mercoledì 11 luglio 2012

Non Tutti al Mare! Not everyone's at the Beach!

Traditionally summer for Italians means a trip to the seaside. This ritual is considered a neccessary pilgrimage as an insurance for good health during the rest of the year. Bathing in the seawater and in the sun are commonly believed to prevent and heal a myriad of ailments from skin conditions to chronic colds in the winter. If this is true or not is not really important as the ritual itself. At one time many Italians were away from the big cities for a great part of summer. This meant that cities became wastelands in the summer months with businesses and stores closing for a month leaving tourists with scarce services. This is no longer true. Times have changed. The Mom and Pop stores are fewer and farther between and it is difficult to find places that close for a month these days. Cities are starting to organize events to fill the summer months for children and adults. In Cortona we have "campi solari" with sports and activities for children at the city palestra, every year the MAEC museum organizes children's day activities to make the museum's historic pieces come alive. Our swimming pool in the park should be opening again shortly and the piazza is buzzing with activities day and night. Lots of free entertainment to be had, both high and maybe not so high brow. Right now the Festa di Musica Sacra is underway with concerts throughout the different churches of town by local and visiting choirs. Last night St. Georges School choir of England gave a lovely concert in San Domenico. On Sunday, July 15th, there will be another free performance of the Symphonic Orchestra and choir of Arezzo conducted by visiting virtuoso conductor Anthony Archaini in Teatro Signorelli at 9:15 pm. We are looking forward to the new Cortona Mix festival. This arts festival which is organized by the Regione of Tuscany, Province of Arezzo, Comune of Cortona along with Feltrinelli Editors is promising to provide quality entertainment from July 28th -August 5th. We are proud to be supporters again of the second edition of "Cortona on the Move" International Photography workshops and exhibitions. Professional photographers as well as novice and hobbyists will come together to study or show examples of their work and share knowledge. For the occassion many spaces which are usually closed to the public have been opened to make exhibits around the city and provide glimpses into hidden treasures of the city off the beaten path.Photographers of international fame in journalism or for their artistic works will transform these spaces into provocative experiences. Summer is the time when Cortona comes alive both day and night. Don't be fooled into believing there's nothing going on-

giovedì 28 giugno 2012

That Black and White Ball-Forza Azzurri!

(Foto da Monia Magari) Italy's victory tonight over the German team secures them a place in finals of the Campionato Europeo di Calcio! They'll be going up against Spain on Sunday. If you have ever been in Italy when the Azzurri are playing it's sure to be a memory that will always shape that trip. The energetic buzz the day of the game, the tricolor flags on display. More flags are flown during a national soccer game than any government holiday I can think of. The bars fill up with folks who want to experience the agony and the ecstasy of the game together. In these modern days of Maxi-schermi, Maxi-screens, bars in the squares set up a screen so that revellers, i tifosi, can come to cheer the team on. When a goal is scored the roar of the crowd can be heard from the piazzas, the open windows of houses cooling off from the hot sunny days, horns from passing cars, trumpets sound; it surpasses Superbowl Sunday at my jock relative's house. The energy charges through the air, prickles up the the hair on my skin, sends goosebumps up my arms. In this year of government uncertainty, economic challenge, radical taxation and pension changes, natural disaster, it seemed that people needed this experience more than ever. As the cars zoom up and down the Via Nazionale, honking horns, waving flags, celebrating, it seems like it is more of a sense relief. Italia still has it, tonight it was David to the Goliath of Germany's favored team, it beat the odds and came out on top. Maybe this is what everyone needed to feel tonight. That Italia can win, no matter what the odds are that are stacked against it. Tonight Italy is celebrating being winners-Watch out Spain!

lunedì 14 maggio 2012

Don't Be Afraid to Dream

Here is a long overdue tribute to my mom. Maybe this means I am growing up a bit. Despite our differences over the years I must say that my mom has always encouraged me to dream big, to reach far and I guess that's why Casa Chilenne exists today. She grew up in the depth of the Great Depression, 1 of 8 children and numerous cousins and relatives all under the care of my grandparents struggling to eke out a living by farming in the Sacramento Valley towns of Fairfield-Suisun in Northern California. As can be imagined times were tough, yet, when she created her own family she never stopped encouraging my sister, my brother and myself to be the best we could be. Sometimes it was a heavy load, but usually it was a reminder to us that we could achieve and excel (if only we would do as she says!). Her personal dreams seemed to be all invested in her children, which can feel like a heavy burden at times. However, as years pass and the space between us has become an ocean and a nation wide, I realize that her dreams are noble though cumbersome-she wants her children to be happy, well cared for and to have them want for nothing. She has always supported our dreams both morally and many times financially so I guess I must say that a great part of our success is hers. So here's to you MOM! Our travels together might have been a bit bumpy at times, but I can't think of anyone who could take your place. Thanks for encouraging and believing in me and my dreams. Love you!

giovedì 3 maggio 2012

I Scream, You Scream!

