Cortona Bed & Breakfast Casa Chilenne Cortona Bed & Breakfast Casa Chilenne
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Cortona LOCATION

PARKING

Cortona  is a small, vibrant community in a hilltown perched  about 500 mt. above sea level  with a commanding  view of the Valdichiana  in the South East corner of Tuscany.  It is conveniently located on the main North-South train lines between Florence and Rome.  Many a modern day traveler has been intrigued enough by the majestic positioning of Cortona atop a foothill of Mount SantEgidio  to take a detour, descend from the train and explore this gem on the top of the hill. The city is serviced by  two train stations: Camucia /Cortona station is the first station encountered when travelling Southbound and Terontola /Station is the first station when travelling  Northbound. Terontola  station  is very close to the Umbrian border  and  is the hub for  transferring to trains which travel in the direction of Perugia and Assisi . If one is travelling by train to Cortona, upon arrival at the stations  transportation  to the proper city of Cortona is a  10 minute  car ride up the hill from Camucia and about a 20 minute ride from Terontola.Cortona
As one approaches the city by bus or car the roads wind past olive groves and old stone terrace walls.  The city is embraced almost entirely by walls which are built on the foundations of the original  Etruscan walls  dated back to  as early as the fourth century B.C.  Many citizens of Cortona,  would date their city even further back in time and refer to writings of  Pliny which mention Dardanus of Cortona,  as the founder of the city of Troy and how the survivors from the fall of that city founded the city of Rome.  A favorite quip  heard  from Cortonese when inquiring about their hometowns age is:  Cortona è la mamma di Troia e la nonna di Roma, that is, Cortona is the mother of Troy and the grandmother of Rome.
 Whatever the date of its origins, the city has been praised for its beauty in writings which date from the times of the ancients, through the epoch of the grand tours to the current praises of modern day authors.  As the road from the stations and the highways lead up to this hilltown, it passes by the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie al Calcinaio, the renaissance experiment to promote peace through urban design, past the remnants of the Etruscan walls with their evidence of early hydraulic engineering and the impressive Porta Bifora which served as the two  opening ceremonial gateway to the city until the 13th century A.D.. The gray stone tower of the Palazzone, the palace of renaissance Cardinal Silvio Passerini , is clearly visible on the East side of the town,  as is the Cathedral bell tower and walled cemetery on the West side. Crowning the city is the Girifalco fortress with the Sanctuary of Saint Margaret of Cortona  positioned just below it.
 Upon arrival at the main entrance to the city in Piazza Garibaldi (or La Carbonaia as it is known by the locals) each visitor is greeted with , views of the large public gardens,  Saint Dominics Church, where one of Beato Angelicos surviving Annunciation paintings was created ,  and a  mosaic depicting Saint Mark designed by native son and Futurist artist Gino Severini  greet  each visitor. An observant visitor will realize that he or she has arrived in a truly remarkable place.
Cortona was considered and considers itself a city. The apexes of its social economic success  can be found under the Etruscans (600-200 B.C.) and again under  the reign of the noble family Casali in the 1200-1300s. The 1700s were years of great cultural enrichment although reserved for a few elite.  The city always reigned over agricultural lands, used for  the cultivation of food crops as well as dye stuffs.  It was a city of trade which coined its own money and housed a richly diverse community.   A reported 10,000 people inhabited the city in the 1600s at the most densely populated time in its history, today inhabitants have dwindled to less than 2,000.Cortona
One should not be fooled into believing however that the size of the population has affected the vigor or dynamics of this city. It is still the county seat to one of the largest counties found in Italy. While inhabited by only 22,000 people there are 324 square kilometers  of land under the jurisdiction of Cortona  County. The historic success of Cortona under the rule of the Casali family expanded its land holdings dramatically. The economic success  of that time and that of the previous golden age of the Etruscans  have left priceless  artistic  and archaeological  treasures guarded proudly and dearly  in the two museums of the city. The smaller Museo Diocesano  can be found in the square across from the Cathedral  and houses the aforementioned Annunciation by Beato Angelico as well as works by native son Luca Signorelli, renaissance painter and author of the Last Acts and Death of Moses in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican as well as key works by Pietro Lorezetti  just to name a few. The newly renovated and expanded MAEC museum is found in Piazza Signorelli. The MAEC museum has recently enriched its collection with numerous Etruscan relics recovered from ancient tombs discovered in the Cortonese territories in the past decade.  Two of the most notable Etruscan pieces of the collection are a  bronze lamp created in 400  B.C. and the recently discovered Tabula Cortonensis , however there are also  collections of artworks by Cortonas native  born sons.  Pietro Berettini, baroque artists paintings  and Futurist artist Gino Severinis  both have sections of the museum which showcase their works.  There is also a curious but fairly comprehensive Egyptian collection. The updated  displays are informative for all, old and young, Italian speakers and not.
