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"... mother of Troy and grandmother of Rome" (Virgil - Aeneid III and IV)



Cortona is a small but fascinating city in the province of Arezzo, situated on a commanding hill, and overlooking Lake Trasimeno. Cortona is steeped in Franciscan memories. Saint Margaret of Cortona, who has been called the Mary Magdalene of the Franciscans, and Brother Elias, who has been called it’s Judas, both lived here.
Gabriele D'Annunzio celebrated Cortona among Italy’s silent cities.

Cortona, hometown to so many famous painters from Luca Signorelli and Piero della Francesca to Pietro Berrettini da Cortona to Gino Severini, boasts extremely old Umbrian and Etruscan origins (dating back to around the 6th century B.C.).
It was defeated at the hands of the Romans (who called it Corito) and was then invaded by the Goths during the 5th century. In the 13th century it declared itself a free-governing municipality and in the 14th century recognized the rule of the group of hamlets, which exercised its supremacy over the neighboring towns.

The road to Cortona from the valley starts near the Melone Etruscan tombs.
Located on the outskirts of the town are the Etruscan tombs, known as Tanella di Pitagora (2nd century B.C.) in the district of Cannaia. There are also Etruscan tombs ad hypogeum from the 6th and 7th centuries B.C. in the locality of Sodo. On the way up the hill you'll pass more Etruscan tombs, olive groves, and the Renaissance Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio.

Cortona’s historical centre comprises Palazzo Comunale (1241) with its embattled tower, Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo (1250) and Palazzo Pretorio (1268). The Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta as known as the Cathedral or Duomo rests on the ruins visible on the facade of the ancient parish church. It is one of the oldest if not the oldest church of the city. In the immediate vicinity of the town centre are three religious buildings of note. The 11th century cathedral of Santa Maria del Calcinaio (built in 1485 by engineer and architect Francesco di Giorgio (1439-1501,) this church is a fine example of Renaissance architecture with its octagonal-domed shape), the 13th century church of S. Agostino and the 13th century Franciscan Santuario delle Celle, with its impressive Gothic portal. An absolute must during your stay is a visit to the Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca (the Etruscan Museum) that houses many Etruscan artefacts from the 5th century.

Severini's Via Crucis (20th century) accompanies the mistic ascent linking the inhabited centre with the sanctuary of S. Margherita which, in its turn, is overshadowed by the powerful defences of the Girifalco fortress.


Luca Signorelli, Communion of the Apostles (detail), 1512, Museo Diocesano, Cortona

The Musea Diocesano is housed in the former church of the Compagnia del Gesù (Piazza del Duomo 1) and contains some of the finest masterpieces of Tuscan art, ranging from the 13th to the 19th century. These include the Annunciazione by Fra Angelico, the Madonna in Glory by Bartolomeo della Gatta, Estasi di S. Margherita by Crespi and the Deposition by Luca Signorelli, as well as the dramatic Crucifix panel by Pietro Lorenzetti. Other highlights in the collections of the museum include some fine furnishings brought here from churches in the diocese of Cortona and the extraordinary Parato Passerini, made according to original designs by Raffaellino del Garbo and Andrea del Sarto.


Luca Signorelli, Lamentation over the Dead Christ (detail), 1502, Museo Diocesano

Fra Angelico, The Annunciation
Museo Diocesano, Cortona

The panel of the Lamentation in its original arrangement, mounted in an antique frame with pillars in which were represented seven saints, once enriched the scenography of the high altar of the ancient church of St Margaret in Cortona. This was surely admired by Pope Leo X when, during a stop on his way to Bologna to meet Francis I of France, he visited the church in 1515. In the second half of the 1700s the painting was moved, deprived of its frame, and finally placed in the choir of the cathedral of its origin.

The Lamentation, a work done entirely the artist alone, reveals all the poetry of the painter even in the context of an unrefined style which may seem declamatory, scenic and rhetorical. In the predella that Signorelli probably painted with the help of his assistant, Gerolamo Genga, four scenes from the Passion of Christ are represented: The Prayer in the Garden, The Last Supper, The Capture and The Flagellation.
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Among Cortona's chief artistic treasures are two panels by Fra Angelico in the Diocesan Museum, an Annunciation and a Madonna and Child with Saints. In 1432 Fra Angelico executes an altarpiece for the Church of San Domenico. The central panel, depicting the Annunciation, exemplifies the elegance and delicacy of form characteristic of Fra Angelico's oeuvre. The Annunciation repeats the design of the main panel of the Prado altarpiece in a more elaborate architectural setting.
The predella depicts six episodes in the life of the Virgin.
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A third surviving work by the same artist is the fresco above the entrance to the church of San Domenico, likewise painted during his stay at Cortona in 1436.


