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Country Roads: Cortona
Country Roads:
Under the Renovated Tuscan Sun

Story and photos by Tom Weber

Cortona, Tuscany scene

nder the Tuscan Sun, the 2003 romantic-comedy movie (read, chick flick) loosely based on Frances Mayes' 1996 memoir of the same name, stars Diane Lane as a recently divorced San Francisco writer who drops everything, takes off for Tuscany, purchases a dilapidated Italian villa in the town of Cortona and brings it back to life.

street scene in Cortona, Tuscany

Guess what? My band of merry media, guests of Insight Vacations' Country Roads of Italy itinerary, has just arrived in Cortona and we're going for a stroll to see Ms. Mayes' creative hideaway – the real Villa Bramasole, not the stand-in used for the movie, which, by the way, went on sale last year for a whopping 9.5 million euro.

cypress tree-lined lane leading to Villa Bramasole, Cortona

Down the idyllic cypress tree-lined lane we go with Belinda, our Insight tour director-slash-story teller, who waxes poetic about Ms. Mayes, the book, the movie, the beauty of being under that large ball of hot plasma when it crosses over Tuscany, etc., etc.

Rounding a bend, someone shouts, There it is!

We begin to see it peeking through the trees and as we draw closer it comes into full view. Well, sort of.

Villa Bramasole surrounded by orange plastic fencing viewed from the road

Shockingly, Villa Bramasole is surrounded by bright orange plastic fencing and hidden by lots of scaffolding. Our collective faces drop. It appears that Ms. Mayes, like in her 304-page New York Times bestseller, is renovating the hilltop estate again. Oh well, at least I can say that I stood outside the property and imaged what it's likely to be like when the construction crews leave.

Disappointed, we trudge back up the lane, climb aboard the awaiting motorcoach, then drive to one of the ancient arches that serves as a passageway into the centro storico (historical center) of Cortona.

old building in Cortona's historical center

We'll meet back in the main square, right in front of the Palazzo Comune, in 45 minutes, Belinda announces.

scenes from Cortona's historical center

more scenes from Cortona

So, off we hustle in a hundred different directions to see what each of us can see of this colorful hilltop town – a cultural center of the Valdichiana (Chiana Valley), where Umbria and Tuscany embrace. Here's what I managed to frame in the very short time that I was out and about under Frances Mayes' beloved Tuscan sun in laid-back, carefree Cortona.

pnoramic view of Cortona

Everyone now on board and accounted for, Belinda, following the villa renovation faux pas, does her best to make things right and gives out our new GPS coordinates by asking us if we'd be up for a visit to a Chianti wine estate followed by a special lunch with Tuscan nobility.

Sure…as long as you issue us hard hats!, someone wisecracks from the back of the motorcoach. Touché!

For complete information on Insight Vacations' 12 Italian premium and luxury-escorted, business-class motorcoach itineraries – where you'll stretch your legs and go in search of hidden gems around Umbria and Tuscany – as well as over 100 journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

a scene from Fonterutoli in the Chianti wine country, Tuscany

See you soon in the heart of Chianti wine country, and bring along a corkscrew.

Ciao for now.

Related Articles:
Linnertime in Spello; Take Me Home Country Roads; The Olive Groves of Ragani; Saintly Assisi; Underground in Perugia; Sipping Vino and Savoring Vistas in Tuscany

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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