Easter Under the Tuscan Snow

Easter in Tuscany sounded perfect… and why not use this long weekend to finally visit Cortona, the quintessential hilltown made famous by Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun! The medieval tower standing above town on the hillside, the 16th century Medici fortress at the top of town, the steep narrow streets and alleyways you wander as you ascend to the top.

Although we awoke to a snowy morning, it was one of our most memorable and eventful Easters! We started the day with a walk up the winding streets to Santuario di Santa Margherita for mass, by now in what had turned to pouring rain. Along the way I somehow spilled a full bottle of water in my purse… that was fun cleaning it out in the rain on one of the hilltown’s walls. 🙂 Made it to church on time for the ninety minute mass in what was a very cold church. But who can complain when you’re sitting in an Italian church listening to Italian?

After mass, we headed down to Ristorante Preludio (Via Guelfa 11) for what would be one of the biggest and best meals we’ve ever had! Luwanda, at our hotel Villa Marsilli, reserved us the last table, small and by the front door, for this Italian feast. Sitting in their Renaissance palazzo setting surrounded by local Italians, our fabulous waiter Mirco lead us through this 6 course dinner.

  • First: Tomato Puree Soup with Olive Oil and Crostini paired with a Champagne Aperitif
  • Second: Tuscan/Umbrian Antipasta including Quiches and Spinach Polenta paired with Pinot Grigio
  • Third: Pici Pasta (yummy thick spaghetti like) with Mushrooms and Ravioli stuffed with Pumpkin Butter Creme Sauce
  • Fourth: Lamb Crusted with Herbs and Baked Potatoes paired with Vino Nobile de Montepulciano
  • Fifth: Pork Medallions wrapped in Bacon & Onion with Baked Stuffed Artichoke
  • Sixth: Chocolate Bomb filled with Dark Chocolate & Nutella drizzled with Strawberries and Blood Orange Sauce paired with a Muscato.

By the end of course five, I literally couldn’t eat another bite. Mirco brought over a Grappa digestivo, while it tasted like rubbing alcohol, it amazingly gave me room for dessert  and espresso. It truly was a gastronomic feast!

We rolled back to Villa Marsilli to enjoy the jacuzzi tub and views of the Valdichiana countryside and Lago Trasimeno. The staff at this lovely four star hotel situated just as you enter town is fantastic! Each evening they serve up cocktails, like the “bomb martini,” we enjoyed by the fire.

Cortona is full of history. It was settled before the Etruscans (who Tuscany is named after) around 8th century BC but the Etruscans put it on the map. The area is full of their sites.

While we didn’t enjoy a lot of outdoor cafe time this trip, I can imagine the streets and Piazza Signorelli bustling with people in the warmer months. We enjoyed roaming the streets of cute shops. Via Nazionale, the only flat street in town, is the main thoroughfare. Galleria Il Pozzo (10/12), located in 11th century courtyard excavated well, has great art and treasures. We picked up lovely ceramics at Ceramiche D’Arte (N.A. Vallone, 50) including a Christmas ornament with Cortona’s city symbol.

Two other fabulous restaurants we enjoyed during our weekend…

  • La Locanda (Piazza di Pescheria, 3): Yummy Spinach & Bean and an amazing Ribollita Soup. In nice weather there is a balony overlooking the main piazza.
  • La Grotta (Piazza Baldelli, 3 ): Dine on delicious homemade pasta in the stony grotto like rooms. We loved the Spinach & Ricotta Balls and Eggplant Parmigiana.

Visit the gallery for all the photos from our trip. It was a true Italian Easter Under the Tuscan Snow!