Sunday, June 14, 2009

This is the life

Wrote yesterday’s diary entry early this morning sat out on the upper balcony overlooking the hills. A cloudless sky. A croissant for breakfast and then 10 minutes meditation. Wanting to do more meditation this week to kickstart me in to meditating when we get back home.

Down to the pool for a morning’s sunbathing and a swim. Rachel even went topless for the first time ever!

“Hello team!” called an Englishman’s voice from above us. “Is everybody decent?”

“I am”, I called back. Dripping wet, I walked up the steps to meet Andrew who, with his wife Marianne, are caretakers for Scopeto. I’m guessing they are probably in their 60's and discover they moved out to Umbria a little over 20 years ago to a house the renovated just down the road. Their friendly dog, Oscar, takes a rest in the shade as Andrew and Marianne make sure we’re settling in.

“Everything OK?” Andrew asks.

“Fantastic. The place is beautiful!” I reply, "I think I've heard Rachel say 'this is the life' about five times this morning already". Andrew and Marianne proceed to suggest places we could visit during our stay such as the lake (Lake Trasimeno) which is just over the hill opposite us, a great local wine-tasting place, the town of Citta del Castello, and of course Cortona which is about half an hour’s drive over the hills along the valley. Cortona is a hillside town just over the county border in Tuscany made famous by the books Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes in which she recounts her experiences of renovating a Tuscan farmhouse and how she falls in love with the surrounding area. The book was made into a film and much of the location filming was done in Cortona.

“The irony is,” Marianne tells us, “Frances Mayes has now moved over the county border from Tuscany to Umbria to get away from the American tourists that descend on Cortona! American tourists that come to visit the town she describes she fell in love with in her books.” Ironic indeed. Andrew and Marianne bid us farewell and wish us an enjoyable stay. I don’t think that will be hard.

A few more hours sunbathing and swimming, broken only by a home-made lunch of Italian meats, mozarella, baguette, and a rocket salad with oil and balsamic. And an ice-cold beer. Eventually, around 4-ish, we decide we would take a short drive down to the nearest village, San Leo Bastia, to see if the shop was open and just see what was down there. The shop was closed, and so we drove a little further along the road to find a café open but again no shop. Now we were out, we thought we’d take a little drive further along the road to explore a little. Before long we were driving along the high and windy road that would take us over the Tuscan border toward Cortona.

Cortona is, as Marianne described, very beautiful but full of tourists. Not in an overly bad way compared to say Spain but I imagine it is the one town around here that attracts the tourists. It is a fairly small Etruscan walled town set on the hillside with fantastic views across Tuscany. We weren't able to take any photographs of Cortona as we'd left the camera at home (listen to me, I'm calling it 'home' already) thinking we were only popping out to the shop.

There are a few shops there to browse and a number of restaurants and trattoria and so we decided to kick around till 7pm, which is when the restaurants tend to begin serving dinner and eat there. An excellent meal at La Locunda overlooking Piazza della Republica as the birds darted around above our heads. Rachel even reserved the table in Italian. Show-off.

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