Monday, November 26, 2012

Cortona, Arezzo, Italia!

I'm back folks!

I apologize dearly for the silence the past month or so, as all writers do, occasionally I get burnt out a bit and have to take some time to regroup and refocus.  Alas, the itch has returned and I'm back :)

I reviewed my last blog and realized I left you all with quite the cliffhanger..!  So where were we..


Finally arrived in Cortona by train all of us, excluding Nicole, feeling pretty freaking sick.  We stepped off the train onto the station platform and headed into the picturesque town of Camucia.  We were all sufficiently in the "hangry" and tired, not to mention sick stage at this point and desperately searched for an open cafe.  Alas, we had arrived just at the time when everything in Italy shuts down completely.  Approximately between the hours of 2-4pm..awesome

We finally found a small cafe open and all four of us collapsed in chairs with our backpacks strewn around us.  We waited for Nicole's friend Katie to arrive along with her boyfriend (they had just come from Amsterdam) so that we could all take a taxi into Cortona together.  While the others chowed down, me, Chris, and Robbie had about 3 bites total between the three of us of our food.  Upset stomach blows while traveling by the way.  In case you were unaware..

We ordered a taxi and all 6 of us piled in with all our backpacks mind you, and headed off into the Tuscan countryside.

I had been eagerly anticipating seeing gigantic fields of sunflowers and unfortunately we had seemingly arrived literally just as they had all withered up and died..super duper sad face.  My brother however was able to find what I would have to say was the sole single survivor of the mass sunflower death and that made things just a little bit better :)

After following some wacko Italian directions such as, go past-a ah a curve with a-ah tall tree and big-ah house-ah, look for the ah, how you say, vineyards on your-ah left, past the stone-ah house with the-a large ah-barking dogs and you are there!  Perfecto!


No worries, we did in fact make it to the villa and boy was it worth it!  Let me give some background now as to how the villa comes into play..

When I very started planning my trip wayyy back in February ish my lovely friend Nicole informed me that she already had a trip planned to go to Cortona, Italy and stay in a villa with a group of friends.  She wanted to take a longer trip and thus that is why she joined us for the two weeks prior.

Annddd moving on.  Arrived at the villa, again, BEAUTIFUL.  The picture of me with the sunflower is the front portico area.  We spent lots of time out here.  We met all the peeps staying at the villa, wonderful people and thoroughly enjoyed our time getting to know them.  As we had arrived with absolutely no plan on where to stay (oops, I blame the sickness and early morning train trip!) they graciously offered what little room they had to the homeless travelers.  We proceeded to spend the next 5 days or so drinking wine, watching sunsets, reading books, exploring Cortona's beautiful countryside, shopping in the town, and eating wonderful food.  Below are some pictures taken on my iPhone, enjoy!

Also I'm not sure if anyone is aware but if you have ever seen the movie with Diane Lane called "Under the Tuscan Sun", Cortona is where a big portion of that movie was filmed.  

Hard to beat a Tuscan sunset
Tuscan house in the distance and below is the villa we stayed at
Above picture, eating dinner in Cortona's square, below: Pool at the villa
We made dinner one night with fresh meats, breads, cheeses, and local wine. YUM!

everyone eats these sandwiches in Italy..figured we'd make our own too

Let's talk about Cortona a little.  The countryside was absolutely phenomenal.  I can only imagine how much better it would have looked had all the sunflower fields been in bloom.  I don't believe I would have been able to resist running out into the middle of a sunflower field to just throw my arms out wide and twirl.  Next time ;)
Vineyards were everywhere, me and Chris snuck into one to try the grapes of course, delicious!  Downside.  Only one cafe and only one restaurant.  If you wanted variety, you had to take an 8ish minute taxi ride or bus ride up into Cortona's city center located on the hillside.  Problem with that..Cortona only has about 4 taxi's in town..only one of the drivers speaks any English (if you want to call it that) and you must call them to use them.  Luckily the group who had the villa had working phones.  If for some miracle you got one on the phone, most likely you were promptly given the number of the "english" speaking driver who was more than likely busy.  We resorted to the buses more often than not but those stopped running fairly early in the afternoon..more than once we were out in the city late at night after dinner waiting on the one taxi to arrive.  Word of advice, if you come to Cortona or anywhere in the Tuscan countryside, do yourself a favor and rent a car.

The next day me and Chris decided we would do a little cowboy camping to try and save some money.  Chris had staked out a nice area near the backside of an abandoned house.  (Side note: Cortona had tons of empty houses surprisingly.  A couple of the houses in the picture below were actually empty..anyone else want to go live the "Under the Tuscan Sun" dream with me?!)
We threw up our hammocks and began to settle in and to our dismay discovered we had apparently camped in the India of mosquito countries.  Millions of them.  We both looked at each other, nodded, promptly tore our hammocks back down, grabbed our bags and headed into the abandoned villa.  Not gonna lie, was a tad bit creepy at first but after making a nice, warm pallet on the dusty stone floor it really wasn't so bad.  We fell asleep immediately and woke up rested, mosquito bite free.  If anyone has ever read "The Boxcar Children" books before, it felt a lot like that, which I'm ok with :)

The next night we decided we should get a real place to sleep and so we said goodbye to our little boxcar-esque home and headed into the town center.  We booked a room in Cortona's city center at hostel I can't quite recall the name apologies.  However I do know that it once was an old monastery.  So cool!  While me and Chris were hanging out in the common room the first night the little Italian hostel owner offered us watermelon, what a gem.

Needless to say, Cortona was a wonderful time of relaxation, making new stateside friends, drinking lots of wine, eating lots of gelato, reading books, and as always, exploring.

Next comes Roma!


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