Travel Notes – Cortona 01, Italy

Sunday, August 14th, 2005

It was Wednesday morning, 8th of June and I finally was on my way to Cortona. CORTONA. The town that was the main purpose of my Europe getaway. Beautifully set on a hill above the Val di Chiana plain, Cortona sits 500 metres above sea level. It was about 9AM when I waited for the bus in front of A Teatro to take me to the train station. It was not until I almost reached the station that I learned bus tickets were to be purchased before getting on the bus. A few men who happened to stand close to me couldn’t help but smile at my foolishness. Feeling embarrassed, I got off and continued the journey by foot. I bought the train ticket at a vending machine and headed for the platform. My destination was Arezzo, while the train’s final station was Roma. It was a nice warm day and I had the perfect window seat in the first class compartment. Camera in hand, I gazed at the beautiful picturesque scenery outside my window. The meadows looked breathtaking and from time to time, I saw flocks of sheep sitting between bundles of rolled dry hay, bathing in the sunlight.

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The trip itself was only half an hour, for the train didn’t make any stops prior to halting at Arezzo station. This little town was neat and tidy, with wide streets and brownish hills in the distance. I made my way to the tourist information office just outside the station and was told that I should walk towards the park and purchase a bus ticket to Cortona at any tobacco kiosk just outside the park fence. I opted for a return ticket since there were no time limits anyway, giving me the freedom to return at whatever time I wanted. I killed time by going into a sports shop just outside the bus stop and at 2 sharp, the big blue bus arrived. I climbed on board after some very fashionable school girls, while behind me two old ladies helped each other up the steps. The windows were big with red curtains, hatched on a little silver hook. All around me I heard people chattering away in Italian and I couldn’t help feeling that sudden urge to learn this sexy language. Having just arrived the day before, all I could say was bon giorno, grazie and prego and the way the Italians rolled their Rs reminded me of my own language back home.

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Once again, I chose a window seat and drowned in each beautiful framed picture that was displayed right before my eyes. Green hills scattered all around me with little dots in the distance, rooftops of old houses. The sky was a contrast blue to the green carpet below it and slowly but sure, the voices around me disappeared until all I could hear was the beat of my own heart. I saw upwinding streets with exotic names that I couldn’t even pronounce and as the bus made its way upwards, my thoughts went back in time to the month of January in 2004.
I was on my way back from a business trip and I remember not looking forward to the twenty-something hour flight from LA to Jakarta. I had exhausted myself so badly, I thought I was going to be able to sleep. But alas, insomnia hit me again and before I knew it, I was watching one inflight movie after another. Under The Tuscan Sun was the last one I saw and I was captured by the beauty of the town hill featured in that movie, Cortona. Before the plane even landed, I made a silent vow that I will visit this town one day.
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Suddenly, the bus came to a halt and I realised that we’ve arrived at a round clearing on top of a little hill where some passengers got off and new ones came on board. In less than ten minutes, the bus was on its way again and I glanced at my watch to see thirty minutes had gone by since we departed from Arezzo. I was prepared to sit for another half hour since I was told the bus ride to Cortona would take approximately one hour.

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