In honor of my dear friends and fellow Slow Travelers, Marcia and David, who are about to head off to Italy this week, I bring you Cortona...
I am alone. I am alone in Italy and it is summer and I am fresh from a lover's arms. I have my fabulous rental Nissan Micra, the road is before me and I am alive. I am so blissed out I actually find myself chanting
“this is f***ing crazy!!" as I drive down country roads lined with sunflowers praying to the sun gods.
I drive up the long hill leading up to Cortona after a night in Assisi and a day of touring the area. I pull into the parking lot near one of the entrances to the town, park my car, and head on foot through the opening in the stone walls. It is already dusk and I know I need to find a place to set up shop for the night. I decide the best way to find a decent place to stay is to ask the locals. I always do this and it has never failed me. I head to the pharmacy and ask the women working there to direct to the place they think I’d like. They suggest Le Gelosie up the street and say they've just opened and they're hearing good things already. I walk out the door thanking these two lovely Pharmacists for their help. I always know I can count on the women of the world to help me. That's a very cool thing.
I walk over to Le Gelosie and head up the stairs to reception. They only have a few rooms there but they have a nice one available to me and I nab it. It's got a huge bed, a fresh bottle of water on the bedside table, and a waterfall shower that makes me sing. I like this place.
I head back to my car and grab my bag - I'm traveling light. I have one bag, the one I've just picked up in Paris, for my 11 days here.
I refuse to be a slave to my luggage.
Once I’ve showered and settled in I venture back out into the night to find a place for dinner. I discover Ristorante Tempero with its charming tables outside and stone walls and decide it's mine for the night. I settle in at a table inside and watch the people around me. I LOVE dining alone. I love that sensation of public solitude and I feel so joyful when they bring me my carafe of house red wine and I open my journal to start writing about my day. I feel so alive at times like this.
I order my meal which consists of Proscuitto con melone, meat ravioli with a wonderful ragu sauce, tiramisu and espresso. I am tipsy from my red wine after two and a half glasses and realize as I’m about to leave that I have half a carafe left. I notice two American girls sitting at the table in front of me and lean over to ask them if they'd like to finish my wine. They happily accept my offer. It feels good to be able to share something with these two girls. I am happy to see that they have already begun to venture out into the world alone. Two American girls sharing a night out together in Italy, now that’s beautiful.
After dinner I stroll through the town and eventually make my way back to my B&B. It is the close of a perfect day.
The next morning I am told that as Le Gelosie does not have on site food available I am to take my pick of two or three cafes in town and I am to simply tell them I'm at Le Gelosie and my bill will be covered. Cool, I think. I am a woman who likes my options.
I walk down to the town center and opt for the Caffe Del Teatro. This place seems so familiar to me and then I realize it's because it was featured in the film "Under the Tuscan sun." As I sit there I get a perverse thrill out of this fact. I always did like those scenes at that café. No, wait, THIS café!
I am there before the café has opened so I grab a newspaper and read until the door opens and the young waitress comes out to greet me. I love sitting outside and watching the locals living out their morning rituals. I am all the happier when the young waitress brings me another cappuccino and pastry after I've finished my first round. She’s decided she likes me so she tells me she'll bring me whatever I want. We chat for a bit and I think to myself that I am growing to love Italian women more and more. They always seem to embrace with me with such warmth and laughter. And they are damn good fun!
I spend the rest of that morning touring the town and window shopping. As I am hungry to take in more of this part of Italy I decide to check out and venture off back down that hill and out into the countryside that awaits me. The world is my oyster, I think to myself.
The world is my oyster.
Every woman should experience solo travel. It is the most empowering thing I believe I have done for myself. Once you’ve mastered moving though the world on your own, you can do anything…