Friday, 29 October 2010

Cortona above the clouds - Tuscany

Last November, we ambled out of Cortona's maze of ancient narrow streets heading back to the car and completely unaware that the cloud base had appeared to present a stunning vista such as this . Five minutes later and it was pretty much dark. As I took this pic I remember saying out loud "Please dont let me screw this one up".

What you can't see is my not so happy wife dangling and swaying off the branch, eight feet up in the air right behind me, to help bring the greenery down into play at the top of this image. Between her upstretched arms, her eyes conveyed to me an ominous stare of increasing alarm. A moment later and the branches suddenly disappeared with a swish as my wife dropped unceremoniously to the ground again. I didn't dare laugh.

As for Cortona, we were very fortunate to find ourselves there at all, as we were on a lightening three day visit of the Uffizi quarter in Florence and a beautiful little hilltop town in Tuscany called ‘San Giovanni d’Asso’, about an hours drive away. A couple we met at our hotel urged us to try and visit Cortona before we leave, and this was just some of the magic we enjoyed.

I was quite over awed by my all too brief experience of Tuscany. The very next day, we headed off to Pisa to catch a plane to Barcelona, where we were booked to stay for the main part of our ten day trip. As we sat quietly in the airport waiting for our departure to Catalonia, I remember shaking my head and saying to my wife “Why on earth are we leaving this beautiful place to fly to a city in Spain?”

That said, we had a wonderful time in Barca’s exciting urban buzz and have since returned many times to soak up the unique vibrance and flavours that make Barcelona so special.

I plan to do a post later concerning some cloak and dagger WW2 tales surrounding the Uffizi district adjacent to the north side of the historic Ponte Vecchio in Florence. One day I will return though, to the 'late spring green' and the haze of those rolling Tuscan hills with a well thumbed copy of H.V.Morton’s 1964:- ‘A Traveller in Italy’, wedged in my day bag.

E non un giorno troppo presto!
The above picture is courtesy of
The Cortona Center of Photography - Workshops.

Depending on which article you read, Cortona sits on its hillside at an altitude of between 1200 and 1900 feet. It has been stated that a chap called Crano - a descendant of Noah himself - came to this hillside around 273 years after the Great Flood and built the town of Cortona, which is officially older than Rome itself. It is also alleged that Noah spent some thirty years here roughly 165 years before Crano arrived. So the question is....In what year (B.C.) did Noah float off again?

More recently though, Cortona was the location for the film 'Under the Tuscan Sun' and is a highly recommended must see destination when travelling through Tuscany and Umbria, preferably well out of season due to the considerable summer crowds. Magnificent.

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Staying in Italy but musically for the moment – and why would you want to leave anyway – take a look at the YouTube music video below…

Peter Gabriel and his band demonstrating why he is still regarded as one of the all time giant performing acts of the ‘live concert gig’. You’re always guaranteed a lot of entertainment ‘buck’ for your online ticket purchase to a Gabriel concert.

One of the original founder members and lead vocalist of the progressive rock group Genesis in 1967, Gabriel’s flamboyant costumes and dynamic lighting sets quickly secured him a devoted global fan base and a singing – song writing career, spanning five decades and a pocket full of Grammy’s.

Both artist and architect of groundbreaking, visually breathtaking, music, light and stunning special effects concerts, who will ever forget his appearance wearing the electric light bulb jacket while performing “Sledgehammer” in 1986. Sensational stuff.

Filmed live for the “Growing Up” music DVD, here he is more recently, performing the track “Digging in the dirt” accompanied by his daughter Melanie Gabriel on vocals – on the spectacular revolving stage of Milan’s Fila Forum in 2003.

If you want to catch up with Peter Gabriel, pay a visit to his website and monthly video blog at:


the fly in the web said...

You've started me hunting for my old copy of H.V. Morton's travel book..or books, I think, about Italy.
They were my introduction to a different world.

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Hello ‘Fly’ – and yes indeed, what a prolific travel writer and inspirationist H.V. Morton was too. Hope you manage to turn up your books of his. I keep intending to grab some of his other books, especially about his journeys through the Middle East.

Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog and for leaving a comment. I hope you can pop back from time to time. I registered on your own fascinating blog late last night and have every intention of mulling through your numerous posts in the very near future. With a large mug of your excellent Costa Rican coffee too! Although I bet you only drink tea.

Valerie said...

Ahh - Cortona, or as I told 2 of my girlfriends when I dragged them down there 6 years ago, "The essence of Tuscany." Little did I know. Yet the Pici alla Contadina from Trattoria la Grotta has haunted me ever since. Shame the tourist traffic here too, but couldn't resist the hike to Bramasole, Ms. Mayes' first Tuscan fixer-upper. Although I find the movie disturbing, as it feeds into the sticky sweet stereotype BS that women come to Italy to eat spaghetti under the Tuscan sun, meet beautiful men and live happily ever after - it was the book that I found divine. Love Frances Mayes, love her recipes, love her word images on travel. Gotta say - FABulous photo of Cortana - please pass on my adoration to the Mrs. for risking life and limb to get this photo. Now, speaking of the Tuscan sun, I must get out into it! A dopo!

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Valerie: Thanks for the Frances Mayes tip. I never thought to check out the book part before. Too much of a sop for Diane Lane I suppose. But yes Valerie dear, I totally agree with all your views and sentiments about sticky sweet stereotype BS women that go to Italy to gulp down goujons of deep fried dourade and big bowls of poached linguine noodles with spicy duck flavoured gelato sauce from the tables of Trattoria la Grotty!

Ho Ho Hum…I couldna resist that one. Sorry!

Actually, I’ve still never seen Cortona from below, without the clouds in the way. Amazingly lucky to stumble into that view when I did. If I hadn’t have had a camera with me I would have cried for a week. The view to my right was even more breathtaking to behold, being just a magnificent sprawling ocean of pinky white cloud. Unfortunately it didn’t photograph so well as there was nothing of solid visual reference to give context or perspective to the shot. One of those views that only really works when you’re stood there soaking up the whole wider panorama.

Thinks? Maybe I should try stitching a few images together in photoshop and see if that works. Hmmm.

And now for the whole truth and nothing but the truth, about the ‘wife dangling off the tree part, to bring the greenery down into play’ … I made that up!! Ha ha ha! Sorry Valerie – and everyone else – but that part is nothing more than a bit of grossly artistic licence fabrication by ‘yours truly’ I’m afraid. Just conjured it up while I was bashing the keyboard, and it made me chuckle. Naughty aren’t I. Now you know then. Maybe Blogger will penalise me now and eject this post to the sin bin.

Che formaggio puzzolente mi!

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