In front of me, the vast Esplanade of the Val di Chiana and Lake Trasimeno. Behind my back, the foothills of the Central Apennines. Is’ Cortona, the ancient land of the border between the Papal States and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, where the traces of the Etruscans and Romans before then are echoed at every corner. My travel itinerary lasted three days, driven by the consorzio di tutela del vino Doc Cortona, and there I met a dynamic made of history and medieval and Renaissance culture, proud senses of belonging and excellences of the productive sector and agribusiness. Is’ a different corner of Tuscany that, and despite being a short walk from Montepulciano, It sounded like a place with a strong personal identity.
Narrate legends that Cortona was founded by Dardanus or even by Ulysses. Today is, among all the wonderful places in Tuscany, one of the best known in the United States thanks to the echoes of the book by Frances Mayes ' "Under the tuscan sun ': the writer bought a villa in Tuscany in Cortona and lived actually abandoned rural, recounting his experience at a volume that remained of the first places in America for over two years, then in 2003 was made into a film with Diane Lane. Hence the preference of Americans to Cortona and the wine of Cortona, whose Mayes spoke at length in the book. What is most striking in this city are the alternations of glimpses between the middle ages and Renaissance: Since the narrow streets with brownstone homes of historic, up to homes in the ward of the Knoll, highest in Cortona, where is worth visiting the Church of San Niccolò, which contains an unusual and original picture by Luca Signorelli-faced with the mastery of its colors: the front is painted the Entombment of Christ in the Tomb, While in the back the Madonna and child, with Saint Peter and Saint Paul. To see, in the upper part, the Basilica of Santa Margherita, City partrona, and the fortress of Girifalco, from which the panorama stretches as far West as the unmistakable sharp tip of Monte Amiata.
THE FRANCISCAN HERMITAGE: Among the places to visit just a few kilometers from downtown, I advise you not to miss the Franciscan Hermitage de The Cells, dating from 1211, founded by order of Saint Francis, who made one of the first Franciscan settlements in Italy. The monastery, edited by the Capuchin Friars, is open to the public and attracts constant of pilgrims in search of spirituality. Surrounded by an oak forest, It looks like a crib, with gardens and orchards that give fruit and fresh vegetables. Here the rule is silence, but wander the shade of the woods that surround it and visit the cell in which St. Francis used to pray. The Hermitage also offers the possibility to sleep, both inside the convent for those who is interested in a journey of faith and prayer, both in some external lodges.
THE ETRUSCAN MUSEUM: The path that I suggest you continue in the Centre of Cortona, where from piazza della Repubblica, between the bars and shops of leather goods and ceramics, Piazza Signorelli, hosting a market but especially the MAEC, Museum of the Etruscan Academy of Cortona. A permanent exhibition is a must for lovers of ancient art and that obviously has his heart between the Etruscan and Roman finds. Ceramics, bronzes, Egyptian artefacts (There are two mummies with very well preserved sarcophagus), paintings, modern art objects and furnishing. Among the most important pieces, the Tabula Cortonensis, Bronze artifact in the Etruscan language constitutes a contract for the sale of land including a vineyard, sign of the deep bond of this territory with viticulture; a 6th-century b.c. Gold brooch. in the shape of a crouching Panther, one of the few gold items found in etruscan tombs, empty unfortunately by grave robbers; the Etruscan chandelier dates from the late 6th century BC, undoubtedly one of the rarest and most important objects in the collection.
A COFFEE? YES THANK YOU! But let's get to the pleasures of the table. I advise you to have breakfast, at least once, at Coffee Vannelli, where you will find the brothers Vannelli, James and Peter. The first, very young, was twice Italian champion of the bartenders and his brother, not yet twenty, Italian champion of Latteart (the decoration is made with the froth on the cappuccino: I had a bear’ tender!). Order a coffee cold pressed on a journey through the scents of coffe strangers in most Italian bar. Giacomo, expert roaster, try different types of coffee around the world and sorts them in miniature carefully selected from major production areas. Of course there's a whole world of gentleness to accompany your coffee or cappuccino: pastries, breakfast pastries, small savoury goodies….
FLY…. And now the surprise that you do not expect. Cortona, from good medieval city, cultivates and preserves the art of falconry. A show, one of the Raptors in flight, that mainly affects foreign tourists. Hawks, howler Eagles, Falcons and hawks are birds of prey trained by Paulo Fontani and Guglielmo Ventimiglia di Monteforte (committed in Cortona, the other in Rimini Oltremare) they keep an art practiced many centuries ago by the noble family of doctors in Tuscany. They train every day in search of perfection of the flight (Be careful: not for hunting) and for us released these animals from the trenches The Girifalco fortress, watching from above Cortona. From these hills, taking advantage of the thermal currents, Raptors extend their elegance in what trainers call the pure aesthetics of the flight. Train a Raptor is exhausting and expensive: the birds are not captured but purchased abroad by breeding special. Ten thousand euros to an eagle; from 1,500 euros to 3,000 euros for a hawk. Is, Although I am of the opinion that a flying bird's great, but it is even more so when it is totally free, each of them has a name and each is petted and fed like a son: “I have 51 years, I'm a Falconer from 40 years and I've never done a day's holiday because my pets have to fly every day”, says Paolo Fontani, looking “Tide”, the African fish Eagle, with eyes in love. Between man and his Eagle living together can take several decades and ongoing dialogue between them is clearly perceived, as well as the affection.
