Life at Villa Laura or Bramasole (for all you romantics, me included) was amazing! Our surreal week in this beautiful place, with a view out every window, wasn’t long enough. It’s easy to see how this glorious setting motivated and rejuvenated author Frances Mayes when she came here to start over and discover beauty, love, and life as perhaps it’s meant to be lived.
Photo Credit: Skip Shumpes
The countryside is breathtaking—rolling hills, tall cypress trees and colorful sunsets that inspire you to look up and thank our Creator for the indescribable beauty that is this earth.
Having seen the movie Under the Tuscan Sun and read the book, I was eager to actually experience the village of Cortona where much of the action takes place. The picturesque, Tuscan town is in the Chianti region, which is known for its wonderful wines. Expectations were exceeded!
As is common in many villages in Italy, a medieval, Etruscan wall surrounds the town, which sits atop a hill and overlooks the beautiful valleys below. The narrow streets are paved with cobblestones and lined with small artisan shops and eateries.
Photo Credit: Skip Shumpes
The food and wine here are plentiful, whether it’s the quick shot of espresso or a more leisurely lunch or dinner. The people of Cortona are eager to share their warm hospitality with Americans.
A few notable restaurants dot the hills surrounding Cortona, one a Michelin star recipient—Relais Il Falconiere. We enjoyed a relaxing dinner in this spot, which is housed in a 17th century residence set among the vineyards and hills. The home has been transformed into a small, luxurious hotel and spa and is a member of the distinguished Relais & Chateaux.
The restaurant is a romantic, elegant and inviting venue that offers a choice of a tasting menu or items a la carte. We chose the latter. The rose-colored rack of lamb was exquisite, and the olive crusted filet of tuna divine—all you would expect and more from a Michelin ranked spot. The prices are also about what you would expect at a Relais & Chateaux.
Most of the restaurants in this region are incredibly, reasonably priced. Perhaps one of our best dining experiences was had at Agrisalotto, about a 10-15 minute drive from town. The sidewalk leading up to the restaurant is a luscious arbor of wisterias. The dining room in this charming spot is all glass, giving you a beautiful view of the glorious countryside during daylight.
The gorgonzola and pear stuffed raviolis at Agrisalotto with a light, pear cream sauce laced with delicate Tuscan saffron threads was one of my favorite pasta dishes of the entire vacation.
And steak fans, Agrisalotto features the famous Chianina beef– Il Gigante Bianco, the world’s largest cattle. The bulls are nearly six feet tall! This delicious beef is historically featured as the Bistecca alla Fiorentina.
Dining in the town of Cortona is also a part of the Tuscan dream. How can it not be romantic when you’re dining in centuries old stone buildings that have been beautifully updated! If only walls could talk.
Ristorante La Bucaccia was our first night out. My pork dish with apples and prunes was simple and delicious as was the beautiful layered Italian cream dessert created and composed tableside by the proprietor, who was quite a charmer I might add!
One of the highlights this night was unexpectedly seeing one of our Goodtaste.tv viewers from Houston, Kathy Miller! It IS a small world. (Kathy, my apologies for the blurry photo)
I’d recommend lunch or dinner at Bottega Baracchi. The décor is a combination of old world Tuscan with a very contemporary flair. The wine list was good and so was the food. I still dream about the mascarpone stuffed raviolis with fava beans—delish—and the delightful artichoke salad with generous parmesan shavings.
Another night we dined at Ristorante Preludio where the food and service were fantastic. The stuffed pheasant with truffle shavings [below] was not only a sight to behold but scrumptious to the last bite, and the triple chocolate mousse was quite the finale.
The shopping in Cortona is great fun whether it’s leather goods, linens or the beautiful papers that this region of Italy is known for. For the serious shopper interested in beautiful jewelry and shoes, Del Brenna’s boutique is a must do on your list. The shop is exquisite—the service top shelf–even your significant other will enjoy this one…
After all, your visit begins with a glass of Prosecco bubbling with gold and silver flakes. Tres bellisima. Del Brenna’s shoe and jewelry designs are uniquely elegant and are presented as fine works of art displayed in glass cases…as you can see on their website here – and yes, they do ship to the US. 🙂
In between the shopping and gastronome, there were some wonderful Tuscan winery visits. More on that next. BGTW, a big thank you to At&t for mobilizing my world while away and to Corporate Travel Planners for getting our incredible group together and finding the gorgeous Villa Laura.