Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting photos and reminiscences of my trip to Italy. While I was definitely ready to be back home, and sleeping in my own bed, I had an incredible time -- I met some amazing people, saw things that awed me like nothing I've seen before, and ate food that I suspect I'll be able to "taste" for years.
The first set of photos I wanted to share are of Cortona, a beautiful little hillside town in Tuscany that we called "home base" for five of our days in Italy. Cortona may be most well-known as the setting for that gagalicious chick-flick "Under the Tuscan Sun", but it's so much more than that. It's the seat of Etruscan civilization in Italy, and the place St. Francis of Assisi chose to spend his final days.
It's vineyards and olive groves, umber-colored buildings set against verdant hillsides and slate gray roads -- all leading to Rome. I'll post some photos of the villa we stayed at soon, but to start, I wanted you to see the town as we saw it when we drove around with our friend Coky, a native of Cortona.
Food here is simple... and wonderful. Wild boar (cinghiale) dominates, from ragu to salumi. And beef here -- it's Chianina as it is in most parts of Tuscany -- is the most amazing beef I've ever eaten. Kobe is for pussies -- real men eat beef that's so rich it tastes like organ meat. (I'm salivating as I write this).
Most often, we paired our meals with local wines. As you might expect, they do a lovely job with Sangiovese, but we discovered that Cortona also grows a mean Syrah. Gamy and spicy and a little bit barny, these Syrahs were perfect with the traditional dishes of Cortona.
My two greatest culinary discoveries in Cortona, though, have to be Amaro di Miele, a liqueur made from wildflower/orange blossom honey, and the perfect simplicity of crostini al olio. More on each of these on Wednesday!