Here are some simple things you can do while at Il Rifugio or in Cortona. They are all free and listed in no particular order.
Outdoor Markets and Antique Fairs
Although this activities may not end up being free, it starts that way and with a little of willpower you could just look.
Markets (usually in the morning)
Saturday - Cortona and Assisi
Monday - Chiusi and Gubbio
Tuesday - Arezzo, Terontola, Sinalunga and Mercatale
Wednesday - Castiglion del Lago, Siena, Spoleto and Umbertide
Thursday - Camucia, Citta' di Castello, Deruta, Lucignano and Montepulciano
Friday - Acquaviva, Castglion Fiorentino, Tuoro and Pienza
1st weekend of every month - Arezzo at Piazza Grande
3rd weekend of every month - Lucca at Piazza San Martino
3rd Sunday of every month - Siena at Piazza Mercado
Last Sunday of each month - Florence at Piazza dei Ciompi
Every Sunday - Rome at Porta Portese in Trastevere
Last two weeks in August and 1st few days of September - The "National Market of Ancient Furniture" Cortona at Casali Palace & Vagnotti Palace.
Walk to the wall in Piazza Garibaldi, look up and to the left at lake Trasimeno and think about the fact that the lake dominated most of the Chiana valley in front of you until the Etruscans and later the Romans engineered ways to drain the lake from the shallow areas into its current size and shape. Also from the wall in Piazza Garibaldi, if it's a very clear day, look at the tallest peak of the mountain range across the valley. Down and to the right, notice a cluster of buildings on the face of the smaller mountains in the foreground. This is the famous hill-town, Montepulciano.
A walk in the park
There are four roads that connect at Piazza Garibaldi. With your back to the valley, facing the buildings, take the level road to your right between the road that goes down and out of town and the one that goes up in front of the bank. Walk past the church on your left and into the entrance of the park where you will see a fountain in the center with two bronze dolphin-like creatures. To the left of the fountain you will see a large amphitheater with stone steps and seating where you can watch a film under the stars on a worm summer evening or see lovers discuss their future on a sunny day. Best of all, just sit and reflect on the moment. This is also a great spot to relax or read on one of the park benches surrounding the fountain or just watch the locals walk by. Beyond the formal fountain area, you will come to a gathering place where children and their parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents gather to look or play with the children. I can't help wondering what the oldest family members are thinking when they watch and shout advice to the children, grand children and great grand children between conversations with their friends on the bench. So many times you see the youngest and oldest family members communicating without words, often with their smiling faces as little as an inch apart and with birthdays as much as a century apart. As you continue on there is a straight level (unusual in Cortona) tree-lined gravel road that has many interesting wild flowers, places to sit and spectacular views of the valley below. This path will end at the tennis courts where the road is paved (with only a very occasional car on it) and winds around to the right, eventually ending at the little village of Torioni.
Drive or walk to Le Celle (the cell) from Cortona. This is a 'must see' and just about anyone can give you directions. Le Celle is a stunning example of a Franciscan convent set 3-1/2 km from Cortona on the slopes of Monte S. Egidio, over the Vignone Torrent. Saint Francis had it built in the early 1200's and today you can still see the cell where the Saint stayed. A lot of people come to pay tribute to St Francis' cell: a narrow quadrangular room, 1.80 x 2.50 m. and only 1.90 m. high. The Saint's bed is still preserved inside, as well as an old sand-glass and a copy of a painting of the Madonna and Child in front of which St. Francis used to pray. Through a small window in the wall facing the Torrent one can see the place Beato Guidoâs cell, later destroyed by a flood, was built.
Sit on the steps
In the main piazza, Piazza Ripublica, you can't miss sitting on the steps to the comune (town council) building with it's big clock tower. Locals, students, tourists, pigeons, and cats alike, all sit on the steps seemingly with the same purpose in mind, to see and be seen. Hundreds of years of foot scuffing and butt rubbing have worn the pietra steps into definite comfort zones for sitting, waiting, watching and being watched. See you at the steps...
Picnic in the Chestnut Grove or the Olive Grove
Just a five to ten minute walk from the house, the chestnut grove is a very peaceful and beautiful place to have a picnic or just hang around.
Roast some chestnuts
Another reason to walk up to the Chestnut grove is to gather chestnuts for roasting. Just slit the outer shell so they don't blow up and roast them in the oven, fireplace or pizza oven. We have even made pasta sauce with chestnuts by dicing and sauteing them in garlic and olive oil.
Hike to a view of the lake
In less than 30 minutes you can hike from the house to the top of the property at Il Rifugio and then through our neighbor's property to a spot in Umbria where you can look down at a beautiful view of Lake Trasimeno. There is a map with directions at the house.