Places worth to see in Southern Tuscany
Cortona, Chiusi and Arezzo
The ancient Etruscan town lies above the western shore of Lake Trasimeno, blessed with a wonderful view over the lake and into the plane of the Val di Chiana. Cortona was made famous by the American writer Frances Mayes , who owns a house just out of Cortona . The film adaptation of her novel , "Under the Tuscan Sun" , is for many the epitome of Tuscan romance. Since then, Cortona is a paradise for Englishmen and Americans – mainly of the upper class. On top of that the high-profile Tuscan Sun Festival attracted many music and film stars from around the world. It could well be that one bumped into Ana Netrebko or Anthony Hopkins strolling down the main street ... (Unfortunately the festival has moved on to Florence a few years ago; Cortona probably was just bursting at the seams, given the growing numbers of festival visitors) . And yet Cortona has managed to preserve its ordinary charm of a small Italian town: no posh brand boutiques but still a lot of craft workshops and littlle normal grocery stores; no design restaurants but simple trattorias serving the " Acqua cotta " ( a delicious vegetable soup with the simple name " Boiled water " ) or "Salsiccie" ( sausages ) from the grill. Join the locals in the cool of the evening (from 6 to 8 p.m.) as they take their customary passeggiata down the main street. Do a lap or two yourself then choose an outdoor table, sip an aperitivo and watch the passing fashion parade.
Also Chiusi is a typical Etruscan hill town . Narrow lanes are piled up on a tuff hill that is perforated like a Swiss cheese by underground Etruscan labyrinths and toombs. Here you can descend into the underworld and take a look at the long-forgotten Etruscan life with games and sports scenes frescoed on the walls. And from one of the walls a little monkey has been looking at the visitor for the past 2000 years ! The newly designed archaeological museum gives an excellent insight into the enigmatic culture of the Etruscans. This museum with “old stuff” is even fun for children. - After that you should stop at the restaurant " Zaira " and try an Etruscan speciality like “pigeons in balsamic grape extract” . Have a look at their wine cellar, it is part of the Etruscan labyrinth.
In the nearby thermal spa of Sarteano you can find large swimming pools with 24°C warm water all year round. The perfect place to “digest” your visit to Chiusi
Everyone knows Arezzo by now. Oscar winning movie La vita è bella by Roberto Benigni took this pretty Italian town to Hollywood fame. A signposted walk leads to various locations of the film. Afterwards you can have a cappuccino at Café “Vasari” in the decor of the turn of the century, overlooking the Piazza Grande, one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. Arezzo has a centre of seductive medieval and Renaissance charm. Chief lure in Arezzo is Piero della Francesca’s cycle of The Story of the True Cross in the church of San Francesco. It has been recently restored and shines with new splendour.
A famous antique market takes place on the piazza with shady arcades every first weekend of the month. By the way: The market is great fun also if you did not bring a thick wallet and a large moving van…
Cortona can easily be reached from La Rogaia in 40 minutes, Chiusi and Arezzo are within one hour each.
Author: Annette Greifenhagen