Travel Notes – Cortona 02, Italy

Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

I just realised that I haven’t finished my Europe Getaway stories. And what’s worse is that the missing part happens to be the highlight and main purpose of my trip to Italy: Cortona. So, if you guys are still interested, here it is.

I can’t remember what time it was in the afternoon when our bus finally arrived in the hilly town of Cortona. I remember I had butterflies in my tummy as I alighted the big blue vehicle for I was now in a place that I had only seen in a movie and thought would never be able to visit. I walked towards the little alleyway entrance into the town and marvelled at the cute shops on each side of the narrow cobblestoned street. Some looked like expensive boutiques, but some sold simple items such as fruit, cakes as well as paintings, wine and even shoes. In the movie, this alley was in fact the first place Frances Mayes set foot in when she arrived in Cortona.

Petite sidewalk cafes popped up here and there with nice pale coloured parasols to protect people from the hot summer sun. Old ladies and gents were seen sipping coffee, chatting among themselves while enjoying the summer weather. I passed by a cute shop called Il Papiro and decided to go in. Once inside, I was suddenly surrounded by all sorts of writing paper, pens, pencils and different coloured inks. As I walked on further, I came across a girl sitting at the mouth of a really small alley, concentrating on a piece of paper she had on her lap. When I came closer I saw that she was actually sketching something and the alley in front of her served as an open air gallery where she hung all her drawings to sell.

I bought fresh strawberries and a bag of vanilla merengues and ate them while musing at the shop windows on each side of this little path in Cortona. The narrow street brought me to a clearing that was in fact the town’s square. This square turns into a market every Saturday and I was told it was then that people of this town did their weekly grocery shopping. Like in the movie, you could find cheese, poultry, vegetables and fruits during this Saturday market and it was too bad that I came on a weekday, hence unable to experience this lovely chaotic ritual.

The sun was blazing hot when I reached this square and I could see wide big steps leading to a building that looked like a church. I made my way to the right side of the church and went into a pizza parlour and got myself a nice slice of margherita pizza, still hot fresh from the oven. I then walked up towards a high stone veranda on the right side of the square, made myself comfortable on a solid stone slab and enjoyed my pizza while looking down onto the square. I remember there was a scene here in the movie where Frances sat down with a fellow tourist and wrote a postcard for his mother while listening to the church bell tolling away.

Satisfied with my meal, I carried on exploring this little town and wandered around their stony neighbourhood. The roads were steep and made of stone. As I went up even higher, I saw a man lying on a rug, reading a book, facing the beautiful scenery laid out right in front of him. How I envied him!

You know, I took about 700 pictures in Cortona alone and I didn’t know which ones to post. I finally decided on the ones below not because they are the most beautiful, but merely because I didn’t know how to choose. There are still so many stories untold, so many places unmentioned, so many sceneries uncaptured. I want to come back to Cortona one day and spend several days there. Hopefully then I’d be able to tell you more about this little corner of paradise on earth.


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