One can’t be in Tuscany and not be overwhelmed with the all-consuming beauty. I have been taken, as I have said, by the simple kindness of the people that have been abundantly generous to me and mine. I would be remiss without acknowledging, however, how the actual landscape and architecture stirs up much emotion inside of me-the history that it represents certainly is part of it- but I think there is more to it.
On a recent tour with our friend Starr, from travelstotuscany.com, we were walking up to the top of Cortona. Starr was brilliantly speaking- while we were struggling with every step to make it to the top. (The struggle is real- these people must not ever have to work out because those hills will kill you- and I LOVE IT.) As I looked around and looked back at Starr I was immediately envious of the fact that she lived in this beautiful Etruscan town. Daily, she and her family, are surrounded by the kind of beauty and history that cannot be captured, only experienced- and they are LIVING IT!
We were standing in front of a church named Church of San Niccolo, which was built in the 15th century. We were unable to go in but a fresco by Luca Signorelli’s is in this church. He was a great Renaissance artist who was born in Cortona. The Diocese Museum here has many of his works. We also visited the Duomo in Orvieto with a brilliant painting that should be a must see for anyone visiting Tuscany. I found myself imagining the days that he painted. I longed to know what his conditions would have been like. I was in awe of the fact that he walked those same hills and saw many if not most of the same sights that my eyes were having the privilege of focusing on right that very moment. I was grateful and humbled to be afforded such brilliant experiences that would forever be stamped on our hearts.
As we walked on we exited the walls through one of the famous archways- a gateway to the city- I again was astounded by the solid structure itself (perplexed and astonished by the enormity being as the builders were not afforded modern conveniences) as well as ideas dancing through my head about how it would have been to enter these very gates in Medieval days. The stories were running rampant.
During our amazing walk by the famous Bramasole from Under the Tuscan Sun- I would gaze out at the stunning valley below and yearn to know the history that was. I’m not just talking about the stuff that makes the history books (Starr rocked that) I’m also talking about ordinary families. Every place my eyes gaze I look at the doors and wondered: who crossed that threshold. What decisions were made in those walls? What meals have been prepared? Who has born? Who passed? There are years and years of undeniable history within these walls and beyond that are begging us to learn their story. My heart skips a beat and I feel the excitement boiling over. Every time I walk into the walls I get excited for the beauty that is encapsulated there- each time finding something new to tickle my curiosity. This is a place that exudes art, music, culture, peace and family.
On December 8- we we were privileged to experience the Tree Lighting Ceremony. The SIMPLE pomp and circumstance surrounding it were magical- but not as captivating as stealing glances at the families experiencing this tradition together. Generations of family members were pushing strollers up these steep hills to come and witness this simply beautiful tree be lighted. If there could have been a bubble placed over Piazza della Repubblica it would have been bursting with love and peace.
Although a bit surreal, the utter sweetness was so appreciated. The tradition and symbolism of this sweet time were apparent. Clearly, families attended these special events as one.
…. And then it hit me…. I know why this place has a piece of my heart. I know why I yearn to keep driving up there for a stroll or to go say a prayer. I’m piecing together why this place still looks the way it did back then. I’m understanding why I want to enter every door and ask them their story. I’m realizing why I find myself staring at the locals having a meal. It’s about family. These families make the landscape and the architecture more beautiful because their energy and their souls are flowing through these inner walls like water (or good wine hee hee). They preserve what they have because they find value in its history. They seem to be content with their own and they aren’t searching the world for anything because they have it right here at home-their family and the tradition that that unit carries with it. Whether it is the Cortonese’s that have been here for generation after generation or the Ex-Pat community that truly have created their own BEAUTIFUL family….each of them is content and peaceful in their life because they have what matters most- each other.