seconds close to the start of the movie. Ilaria not only can talk, she knows her stuff, they own a small farm ( where are), which is also a restaurant, one with olives near the top of Cortona hill, a guesthouse, and I guess a few other things, they make pecorino cheese from their sheeps milk, grow all the vegetables they use in their restaurant, they kill one pig a year for all their ham, salami etc, they make their own wine from their own grapes, I think they work very hard. “The Office” or Trattoria Bisteca, which looks across the fertile flats to the hills where Cortona is perched, has a table set for us, Ilaria runs us through the cheeses, how they are made, the different meats, the wine which is a Sangiovese, we have zucchini flowers with ricotta and anchovy, it’s actually a mini feast and it’s delicious and fantastic. A great way to start the day. We leave the place full of food, a smile on our faces, (Genelle included), and head through the rolling hills and back roads to Montepulciano, little hill towns and castles or forts sprinkled everywhere, ploughed fields, green fields, pencil pine driveways, umbrella pines, olive trees and a mix of colours even a colour blind heathen like me can recognise as extraordinarily pretty scenery typical of Tuscany.
We climb around the hill into Montepulciano, a bigger hill town than Cortona, quite pretty looking, to the Nobile winery for tasting and lunch. It’s really where they make the wine, there are no grapes here, just cobblestone streets. We descend into a cave via steep step through a tunnel and into the area they hold the huge wine casks. The cave has a history that goes back to Tuscan times ( over 2500 years ago) and it was also a shelter in the world wars, its dark and cool na danother table is set up. Our host is a serious looking young fella, in a Ralph Lauren jacket which we find out later covers a serious tattoo on his left arm, jeans and carrying strong political views on government intervention and many other things. He knows his wines and the technical stuff but not once do I see him smile. The “lunch” is really only a selection on meats, cheeses and some bread, I think we sometimes forget we are in Europe and not home in Australia and there are different interpretations of what “lunch” means.
We leave the cave via a not so secret door onto a street with instructions to head straight ahead, turn right then left down the hill, towards the gates to the town. Once again we drift like a herd of lost sheep, dropping into shops, looking over the wall at the countryside, and end up spread out. I find John and Sonya, and we walk together, it’s my idea I think to follow the sign to the Leonardo horses to get the the gate, but something feels wrong, my in built gps is not working, my knees are burning from going up hill and down cobblestones, and then John says, “Oh f….k we’re back where we started!” , I feel broken and wondering how am I going to waddle sideways like a duck down this mongrel hill again. I buy a 50c map in shop, a nice man looks at me with pity and shows the way back on the map. We zagged when we should have zigged when coming down the hill and ended up doing a circle rather than a dog leg. It’s embarrassing for me because it’s fair to say I have thrown a fair bit of sarcasm Genelle’s way for her lack of direction on lots of our travels. When we get to the gate she doesn’t have to say anything, the look in her eyes says it all ” don’t try and give me an excuse you clown – this means I have more $ for procurement purposes”
We get back to Cortona at dusk, there is a wedding on and a Ferrari with ribbons on it in Piazza Signorelli looks like the wedding car. A few beers at La Poste Bar and we retire early tonight. A discovery is made of a secret stairway to a rooftop terrace with spectacular views, not sure my crumbling knees will allow me to experience this.
Ciao ciao from Cortona