From Lake Trasimeno in the Italian region of Umbria we were able to get to Cortona in Tuscany in just half an hour.
Cortona was quite a large hilltop town compared to the ones we had already visited but that day we were able to find a designated parking spot for our campervan with no trouble at all.
Better still, instead of having to slog up hundreds of steps or toil up a steep hill path, there were a series of escalators to carry us up to the city gates.
Like all the Italian hilltop villages and towns, Cortona had beautiful narrow streets and alleyways. Fantastic views – tick. Amazing wine bars and restaurants – tick. Glorious renaissance buildings – tick. Stately palazzos and churches – tick. Wonderful shops – tick.
The thing that made this particular Italian hilltop town stand out (apart from being the town in which the book and film “Under the Tuscan Sun” was set), was its absolutely excellent museum – the Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca which is situated in the Palazzo Casali.
Despite its name, the museum has items on display not only from the city’s Etruscan past but also from Roman, and Egyptian times, as well as art and artefacts from the Medieval and Renaissance eras.
Among its most famous ancient artefacts is a bronze Etruscan hanging lamp, found at Fratta near Cortona in 1840. It is thought that the lamp originated from an important Etruscan religious shrine of around the second half of the 4th century BC.
We arrived at our next stop Arezzo at night and found a great spot to stay just outside the city but the wind was extremely wild overnight and the next day we woke to grey rain laden skies.
Despite the prospect of rain we made our way up the hillside (again with the aid of escalators) and found the cathedral which unfortunately closed to visitors that day.
Near the cathedral we found a Palazzo in which there was a great exhibition and short film about Arezzo’s annual festival called the Saracen Joust which dates back to the Middle Ages.
The joust is a contest in which horseback riders charge at a wooden target attached to a carving of a Saracen king and score points according to accuracy.
The riders represent different parts of town and differentiate themselves by wearing variously coloured costumes of medieval knights.
The whole town comes out to watch and almost everybody dresses in medieval costume and supports their rider very loudly and enthusiastically.
As we reached the massive and stunning main square (where the jousting contest takes place) it started to pour with rain so we ducked into a conveniently placed wine bar and had a very nice lunch.
It was still raining when we’d finished our lunch so we made a dash for the fort (Fortezza Medicea) which was beautifully restored but lacked the atmosphere of the fortress in Castiglione del largo.
The views from the fortress are meant to be spectacular but sadly the heavy rain meant that we couldn’t enjoy them.
The weather having got the better of us for the first time during our entire trip, we decided to retreat to our home on wheels for the rest of the day.