We’re the first ones in the breakfast room, its not full of German travellers today, the view hasn’t improved on yesterday but it probably couldn’t really. Anyway, we get first chop at the croissants, first cappuchino’s and a monopoly on the view until some American’s turn up. They look at us strangly when we say “gooday”, and we get no response, they must think we’re Russians, dunno?
The plan is to head out of Tuscany into Umbrian, the border is only a few k’s away but I’m trying to make it sound a little sexy so give me a bit of lattitude. I’ve got used to driving the little Renault Clio, its auto (my demand to the Navigator if I’m to drive (and a good demand that was), its four door despite what I initially thought, its diesel, and turns and accelerates quickly, good for getting out of trouble.
The drive cross into Umbria is very interesting, through villages, around the edge of Lago Tresimeno where its industrial and mostly not as ancient as the tourist areas, but still interesting. First stop is Panicale. The reason we came here is because many years ago friend of ours, no names mentioned (Dave & Ali) stayed here with their children Eleanor and Tim for some time and they were the ones who recommended we stay at Cortona the next year when we were coming to Italy, and we thought a return visit to Panicale would be interesting to see how it looks now. Well, It hasn’t changed much at all, the cafe/ restaurant was in the hands of some younger people but the place is drop dead beautiful, quiet, hardly any tourists (maybe 5-6 other than us), neat, seems friendly. I could be tempted to spend time here, if I could or was allowed to.
The next port of call is Castiglione del Lago (castle on the lake or soemthing like that) somewhere we haven’t been before. I make a small navigation error but its inconsequential as the town is small, find a nice park and we wander here for some time. Its a pretty town, The Navigator buys a few things, checks out the jewellery she can’t afford, we skip lunch thinking we’ll have some when we get back to Cortona. Its really worth stopping here. Its right on the lake, lots of nice shops, good restaurants, and looks like a slow pace.
The drive back up the hill to Cortona is via a narrow road, often close to the edge of the road, a little stress when we end up in via Nationale but a quick left 160 degree turn gets me out of it down the hill and on to the road up the mountain to Santa Margherita. Its a beautiful church, blue blue with Saint Margaret there in her glass coffin looking a bit off. Next stop is back down the hill to the cemetery, its kept immaculately, and almost every grave has a photo of the occupier – I think its a great idea. Enough of dead people, we then fill up with diesel, 40 euros, not bad for 4 days and lots of km’s I think.
Lunch is not lunch, not even a late lunch, its a drink and some pastries, we’re in the food twilight zone between lunch and dinner so we’re lucky to get anything.
We pick up some art prints, The Navigator goes shopping and I go to hand over the car while Paul and Liz have a look at the museum (they were impressed). The lovely Laura checks the car, takes the keys then loses them in her bag, sounds like The Navigator (I wonder if she spills food down her front as well?), then proceeds to ask how we enjoyed Cortona, where we went, how Allister and Jaquie enjoyed it and their driving, she enquired about Australia, where the wine regions were etc etc until The Navigator calls wanting to know where the f… I was. Oh the bloody Laura, she distracted me.
In the middle of this we run into Ian Dixon (the former Orange City master of the dark arts of forward play) and Deb in Piazza Signorelli, a final chew of the fat, remember old times and other important stuff, he tries hard to convince Deb to drive to the top of the hill but she has none of it, walking is her only option and it appears its now his only option.
Dinner tonight is at Teatro Signorilli in the Piazza Signorelli, The building started as a church in the 1400’s or earlier, then they tried to fix a bottleneck for horses and carts where the piazza links with via Dardano and knocked down what I think were grain storeage buildings ( I might have that wrong). The resaturant was recommended by the artist who we bought the prints from (the Englishes know who he is). Mamma and a young 20ish girl run the place, the food is home style food, delicious except for The Navigator’s veal dish which she felt wasn’t up to the standard she now expects of her Italian cuisine.
A great day, we saw a lot, had a nice dinner and tomorrow we head into Florence for one night before we head to Switzerland when I think the rain starts and the weather gets colder.
Ciao for now from Cortona for the last time this trip – Pauolo