Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cortona- Everyday Things

Is this the last day for photographs fromCortona?  Possibly, but judging by how many I have, I can't promise that.  Most of what you have seen so far are the kinds of pictures all tourists take: landscape, notable architecture, travel companions, special events etc.   I also have a lot of bits and pieces that are indicative of way-of-life in the locale we are visiting.

First, laundry again.  Since I am the one who does our laundry and lots of it is hung up to dry, I admit to a fascination about the way it is done in Italy.  In the photo below, you can see the hardware to which the drying line is attached.  I suspect that laundry is done several times a week since these lines are not very long, but I also think that people who do not have a dryer in house also do not have the wardrobe that most of their tourists have.

D on the far left, DH in the mirror, C in the mirror and seen from the back, as she talks to the mother (far right) of the B&B owner.

A Carnevale mask hung on the wall in Dolce Maria (our B&B).  I found its presence a charming "hats off" to an important time in Italy.

C had told me about the fall decorations often seen outside shops, but we didn't see as many as she expected.  The ones we did see, however, were really attractive.  This one is between the B&B's door and their restaurant's entrance.  I especially liked the combination of fall (pumpkin/gourd) and summer (red flower- nicotiana?).

Although hill towns we visited usually don't permit cars, if there is any way cars can enter the town, residents do drive in.  How they find parking, I don't know.  From my pictures you know that most streets/alleys aren't this wide.

D trekking down to see what was behind that inviting iron gate.  He was disappointed that it led merely to proof of everyday life.  I didn't mind; it makes a good reference photo (figure walking down a hill - note his left foot and the right leg) for my painting/quilting.

And here is another that fits several categories; doorways, windows, reference.  E and I had an exchange of emails recently confirming we both like to have at least a glimmer of human habitation in our paintings (she just sent me a wonderful one of her gleeful grandson on a swing).  The modern bench and the stone one allow me to imagine someone (or ones) sitting and chatting or just enjoying this quiet corner of Cortona.

DH and D looking out at the land below from that wall I mentioned earlier.  Due to the weather, all you really see are the two of them and the wall (the sky is such a light gray with only bit of equally light blue that it isn't highly visible).

An everyday mail box.  How superb!

Unfortunately, none of the postcards I sent from Italy left through this mail slot in the wall.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Big Reveal in Cortona

Questions about those archers were answered and a big surprise occurred later as you will see.  But first we took a walk in town and wound up going up one of the steepest alleys.  Earlier we had seen a couple with a child in a carriage go up that same alley (which included stairs up which the carriage had to be carried!) so we asked ourselves, "Why not?" Clearly the young family was used to that climb, but we didn't do badly either.  The picture is when we were almost to the top; I stopped to record the colors - so rich!


Here is a building whose decorations are just wonderful.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get a better photo since the "street" on which this building stood was so narrow, I couldn't get far enough away from the building to capture the upper two stories.

But I could get the design between the first and second floors (though by European custom, I should be saying the second and third floors as they do not count the ground floor).  I wish I could find our more about this type of decoration: stencil? plaster work ala fresco? painting? sgraffito?

Then, on our way down this new passageway we saw this.  All those little Johnny Jump-ups interspersed with little birdcages.

I didn't realize it , but we were headed back to the main square by the Palazzo Comunale.  The closer we got, the easier it was to hear some drumming and occasional music.  Then around the corner we saw - a parade of Archers!

They all gathered on the steps going up the Palazzo Comunale with (from the left)  the Cortona flag bearer, the mayor, "Miss Cortona" (? it's a guess), and the "Queen of the Tourney" (another guess).

The brass band with drummers enter the square.

Followed by the flag tossers: male, female, and youngsters!

 Watch this young woman in the next 5 photos. She enters the Piazza,

tosses her flag (no mean feat),

readies herself for the catch,

 and successfully catches her flag.

Success!  She beams.

Then the youngest member of the troupe displays his power in this toss.  Look at the height of his flag!

Catches it.

Runs to bring up the end of the Flag line and get ready for the show they put on as a group.

After that was the awarding of the prizes for the best archers.  Look at her face!

And his.

And for me, the most touching one of all.

And yes, she made it all the way up and down those stairs by herself.  Brava!

