Carlotta with our friend Mario at his flower shop
There are city "Rondoni" big, totally black birds and smaller country cousins who return to the houses in the valley below and most easily distinguished by their white feathered breasts. They are the original and unchallenged trick aeronautic show as they cry out in the morning and early evening as they daringly dive in formation then suddenly swoop to the left or right or straight upwards with their beaks open to capture their insect meals.
Cortona, therefore, is called back to life. Last weekend's Chocolate Festival and this Easter Holiday weekend have called back family and friends to spend "Pasqua con Chi Vuoi" - The Italian proverb meant to resolve the dilemma of where to celebrate the holidays is "Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi" that is: Christmas with yours, Easter with whom you wish.
Easter in Italy is as big as Christmas, as the priest like to remind us, Christmas is just half of the story. The beginning of the celebrations here are somber with the Good Friday procession, nearly life-sized wooden statues which represent the scenes of the Passion Week are carried through the streets by members of various service organizations. The statues, carved of solid wood in the 1600's, leave their homes in the various churches at the top of Cortona, and the bottom of Cortona , the east and west of Cortona and are brought together to visually tell the story for believers and for curious onlookers. The highlight of the midnight mass on Saturday evening is the "Volo" as the effigy of Christ Risen is run through the church at midnight. In Cortona it is said that the smoothness and speed of this "flight" through the cathedral is an auspice for the year in course.
Ilaria with face painted as a Bacio Perugina
In anticipation of the Easter celebration, beautifully decorated chocolate eggs start appearing right at the end of Mardi Gras (just to tempt those who have given up chocolate for Lent) in the windows of the pastry shops of all the cities, who proudly display their handiwork in the weeks leading up to Easter. Grocery stores stock an array of colorful, shiny, paper wrapped eggs with surprises inside. Pencil sharpeners, charms, calculators, silver jewelry, key chains, plastic toys or stuffed animals are just a few of the things that can be found in commercially produced eggs.
Gianni Banchelli getting ready for a demonstration at the Chocolate Festival. Gianni proudly carries on the tradition of Banchelli's Pasticceria opened by his grandfather in Cortona. We get our morning pastries fresh each day from Gianni.
A custom made egg from the pasticceria can hold whatever one desires, from a love letter or marriage proposal with a diamond ring, wristwatch, pens, real jewelry which lead to many an urban legend of eggs or prizes that get mixed up at the pasticceria a Easter time.
There is always a giant Easter egg up for raffle at the grocery store or pastry shops and bars. Numbered tickets from 1-90 are sold for a euro or two and the winner will be the holder of number which is drawn first from the national lottery on a specified "wheel" usually the one closest to the town, in our case Florence.
Alessio Burroni of Cocoa Chocolate Shop (left)
Sabrina, Gianni Banchelli's wife (right)
Cortona is waking up again, and although we like to enjoy having the city to ourselves for a while, a true proud citizen of this city enjoys showing it off to appreciative visitors. What's the use of having an exquisite jewel which is hidden away and never sees the light of day?
The "Rondini" are calling-what are you waiting for? Come home to Cortona, Luciano, Jeanette and of course, Carlotta are ready to welcome you home to Casa Chilenne Bed and Breakfast.