I remembered Cortona with the exaggerated fervor of a small town girl seeing Italy for the first time. Teaching with my dear friend Deb Mckew back in 2008, I arrived in the small village perched on a steep hillside looking down on the heart of Tuscany. That theater became our home for nearly two weeks, collaborating with writers and artists. Deb arranged the retreat with her friend, a seasoned travel professional who married an Italian man. So those carefully curated destinations on the trip many years ago informed John’s and my time in Cortona and the surrounding spectacular Tuscan countryside.

The steep cobblestone hike to the Basilica of Saint Margaret of Cortona assured us that we were still in good shape.  The twin sisters tending the local bar made the only American cocktails that we consumed in Italy (Manhattan’s). The charming B&B , the free-range well cared for cats, the friendly people everywhere; all of this made us fall in love with Cortona.

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We ventured out on the road with many hairpin turns and switch backs on a rainy day. Loving wine as we do, Montipulciano was a must for us. I speak French , but no Italian, so I had a bit of trepidation about walking up to the door of a vintner in the land of the “Super Tuscan” wines and saying, “hello, how about a taste?” ( with hand signals). Luck struck again.

 

We ended up pulling off the pastoral road to explore the Vineyard Poliziano. What happened next was our being greeted by a lovely young woman who reluctantly said that she could fit us in for a tasting.  The vineyard was hosting some clearly heavy- hitting wine buyers, and the owner was in the mix. Everyone was well dressed, and we were in our traveling clothes du jour: Kuhl pants, long sleeve Patagonia shirts and boots. Because of our earnest delight, we were taken into the fold, and served a spectacular array of wine, cheeses, olives, and a homemade pasta dish, complements of the chef.  The tastes of wine kept coming. Naturally we departed with many bottles quite above our pay grade, but it was a small price to pay for the experience that we happened upon. Our return home was not so lucky. Once again, the confused GPS brought us up and onto a narrow unpaved road. I recorded part of the mistaken path, complete with gasps and swears. At least this time we did not have to back up, but for fifteen minutes we feared for ourselves and the car. John is a calm magician driving in Italy. We made it.

 

We were able to meet with Luisa, the guide/mentor of my previous trip with Deb, and she was as welcoming, beautiful, and vibrant as ever. With only 10 days of history seventeen years ago and nine more now, all was remarkably sweet and familiar. By the end of our stay, we felt like locals. We will return for sure. I was hard to say goodbye to Cortona.