As most of you know, I am here now, in my home in the Tuscan hills for the next couple months.
Unfortunately, my computer has just died (it needs a new battery and power chord), but I am still going to keep in touch using one of the lab computers!
Here are some of the things I have learned about Cortona:
1. People really appreciate it when you try to speak to them in Italian, even if it is just “Ciao!” or “Buongiorno” or “Grazie!” Most Cortonese are friendly, but even the grumpy ones can be a worthwhile experience to talk to.
2. “Latte” here does not get you a coffee with cream. It is just milk. My favorite coffee so far is at Nessun Dorma Ristorante. This literally translates to “No one sleeps.” And, with further research must be from Turandot?! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nessun_dorma
Which makes me further resolved to see an opera while I am here.
3. Walking up the enormous and daunting hill is really not as bad as it sounded! And now I am so glad I bought those boots in Florence. Walking here is serious, ya’ll.
4. The wind is also serious! As I am typing, it is screaming outside! The big, gorgeous, OLD windows are clanging and making a weird wailing sound, and the glass would break if they weren’t shut.
5. Apparently these buildings are haunted, although I have been attempting to ignore this fact.
6. The patron saint of Cortona is Santa Margherita! Look her up; she has a fascinating story. The cathedral on the top of the hill is dedicated to her. Monday was Santa Margherita Day and there was a festival up there, so the whole town came up throughout the day. My art education class took a break so we could attend the 11 oclock mass where the bishop was speaking and my Printmaking teacher was singing in the choir. It was beautiful! We’d been in the church before, but this time it was lit with candles and filled with people worshipping and watching and inscence burning. Outside they had a market with vendors selling fresh-made sweets, dried fruit, sandwiches and toys. In honor of my sister, Maggie, I had a big bouquet of fresh spun sugar, zucchero filato, or as we know it in the states: Cotton Candy. Mmm.
7. I love hearing the church bells ring here! It is one of my favorite parts of the day, and lucky for me it happens several times a day.
8. Gino, the groundskeeper for the John Kehoe Center (dorm and main school building), is quickly becoming one of my favorite people! His last name is Skipper and when I met him the first time he said his name was Gino and I said “You’re the groundskeeper?” He made me repeat that several times and then shook his head “No, no, no. I am Gino Skipper!” He is like a friendly, jovial grandpa who always has a bottle of wine in his hand, which he harvests himself. Every conversation seems to lend itself one way or another to a tale about one of his lovers, and how now he is left with only his cat, called “Bella Signora.”
9. The cats are plentiful here and with soft luscious fur (most of them)! They like to congregate around the Severini Building (Uga academic building, where most of my classes are held) and I haven’t gotten to pet one yet because they are very shy.
10. Gino Severini, futurist painter, is from Cortona. He designed a huge mosaic that I get to walk past every single day!
11. Frances Mayes’s house is just as beautiful as it seemed from the movie! It is far out from town. I happened upon it on a jog around the mountain and recognized it from Under the Tuscan Sun.
12. The showers are not always hot. Handwashing laundry and hanging it out in the freezing cold wind is quite unpleasant, but not unbearable. These tiny comforts I CAN live without (like my computer, and some other things) I have learned! In exchange, there are so many unexpected luxuries I am lucky to have here.
More to come!