The Church of San Doménico, outside the town walls, near the public gardens, has a completely intact 15th century altar piece by Lorenzo di Niccolò, and works by Fra Angelico and Signorelli.
The Church of Saint Dominic was constructed in the Gothic style at the beginning of the fifteenth century directly outside the city walls in the area of the ancient gateway of Peccioverardi, which is now demolished. It was part of the monastery of the Dominicans which is now for the most part destroyed.
The facade is simple and harmonious in the lunette over the doorway there is a fresco by Fra Angelico. The interior has a single nave. Despite the manipulations of the past and the baroque altars, the church has retained its primitive beauty, especially enhanced by the elegance of the archways of the apses and the high raised presbytery.
On the high altar is a triptych signed by Lorenzo di Niccolò, donated in 1440 by Cosimo and Lorenzo de' Medici. The triptych depicts the Coronation of the Virgin with other scenes which treat the Annunciation and the Crucifixion.

In the chapel is the Madonna with Angels and Saints by Luca Signorelli. The church also contained the Annunciation and the Triptych of Fra Angelico, a triptych by Sasseta and an Assumption by Bartolomeo della Gatta, works which are now to be found in the Diocese Museum.

Above the center, half-way up to the Fortezza, beyond a cypress-lined courtyard, is the 15th century Chiesa di San Nicolò. In 1440 Saint Bernardino of Siena founded the Compagnia di San Niccolò there.
The 15th-century church has a small porch with slender columns and the interior contains marvellous wood-coffered ceiling in addition to paintings by Luca Signorelli: the magnificent double sided standard with The Deposition on one side and The Madonna and Child on the other side, and a fresco, Madonna with child surrounded by various saints.. Ring the bell and ask the custodian to open the door to flip the panels.
The church of Saint Nicholas was constructed at the beginning of the fifteenth century in Romantic style with an elegant portico on the facade and on the left side.

At the very top of Cortona stand two impressive monuments. The first is the 14th century Santuario di S. Margherita da Cortona (the sanctuary of S. Margherita from Cortona) containing the Gothic tomb of the saint herself. The second is the Fortezza Medicea (or Fortezza del Girifalco), built in 1556 on a rock, from where views over the Val di Chiana and Lake Trasimeno can be appreciated.

From Piazza della Pescaia, a steep path leads up to La Basilica di Santa Margherita, resting place of St Margaret of Cortona, the town's patron saint. Her tomb, with marble angels lifting the lid of her sarcophagus, was created in the mid-fourteenth century, and is now mounted on the wall to the left of the chancel, while her remains are on display in a glass coffin directly behind the chancel.


La Basilica di Santa Margherita was constructed on the site of a church dating back to the 900s (also proposed to be originally the site of an Etruscan temple). Santa Margherita di Laviano died in one of the cells here on Feb. 22, 1297. Most of the current structure dates to a remodel by Guiseppe Castelucci in 1895.
Other than the precious works of art preserved in its interior, on the altar there is a silver urn containing the body of Santa Margherita.

La Basilica di Santa Margherita can be reached on foot on the old road leading to the Convent of Le Celle or walking through the old part of town through the narrow alleyways of the quarter called Poggio San Marco.

Cortona is surrounded by defensive walls, the foundations of which date back to the Etruscan period and are easily recognised as such by their cyclopian construction, so different from the regular rows of large squared blocks laid down in Roman times and smaller ones from the mediaeval period. Tightly-clustered mediaeval houses pack the slopes, leading upwards to an open green area in the middle of which is the huge Medici fortress, the Fortezza Medicea.


La Basilica di Santa Margherita



The Renaissance took hold anew of the ideal of the centralised ground-plan for church-building. Two of the churches in Cortona are prime examples of two different principles of Renaissance construction, the Santa Maria Nuova and the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio.


Santa Maria Nuova

Santa Maria Nuova, built by Giorgio Vasari in 1554, is a church of square ground-plan. This building is of extreme interest for its ground-plan of a Greek cross and surmounted by a main cupola which was only finished during the 17th century, a primary example of such a centralised design. Inside rise the four mighty columns on which the lantern of the cupola is supported. At the sides the four arms of the cross branch out covered with barrel-vaults, while four small cupolas arise in the spaces of the angles. Among the works of art are the Nativity by Alessandro Allori, San Carlo Borromeo che porta la Comunione agli appestati by Baccio Ciarpi, and the Annunciation dell'Empoli. The church is unfortunately not in very good condition, and is not open for sightseeing.

Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio

Tuscan architects developing the principles laid down by Brunelleschi, constructed important churches in the last years of the 15th century. These include Santa Maria delle Carceri, at Prato, by Giuliano da Sangallo, and Santa Maria del Calcinaio by Francesco di Giorgio. Both these resemble the experiments with centrally planned churches being carried out in Milan by Leonardo and Bramente, and we know that Francesco di Giorgio was personally acquainted with Leonardo. In these churches we see the culmination of the Early Renaissance ideals of classical lightness and purity.

From the Piazza Garibaldi a twisting road with four sharp bends descends for 3 km to the southern slope of the town hill, on which stands the church of Santa Maria del Calcinaio, a beautiful domed building on a cruciform plan. The church It was built in 1484-1515 by Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439-1502) in connection with an alleged miracle-performing image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Madonna del Calcinaio (originally on the wall of a lime pit = calcinaio).
In cases like this, where the strength of the Renaissance ideal of centralized building-design is applied to a nave-construction, the eastern part of the building was generally developed into a centralized form, that would then be crowned with a large cupola, foreshadowing the cathedral at Florence. Externally the church does not appear especially remarkable, but it has been very beautifully restored within. It has unusually high arches. Here also can be discerned the distinguishing marks of Renaissance architecture: clear, geometrical forms, the combination of rectilinear forms with bowed shapes and circles, classicizing gabled windows, the colouring of the plain surface, which is maintained entirely in white.

Art in Tuscany | Francesco di Giorgio Martini
Link | web.rete.toscana.it

Chiesa di San Benedetto, built originally in the 14th century on the foundations of an Etruscan tower, was entirely rebuilt in 1722 by the Scolopi Fathers, who changed the original rectangular design into its current oval shape. In the 18th century the Florentine painter Taddeo Mazzi decorated the interior with frescoes of the Madonna and St Joseph.

Cortona hosts several events amongst which the Fiera del Rame (copperware market – late April), the Giostra dell’Archidado, a costume cross-bow competition (in May), the Steak Festival (August 15th), the Antique Fair (late August-early September), the Tuscan Sun Festival, (August).


In the eleventh century the palace was the result of the rural aristocracy of the high middle ages moving beyond their castles and establishing themselves within the urban walls of the free Comune. They were the exclusive homes of well-to-do families in contrast to the casa, the house of the commoner and the church which was the house of God and all. The aristocratic families then came to became solidly planted in public offices as well. From the 1500's to the 1700's they demonstrate their wealth and power by building palaces, from the restoration of old houses or by creating new ones. These palaces of Renaissance or Baroque architecture were adorned with family crests. At one time the interiors were rich with precious works of art, paintings, sculpture, furniture, libraries and archives which today for the most part have been stripped bare and their treasures for the most part dispersed as opposed to the churches which still contain a good part of their prestigious antique works.
The coats-of-arms or stemmi of the many noble Cortonese families can be seen in the courtyard of the Palazzo Casali as well as above the entries of many buildings in town.

Palazzo Casali (13th century, with facade by Filippo Berretini ca 1613), now houses the Museo Etrusco and the Cortona library (Biblioteca del Comune), with an extensive collection of historic documents, including over 700 manuscripts and 6,000 volumes regarding local history.

Palazzo Petrella (15 Via Guelfa). Contrary to the others it is the only one which is still inhabited by the heirs of the family which built it. It conserves in its interior notable objects of value among which are library with various parchment and paper manuscripts from the fourteenth century. The library includes a three volume manuscript containing the constitution of Cortona.

Palazzo Tomassi can be found at number 1 Via Dardano. The palace should be remembered because a good part of the artwork and furnishings held in interior, paintings, furniture, ceramics, etc, were the property of Girolamo Tommasi the last descendant of this prestigious family, and now on display at the Etruscan Academy Museum after they were donated by the widow Giulia Baldelli-Boni in the first years of this century (1932). The palace is now property of the bishopric.

Il Palazzone is located outside the massive ancient town walls, and can be reached by a pleasant walk away from the center of Cortona (about 1,5 Km: you walk from Piazzale Garibaldi on Via Gino Severini and along the way you will find several tourist signs for reaching Il Palazzone).

The decision to locate the villa outside the town, near a spring called Cumula, on a hillside of olive and cypress trees, lead to the choice of a fortified structure with a 42-meter-high tower and an impressive battlement wall from which the Trasimeno Lake can be seen.

