(As I finish up my thesis this month, this blog will be temporarily transformed into Garlands in Florence with a guest blogger: my university-aged self. You will find posts about the summer I studied in Italy, living in a 16th century villa and falling in love with art history.)
Inspired by reading Under the Tuscan Sun, I decided to spend a weekend by myself in Cortona, a hilltop Tuscan town. I would wander little streets, reflect on life and savor the Tuscan sun.
I arrived, and immediately I was treated to the outside walls of the city that have a huge overview of Tuscany. I could see Lake Trasimeno poking out behind a hill. The sight was breathtaking, with a huge sky. There were benches by the overview on which old Italian men and women sat grouped by gender.
Back in the main piazza, the Piazza Signorelli, there was live jazz music playing. I was too tired to climb up to the top of town, so I sat on the main steps to enjoy the band.
I saw a little girl dancing her heart out at the bottom of the steps to the band. She was dancing with complete abandon. She obviously had taken dance lessons, because she had moves, but what struck me was her joy of movement. She had short hair, and looked like she was from the fifties. I will never forget her freedom.
I then decided to check out two of Cortona's museums. The Museo Diocesano had amazing paintings in it. I loved Fra Angelico’s Annunciation. The gold in the wings and the chair were breathtaking. It was also incredible to be able to have my nose three inches away from an artwork that I knew so well. The angel’s shoe was beautiful, the tops of the columns were incredibly realistic and the texture of the lawn was fascinating.
The Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca e della Città di Cortona displayed ancient objects and artwork from the city's history. There were lots of Etruscan tomb figures and Medici era paintings and rooms. There was a library filled with great 17th century books and furniture. The windows with great views of the city, with breezes looking over Piazza Signorelli. There was a room with Egyptian mummies and related artifacts. The museum was quiet and sleepy, and I was practically the only one there.
I wandered around the city, and I saw a church door open, so I peeked in. Christ was crowning Mary on altar with a ray of light hitting its gold foil. Other than them, I was alone in an ancient dark church.
I wandered more tiny streets, and every so often a breathtaking view of the surrounding Tuscan countryside would pop out. I found a tiny bookshop where the only books in English were by Nick Hornby. I bought a copy of Fever Pitch and kept exploring.
The sky started to turn yellow so I walked toward the city wall, towards the horizon. I took intriguing-looking tiny passages and found a secret garden on the city wall. I sat on the wall, leaning against an incline. I watched the brilliant orange sun set over the hills.
I watched the sun go down, read Fever Pitch, felt the Earth spinning, saw lights in houses start to come on, felt the breeze, saw a train go by. The city wall still had the warmth of the day.
The clouds turned blue and purple, so I started to head to my hostel for the night. I heard clinking of silverware from the houses as I walked down the old streets, so intriguing. I got gelato, of course (chocolate pudding, panacotta, and strawberry yogurt).
Back by the huge steps in the piazza, there were children playing games and a musician playing Bach cello suites.
There had been a hint of a storm all day, with thunder, but the air felt calm now. I passed by a park with a tiny amphitheater; there was seating, families by the fountain, a view of Tuscany and Lake Trasimeno and a half moon.
I then got me to a nunnery. I was staying at the hostel in the Istituto S. Margherita, a fairly bleak convent with devotional objects everywhere. My bed had a big cross over it.