Cortona

Tuscany & Umbria Fun

In 2015 we took a week-long trip through some interesting cities of Tuscany and Umbria. This is a hilly area of Italy and the cities are hill towns with narrow streets and lots of stairs. It is Italy and the friendliness of the people and quality of the food and wine comes through.

The video below is an introduction to my Italian city videos.

 

Our trip was several weeks long but the first week was in Tuscany/Umbria and the rest was at our home in southern Campania. We flew into the Rome airport, Fiumicino, and rented a car.  Our itinerary was:

  1. Perugia – Chocolates – See are YouTube Video below
  2. Assisi – Home of Saint Francis – See are YouTube Video below
  3. Cortona – Home of Under the Tuscan Sun – See are YouTube Video below
  4. Montepulciano – The famous wine city – See are YouTube Video below
  5. Siena – Home of the famous Horse Race Il Palio – YouTube video coming soon
  6. San Gimignano – My favorite city anywhere – YouTube video coming soon
  7. Florence – Home of Italian art – See are YouTube Video below

There are so many more cities in this area worth seeing but we were limited to a week and wanted to spend time in Florence.

Perugia

This is home to the famous Italian chocolate Perugina. It is owned by Nestle now but in Italy it is made the original way with not as much sugar. The American version is sold with much more sugar. This small town has an old city center with very narrow streets that barely fit a car. See the video below for how narrow these streets actually are. As in most Italian towns, life takes place outside. Piazzas are places to sit at a bar or restaurant outside and enjoy and observe life around you.

Assisi

Assisi is a small hill town in Umbria that was home to Saint Francis and the Franciscan Monks. It is above all else an Italian city. The food and wine are great. Eating is done outside in piazzas and narrow streets. In our video we caught an Italian wedding as we were seated outside at a restaurant. You never know what will happen next but it will be fun and interesting.

Cortona

OK, we all know Cortona from the book and movie, Under the Tuscan Sun. Frances Mayes made this small town popular to tourists from all over the world. The city is high on a hill in Tuscany overlooking Lake Trasimeno. Frances Mayes has her real home here as well as Bramasole, the home used in the movie. Walk with us through this wonderful city in our YouTube video.

Montepulciano

Montepulciano is a famous Italian red wine city (by the same name). Here you can walk a wonderful hill-top city and drink this and other great Tuscan wines. We stayed at a great hotel outside the city called Borgo San Pietro Hotel Cortona. You can see this city and the hotel in the YouTube video.

Siena

This video will be available on YouTube on Monday January 30th. This is a larger city with a great old center that has a huge piazza that is used twice a year (on July 2 and August 16)  run a famous Italian horse race, il palio. People crowd into the center of the piazza and horses race around them. Mud flies and everyone has a fun time. Outside race times the piazza is a place to meet friends and family and sit and relax in the sun. The border of this piazza is loaded with bars and restaurants. The food is good but they are very touristy which means high prices.

San Gimignano

This video will be available on YouTube on a Monday two weeks after the above Siena video. San Gimignano is by far my favorite city anywhere. It is a walled hill city with two main gates. It has been preserved in time from its medieval beginnings. You will notice The famous town homes that help protect families from invaders. In medieval times there were 72 of these homes measuring as tall as 70 meters (230 feet). Today there are only 14 surviving towers. Tourists have found this city and with tourists came tourists stores like Gucci but it is a great town to walk. Get off the main two streets and see the real town.

Florence

Florence was the center of the renaissance and brought art, style, architecture and culture to medieval Italy. Books have been written about Florence. It is a very large city and one of Italy’s main cities. You come here for food, wine, views and art. In our YouTube video we walk around Florence and show you great museums like the Uffizi. Florence has something for everyone. Spend some time here and get to know the city and the people.

Enjoy your travels and enjoy your life…

– George

Categories: Architecture, Assisi, Bars, Cortona, Duomo, Eating, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Florence, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Hotels, Il Palio, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Lakes of Italy, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Ristorante, Romance, Saint Francis, Saint Peter's Basilica, San Gimignano, Siena, Towns, Traveling without a tour, Tuscany, Uffizi, Umbria, Under the Tuscan Sun, VLOG, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Montepulciano, Italy

Montepulciano is music to the ears of wine drinkers. I know it is music to my ears. It is a hardy great Italian red wine named after this small mountain town. In this town and the surrounding area you can taste and purchase great Montepulciano wines. Tuscany is a fantastic wine-producing region of Italy. It has become world-renowned for great red wines. Walk around Montepulciano and stop in an enotecca to taste the wine.   Maybe stop at a bar for something to eat and some wine. You may be rewarded by a medieval parade as we were (see video below).

