Today is our first full day in the country. We all settled into a slower pace, the fresh Umbrian air, and its time to explore Umbria and Tuscany. Now that we are all here, we can consolidate our 8 cars down to 4 cars and with four repeat travelers I have some experienced drivers! Today is also my lovely wife, Isabel’s birthday!!! What a wonderful way to spend her special day!
We fix a little coffee and enjoy the morning view from our terrace. Get a little blogging done, check the emails, and then we all meet at the “Y” in the road between our houses – our rendezvous spot. Down the dusty dirt road we go to the valley below and then we drive about 40 minutes towards Cortona for our stop at the Villa Piazzano.
I love this place with its Italian cypress lined drive in and then the pristine grounds and former Roman Cardinal hunting villas that awaits us. We are welcomed by the friendly staff who always accommodate my group with a fabulous tour of their property showing us the changes and upgrades they seem to make every year, followed by the most divine brunch you could ever imagine out on the terrace now covered by a beautiful shade loggia that has been added.
So the setting is as good as it can possibly get, and then you add the spectacular assortment of delectable treats they have prepared along with a glass of prosecco and you have the start of a beautiful day and birthday for my Isabel. We are met by the proprietors of this immaculate property, Damien Wimpole and his wife Adriana who sit with us and share the stories from all of the years they have operated this magical place. I first came here in 2001 shortly after they opened by simply discovering the property by making the wrong turn in the road. I have been here virtually every year since and this is definitely one of the highlights of our trip. We toasted and sang happy birthday to my lovely bride, took our group photo, and then made our way through the valley and up the hill to Cortona!
Cortona is a vibrant Tuscan hilltown somewhat overrun by tourists since the making of the book then movie Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes. I still love it though with its narrow streets and perfectly scaled piazzas. We arrived around 2 pm and dinner was not until 7pm so we had five hours to explore or chill and just suck in the spirit and flavor of this medieval hilltown.
Many shopped and explored and several found a spot at a street café for a cappuccino or a glass or two of vino. Others hiked the steep streets or dove into the chocolate fair that was underway in the piazza. The weather was perfect with a fall breeze in the air and as the sun set and the shadows grew long it was time to make our way to dinner at the Trattoria Dardona. I love this little spot and have been coming for years. It’s nothing fancy, but the food and service have always been great and the owner always bestows a bottle or two of lemoncello or this year bayleave cello……wow was that a great digestif’ to finish the evening and Isabel’s birthday day! A nice stroll back to the cars, a quick gelato and then we drove the 40 minutes to our secret spot in the hills of Umbria as we rested for the next day of exploration and adventure in Umbria.