Under MY Tuscan Sun
Hands down the most common question I am asked about moving to Italy, is one that still makes me laugh. Do you want to venture a guess? It’s not about the bureaucracy involved in moving here, the language or even the men!
The most common question I am asked is if I have ever seen Under the Tuscan Sun. That’s right, nine out of ten women are certain that I watched that movie one night and left Utah on the first plane out the next morning.
I find that so interesting, because I had no idea it had such cult-like devotion! I had seen the movie years before I moved to Italy, I think, but remembered very little of it. It certainly hadn’t created a life changing moment for me.
I related more to Eat, Pray, Love. However, I remain happily in the “Eat” country!
Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed in Cortona, Italy. Cortona is a town in Tuscany, close to the Umbria border. It is about sixty five miles from Florence, and easily reached by train in just 82 minutes.
One of the many joys of living in Florence is its proximity to cities all over Tuscany, Northern and Central Italy. After a few months of living here, I had established a wonderful group of women friends, and could usually find someone willing to join me on a day adventure. We would catch an early train, get to know a new city, and be back in our own beds by night.
Did I mention, I think this place is Heaven?
As I listened to my friends talk about Cortona one evening over apertivo, I told them I hadn’t yet been to the town of ‘Tuscan Sun’ fame. They were surprised, and said I must see it. But asking around the table didn’t produce anyone who could join me the following weekend.
They are gutsy gals. These are not the needy, shy or dependent sort that can’t handle an adventure on their own. While that wasn’t the type of gal I had been for most of my life, I was happily learning.
Life Lesson on traveling to new places:
Tripadvisor is your friend. Use it!
Arriving by train to Camucia, I gazed up at the town of Cortona on the hill. I called the hotel and was told a driver would come to the station to get me. Now, you may have a vision of a big Hilton shuttlebus arriving, but this is not what happens in small towns in Tuscany.
Mariano’s shift was over when he got the call that I needed a ride, but he swung by the station to get me anyway. Despite his friendly demeanor, I still clarified the cost of the ride in his blue station wagon before I climbed in.
As Mariano and I drove up the hill, he pointed out landmarks and answered my barrage of questions. He seemed, like most, to truly appreciate my attempt to speak Italian, and was immediately warm and friendly. Mariano, another bit of Italian serendipity! It just makes for the most fantastic connections.
Meanwhile, I was thinking I might spontaneously combust. The views of Cortona and the landscapes were incredible!
Mariano laughed at my appreciation and enthusiasm for his hometown. He offered to come back later and give me a tour. Quickly settling on a price and a time to meet, I knew I was in for a treat. There is simply nothing like having a local as your tour guide!
Once in my room, I opened the window (yes, that very window pictured here) to take in a breathtakingly beautiful view of Tuscany! What could Mariano possibly show me that was better than this?
There it was, on a quiet, tree lined lane outside of Cortona looking just as it had in the movie. A serene piece of Paradise, which I hiked around and took pictures from every angle. If Francis May was there, she didn’t invite me in for a coffee.
Next, Mariano took me to the monastery Saint Francis of Assisi had built when he needed to retreat for solitude and prayer.
Built in 1211, deep into a forest, nine small cells made up the original structure in the mountainside. It is a place of beautiful simplicity, a spiritual place, removed from any trace of the twenty first century. Kneeling at the small altar outside his cell, I prayed as Saint Francis once had. There was not another soul around, and only the ringing of the monastery bell interrupted the silence.
Mariano patiently waited as I explored several more sites. When I told him my dinner plans he shook his head. He had a far better suggestion, and all I had to do was tell the owner I was a friend of Mariano.
Homemade ravioli with pine nuts and sun dried tomatoes took my full attention for the next thirty minutes. I’m still getting used to eating alone in a restaurant, but that night I gave it no thought. It may have been the best meal I’ve ever eaten.
Exhausted, happy, full, and maybe a little tipsy, I settled in my room to watch a movie…..
Would you like to join me?
Sarah & I have joined forces to launch a new Better Way company, A Better Way to Italy, so gutsy women (and the not so adventurous kind) can come together for tours, seminars and fun in Tuscany! Our tours offer a chance for beauty, personal growth, professional retreat and relaxation.