venerdì 29 agosto 2008

Discovering and Re-discovering Cortona

According to archaeologists Cortona's history as a city can be traced back at least to 700 BC. However, for the citizens of Cortona this is just not old enough. When asked how old Cortona is, almost every citizen will look you straight in the eye and tell you, "Cortona è la mamma di Troia e la nonna di Roma" that is "Cortona is the mother of Troy and the grandmother of Rome" . They are making reference to Dardanus of Cortona in the epic poem by Virgil, the Eneid, Dardanus left Cortona to found the city of Troy and when that city fell, the citizens went on to found the city of Rome...or so the story goes. Therefore, Cortona as a city supposedly older than Troy and Rome.

Still others want Cortona to be even older. Stories of Pythagoras being buried here at the Etruscan temple outside the city walls. There is also a legend which tells of the selection of the site of Cortona for a starts something like this-And after great the waters subsided, the son of Noah, while navigating down a canal on his barge -looks up- and lo and behold there is a great beam of light shining down upon a hilltop...and which hilltop could that be? Of course the one right under Casa Chilenne! And after consultation with his father, it was decided that yes, this was truly a sign from God, and thus Cortona is said to be the third city built on the new, dry land that became Italy!
However, local pride aside, there is much to admire and discover here-apart from the fine artwork in our museums by Fra' Angelico (the painter, not the liquer), Luca Signorelli and Pietro da Cortona (Berrettini) and the astounding relics uncovered from the stone-age forward which are showcased at our MAEC museum, there is something much more to be appreciated in Cortona. Cortona itself.

There is a magic here, some in my home state of California would say it has an aura, an energy which makes it distinctive from any other place. It calls to you like a siren perched on the hill over the sea of the haze-filled valley. Once you are caught in its spell you must return, you want to discover, know and understand more. And when you think that you have seen it all, there's something new to discover...the Celle, one of the first monasteries founded by Saint Francis of Assisi, Luca Signorelli frescoes and paintings tucked away in San Nicolò Church, the stations of the cross designed by Futurist artist, Gino Severini , a native son of Cortona.

The list continues but you must come to discover it for yourself-
We hope you'll choose Casa Chilenne to be your home in Cortona-Your home away from home.

mercoledì 27 agosto 2008

We're Missing an Angel

Tomorrow we'll have to send off an angel- in small communities like Cortona we notice the loss of one of our citizens. Tomorrow we will say good bye, though the priest will remind us that it's only "Arrivederci" to our friend Francesca. While returning from the train station, the black and white obituary notices flicker past the moving car-sometimes we glance, catch a glimpse of a name- today I saw "Francesca"-it stuck in my mind and as Carlotta and I took our walk to buy our piece of bread for lunch we found our friend Dee reading the notice- Francesca Nandesi, age 36 passed away last night, funeral at San Filippo's at 3 pm tomorrow.
Only 36-but which Francesca? Oh no, that Francesca, who lived the life of one much younger than her years, but was filled with a joy for life, a sense of community and gave-gave to us all. Some would judge a life as imperfect at birth when defects are detected, but think again. Francesca, though medically diagnosed to be imperfect, was a perfect citizen of this city.
She greeted and inquired about the whereabouts and well-being of her fellow citizens. She was involved in community service with the Caritas rummage sales and scouts. She held a job with pride and performed it with diligence in the City Hall. She was a proud aunt-especially fond of sharing news about the twins in Bologna.
Francesca was a ray of sunshine and a breath of fresh air. She was the example of a good citizen of Cortona, a caring individual, generous in good will toward her fellow man. Her enthusiasm for life a life that others may have judged as compromised by her handicap, she lived fully and happily. I remember the glimmer of joy in Francesca's eyes as she informed Carlotta and myself that she was off to the sea in Vada-she'd be gone for almost all of August she told us with glee- we knew that we'd miss her then, we just didn't know how much. Ciao Francesca...

martedì 19 agosto 2008

Caution Cortona Can be Addictive!

As some of you may know-Carlotta's friend Jeanette is one of the examples of the phenomenon of Cortona Addiction. Jeanette arrived in Cortona in 1986-felt she had arrived to her "heart homeplace" and has never really lived anywhere else since. But Jeanette is just one of many who over the years has found a "Heart Homeplace" here.

Someone who may not be well known to the masses, but definitely known to the locals is Annie- for right around 20 years this now retired professor from the rural midwest has come to live exotic Tuscan summers.

Never one to have need of luxurious creature comfort, Annie arrives every Spring (and now that she has retired in the Fall and sometimes Winter) like a rare and welcome migrant bird to perch at the Convent of the nuns of Santa Margherita, her signature floppy cloth hat and nautical style booty bag in tow. Carlotta counts her among her friends(even if she sleeps at the competitor's) . Annie is practical and provident-she once explained that the simple tunics she sports are the most comfortable garments she has found and therefore using her skills as a seamstress has copied that pattern and replaces them for herself when they become worn- her travel bag as well (fashioned from copying the pattern of a wool bag used by shepherd children on the isle of Crete which she had purchased in the 1970's during an archaeological dig there). Her wristwatch, is a reliable mechanical Timex-she has purchased another 12 which she keeps on hand for when the one she has expires and hopes that she's stocked up that way for the rest of her days.

Annie arrives year after year-many times her arrival is announced in advance by the big box of books she sends ahead to be savored, analyzed and then passed on to the appropriate recipient of the community of ex-pats here. The Casa Chilenne library has already been enriched with some of her gifts.
Over the years Annie has built a relationship of respect and co-habitation with the nuns. Although she considers herself an extremely handicapped student of Italian, Annie has managed to learn to recognize a few words each year and in the last 2 years feels that she has overcome a language learning obstacle. Armed with her small Italian vocabulary she has even taken on a few chores for the sisters. Each morning she walks to the Caribinieri station to consign the guest registration forms, stops for her USA Today and Herald Tribune , her newspapers are thoroughly analyzed over the morning's cappuccino and brioche then passed on to appropriate parties.
Some mornings its off for a walk through the park to the swimming pool to keep her old knee injury pain at bay and in good working shape, and over the years there's probably no one better to consult about some of the best foot paths to take to discover the beauty of Cortona inside and outside the walls.

Annie's adventures aren't limited to Cortona with past excursions to archeaological digs in various parts of the world and mediterranean-however, she always comes back to Cortona and we're glad that she does return to reclaim her place in our community.

giovedì 7 agosto 2008

Robert Redford has landed with the Tuscan Sun Festival !

So somewhere in the verdant hills outside of Cortona in a luxurious villa Mr. Robert Redford is hidden away. We are told that his whereabouts are top secret- probably just to me as Cortona is a small place and news like that just doesn't stay fresh very long.