Cortona, Chiantishire

York Membery found much to savour when he paid a visit to the medieval town of Cortona for the Tuscan Sun Festival.

Sitting on a restaurant terrace, looking out across the sun-baked Chiana Valley below to Lake Trasimeno in the distance, I sipped at a glass of wine. It would be hard to imagine a more fitting place to enjoy a Renaissance-style lunch than Cortona, a charming medieval town high in the Tuscan hills.

Before the arrival of the main course, our host spoke about the Renaissance-style palate. ‘Wealthy Cortonians were very partial to cinnamon,’ explained Diego Zancani, a Professor of Italian at Balliol College, Oxford, who has a special interest in Renaissance-era literature and cuisine. ‘However, they ate very little in the way of fruit and vegetables.’

The lunch was among the highlights of the Tuscan Sun Festival – a two-week long extravaganza of classical music, literature, food and wine. Staged every summer for the last five years, it was the brainchild of the American writer Frances Mayes, who bought a home in the town after falling in love with the area, a move which inspired her best-selling novel Under the Tuscan Sun.

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