We know that the Bella Stagione has arrived when we start seeing ice creams on the street again-especially gelati being consumed by Italians. They say that the Romans invented this tasty treat, bringing in snow from the mountain tops and mixing together with fruits to make this tasty treat. We have two gelateria at present with rumors of another one on the way, plus, the seasonal gelati created by Gianni Banchelli for his family's Pasticceria Banchelli and Cocoa Chocolatier/Patisserie which features artisan gelati in the summer. The offerings of the types and styles of gelato change from place to place. Some favor the Florentine style which concentrates on creamy flavors where as the Sicilian style seems to concentrate more on the icier, sorbet-style and the Venetian style coming somewhere in-between. Snoopy gelateria in Piazza Signorelli tends to be of the creamier variety, Dolce Vita, just two doors down from us has a variety of imaginative flavors using candy bars or cookies for inspiration as well as venturing this year into creating gourmet versions of popsicles (ice lollies) and other ice creams on a stick. Banchelli,( now located at their new larger shop at the end of Via Nazionale near town hall) on the other hand, creates high quality gelati with some unusual ingredients like Green Tea, or his creation Crema Etrusca as well as ice cream cakes or semi freddi. Cocoa of course has an offering of delicious chocolate as well as classic gelatos at their shop on Via Guelfa.
So many choices, I always recommend that the quality of all our gelaterias require a careful taste testing during your stay! Nocciola (hazelnut), Zabaione (italian egg nog), Malaga (rum raisin), Stracciatella (a fancy name for chocolate chip!) and of course Cioccolato (chocolate), Fragola (strawberry), Crema (vanilla egg custard), Fiordilatte (vanilla), are just a few of the classic choices, without forgetting Caffe and many of the fruits of summer from peach (pesca), watermelon (anguria o cocomero), pineapple (ananas), limone...the list can go on and on! When overwhelmed by all the choices, I can't help but long for a hot summer day at my Aunt Pat's house in Suisun, California-turning the hand-crank of an ice cream freezer, with melting ice cooling me and my cousins off as we sprinkle rock salt and fight over licking the dasher of the best flavor ever, plain old vanilla!

domenica 29 aprile 2012


The April 25th Liberation Day holiday was celebrated and ushered in with the usual fanfare of our city's marching band and the ever present bass drum beat of Gastone. Daisy always gets excited when she hears the band and insistently barks and hops up on a chair to let us know she wants to watch from our window. It was an interesting and thought provoking Liberation day for us because we had two guests in the house who were on a special mission. Writer/giornalist Alessandro Eugeni was a guest in our house. In January he had come to Cortona accompanied by a small group of citizens from the Germany, to present a book which he wrote "Il Falegname di Ottobrunn" which documented a tragedy of war inflicted on a small community near Falzano a small community in Cortona County. The Germans who accompanied him were from the town of Ottobrunn. At the end of June 1944, after encounters with partisan groups in the area, the German troops marching through the area led by Major Herbert Stommel captured and imprisoned 12 civilians in a farmhouse which under his orders was barricaded and set on fire. Only one adolescent boy survived when a collapsed beam shielded his body, though he was badly burned and remembers "playing dead" when the soldiers returned to the rubble to finish off the victims with rounds of gun fire. This chilling war time crime led to trials against Mr. Stommel and his second in command Josef Scheungraber in Munich which concluded in a life sentence for Mr. Scheungraber, known as "the Carpenter of Ottobrunn" in 2009. The sentence was suspended as it was judged that Mr. Scheungraber was mentally incapacitated and Mr. Stommel was never tried for the same reasons. The sentencing was significant however, because it was the first time in the history of Nazi-Fascist war crime trials that the Italian and German courts sent down the same verdict. In the interest of paving a path to forgiveness, Mr. Eugeni accompanied the parish priest of the town of Ottobrunn to Cortona for the 25th of April. Father Christoph Nobs arrived to serve a mass on this day of Liberation and the feast day of the city at the Church of San Marco to honor the dead and take the first steps in healing this old wound. Perhaps this was a day of liberation from bitter memories left from this horrific period in the world's history; a chance to remember and re-dedicate one's self to the idea of Liberation from war.