The Renaissance palace Palazzo Passerini a Fontecumola (called Il Palazzone) was constructed in 1521 by architect G. Battista Caporali ordered by the cardinal, Silvio Passerini, whose coat of arms is on the key of the entrance arch. The paintings of Luca Signorelli can be admired in the nobleman's chapel as well as frescoes by F. Bernabei, considered one of his most prestigious students. Bernabei, called the Papacello, frescoed the hall of honour with scenes of Roman history, among which should be noted the battle of Trasimeno, the death of Marco Curzio and the head of Hasdrubal thrown into Hannibal’s camp.
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Villa Palazzone

How to reach Cortona

If you're driving, look for parking as soon as possible when you're near the top of the hill.
If you're arriving by bus you'll arrive in Piazza Garibaldi, a prime view spot. From the square, walk along Via Nazionale, Cortona's only flat street, to Cortona's center, Piazza Republica and Piazza Signorelli. Along the way you'll pass Cortona's tourist office at Via Nazionale, 42.
Cortona is reachable by train from Rome, Florence, or Arezzo. There are two stations, both below Cortona, at Terontola-Cortona or Camucia-Cortona. From either station, a bus connects to Cortona, arriving at Piazza Garibaldi, just outside the center.




In the area a must-see is the Abbey of Farneta that today houses also a small museum of Paleontological and archeological materials from the immediate area. Of interest also are the church of Saint Michael in Metelliano, the splendid castle Rocca di Pierle and the Franciscan Monastery of Le Celle. Le Celle di Cortona, a Franciscan convent, holds the spartan cell where St. Francis stayed when he preached there in 1211. It's about a 45 minute walk through the woods outside Cortona's walls. The church and gardens can be visited for free. Also close by and visible from Cortona is Lago Trasimeno, site of the legendary and bloody battle in 217 BC (the Second Punic wars of 218-201 BC) in which Hannibal's troops defeated the Romans led by Gaius Flaminius Nepote.
The Franciscan hermitage Le Celle (Convento delle Celle or Convent of the cells) is just five kilometres from Cortona at the feet of Mount Sant’Egidio. In 1211 St Francis along with a few of his followers built the first nine cells of the hermitage and the place has taken the name of Celle ever since.
The Pieve di San Michele Arcangelo with its harmonious architecture along with the great spiritual atmosphere makes it one of the most beautiful of the Aretine valleys. it was proclaimed a national monument in 1907. The church is situated at the entrance to the valley dell'Esse, about 5 kilometres from Cortona.

The Farneta Abbey, a medieval church with an interesting small paleontological museum, is situated in the Chiucio hills of the Valdichiana, on the road between Cortona and Foiano. It is an ancient abbey, founded by the Benedettini Neri (Benedictine) monks on the site of a Roman temple.
The unusual architectural features of the structure were mainly publicised from 1937 onwards, thanks to the efforts of Don Sante Felici, parish abbot of Farneta. The crypt, which was uncovered and restored through the efforts of Don Sante, is made up of three cela with barrel and cross vaults, supported by various columns of Roman origin.
The Farneta Museum is attached to the Benedictine Abbey and consists of two sections: an archaeological collection (a Roman tomb, three Etruscan travertine urns, a holy-water stoup, several Roman sculptures) alongside two 14th-century terracotta statues portraying St. Peter and St. Paul, and 16 paintings dating to the 17th century. The other section is devoted to palaeontology with fossil remains of Pliocenic fauna (a Helephas Meridionalis, a Helephas Antiquus). Address: loc. Farneta, Abbazia di Farneta. Open 9 -13 and 14 -16 on request.

Abbazia di Farneta
Le Celle, the first cell by San Francesco is located just to the right of the main entry. Sunday Mass: 10:00

Lake Trasimeno or Lago Trasimeno, is the fourth largest lake in Italy and the biggest on the peninsular. The main towns, all quite small, are Passignano sul Trasimeno, Tuoro, Monte del Lago, Torricella, S.Feliciano, S.Arcangelo, Castiglione del Lago and Borghetto. Castiglione del Lago has the longest shore, because its on the only significant peninsula of the lake. There were stories that this was an island that was joined to the shore by the Romans. Castiglione del Lago, has some Roman ruins and its main streets are structured like a chessboard in the Roman style.
All around the lake there are old small towns, and isolated castles. Between Monte del Lago and S.Feliciano there is the old Zocco castle, one of the biggest castles of the area and the only one that, inside its sandstone walls, has a still untouched medieval keep.
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The Leaning Tower of Vernazzano (around 20 m in height), on the northern shores of Trasimeno Lake, perhaps leans even more than the famous leaning tower of Pisa. This unique remnant of an ancient castle was built before 1089, when the whole castle was donated by Marchiones family to the monastery of Città di Castello. In 1202 began under control of Perugia and so this city gained the control of Northern Trasimeno. It was built on M.te Castiglione, near two torrents. The castle and the surrounding settlement at Vernazzano, were damaged by wars in 1400s and two century later, by a strong earthquake (followed by damaging after-shocks). Erosion of the foundations by torrents caused the tower to lean in the eighteenth century.

