It’s now Monday morning in Cortona, once again I petered out before I could write yesterday’s blog, the walking, the food a few drinks all take their toll. So I’m sitting at Maladetti Toscana Cafe on Piazza Della Repubblica writing this with an espresso, watching the locals with their secret handshakes, walking sticks and newspapers sitting on the seats that only they sit at in front of Molesini delicatessen, and a few tourists on the steps in front of the Commune de Cortona. A man in camouflage gear walks into the piazza with a gun bag over his shoulder, he’s obviously been out hunting but nobody bats an eye, including the female copper with a bum large enough to match the Glock 9mm pistol on her hip. She’s drafting the traffic in and out of the piazza, officious looking but with a smile on her face, it looks like she enjoys her job and underneath the pursed lips she’s possibly quite a pleasant person.
It’s a beautiful day, a slight chill in the air, a hum from the suppliers dropping stores off to shops, a mini garbage truck sitting in the middle of the piazza, the driver having a heated discussion with somebody, it could only be a scene in Italy. Genelle, Jane, Sonya, John and Andrew have left on a walk to church outside the walls that is supposed to be quite beautiful. The group gets separated, 3 end up hitching a ride with a couple from San Diego in a car, and Genelle and Jane walk to a cafe near Bremasole and have a lovely walk back into town.
Dave and Alison have just walked up the hill from Camucia after dropping their hire car from yesterday off and sorting out train tickets. They’ve discovered a minor faux pas in their travel plans, they booked their flight to Croatia for the 11th not the 10th and so need to get different train tickets and chill in Rome for a day before they leave – what a horrible place to have to spend a day!
Oh, nearly forgot, I got a bit distracted on the moment, unlike me, I’d better give you an update on yesterday’s activities.
Dave and Alison are driving locally and doing a walk today around Panicale where they stayed for 3-4 weeks 7 years ago. A chill day for them.
Back to Sunday now, we lean forward and walk slowly up the hill with our hands behind our backs, there is a reason they call it a hill town, bad knees and Cortona are an interesting mix, Daniel is waiting and we off down the hill, past the house they used to film Under Tuscan Sun ( not the real Bremasole), we hook left around Lago Trassimeno and head towards Perugia. I small chat with Daniel on Italian politics, sport and other boring stuff. I’ll give you a quick debrief;
Sport – thee is only one sport and that is football. There is only one football, all the others he thinks are handball. Soccer rules Italy’s thinking, its heart and other things undefinable and is good and bad. The bad involves gambling and crime and a lack of focus on important things like the wellbeing of the Italian people. Heavy shit me thinks. He said when he first started doing tourist work he had some Americans talking about soccer, and he actually didn’t know what they were talking about and eventually he said to them “What the f…. is soccer???” Rugby rates about as high as marbles against AFL in Melbourne nas Adelaide.
Politics – Daniel is thinking Italy needs a revolution to get things in balance again, I’m not sure what sort of revolution he’s talking about, but it’s sounding like the guns and overthrow the government type. I decide not to press this any further, he’s a passionate Italian with an 8 month old baby and wondering about the future for his child in a struggling economy in a place we don’t see the problems as much as we see the beauty.
We pass through Perugia, according to Daniel it’s a university city, full of drugs and crime. So, we keep driving another 15 km then up the bloody big hill past monks walking in their cassocks, middle aged men running in Lycra with nothing left to the imagination about their anatomy, what a contrast!
The St Frances of Assisi Basilica is about to start a mass, so we have a quick look and exit, because you can’t quietly exit while the service is on. It would have been good to hear the choir singing but there is a Franciscan monk directing regular parishioners to the front and tourists out the door – a Monk security guard sort of. We wander down stairs to the tomb of St Francis, who is patron saint of many things and was renowned for his kindness and compassion, pity he didn’t pass some of that compassion on to his staff in the 21 st century. Genelle and Jane buy a candle for St Francis thinking they might bring it home but the instructions are to leave it in a basket on the other side of the tomb, economic recycling, because I reckon they then put it in the for sale basket beside it and resell it again and again.
Assisi is full of Sunday tourists, church goers, locals and tour groups. We wander up the hill towards where we are doing a wine thing and lunch , the women shopping shopping shopping and the men observing with pursed lips and tense looks. Us blokes leave them in their natural environment and look at churches, plenty of those suckers in this Vatican town that are covered on beautiful frescoes and gold and all seem to have services going, maybe it’s my cynical attitude but it all seems at odds with the few beggars we see outside places including a church. Who has the money here and who should be caring for these poor bastards, if in fact they are really poor and destitute and need a feed? John sees a woman that is in the entry to the Church which is the Minerva, originally a Tuscan pagan temple, a buildinging build over 2500 years ago, and now a Catholic Church, he thinks she has no legs but when he exits with out dropping any Euros into her outstretched desperate pleading hands she stands up and walks outside.
We have a coffee at a cafe on the piazza in front of Minerva, with the Corinthian columns in front, weathered and impressive. Lunch is really wine tasting and cheese and meats in a Trattoria. Our host is Mila, a blonde Ukrainian woman who is interesting, knows her stuff and challenges your understanding of wines. We share the event with some US navy personnel who are on a 4 day leave, it sort of ends up about square when the points in the wine identification are allocated, USA 3 Australia 3. It’s then a dance off and it’s still all square. We leave there a little worse for the wear.
A return to shopping and we nearly have to call for the ambulance, Sonya has a victory and John agrees to buy her a beautiful salad dish for Christmas, it’s red with a unique design, the shop owners mother does the pottery and Jane then gets an agreement out of Andrew for a similar purchase, to be delivered to Dubbo. We made a purchase from the same place earlier, a wallet and an oil dish but not a big spend. I think they’ve done well but John I think is feeling the stress a little.
Back to the van and Cortona by 5pm. It’s been a pretty good day.
Diner tonight is with Paola at Dolce Maria, our B&B host, she’s a pretty renowned chef and her specialty is Tagliatelle. It’s a beautiful meal, we don’t have to walk home, and we all fade pretty quickly.
Ciao ciao for today. Tomorrow is our last day in Cortona.