Our friends and former neighbors, Shawn and Stephen from our Willo neighborhood in Phoenix, offered us an incredible opportunity. They rented an apartment in Paris for the month of July but as they are unable to stay through the entire month, asked us if we wanted to use it (with the approval of the owner) the last week. Of course we jumped at the chance and are so looking forward to this little "vacation" from our life that is like one big vacation!
They wrote several weeks ago to tell us that they had planned to stay in a villa near Cortona in June next year and asked if we would mind checking it out for them, to see if it really looked as nice as the photos they were shown and what we thought. Since we are going to see them next week in Paris we assured them that we would have a full report for them on the state of things at this villa in Tuscany.
Since we weren't sure exactly how far outside of Cortona it was and whether we would be able to reach it by public transportation, we rented a car for the day. This also gave us the chance to drive around the beautiful countryside of Tuscany around Cortona, which is some of the area's finest.
We picked up the car around 10 and headed north towards Cortona around 70 kilometers from Perugia. Passing field after field of sunflowers, vineyards and golden undulating hills complete with Tuscany's trademark cypress trees we had plenty of photo opportunities and stopped many times along the road. The villa is actually located just outside the little town of Terontola, a suburb, I guess you might say, of Cortona. Following the directions that the owner provided, we wound our way along the country roads until we found a tiny sign on the side of the road with the name of the villa. Turning down the road, we stopped in front of this lovely place! A very relaxed looking man approached our car and asked if he could help us. We explained why we were there and he very graciously offered to show us around. I wanted to take some photos but he said that the ones that the villa should have provided to our friends were actually really good and that they would probably be better than my snap shots. (There is apparently a CD that they give to folks reserving - 3 years out, apparently!)
As it turns out, he was an American (not really surprising in Tuscany) he had rented the villa for the week, along with his wife and grown children and their families. The villa has 7 bedrooms! It also has the most incredible scenery, complete with a vineyard and a vegetable garden. He was excited to tell us that they are able to pick vegetables for their meals from this garden as well as drink the wine from the vineyard (they keep a tally of what they have consumed and will pay for it at the end). His son walked over from the pool to join in the conversation and also agreed that this was indeed a very special place. They showed us around the interior (except for the bedrooms upstairs since some of their family members were still sleeping, but he assured us they were also quite beautiful) and all the furnishings are lovely. The views out of all the windows are breathtaking. There are I believe two kitchens, plenty of tables and chairs for shared meals and places for relaxing. Shawn and Stephen, if you are reading this, I hope you know that we considered telling you it was a dump and that we would be happy to take it off your hands to save you the horrible experience of staying in this rat-infested place. But alas, we had to tell you the truth, as far as we can tell it is a paradise and you should rest assured that you should expect to spend a blissful week there.
We spent most of the rest of the day in Cortona, the beautiful city made even more famous by the book "Under the Tuscan Sun." I did some sketching and Bob took a bunch of photos. We drove further north and did a quick zip through Arezzo which deserves more and hopefully we can get back there some time; then headed south to Montepulciano and the little medieval borgo of Montecchiello that our friends John and Sally have talked so much about, since it is close to the place they stay when they come to Italy. By this time the sun was setting over the golden hills and we stopped for dinner at their favorite restaurant, La Porta, before heading back to Perugia.
Tuscany is indeed magical and it is obvious why so many people have lost their hearts there. Villas and stone houses surrounded by pristine rolling hills of golden grains and sunflowers, dotted with vineyards and olive trees, contrasted by the deep green of cypress trees, against the clear blue skies and the little hill towns perched above them are exactly as you've seen them in every table top photo book on the area, but much, much better when you are standing on a hillside or sitting at a table, watching the light and the day pass you by.
Rosemary & Roberto