I got chills when I saw Cortona from the road on Thursday. The town sits wedged into a hill in the Tuscan countryside and when you see it for the first time, you’re not sure that it’s real. This was the second time I’d seen it. The first time was in 2003 with my mom. Cortona was our base and we took day trips around Tuscany. My Uncle Charlie was with us and he drove us all over the area, stopping at important places like Montepulciano and Montalcino, as well as Pienza and Lucignano.
Mom and I ate dinner out on the terrace of our hotel which overlooked a panorama of terracotta roofs with hills in the distance. We met the author Frances Mayes one day and Mom had her hair done at the salon in town. We always laughed that we learned all the gossip about Cortona in that one hour at the salon. Truism: you want to learn about a town? Talk to the locals. And go to the beauty shop.
Thursday’s trip was with some of my fellow students from the Saena Iulia Language school in Siena.
Don’t you just love class field trips in Italy? Last week we went to an olive oil factory. This week? Cortona. We started way up above the center of town and when we started to walk down the beautiful, wonderful, picturesque stone walkway, it hit me. I just had to take a moment. My heart ached when I saw the piazza where Mom and I hung out for an afternoon and watched a colorful parade with flags and men in tights (not kidding). Then I saw the hair salon and “Gelateria Snoopy,” where we sat outside and enjoyed our scoops of gelato.
When you return to anywhere that has a special place in your heart, it’s as if the memories overtake your senses and you’re right back there, where you were, 12 years ago, amid the same sights, smells and sounds.
But then I declared that while I’ve got all of those wonderful memories, it’s also time to create new ones with my new friends. And so we took pictures and we laughed at the little Yorkshire Terrier sticking his head out of an iron gate watching our every move and we descended upon Cortona.
I took photos of alleys (as you will no doubt see in the gallery I posted) and the piazza and the steps to that very important building. And it was wonderful. I took a selfie photo of the group – a “groupie” – with the Tuscan countryside behind us. We’re almost up to 100 likes! Of course we ended our day in a caffe/wine bar and toasted to a lovely afternoon gita (look it up!) to Cortona.
The car was parked waaaaaay back up those steep hills. I volunteered to accompany our director, Mauro, and take Sharik, a pet Samoyed of Daniela and Thomas, two students. Let’s just say it was a good workout getting back up there. It was a good day.