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Cortona

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Montepulciano, Italy
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Cortona

Is it just me or is it starting to feel a bit tacky in summer? I was there for the first time in about three months yesterday and left quite quickly. Tourist focussed shops have been creeping in on the main Corso for years but suddenly, almost overnight, there appear to be so many more and they're not even quality stores. And there are restaurant tables lining virtually the entire length of the street to the point that it's not always clear where the food comes from. Anyone else experienced this?

San Jose, California
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1. Re: Cortona

I am feeling that way in a great many places. It's not the Italy I used to know. It is almost as if Italy has lost some of it's true identity or persona to conform to the tourist industry. Cortona for sure. I have to head down there next week and am dreading it almost.

Victoria, Australia
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2. Re: Cortona

I have been to Italy 4 times now and agree totally. The last 3 trips have been in winter and that makes an enormous difference and personally I prefer it. Less tourists, no queues, sure it is cold, but I don't mind that.

We were lucky enough to visit Cortona a couple of years ago on Feb 22. We didn't know that it was their Saint's day. Most of the shops etc were closed, everyone was at the church and the atmosphere was amazing! Our 1/2 day visit turned into a full day and it was a highlight of our trip.

Montepulciano, Italy
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3. Re: Cortona

Yes, I've posted before that winter is the time to visit if you want an authentic Tuscan experience, as many people do. I know it's harder for families to plan a vacation in, say, December but in many places it's only in winter that the local people get their villages back and visitors get a better feel for local life. I often invite friends to stay then so that we can go to the olive oil festivals, which often include a village dinner, and we'll usually be the only foreigners there. The other thing too about winter is that your appetite is keener when it's cold so you find you can enjoy the local food more. My girlfriend staying with me earlier in the week struggled with heavy pasta and rich meat sauces at lunchtime and had no interest in wine tasting either as it was just too darn hot. I have to admit, the countryside looks so beautiful at the moment but due to the heat you can only really enjoy it early in the morning before 10.30 and then again after 5 pm. Also, it's so-o much more expensive here in summer. I will not name names but there is a restaurant in Cortona where we had tagliatelle with white truffle last December for Euros 9. That very same dish in the very same restaurant is currently Euros 22 - and I'm sure that's not simply due to the fact it's not the true truffle season ...

Edited: 12:50 am, June 30, 2012
Northumberland
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4. Re: Cortona

How did your visit to Cortona go, we are going in September and are very interested in your comments.

Edited: 3:53 pm, July 19, 2012
Utrecht, The...
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5. Re: Cortona

Mid June we stayed in Cortona for 3 days (our third visit, the others were 8 and 6 years ago) and we really still liked. Yes maybe there are some more shops on Via Nazionale but not tacky ones. And the other streets are still the same. We stayed in a B&B inside the walls so in the evenings it was more quiet. But this was also the case in Montepulciano and Greve where we also stayed in this holiday.

Liguria, Italy
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6. Re: Cortona

Hope nobody minds my pointing out that in many towns in "Under-the-Tuscan-Sun-Tuscany" stores and restaurants that do NOT cater to foreign tourists expectations find themselves losing business. This is true elsewhere in Italy. Millions of tourists come to Italy every year demanding cheap souvenirs, beer, and amusements and photo-ops that fit their pre-conceptions.

While I have no intention of defending rip-off prices in tourist hot spots, I will also report that I frequently observe tourists traveling on a budget who want to sit in restaurants and order a bare minimum of food, not a full meal.

When you wonder "where is all that food coming from" and then also are upset about increases in prices, the two are related. It is going to cost more to run a restaurant when you need to allow for hundreds of people every day, especially if people want to be wowed by white trufffles and other foods out of season. Guidebooks recommend restaurants and instruct tourists to eat specific dishes there without any regard for seasonal availability.

If you run a restaurant and are constantly confronted with crushed diners (or ones who leave) when they learn there are no truffles in July, your reputation suffers. So you pay the extravagant costs of finding an out-of-season supplier. Plus you've installed an ice machine, hired extra staff to work to serve dinner starting at 6pm, etc etc. The famly-run-restaurant had to adapt to corporate strategies or go out of business.

I don't know why anyone would want to eat truffled pasta in July in Tuscany when there are so many refreshing summer Tuscan dishes made of fresh veg, cold grains or bread, lovely cheeses and fruits. It has been a spectacular season for fruit in Italy due to all the spring rain.

Tuscany is too hot for me in summer, but even here on the Riviera, we don't go out between 11am and 5pm, unless it is for a breezy lunch at the seaside. And just tonight I made a cold farro salad for dinner.

It makes me sad to read a comment like Cat's from San Jose that Italy is losing its soul. No it is not. But you need to look beyond Cortona and other places that have been almost beaten down by masses of tourists who arrive with the attiitude "I'm only here for 3 days and I insist on ___________ for my money" -- whether that blank is beer, an outdoor table, air con, cheap gifts for the grandkiddies, the famed wild boar, the famed wine that doesn't come from Cortona anyway, the truffles out of season and on and on.

Come to Italy and live like an Italian, especially in summer when it is hot. Enjoy simple things like fireflies, melon, the late nights in the piazza gabbing, and some naps in the afternoon.

Milan, Italy
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7. Re: Cortona

I'm going to be in Tuscany this year from December 5-January 7th. I have my routing roughly mapped out, basing for 5 or 6 days in bologna, siena, cortona, orvieto, florence and spending the week of Christmas with my parents in Sorrento, Assisi and Rome. You mentioned Olive Oil festivals in December? Are there specific festivals you're referring to? I'd love to find out more about local events in December! Googling it didn't help me much :/

Montepulciano, Italy
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8. Re: Cortona

Absolutely, You should be arriving just in time for the San Quirico festival, which is the first weekend of December. There will be lots of cantinas open for olive oil tasting and some years there's even been a village dinner. Slightly nearer to you is the very nice one at Cetona but that's towards the end of Christmas week itself, ie 28th, 29th, 30th December. However, wherever you go in this area you will see signs advertising "olio nuovo" and it is simply sensational, the palest green in colour, slightly cloudy, always full of fresh grassy flavours and even a touch of pepper. There is absolutely nothing else on earth quite like it when it comes to olive oil.

Milan, Italy
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9. Re: Cortona

Che stupendo! Thank you so much - can't wait!

Post Falls, Idaho
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10. Re: Cortona

Bingo! If people would spend more time trying to fit in and enjoying things the way they are, and less time complaining about how everything isn't like it is 'back home', they would have great things to write about. We can't wait to get back to Cortona.