Watch our VLOG video on YouTube (Below) and walk this small mountain town with us. If you are planning a trip to Tuscany, stop by here and enjoy Italian life in a small town.

The streets are small and narrow and there are stairs but this is a great town. We stopped at a bar in the main piazza and had something to eat and some wine. Sit and watch Italian life all around you. OK there are also tourists. Just erase them from your mind’s eye and focus on the locals. They are the well dressed people speaking Italian.

We wandered all over this town and in the very back corner found a wonderful small shop that sold a man’s art works. We met him, spoke for an hour and bought one of his paintings for our place in Italy. He is in our video above. Look at his smile. These people are very happy and live a good life. Maybe it’s the wine … who knows?

Montepulciano is near Perugia, Assisi, Cortona, Siena and Florence. Include it in your Tuscany vacation. You do not have to be a wine drinker to enjoy this romantic city.

I truly wish that all of you could visit this town in real. If you can not, visit it with us in our videos on YouTube (above). If you enjoy the video, please like it and subscribe to our channel.

Visit small and large Italian cities with us in our videos on YouTube. Our Italian series has many great Italian cities to see.

– George

Categories: Assisi, BLOG, Cortona, Eating, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Florence, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Romance, Siena, Small Towns, Tuscany, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Assisi, Italy

Assisi was the home town of Saint Francis of Assisi. He started his religious sect in a very small church outside of the city. Today that church still exists inside a Cathedral called Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels.

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If you go to Assisi, a stop here is a must. Inside the town, at one end, is the Papal Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. This is two churches on top of each other and a crypt below them. In the crypt is the body of Saint Francis.

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As you walk the streets of Assisi, you see many touristy shops selling memorabilia of Saint Francis. It is a big business here. Assisi is also a typical Italian small city. It has lots of small narrow streets and stairs. Parking is in lots on the outside of the city. The lots are numbered so remember where you park.

Assisi is in Umbria near the Tuscan border. The popular cities of Orvieto, Perugia and Cortona (Under the Tuscan Sun) are not far away. A visit to this area of Tuscany or Umbria should include a stop at Assisi. You can walk the town and visit both Basilicas in several hours.

Watch the YouTube Video Above

– George

Categories: Assisi, Church, Cortona, Driving in Italy, Duomo, Europe, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Mountain Towns, Orvieto, Parking Garage, Perugia, Saint Francis, Small Towns, Tuscany, Umbria, Under the Tuscan Sun | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Churches of Italy

Italy is famous for many things but its churches are old and magnificent. They are not just churches but art galleries, studies in architecture and beautiful places to visit. They provide a cool atmosphere from the hot sun. The frescoes are wonderful to study, telling of story of days long gone. Every city has at least one church. They may be called Chiesa, Catterdrale, Basilica or Duomo.

Do not pass up a chance to visit one of these marvels. Look at the floors, the splendor of its height, the walls and stained glass windows. Look for frescoes and tapestries. The alters are magnificent. The organs are fantastic and even the pulpits can be ornate.

Below is just a sampling of churches from some big and small cities around Italy:

 

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Duomo Florence

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Duomo Cortona

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Duomo Siena

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Assisi Cathedral (in Assisi)

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Church in Assisi

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Saint Francis (Outside Assisi)

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Pantheon Rome

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Church in Castelnuovo Cilento (Campania)

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Saint Peter’s Basillica – Vatican City

Post your pictures of your favorite Italian churches in the comments below.

George

Categories: Assisi, Campania, Castelnuovo Cilento, Church, Cilento, Cortona, Duomo, Europe, Florence, General Travel, Italy, Pantheon, Rome, Saint Peter's Basilica, Small Towns, Vatican City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Is it Time for you to Take a Trip to Italy?

Have you longed for a trip to romantic Italy? Have you dreamed about eating real Italian food? Do you long to see the museums or architecture? Maybe you have relatives there and just want to reunite old ties. What ever your reasons are, Italy is a great place to spend a vacation. After a week you are feeling relaxed and enjoying life. After two weeks you are totally relaxed, speaking some Italian words and loving the food. Longer periods in Italy will make you an Italian for life!

The northern lake Area offers beautiful scenery overlooking the Alps or maybe Tuscany with its wines and romantic scenery. The large cities of Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome or Naples are great places to see Italians being themselves. They also are great for seeing living history. Look at the buildings the architecture and envision the people that built these great cities. Maybe southern Italy with its Amalfi coast and Capri or farther south into the Cilento National Park. Beauty unspoiled by man and pristine beaches. What is stopping you?

