This trip will be unusual for me. (Some might say any extended trip by a soon-to-be 86-year-old with Parkinson's is unusual.) My earlier travels almost always involved brief stays of two nights here and three nights there. The only exceptions came when I made either London (in the 1990s) or Pokhara, Nepal (in the 2000s) my "home away from home" for longer visits. But at this stage in my life, the idea of staying put in one place has a lot of appeal, as long as it's attractive and surrounded by interesting places for day trips.
Florence is one of my favorite cities, and I've enjoyed exploring the Tuscan hill towns and countryside. So when the idea of a one-stop home base came to mind, I immediately thought of Tuscany.
Staying in Florence made no sense; driving in and out of that city is my idea of Hell. Staying in a medieval Tuscan hill town sounded perfect. But which town?
I asked my good friends Daniel and Marione Ingram, who had lived in a rented farmhouse in Tuscany for about ten years several decades ago. Cortona was their immediate recommendation... even though it was the town that eventually forced them to leave Tuscany.
I knew nothing about Cortona, which the Ingrams told me was the setting for Francis Mayes' bestseller Under the Tuscan Sun. Published in 1996, the book tells the story of "the wondrous new world that opened for the author when she bought and restored an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside." The quote comes from a blurb for the book.
Guidebooks now list Mayes's house in Cortona as one of the area's sightseeing attractions.
The book's popularity sparked travel to Tuscany, and many tourists wanted to buy and restore their own Shangri-La there. The Ingram's rented farmhouse soon became unaffordable, prompting them to move to an island off the coast of Sicily -- another interesting chapter for them, and the subject of Marione's next book.
Our House in Cortona
We, too, will have a house in Corona. Not a restored country house, but a two-bedroom, two-bath place in the historic town center. Having always chosen hotels, I never rented a house in previous travels. Now I wish I'd known about www.airbnb.com earlier. The website says it offers the chance to "rent unique places to stay from local hosts in 190+ countries."
I was delighted by the options in Cortona. Rents weren't bad, either. We'll pay $134 a night, a price we'd have had a hard time matching if instead we'd booked two hotel rooms for the duration.
If you'd like to take a walk around Cortona from our house at #47, click here.
Tuscany and the Blog
During other recent travels, I've posted reports and photos from the road -- something I won't do this time. I decided to give myself a complete blog holiday for the next two weeks.
While in Italy, I'll keep you busy with a series of posts I prepared earlier about my morning exercise / meditation routine. My blog colleague will supply additional posts.
You'll get photos and stories from "Under the Tuscan Sun" when I return.