Isola Maggiore is the second largest island on Lake Trasimeno, in Umbria, central Italy. It is a frazione of the comune of Tuoro sul Trasimeno, and is the only inhabited island on the lake. St Francis of Assisi lived on the island as a hermit from 1211. The 12th century Church of Saint Michael the Archangel was built on the top of the hill.
The island's only town reached its height in the 14th century, after the establishment of a Franciscan Monastery is 1328. Most of the towns buildings date from this period.

The Guglielmi castle (Villa Isabella), was built in 1885 on the site previously occupied by the 1328 convent and church of St Francis.


The Leaning Tower of Vernazzano with
Lake Trasimeno in the background

The Guglielmi castle on Isola Maggiore

The history of Val di Pierle is closely linked to the history of the splendid castle (la Rocca di Pierle) which dominates the valley. Pierle Castle can be rightly considered one of the most beautiful and powerful examples of feudal castle in Tuscany, its defiled location and the lack of restorations in the last five centuries relegated the castle in the dark of the abandonment and degradation, state in which it lies since the year 1587. The fortification now lies in ruin, but still today it gives off all its great power and magnificence.

Reschio Castle lies at the border between Tuscany and Umbria, in Lisciano Niccone commune. Two rivers flow at the sides of this caslte: Niccone on the northern side and Marte on the eastern side. The walls of the castle contain a palace, the towers, the former prisons and the church of Reschio built in the name of San Michele Arcangelo. The castle with its single main entrance was built before the year 1000 and belonged to the Marquesses del Monte until 1200.

One of the most beautiful and ancient churches in the valley of Arezzo is the Church of San Michele Arcangelo in Metelliano, called simply the church of Sant’Angelo of Cortona. The church is situated at the foot of a marvellous hill, which slopes down sweetly from the walls of Cortona to the green Val D’Esse.
The region of Val D’Esse belonged to a noble roman family, Gens Metellia, who gave their name to this place: Metelliano. A roman road, which later became the most important in the region, led to the church. The farmers made built a temple in the place, where there is now the church. The temple was dedicated to Bacchus, God of wine, joy and popular celebrations, which were also known with the name of God: “Baccanali”. The temple stands, more or less, in the centre of the church.

The church of Saint Michael the Archangel at Metelliano is found at the entrance to the valley dell'Esse about 5 kilometres from Cortona.
The Pieve di San Michele Arcangelo that dates back to the 11th century, presents a simple double jutting façade, typical of Romanesque churches. The portal, with a rounded arch, is surmounted by a loggia with small, travertine columns and capitals typical of archaic Romanesque, next to two narrow windows.
Amongst the theories about its construction, there is one which dates it back to Maginardo Aretino, on behalf of the Bishop of Arezzo, Teobaldo, who would have sent him to Ravenna to study the Romanesque and Byzantine.
Inside, alongside the elements of true Romanesque-monastic architecture (three naves with apses), there are also signs of a break with tradition such as the new verticalism (emphasized by the alternating large Romanesque pilasters with slender Byzantine columns, topped by truncated pyramid capitals) which seem to announce the imminent Gothic. The columns, with the exception of the last two near the presbytery, carne without doubt from an earlier building (one can see their irregularity and the cuts made to adapt them to the height of the church).

The façade is also probably the result of an adaptation of an earlier building (see the little room above the central doorway). Internally, the church is 28.50 m. long, 10.80 m. wide and 10 m. high. Unlike primitive basilicas, it does not have a crypt. The central apse is double the side apses, and higher with the transenna which look onto the roofs of the side naves. The apses, circular on the outside, are sparsely decorated, with blind arches, typical of architecture between the 6th and 10th centuries.


Reschio Castle

Pieve di San Michele Arcangelo

The Villa Tommasi in Metelliano dates back to the 18th century and consists of the large ancient master’s villa, a green-house – lemon-house and a family chapel and is owned since the 16th century by the Tommasi family, one of the most prominent families in town.

The villa was originally built in the 16th century as a country residence and appeared back then as a sober building lacking any sculptural detail and architectural formalism. In the second half of the 18 th century when the villa was owned by Cav. Niccolò di Annibale Tommasi of the Order of Santo Stefano an extensive restoration project was undertaken through which the brick main entrance, the first part of the lemon-house and the chapel, dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist, were added to the original structure.
The villa underwent substantial restoration in the 19th century and it was then that the imposing central roof-terrace was added to the building.