If it’s being afraid of big tours or doing it on your own, we offer an alternative for the selective traveler to see what they want to see and spend as much time as the want. If you find a great Italian spot, the last thing you want is to be taken away by a tour bus. It would be wonderful to change your plans and just stay in your new found location. Italy is all about love, romance, beauty and spontanaeity.

Italy creates many wonderful memories and experiences but you have to touch it! Get away from the crowded tourists areas and meet real Italians. See places that will change you forever. Don’t eat in tourists restaurants. These will be memories you will never forget.

George

Categories: Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Anacapri, Architecture, Beaches, Benvenuto al Sud, Blue Flag Beaches, Buffalo Mozzarella, Campania, Capri, Casal Velino, Casal Velino Marina, Castellabate, Cortona, Eating, Eating Italian, Fish, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Maratea, Matera, Mount Vesuvious, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Naples, Paestum, Pantheon, Pasta, Pastry, Perugia, Pizza, Pompeii, Positano, Romance, Rome, Saint Peter's Basilica, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Traveling without a tour, Trevi Fountain, Tuscany, Umbria, Vatican City, Venice, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Cortona Pictorial

We drove from Assisi to Cortona. Cortona was made famous by Frances Mayes and her book and movie Under the Tuscan Sun. Cortona is in the Province of Arezzo, region of Tuscany.There are 23,000 people there. It is a mountain town like so many small towns in Italy. Another town of small streets and many stairs.

The house that was in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun is there as well as the real house of Frances Mayes.

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Our wonderful small hotel outside Cortona

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Yes there are stairs

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Looking into the Main piazza

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The main piazza and church

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The church steps where the Christmas scene took place in the movie

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As we were having a glass of wine at an outdoor bar, we heard music

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Suddenly a medieval band appeared

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The King and Queen

Cortona is fun and alive. The small streets can get crowded as there are many tourists. Stop near the main piazza at a bar and have a drink or lunch and sit outside. You will feel the life of Cortona as it passes by. You may be as lucky as we were and see a medieval band march by.

Come for the romance, the food, the wine and the people. This is Tuscan wine country. It is not only Chianti but Montepulciano and Brunello. Stop at an enoteca (wine tasting) and try some Tuscan wines.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Chianti, Cortona, Driving in Italy, Enoteca, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Romance, Small Towns, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Under the Tuscan Sun in Cortona

Cortona is a beautiful city on a hill. Frances Mayes made it very popular with her book (later a movie) Under the Tuscan Sun. Like all the small hill towns we will talk about, it has narrow streets, stairs and small piazzas. We stayed outside Cortona in a beautiful hotel on a huge piece of property called Borgo San Pietro Hotel. GPS doesn’t work getting here. We ended up at a Etruscan ruin. On the way back towards Cortona we saw a sign for the hotel. It led us onto a dirt road (barely passable by one car) and to the gate onto the hotel property. As we arrived in a large parking area, a hotel person met us and took our suitcases to our room.

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Cortona is another place where you park on the edge of town and walk in. Parking is easy here. The church in the movie had a fountain near it and a Christmas Tree. The actual piazza has no fountain and is smaller than it seemed in the movie but the steps to the church in the movie were real (see picture at end).

We found an outdoor cafe/bar to have a snack and some Prosecco. As we sat there, we heard band music coming from behind us. soon a very large marching band was there dressed in medieval customs with flag throwers.

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Walking around Cortona is fun. The narrow streets take you back to another time. This is a place to be on your own and not in a tour. You can wonder where you like. You can shop, stop for a drink or have a meal where and when you like.

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Church from movie

Enjoy Cortona!

Tomorrow we are off to Montepulciano and its famous wines.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Cortona, Driving in Italy, Europe, General Travel, GPS, Italy, Mountain Towns, Parking Garage, Small Towns, Tuscany, Under the Tuscan Sun, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Perugia, Italy

Perugia is a special city. It is home to Perugina chocolates. They are best known for their Bacci (Kiss) chocolate. The chocolate factory (with tours and tastings) is just outside the city. The city itself is medieval. What a charming place to stroll. Imagine walking on the same small walkways as people did during the medieval period. There are old squares, churches, Castles and fortresses.

Perugia

This is a great town to spend a night or two and go back in time. It is a very romantic place to spend some time. Imagine peaceful walks on old narrow streets, eating in a small trattoria, having some Perugina chocolates, sipping some local wine. Eat a Perugina back (kiss) then kiss someone special. Are you ready to go?

Perugia is near Assisi and Cortonia (where Under the Tuscan Sun took place and the real Frances Mayes home is). It is also not a long drive from Siena or Florence.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Chocolate, Cortona, Florence, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Romance, Siena, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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