I am just returning from a two week holiday in Italy with my son Michael.
While I loved every moment in Rome, Sorrento, Naples and Tuscany, by far the best day of our trip was the one arranged to perfection, by Doumina, in Cortona.
Our lovely guide Stefania was completely committed to our tour, going well above and beyond expectation. She insisted on commencing with our tour though she had been in a serious car accident only moments before she was to meet us.
Stefania is effervescent in her enthusiasm for the people and the countryside in and around Cortona, and her enthusiasm is infectious.
Our first stop was at the Mameli Family sheep farm in a rustically beautiful setting. We met Giovanni the shepherd, and toured the barn filled with happy sheep and their lambs. We learned about making cheese from Elisa and her parents, and observed the process. We were treated to a delicious lunch which enabled us to taste a variety of the best cheese I have ever encountered. The family was so gracious and welcoming. I felt right at home!
Our next stop was the Il Falconiere Winery. Imagine fields of grape vines and olive trees overlooking the picturesque valley. Stefania introduced us to Benedetto, who toured us through the winery and talked with us about the process of wine making. We tasted many varieties of wonderful wine as well as their exceptional olive oil. It was so delicious!! I shipped several bottles of both wine and oil home to Seattle.
I thought surely our tour was complete, but Stefania had more to show us. We drove up the hill toward Cortona to St. Francis' Convent. It is an ancient setting built into a hill with a creek running through it. All the windows were lit with single, candle shaped lights. It was a peaceful and majestic space.
From there we went into the town of Cortona which was completely captivating. We were fortunate to be there during the holidays. The lights lit all around the town were festive and welcoming. We toured one of the churches, and learned from Stefania about the history of Santa Margherita, and the love and reverence the people of Cortona have for her.
Stefania shared a wealth of knowledge of the customs, the culture, the history and the community of the special place she lives. She was incredibly knowledgable and interesting and she shared so much with us. She was also was warm, kind, and generous at every turn of our tour. Our time together continued well into the evening, and even then, Stefania and her husband drove well out of their way to show us how to get to the highway for our return drive back to our hotel, further north in Tuscany.
When I reflect on our Italian vacation, my mind keeps returning to our day in Cortona.
Thank you ever so much Doumina! I look forward to planning future visits to Italy with your expertise and guidance.
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