Monday, 21 October 2013

Our European Adventure: Days 17, 18, 19 - Cortona

Cortona, Italy
View of Cortona street from our hotel
Onward. We’re headed for the hill towns of Tuscany.

After a three hour drive on the easy-to-navigate A-1 we turned off on a small twisting turning country road lined with fields of sunflowers. Up and up we went toward the tiny walled town of Cortona, where Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed. Our GPS, Geraldine, took us through the massive stone gates of the old walled hill town and straight to our hotel, the San Michele. In an old palazzo, the San Michele is a dream of a hotel. Not only is our room large and elegantly furnished it has individually controlled heat, much appreciated at this time of year. Many places are not heated until November regardless of the outside temperature. I’ve been known to sleep in a sweater and with my coat thrown across my legs. So much for sunny Italy! But then if one travels in the “shoulder season” as we do, weather cannot always be relied upon.

We had intended to use Cortona as a base to visit other hill towns in the area, Montepulciano, and Orvietto, but we liked it so much that we decided just to stay in Cortona and enjoy its charms. The room is comfortable and the town is a delight even though walking is a bit if a challenge. There are only two directions, up and down. 

Duomo in Cortona, Italy
Duomo - Note older arch of original entry
This morning we wandered through an open air market and into the Duomo, a church designated as a parish church in the 11th century, and built over a much older Etruscan place of worship. Traces of the Etruscan architecture can still be seen. 

The nearby Museum, which encompasses an even earlier church, holds two masterpieces of 14th century art, Fra Angelico’s Annunciation and a three panel piece, Triptych, showing the manger scene, with Mary and the baby Jesus at the center and the Magi and an angel in the other panels. They are a bit faded by time but are very impressive. I’ve never been much taken by early church art, but these works stayed in my mind after seeing slides of them many years ago in a history of art course. It was an experience to see the originals.
On the other hand I have a passion for sculpture of the Renaissance as readers of my blogs will discover when I reach Florence, Bernini and Michelangelo. 

Old tower in Cortona, Italy
Old Tower looking out from Cortona to the valley
Leaving the museum we walked along the old walls of the town. We are high above the fields and orchards and scattered houses. These hill top fortresses existed for the safety of their residents. They all have watch towers. The early residents lived in constant fear of invasion by rival feudal lords. The walls are massive and the gate openings huge. It’s difficult to imagine how they closed them, since only the stone entrances remain. The doors must have been extraordinarily heavy and surely required many men to open and close.
Roman Amphitheatre in Cortona, Italy
Ancient Roman Amphitheatre

On our last day in Cortona we walked through a lovely green space—a park. The views out over the valley were stunning, but the age of the town was brought home to us dramatically. There was a stone amphitheatre, a smaller version of the ones we’ve seen in Greece and in Rome, clearly dating from antiquity. One can only wonder what the entertainments were in this small town. What did those towns people watch as they sat on this semi-circular row upon row of stone seats?


Following are my published novels. Go to my Goodreads page, to find more info and reviews.  

To purchase one of these books, just click on the book link below and select the vendor of your choice.

The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.

"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality


Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews


Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find some shocking situations 
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother; 
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. 

It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?

“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews


Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real?  Is she dreaming?  Or is it just Christmas magic?

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Blair McDowell