Leonardo da Vinci’s Valley

The Etruscans from 800 BC onwards drained and cultivated this fertile valley and held their Olympic games to the west of Cortona where the great burial tumuli still stand. The Romans took over the Etruscan canal network until it fell into disuse after the decline of...

At the Flick of a Finger

When we first arrived in this Tuscan valley there were only a few electricity poles strung up from the main road below.  Our neighbour Renato, who had been born in the valley, was thrilled because he could have light ‘at the flick of a finger’. The current was so...

Topsy Turvy

Some years ago young summer travellers to Scotland returned tanned on a late summer ferry from Dover to Calais. We were returning from a rainy Tuscan summer and looked at them enviously. One vivid memory was of a visit to Perugia. A host of umbrellas hurried along the...

The Pattern of Centuries

A few years ago I went to the archives of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to find out when the Tuscan mountainsides were first terraced. I had already walked through every room in the famous picture collection, hoping to find landscape replacing the gold of heaven in...

Castles A>D

The Lombards moved south from modern-day Hungary in the 7th century A.D. to set up their kingdoms of Benevento and Spoleto. They passed by the Etruscan and later Roman hilltop city of Cortona to rule from a network of castles. Suspicious of cities, they chose to...