Photo: Pappardelle con ragu, Signora?
We took a quick trip up to Cortona the other day to attend an academic conference. "We" as in Larry drove the car, but in the end they kindly let him attend the conference and enjoy the meals as well.
We'd been around this area before but never bothered to venture up into the hilltown made famous by the popular and enjoyable novel (and awful movie) Under the Tuscan Sun. Why? Because we feared it was (or would soon be) another San Gimignano, full of foreign tourists and shops that cater to them, most of its authentic charm flaking off under the steady onslaught of modern tourism, only to end up a "Disney-fied" replica of what was once a charming village.
We parked our car and hiked up the STEEP, cobbled road and around to find our B&B, then off to the evening's reception, where our fears were realized. While we didn't see copies of USA Today for sale on every corner, we heard more English than Italian being spoken and even saw Frances Mayes herself the following day at the conference. As you might guess she's kind of like the Pope up here, being responsible for putting a lot of tourist revenue into the pockets of the locals and receiving bows and accolades from those who recognize her.
At the conference we enjoyed some excellent Tuscan food and learned a few things (especially Larry) about archaeologic sites like Pompeii and Herculaneum, especially relating to what is original and what is restored in sites like these. The converted monastery now housing the University of Georgia Residential Center is (once you hike up there) thankfully free of the tourist influence below and offered stunning (despite the cloudy, hazy weather) views of the surrounding countryside.
We're now back in the Eternal City, getting ready for our next adventure while looking forward to having some bicycles to play with. The local park looks like it might be a fun place to play with MTB's!