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.