When I arrive at Carmucia-Cortona, the station is nearly abandoned, not even a biglieterria, there’s a taxi stand but no taxis. The only other person is a sullen-looking teenage girl. I call the hotel, mixing up the hotel and the taxi numbers, and speak to the clerk at the hotel thinking he’s a taxi dispatcher, then am annoyed when he can’t tell me exactly when a cab will arrive. But we get it sorted out, and eventually a gentleman drives up and inquires whether I’m going to B&B Dolce Maria, the bed and breakfast I have reservations at, so I know he’s not just a random creeper.
He drives, up, up, up, hills and we enter the walled city of Cortona, turning down streets so narrow I have no idea how he is manuevering this large van through the space.
We arrive at Via Fontebella, in front of a door that has almost no distinction other than its blue color and a sign taped to the front. A woman leans out the window and confirms we are in the right place.
I go up two flights of dim steps and enter what looks like a small breakfast area, where Paola, the owner and proprietress, checks me in by hand, notes my upcoming birthday (berat-day, she pronounces it), and gives me a map of the city before showing me up to my room. It is palatial compared to some other rooms I’ve had. There’s an alcove with two twin beds, an armoire, a table with two chairs and a queen bed. The door locks from the outside and inside with a brass skeleton key.
I head out, just in time to see the sunset, but my camera battery dies just as the sun is descending, so I catch the last glimspes of it. This is when I learn the vitality of having spare batteries out of the package, because apparently Energizer is packaged by the same people who built Fort Knox. Also, the sun goes down quickly.
I walk around but whether it’s a lack of sleep thing or what, the sense of adventure I had this morning in Assisi seems to be eluding me a little bit here, at least tonight. I feel more timid. I’m still inclined to go up and down the narrow vicoli, but not as much as I was earlier. I’m not quite content to retrace my steps on main streets, but I don’t not do it.
I am determined to find a restaurant that serves fava beans and pecorino, but to no avail, so I find my way back to the restaurant that’s attached to the hotel, run by Paola and her husband. It’s half-full and there’s a fireplace. It ends up being perfect. I say “vegetariana,” hoping I have the word right, and they bring me ribollita, an all-vegetable antipasti dish, and a salad of fennel and blood oranges with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I’m borderline exhausted and my feet hurt, so the homey atmosphere is just what I need.
My only quibble is the small language block I have when I try to ask directions to a ladies’ room and learn that “lavatory” or “restroom” do not translate. I don’t really care to ask the location of the “toilet,” it just seems a little crass to me. Oh, well.
My tiredness must be written on my face, because Paola comes over and tells me she’ll make me dessert to take up to my room. She brings over a dish piled with chocolate chip and almond cantucci — small, hard biscotti-like cookies – and sends me on my way. I make my way upstairs, where I drag the nightstand into the bathroom and turn that into a bench and the bidet into a foot bath. By 9:30, I’m in bed. Tomorrow will be another early day….