The Surrounding Area

The Casa del Mulino is 15 to 20 minutes on foot to the local bar and general store. Turn left at the traffic lights on the main Cortona-Arezzo road and Bar Bardi is on your right about 50 yards along the road to Cortona. Buses to Arezzo and Cortona and Camucia stop nearby and tickets can also be bought there. Train information in English is available through Trenitalia.

There are two train stations. Camucia-Cortona, on the plain below Cortona, is the nearest station to the house on the Rome-Florence railway line; however some of the fast trains do not stop there. The other (more distant and major) station is Terontola-Cortona, also on the Florence-Rome line, which has a branch line to Perugia, Assisi, Foligno, etc. There is a good train service to Orvieto (one hour), Florence (an hour and a half), Rome (two hours), Arezzo (half an hour), and Castiglione del Lago (half an hour). Travel to destinations not mentioned above will usually require taking a train to Arezzo or Florence in order to catch a connecting train there. Express trains sometimes have a modest supplement. Tickets must be ‘validated’ with the date before travel using the small yellow machines available on the platforms. Buying tickets on the train incurs an extra charge even if the ticket office at Camucia is closed! In this case, tickets can be bought in a local bar, at the travel agents on the road from the station, or in the Tourist Information Office in Cortona.

Buses go from Arezzo to Siena and to the lesser known but attractive Tuscan area of the Casentino; Poppi, Bibbiena and Chiusi della Verna (the mountain where St Francis received the stigmata). They are all in the Upper Arno Valley and the Casentino is famous for its castles. Vallombrosa is also a beauty spot. By car you are 10 minutes from Cortona, 20 minutes from Castiglione del Lago and Arezzo, 1 hour from Assisi, Orvieto, Siena, Cittá di Castello and San Sepolcro, one and a half hours from Florence, Todi, Gubbio, Spello (Pinturicchio) and Trevi; 3 hours from Rome and Urbino.

There are tourist offices in Cortona (Palazzo Casale in Piazza Signorelli) and Arezzo (station square, to the left facing the station: they offer free leaflets). Look out for concerts, opera, plays, jousting, crossbow competitions and local festivals – much goes on from Easter till the grape harvest in September. Then there is the celebrated Palio in Siena in July and August; the medieval parade and cask-rolling race at Montepulciano on the last Sunday in August and the highly rewarding joust (Giostra del Saraceno) at Arezzo in June and on the first Sunday in September. The international choral festival is also held there in early September. Among recreational activities, riding, cycle hire and tennis are available – details can be obtained from the Cortona tourist office.

The Casa del Mulino is ideally situated to enjoy the paintings and landscape of Piero della Francesca. Apart from Arezzo and Urbino, his birthplace at San Sepolcro also has major works of his, along with the nearby village of Monterchi. Cittá di Castello and San Sepolcro are both quiet, unspoilt towns in the Tiber Valley, worth a visit alone for their atmospheric townscapes. They also carry on some interesting artisan work and San Sepolcro (like Gubbio) has an annual crossbow competition. The equally rewarding region of Umbria is best known for St Francis and extends from Assisi and Gubbio to many other sites associated with the saint, such as the hermitage of Le Celle, just outside Cortona.

Close at hand is the beautiful and unforgettable Lake Trasimeno which has many attractions, including free beaches. It is widely used for swimming, sailing, windsurfing, paddle-boating or fishing. Various craft can be hired from Castiglion del Lago as well as from Passignano. Ferries to the islands start from Castiglion del Lago, Tuoro and Passignano and one can spend a relaxing day exploring their hidden beauties. The Isola Polvese is a wildlife sanctuary, while Isola Maggiore is more developed. There is a free beach with climbing frames at Castiglion del Lago, together with a shady picnic and play area by the lake. Easily accessible around the lake, as well as beyond Perugia and around Arezzo are evocative small hill towns, steeped in history, such as Castiglion Fiorentino, Cittá della Pieve, Castiglion del Lago and Panicale. Hannibal’s famous victory over the Roman army of Flaminius is commemorated near Tuoro by the Lake, while the castle of the 14th-century English mercenary, Sir John Hawkwood, at Montecchio on the road from Cortona to Arezzo, is open one morning a week (usually Saturday). Beyond Perugia there are towns where you can explore the narrow streets and unspoilt squares, enjoy the art, food and wine – try Torgiano (with its comprehensive wine museum, the first in the world), Montefalco (Benozzo Gozzoli frescoes) or Spello (for art by Pinturicchio). From the house you look straight across the plain (Val di Chiana) to Montepulciano with its famous ‘vino nobile’ and the perfect Renaissance town, Pienza, close by.

In addition, about 7 miles north-west of Siena is a walled castle, Monteriggione, and also in the Sienese area is Montalcino with fine wines (Brunello and Rosso), a Medici fortress and other interesting buildings. In a moon-like landscape of tilled land is the monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore with attractive frescoes by Sodoma. The Romanesque church of S. Antimo is built in a kind of translucent alabaster. It is near Castelnuovo del’Abate, and the abbey of S. Galgano has a sword driven into a stone, reminiscent of Arthurian legends. San Gimignano, with its famous towers and its own wine (Vernaccia), lies half an hour beyond Siena, and Volterra, is half an hour further along that road, beyond San Gimignano. Many places offer free wine tasting.