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The Villa Tommasi in Metelliano

A forty-five minute's walk outside the walls of Cortona will take you through the woods to this amazing complex of stark beige buildings spilling down the slopes of Monte Sant' Edigio. The Cella di San Francesco is believed to be the place where, in May 1226, four months before his death in Assisi, St Francis dictated his Will. Following his death, in October of the same year, Brother Elia withdrew permanently to the Le Celle hermitage in 1239 and carried out a number of improvements. The walls built under Brother Elia are rough but solid, and the hermitage contains eight small rooms large enough for a bed, a table and a chair – the essential furnishings prescribed by St Francis himself for a Franciscan hermitage, where the prime importance was to lead a life given over to contemplation. After Brother Elia’s death in Cortona in 1253, the Franciscan order fell into a complicated series of internal divisions. The hermitage was occupied by a community of "Spirituali", or "Fraticelli", until they were banished in 1363 after suffering excomunication from Pope John XXII. Le Celle stood abandoned until 1537, when it was granted by the Bishop of Cortona to the recdently founded Third Order of Franciscans, known as the Capucins. The hermitage was considerably enlarged by the Capucins, who in 1634 erected a new chapel to take the place of the ancient chapel dedicated to St Michael. This new chapel was consecrated to St Anthony of Padua and reflects the simple, unpretentious architectural and decorative style of the Capucins. Unadorned by works of art, the chapel still has wooden altars.
Currently the hermitage is inhabited by seven Franciscan friars.

Castiglion Fiorentino lies in eastern Tuscany, roughly half-way between Arezzo and Cortona. To the west the land falls away to the Val di Chiana.
Castiglion Fiorentino, still surrounded by its medieval walls, is commandingly situated on a hill. In the town's main square, the Piazza del Município, the 16th century Loggia del Vasari has a fresco of the Annunciation and old coats of arms. The Church of San Francesco, built in the second half of the 13th century in the period of transition from Romanesque to Gothic, has a beautiful facade and contains a number of good pictures and frescoes in its side chapels. The cloister was added in the 15th century. Near the Porta Fiorentina, a 14th century town gate, stands the Collegiate Church of San Giuliano, rebuilt in Neo-Classical style in 1840-53. At the Porta San Michele is the Church of the Madonna della Consolazione (1607), a late Renaissance building on an octagonal plan. It has an elegant interior, with a fresco, Madonna, attributed to Luca Signorelli.
The Castle of Montecchio Vespone is a walled, castle with turrets and battlements, which occupies the top of a hill (Montecchio), overlooking the Val di Chiana. Today the Castle of Montecchio Vesponi is the last surviving medieval bastion of its type and is an essential element in the history of the region. Castello di Montecchio Vesponi is located 4 km south of Castiglion Fiorentino, on the road SR71 and SS71 to Cortona.

Castello di Montecchio Vesponi


Cortona was the setting of Frances Mayes' book and the film Under the Tuscan Sun. Many visitors also want to see Bramasole, the house in Under the Tuscan Sun. To get to the house, walk all the way through the Giardino Pubblico, go past the Tennis Club, and continue on viale Passerini uphill for 1km. Bramasole is on your left. You can also drive past Bramasole: take the road on the west side of Cortona to Torreone; turn right at Torreone towards the Church of S. Margherita and, where that road splits into three at a small Bar, take the road to the left downhill; Bramasole will be on your right in 0.5km.

Under the Tuscan Sun.
Directed by Audrey Wells. With Diane Lane, Sandra Oh, Lindsay Duncan. While on vacation, a just-divorced writer buys a villa in Tuscany on a whim, hoping it will be the start of a change for the better in her life.

Other films: Andre Rieu: Live in Tuscany (2004) (TV), Canterbury proibito (1972), La vita è bella (1997), Life Is Beautiful (1998) (UK) (USA), Moon in Taurus (1980), Der Mond im Zeichen des Stiers (1980) (Switzerland: German title) and Sotto il sole della Toscana (2004) (Italy).


Villa Bramasole

| City map of Cortona

Walking and Trekking in Tuscany | Circular Walks on the Tuscany Umbria Border

Cortona City Walk | Download pdf

Cortona's medieval streets are pleasant to wander and you'll be rewarded with fabulous views of the countryside along the medieval town walls.

Circular Walks on the Tuscany Umbria Border

There are several circular Walks on the Tuscany Umbria Border available in Podere Santa Pia. The information contains full instructions for several walks of varying length and difficulty in the stunning border area between Cortona, Lake Trasimeno, Montone and Perugia. The views are staggering: hills and mountains stretch off into the distance and the Lake forms a stunning backdrop to the walk. Ancient towers and castles are dotted along the route and one can visit several of the small towns around the Lake.