giovedì 12 aprile 2012

Another Artisan in Paradise

This is a blog entry which lay in the drafts section for nearly a year. Although it is late, and much time has gone by since Maurizio's passing, I wanted to publish this all the same. Cortona is undergoing changes, but we musn't lose sight of the people past and present who have made the city what it is today.
When we tell the story of Casa Chilenne to our guests we can't help but emphasize the important role our local artisans had in creating the cozy atmosphere here. Luciano and Jeanette knew they wanted to create a place for guests in Cortona which would feel like a home away from home, that would have the modern comforts which make a holiday less stressful and at the same time enhance and recover the charm of their historical house. This vision was made possible by the men and women artisans who took on the job with enthusiasm as they proudly took part in making Casa Chilenne a place which they felt would showcase their historic craftmenship. From plumber and electrician, painters and carpenters, all seemed to really care that their work shined through as Cortonese workmanship.
These artisans or "artigiani" are the treasures of Cortona. Once numerous they have dwindled away and alas, we had to bid farewell yesterday to Maurizio Baracchi the carpenter in charge of making all our doors and windows, personally creating and fitting the arched window cases and door in our breakfast room, all the fittings of the doors and windows through the house. Maurizio was a no nonsense kind of man, an avid bird and boar hunter who worked diligently just down an alley from us in a workshop by the wall of San Sebastiano. He was always available to come to the rescue to remediate injuries to his work, usually caused by guests unfamiliar with they way windows and doors work in Italy. He could be found in his workshop filled with sawdust and wood shavings as he worked on his machinery there in the company of his hunting dog.
One of the greatest honors we have had is to work with individuals like Maurizio who have a pride in their work which goes deeper than personal skill and monetary gain. It is as if they are a link in the chain which traces back to their predecessors who originally created our centuries old buildings with heavy oak or walnut doors and bronze fittings; those with the knowlege to maintain the creations of their ancestors. Ciao Maurizio-we already miss you, but we know there's a special place for carpenters in Heaven.

martedì 10 aprile 2012

Everything Changes

2012 has brought some surprises and they'll definitely be some shaking up this summer. We have had confirmation that the Tuscan Sun Festival has moved on to a new home in Florence where they hope to find a larger public for their world class talent. The Comune of Cortona was left with a space to fill, as there are many lovers of the arts here and they have decided to collaborate with publishing house Feltrinelli in creating an arts festival in Cortona from July 31 to August 5th, however these are the only details we've been given. Rumors of the participation of Bob Dylan?! We shall see. In light of the latest cuts in Italian government funding to comuni (counties), laws were adopted for comune to collect an "imposte di soggiorno" or "tassa di soggiorno" to help replace lost funds. This hotel room tax or tourism tax has existed for a long time in many places in Italy, Europe and large cities around the world, and as of April 15th, 2012 it will be in effect in Cortona. Basically, the comune has passed a law which delegates all hospitality owners to collect on their behalf a "tourism tax" which is calculated on the category of accomodation, the number of guests and number of nights spent at the accomodation. Casa Chilenne is classified as a "affittacamera non professionale" and therefore, the charge will be 1.50 Euro/guest/night for the first 4 nights. This tax will be levied on Italians and non-Italian visitors alike, with a few exemptions for children, group travel personnel, persons travelling for medical treatment and local residents, if you would like more clarification please feel free to contact us at
There was a very small window of time between the official confirmation of this new tax, the first official letter being written on March 27 and the second updated tax rate schedule written on April 2.
Our nightly rates have always included all taxes and we will include this new tax as well. We will not request additional payment from our guests nor inconvenience our guests by insisting that the "imposta di soggiorno" be paid in cash. Your full bill may still be paid by cash or major credit card. We will issue a receipt for this city tax and we will be expected to turn it over to the city every 3 months. Luciano and I have decided that this is the right thing to do for this year and we will re-evaluate at the end of 2012. It is said that change brings opportunity to rise to new challenges, adapt, evolve and become better. We appreciate the love that so many have expressed for Cortona and we hope that we will welcome back our guests and their family and friends for many years to come.