The daily diary of a wandering restaurateur
May 9 - Cortona

It was after noon before we finally got organized enough to head off for the day's adventure. Since it was now a real work day, the first project was to find an Alfa Romeo dealer and get my headlight fixed. Finding the dealer was not that tough -- we had seen a sign just outside Magione -- but the concern was whether they would be open. Businesses in Italy tend to close somewhere between 1:00 and 2:00 and re-open around 4:00 or 5:00. This is a remarkably civilized idea if you live here, but a real hassle if you are on vacation time.

We slid into the Alfa dealership about 12:30 and discovered they closed at 1:00 ... but clean living and self-denial paid off again. As it turned out, the problem was just a burned out bulb (halogen lights are so much easier than sealed beams!) so it only took about 20 minutes and eleven Euro to get me back on the road. Now the trick is to see if the rental company will actually reimburse me.

Both cars were getting a bit low on fuel, so we thought it best to address that issue next. The good news is that it is easier to find gas stations open than it used to be a few years ago. The bad news is that they are mostly self-service with a system that we have yet to figure out. If you slide enough bills into the slot (forget trying a bank card, even though it says it will take one) and push enough buttons on the pump, somehow it will dispense diesel fuel. I sure would feel more comfortable if I knew for sure how the system worked, however.

The difficult work of the day having been accomplished, we opted for a trip to Cortona. Margene and I will be based outside this town for all of next week, so we "didn't want to see too much" but the rest of the crew was interested, so we looked on it as a scouting trip.

Cortona was the locale for "Under the Tuscan Sun" -- both the book and the movie -- so it has more of a tourist feel than we have encountered thus far on the trip. I don't know why hearing English spoken in the streets should have been unnerving, but it seemed strange. The crowds we have encountered from time to time on this trip have mostly been Italians.

We had lunch on the patio of a little cafe ... under the Tuscan sun. Rick and Jo went for the Italian interpretation of a hamburger, Don and Sharon voted for panini and Margene and I had the quattro formaggio (4-cheese) pizza. It worked out all the way around but the sandwiches were not the only things at the table that were toasted! By the time we got through, sun screen seemed like a better idea than another bottle of wine! Fortunately, there was a gelato stand right around the corner that helped drop the body temperature a few degrees! I really do love gelato -- it must be one of the basic food groups of Italy -- and wonder why nobody has made it work in the US. Perhaps another side project ...

For dinner we opted to have sort of an indoor picnic at the house. We didn't have the energy to drive anywhere. Italian law is pretty strict about drinking and driving although we have yet to see a policeman making a road stop. Still, the roads are winding and narrow and discretion is the better part of three months in traction!

A Monday in Italy

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