View the walks on Google Maps

Cortona, Santa Maria de Nuova

Castiglione del Lago and the hills between Lake Trasimeno and Tuscany
This route starts and ends from the sports ground in Castiglion del Lago, situated on the southern short of Lake Trasimeno.
Castiglione del Lago’s town centre, with its medieval walls and three ancient town gates, is well worth a visit, and also offers a wonderful view right across Lake Trasimeno just below the town. Buildings of particular interest inside the town include the Rocca del Leone, an impressive pentagonal-shaped medieval fortress and one of the best surviving examples of military architecture in Umbria, and the Palazzo della Corgna.
There are a number of interesting villages situated in the nearby hills bordering Tuscany and Umbria, such as Gioiella, Villastrada and San Fatucchio.

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Fra Angelico | Between San Giovanni Valdarno and Cortona
The itinerary runs north to south through two valleys: the Valdarno and the town of San Giovanni and the Valdichiana as far as Cortona.
What these two places share is the fact that they are both sites of the artistic activity of a great Renaissance Florentine painter, the Dominican Beato Angelico (Guido di Pietro Tosini, Vicchio di Mugello 1387/1400-Rome 1455).
In the Museum of Santa Maria delle Grazie in San Giovanni Valdarno we can admire a panel painting of the Annunciation, one of the artist’s most delicate works. Executed between 1430-32, the work originates from the Franciscan convent of Montecarlo, just a few kilometres from the town of San Giovanni Valdarno.
Having left San Giovanni Valdarno, we continue along the Provincial Road no. 69 as far as Arezzo. From here we take the Regional Road no. 71 to reach Cortona.
This ancient city has preserved impressive stretches of its walls from the Etruscan period, datable around the fifth century BC. From the Medieval period we can visit the churches of San Francesco and San Domenico and the Palazzo Comunale and Palazzo Casali.
In this town the presence of the Florentine artist can be found in the Museo Diocesano. Displayed in the main hall, originally the baptistery of the former church of Gesù, are two panel paintings by Beato Angelico: an Annunciation and a Madonna and Child with Four Saints, both painted for the church of San Domenico. These two paintings, as well as a fresco which the artist painted for the lunette of the entrance door of the church, were executed between 1434-38, a few years later than the San Giovanni painting, during the artist’s sojourn in the Dominican convent of Cortona (Beato Angelico lived here until 1438). While in the earlier Annunciation the artist appears more closely linked to Masolino, the Cortona Annunciation reveals the teaching of Masaccio.

Source: www.apt.arezzo.it

From the river Tiber to lake Trasimeno

[ Umbertide, Colle Campana, Castel Rigone, Passignano, Tuoro, valico Gosparini, Lisciano Niccone, Niccone, Umbertide ]

This route, like route 2, starts from Umbertide’s Piazza Mazzini, and features two noticeable climbs connecting the Upper Tiber Valley with Lake Trasimeno. The ride is characterised by the beautiful natural landscape, which varies from the rather mountainous Colle Campana and Castel Rigone, to the lakeside habitat of Trasimeno.

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links Cortona

Cortona Contemporary Music Festival | www.soundscape-pavia.com
Formerly known as the Cortona Contemporary Music Festival, the event now lives on as soundSCAPE; dedicated to Sound, Composition, And Performance Exchange. The festival provides composers and musicians an international platform for performances of new music, attracting participants from around the world for an exciting week of lectures, master classes, and workshops.
Opening hours:
April 1st – October 31st: 10am-7pm (closed Mondays in October)
November 1st – March 31st: 10am-5pm, closed Mondays

Tuscan Sun Festival | www.festivaldelsole.com
The Tuscan Sun Festival is an annual music and lifestyle festival that takes place in the small Tuscan hilltop town of Cortona. The Tuscan Sun Festival was founded in 2003 by Barrett Wissman, cellist Nina Kotova and writer Frances Mayes, whose bestselling books have made Cortona a popular tourist destination.
For the 2009 festival, special guest Anthony Hopkins, whose exhibition of paintings entitled Masque and musical compositions will both be featured. Artists including Joshua Bell, Stéphane Denève, Nina Kotova, Danielle de Niese, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Maija Kovalevska, Vlad Mirita, Jaap van Zweden, Michael Guttman and Gisele Ben-Dor will all be featured at the festival in 2009.
Museo dell'Accademia Etrusca | www.cortonamaec.org
The Palazzo Pretorio houses the Accadémia Etrusca, which was founded in 1726. The museum contains Roman and Egyptian antiquities as well as Etruscan material. Its greatest treasure is a famous Etruscan bronze lamp of the fifth century B.C. Notable among the Etruscan bronze statues are a figure of Jupiter hurling a thunderbolt ("Giove Tonante") and winged goddess (both seventh-sixth centuries B.C.). The Egyptian section of the museum displays a rare funerary boat of painted wood (12th Dynasty, c. 2000 B.C.), sarcophagi, etc. Also of interest are the collection of coins and medals, ceramics and paintings by Italian masters, mainly of the 13th-17th centuries.
The Fortezza del Girifalco (Fortress of Girifalco)
Opening times:
1 april - 30 june and 1-30 september: 10 a.m. -6 p.m.
1 july - 31 august: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Il Parco Archeologico