THE WINE AND SOME ADVICE ON WHERE TO STAY AND EAT IN THE CELLAR: Here wine and tips on where to stay and eat. The Doc is a reality which brings together 29 companies, small and very large, with a marked tendency to exports. The Consortium is very active in the promotion and initiatives in favour of this denomination that emphasizes the varietal Syrah, that in these areas has found the climate and the terrain suited to offer wines of structure and elegance. With the consortium have visited some companies, both large and small. They all have a different philosophy and approach the market differently, researching though unison excellence. Most also offers hospitality and restaurant and, If you want, You can take a tourist and gastronomic route all within these structures, that behind the name of farmhouse Carter always discreet luxury and subtle. AI Tenimenti D'alessandro It recognized the merit of having pointed to top Syrah: the company has extensive, includes a Manor House, a cottage in the vineyards restored from four historical buildings (Borgo Syrah), with a swimming pool in the middle of the Tuscan countryside, a restaurant Open from just one month (less than 40 euro menu and a chef young which still needs to do some’ of apprenticeship, but keeping in the tradition seeks to make minor innovations, some successful, like the classic chicken liver pâté with caramelized onions). The wine is 100% Syrah On Woods, but I'm going against trend and I recommend you try also two whites who loved, Bianco del Borgo and Fontarca, 100% Viognier.
Other ' colossus’ is La Braccesca, Tenuta dei Marchesi Antinori: Here the grape is exclusively red berries and the pride of the cellar are Bramasole and Achelo, both Cortona Doc 100% Syrah. The vineyards are on a gentle slope in front of Cortona and the fiery sunset over the vineyards is an unrepeatable moment, that you can enjoy with a glass of wine before enjoying an excellent grilled chianina beef Florentine. The winery focuses on the operation: is not made for sightseeing but for work, explain its directors, Although the barrel room is definitely worth a visit. But here is the show of the vines that makes lovely place.
Two other wineries where you can simultaneously tasting and stay are Baldetti and Villa Offer, with young and enthusiastic foreign owners. Stefania Mezzetti is a woman who manages the wrist cellar Mezzetti: pure wines includes the red Sangiovese, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah; but Stefania also produces an excellent vin santo di Malvasia and Trebbiano grapes that I recommend you try; and a very good extra virgin olive oil. Next to the wines, There are several accommodations., including one where I was and that I recommend: the agriturismo Villa Fontanicchio, with infinity pool on grapevines, beyond the spectacle of Trasimeno. A patient and tasteful renovation completes the work: the rooms are nice and cosy, amazing bathrooms (I don't know for you, but for me it is important to find a toilet that is comfortable) and the costs are reasonable. Take advantage of the sunset to enjoy exciting scenery.
Viva Villa is the cellar, But even boutique hotel: the structure is imposing, preceded by a long driveway dotted with cypress trees, the owners are two young (beautiful and high) foreigners, a German and a Dutch, with blond children. Explain that you are interested to produce only wines of excellence, an excellence that surely can be found in Lucius, a 100% Syrah aged for 18 months in oak barrels and other 12 months in bottle. Here too I recommend you try at least also a white, Igt Toscana Vermentino, which I loved. The main structure has been transformed into a Boutique hotel (with costs accordingly, starting from 225 euro per night) with infinity pool: the taste in the furniture is minimalist and luxurious at the same time, of European inspired North. Here we organize wine tastings with small appetizers, but the owners have already planned to open a restaurant, Authentic Tuscan obviously.
The last cellar of which I speak is called The neighbors and is managed by Roman Antonioli, a civil lawyer from Abruzzo who has a passion for wine in the blood, as family tradition. The Winery is a winery ' old style ', where good wine with respect to aesthetics. The wine, though, This is serious, guarantees Antonioli, We opened the doors of their home to offer us a dinner in a large Renaissance villa of 29 rooms. Among the wines of this company verace, how true is the Abruzzo, I recommend the Cabernet Sauvignon Laudario Cortona Doc, Although the landlord relies entirely, and proudly, the Syrah.
OTHER RECOMMENDED ADDRESSES: To complete the gastronomic journey I recommend three restaurants, some’ for all budgets: the restaurant with typical Tuscan cuisine Bread and wine, where you can find bruschetta, meats and cheeses, first and second tradizionalissimi (pici, ribollita, Chianina, Duck) at very, very reasonable. Yet the Tuscan restaurant revisited Osteria del teatro, where the ingredients are transformed into creative dishes inspired by chef Emiliano Rossi. Finally, for tourists who want to make a gourmet experience stellata, the obvious advice in Cortona is The Falconer, that's also charming residence with Spa: the restaurant is inside an ancient lemon House and the menu plays on the inspiration of the chef Silvia Regi Baracchi, only starry in the province of Arezzo.