The day ended with sun and sky putting on their own show in the Piazza.

What a bonus this day was!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Just in case anyone is wondering, I took a total of 3,547 photographs over 15 days.  Have I mentioned that number before?  I bring it up because I was surprised at how few photos per day that works out to be.  Aren't you glad you don't have to sit through a slide show of all of them?

Back to Cortona. Yesterday I left you with a tease - what we saw from a window in our B&B, and today you will get a glimpse of one of the surprises Cortona had in store for us.  But first, adding to my collection of alleyways is this one with the "bridge" between buildings.  I like speculating about why that connection was constructed.  Notice the open door on the left?

 This next street emphasizes the consequence of building a town on a hilltop. St-e-e-e-p streets (and very fit townspeople).

Below is the Palazzo Comunale which is exactly as its name suggests. You may recognize it again tomorrow.

One of those whimsical photos that I love to take.  First the archway caught my eye as being both different and lovely.  Then as I focused my camera, I saw through the archway.  Voila! an unexpected view.

That archway is actually part of the Palazzo Comunale. This is another one.  Look beyond the waving flag and you get a glimpse of the countryside below the town.

And here is the reason for the sight we saw out our windows.  There was an archery contest in which women participated as well as men.  Children of both sexes also participated. That made me feel good that this tradition was being continued with the younger generation. The contestants were groups from Cortona and other towns.  We had no idea this was scheduled for the day we were visiting.  Weren't we lucky!

This alleyway is once again extremely steep but look at the lovely colors of the stone!  I've mentioned it before and probably will again that limestone, especially weathered limestone, is beautiful in its many colors.

Oh the treasures you can see when you look as C likes to say "Up, down, and all around."  How can one not when in places like this?  See the aqua shutter that seems to have been painted to match the stained glass one?

Cortona has at least sections of its wall remaining (as we did not walk all over the town, I don't know if all of it remains, and if told, I don't remember).  One gets really fine views from that wall - and another reminder of how high this town is from its surroundings.

In the next photo you can see the lake in the distance.  I'd have to look at a map to tell you which lake it is, but I do know it isn't Lake Como.

And the final photograph for today is for C and DH, our intrepid and very patient guides.  This is the Stairway of Unexpectedness.  I can't tell you the story because it isn't mine to tell, but let's just say that although you can't see it from the top, there is a stairway near the bottom of the hill.  Then let your imagination write the rest of the story.

Finally, for my quilting friends who might still be expecting me to write about quilting, here's proof that sewing machines are everywhere. And note the subtle sign.

Do you think this machine was used to sew Gucci fashions?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Cortona and the Unexpected

Something must be in the air (besides leaves, wind, and acorns!) because again I forgot to post an entry!  Before beginning with our B&B in Cortona, here are a few random landscapes.  The first has that wonderful combination of trees in varying colors of green and a distant Tuscan building.

This next one is notable for its distant hill and the cloud cover on the farthest one.

Just in case you couldn't get a good look at the "distant hill and cloud cover" . . . here's a close up.

Now on to our B&B in Cortona.  D and I were on what I think may have been the third-and-a-half floor.  Try and figure that one out; it's almost impossible to explain other than saying there seemed to be towers and half-towers.  Naturally that makes it all clear, right?  Ha!

Yes, that is a non-modern version of a "cook top"in the bedroom.  It made a great place for D to use as a luggage rack.  The cabinet was the usual closet, and it was as functional as it is lovely.  

We had our own Botticelli - rather a decent reproduction.

Ceiling and bed - note the bedside lights.

 This is the third floor breakfast room.  The mother of the owner (who was unfortunately ill) presided over our breakfasts here.  Very much the Italian hostess, she really wanted us to "Mange, mange, mange!"  That is, "Eat, eat, eat!"  Her English was almost non-existent, but she worked hard to make us comfortable.

The stairs you see led to the actual fourth floor tower.  Our stairs were half that many - hence the 3 ½.

And now for a teaser - it most certainly was a teaser for us as we had no idea what was going on.  Here's what we saw from a window:

Sorry it's so dark but they were in an alley way.

And yes, they are archers in medieval garb and they are practicing!  Neat, right?  But what's going on?  All will become clear - eventually - as it did for us. It took a while so you'll have to wait, too.