Comune Cortona

Restaurants in Cortona

Even without its art treasures, Cortona is a good place to rest up, with excellent restaurants, and an amazing view at night of the villages of southern Tuscany glittering in the distance.
AGRISALOTTO Loc. Burcinella, 88 Tel. 0575 617417
IL CACCIATORE Via Roma 11 Tel.0575 630552
LA CASA DEGLI ELFI Loc.Casale 137 Tel.0575 616122
CASTELGIRARDI Loc. Castelgirardi Tel. 0575 691030
CROCE del TRAVAGLIO Via Dardano, 1 Cortona Tel.0575 62832

IL GAMBERO Viale Regina Elena 49 Tel.0575 630501
IL GHIOTTONE Via Sacco e Vanzetti Tel.0575 630230
LA BOTTEGA DELL'OSTE Cortona, Vicolo Mancini 10 Tel. 0575 62153
PANE E VINO P.zza Signorelli, 75 Tel.0575 631010
PORTOLE Località Portole Tel.0575 691008
PRELUDIO Via Guelfa 11, Cortona Tel. 0575 630104
TAVERNA IL GHIBELLINO Via Ghibellina 5,7,9 Tel. 575 630254
TONINO Piazza Garibaldi, Cortona Tel.0575 630500
VALLE DAME Loc. Teverina Tel.0575 616043
IL VECCHIO MOLINO Loc. Montanare Tel.0575 614192
TRATTORIA DARDANO Via Dardano, 24 Tel.0575 601944
  According to legend Cortona was founded by Dardanus, later to establish the city of Troy and to give his name to the Dardanelles. The probable mythical story is that Dardanus was fighting against a neighbouring tribe when he lost his helmet (corythos) on the hill and the town that emerged here got its original name of Corito.
Trattoria La Grotta, Piazza Balbelli 3, Tel 0575/630-271

Situated right off the main square of Piazza della Republica.Trattoria La Grotta,is apparently popular with Americans as well as Tuscany locals.


Hidden away from mass-tourism, discover a piece of Italy which remains largely unchanged both nature and lifestyle-wise. The peacefulness of the countryside, the various unique villages and the friendly atmosphere will no doubt pleasantly surprise you. Tuscany is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Known for its enchanting landscapes, its fantastic and genuine food and beautiful towns as Florence, Pisa, Lucca and Siena. Podere Santa Pia is located on the edge of the green hills of the Val d'Orcia and the Valle d'Ombrone begins, and one can easily reach some of the most beautiful attractions of Tuscany, such as Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano and San Quirico d'Orcia, famous for their artistic heritage, wine, olive oil production and gastronomic traditions. This is the land where the DOC wines Vino Nobile, Montecucco and Brunello di Montalcino are produced. So, the surrounding countryside is the ideal area for an uncommon wine tour, visiting small farms producing wine and excellent extra virgin olive oil.
Podere Santa Pia
is a fully equipped 4 bedroom holiday home. The surrounding countryside is superbly peaceful with vineyards, medieval hamlets and castles. Guests can sit in a South facing garden, surrounded by a marvelous natural landscape rich in beautiful hills, ancient villas, centuries-old olive groves, and hilltop villages with stone parish churches.
If you want to spend an unforgettable holiday at Podere Santa Pia and visit these beautiful medieval castles and villages, visit our special offers page or contact us.
Rocca di Tentennano
Podere Santa Pia
Podere Santa Pia
Rocca di Tentennano

San Quirico d'Orcia

The landscape ot the Val d'Orcia as it unfolds nowadays was created by wealthy Siennese merchants in the 14th and 15th centuries. The farms cultivate mainly grains, vines and olives. Rows of cypresses are also a distinctive sight. The beauty of the area inspired Renaissance painters and early travellers on Via Francigena.
Some wonderful towns and villages in the nearby region of Umbria, Perugia, Assisi and Orvieto.