Many people know the famous movie starring Diane Lane, Under The Tuscan Sun, which was originally a book by one of my favorite authors, Frances Mayes.
In fact, I think it’s safe to say that movie/book is one of the major reasons many people want to come visit Tuscany and the romantic notion of its countryside. I know it had that effect on me. It portrayed the beauty of simple living, the change that happens in a person, and the magic of Italy and leaving your life behind to start something new. That movie takes place in a small Tuscan town called Cortona, where Mayes still lives in that villa she wrote about so many years ago.
Last weekend my boyfriend and I took a day trip to Cortona. I do love the movie for the story, but the book, in my opinion, captured the beauty and whimsical, soft nature of the Tuscan countryside. Cortona is a medieval town still inside it’s original city walls on top of a hill overlooking all the green of the rolling Tuscan hills surrounding it. It was peaceful driving up to the top of the hill to access the town on a small winding road with bright red-orange poppies following the road on both sides.
The day I was there, there happened to be an antique market, which I love. I spent the first two hours browsing the vintage goods and enamoring a few historical articles. After that, I went in search of a place to have lunch. Walking past all the adorable shops, charming store fronts, and touristy restaurants, I spotted a patio up the hill sans crowd. It was off the easy path, since there was a small uphill walk up the road to get there, which is probably why it wasn’t so busy. The patio was above the trees and had a great view of the green valley and hills below.
We sat down on the patio and the view was amazing. You could even see the lake in Umbria! Tuscany and Umbria are two neighboring regions of Italy, and Cortona is about an hour from the regional boarder, so it was easy to see Umbria in the distance.
We ordered lunch and was pleasantly surprised when it was served. It looked amazing and tasted even better! I ordered pesto lasagna, with a particular kind of sausage from Cortona, topped with pistachios and walnut sauce. My boyfriend ordered chicken breast with arugula, and a lemon basil sauce. The white wine we had was crisp and light; the perfect compliment to our meal, although I didn’t take notice of the brand. The bread was fresh, warm and soft. We were really surprised, and to top it all off, it was fantastically priced and the service was great. Inside the restaurant, it was decorated with a vintage industrial meet old world Tuscany theme. Very interesting, but comfortable and attractive. Too bad we didn’t have dessert because they looked fantastic, but we opted for gelato and a walk later instead.
The town itself was quaint, charming, and not overly touristy. There were plenty of little shops with the usual Tuscan flair. There were small churches sprinkled throughout the town and the old apartments were built one on top of the other, all different colors and shades of the famous Tuscany yellow, cream, terra-cotta, and peach. There were a few museums, and even some Etruscan history as well.
Although there was plenty to see and snap photos of, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the green beauty that surrounded us.
During our walk in the hilly town, we came across an amazing art gallery called The Circle of Life Art Gallery. The huge bronze olive tree with intricate details, a trunk made of a man and a woman, and specific shades of green, teal and blue in the window caught my eye. We went inside and ended up falling in love with the artist’s work, which is now a goal of mine to own one day. Andrea Roggi, the artist himself, was there and we had the pleasure of meeting him and his colleague, who explained Andrea’s philosophy of life, unity, and art, in Italian and English! This gallery was not at all snobby, like most. They were freindly and genuinely happy to share their art and put a smile on our faces. It was great to meet the artist personally and really understand the meaning behind what we could see in the gallery. I highly recommend stopping by.
After being moved by some art, it was gelato time! We ordered a cone each, took a stroll and ended up sitting near the wall over looking the opposite side of Cortona enjoying the view. I understand the allure of this place and feel a little closer to Frances Mayes, feeling I was in her shoes seeing the town and area through wide eyes. It was a fantastic day under the Tuscan sun.