Our drive from San Marino to Tuscany on Saturday took a lot of twists and hair pin turns, maybe 2 hours worth, but the scenery made it worth it. There was little traffic, and even though our GPS went blank multiple times, we arrived on time. A good handling vehicle, a free upgrade from a Fiat to an Alfa Romeo, helped.
Cetona is a hill town of 3,000 people but only a fraction of that is in the old historic city area. It is an area heavily dependent on wine and olive oil production.
Some stone age settlements have been discovered at the foot of this hill town, and there is a museum and park in this small town devoted to that.
This is just one of hundreds, maybe more, of Italian hills towns, built for defensive purposes against any number of invaders. Many have been abandoned (one report recently said there were 20,000 ghost towns in Italy) as populations have left for better job opportunities. But in Tuscany, and even in neighboring Umbria, tourists have helped keep these hill towns alive. Small Cetona itself once caught the eye of famed fashion designer Valentino (Garavani), and he and his ex-husband summered just above the main square. We are told the property now is for sale.
Cetona like most of the others is loaded with a wealth that cannot easily be capitalized on. There are several churches, for example, housing valuable works of art (one of which has been turned into a local meeting hall) and the massive copper gutters on nearly every property alone must be worth a small fortune.
Nothing says “Italy” like a hill town, and that is why we picked one at random for this part of our trip. And just when we thought we couldn’t get any luckier on the accommodations front, our Cetona apartment might be the best. It is two stories, two bedrooms, two baths, two fireplaces, a large apartment for a Medieval village. It is just perfect; brick, stone, marble, and authentic and in a building that dates back to the 1500’s.
The only difficulty was with directions (and we blamed that on our rental car GPS system that failed), and, in a small town where few speak English, it made getting to the house a challenge. Everyone in town, including the local police tried to help, but the first five people we tried, although animated, spoke no English. Then we found someone who did speak English, and he was good friends with our landlord, and in minutes he was on the scene.