Cortonas citizens are aware and proud of their origins. Each Spring the people of the town organize a re-enactment of the wedding celebrations and ritual related to the marriage of Cortona nobleman  Francesco Casali into the rich and powerful Salimbeni family of Siena in the 1300s. The most colorful and exciting of the events is the Archidado crossbow competition between the five     historic neighborhoods of the city. In a competition of skill and accuracy, darts are shot from small crossbows at a target in Piazza Signorelli by the medieval façade of town hall. Processions and pageantry  by citizens dressed in epoch costumes and exhibitions of the drummers and flag jugglers make it a lively, fun event.Cortona
The city values offering cultural events and throughout the year the local theater Teatro Signorelli , public squares and churches are quite active with musical events, dance and theater as well as current cinema releases.  In past years  the Tuscan Sun Festival, brought high quality classical music and dance performances with international caliber artists. Writer Frances Mayes , author of Under the Tuscan Sun  , and citizen of Cortona was instrumental  in creating this event. A new arts event called the Cortona Mix Festival now animates the weeks between July and August with intriguing performances and lectures. However, this is just one ingredient which enhances the flavor of Cortona each year as notes of jazz, pop, organ music, choral and gospel , folk and rock can all be heard throughout the streets, squares, churches, theater and auditoriums throughout the year.  Just a few years ago, an especially well received performance by Andre Rieu and his orchestra was immortalized in town square of Piazza della Repubblica and televised internationally. We cannot forget, however, that the origins of Italian Rap music can be attributed to a homegrown musician of international fame, Lorenzo Cherubini, also known as Jovanotti, providing a window to the contemporary pop music scene. 
Perhaps Cortonas appeal  is the number of levels on which it speaks to its visitors. It is a city of art, a city of music and a city which speaks to the spirit. It has received Saint Francis as a visitor, in fact,  one of the most ancient of the Franciscan churches lies in the heart of the city .  Le Celle is one of the first monasteries founded by the saint  and is built in the cleft of the mountains outside the city walls on land donated by a Cortonese follower, Brother Elias. Le Celle is a place of incredible peace and serenity, a place where it is easy to talk to the soul.  Cortona  is a land which has witnessed the miracle of Saint Margarets incorruptible body which is displayed in the crystal coffin behind the altar of her Sanctuary at the top of the hill. It is a city which still houses cloistered communities of nuns in the higher parts of the city which are seem almost untouched from the time of the middle ages; it is a place where mysteries of the spirit seem to be unveiled.
It is from this vantage point that much of the beauty of the city and the valley which surrounds it can be appreciated. The vast  Lake Trasimeno, glittering in the distance, usually surrounded by the mists which betrayed Flaminius soldiers as they were ambushed by Hannibal that fateful, foggy morning in 217 B.C. while they slept on the shores .  The Mount Amiata, a mile high, extinct volcano  can be seen to the west  over the plain of the valley as well as the Mount Cetona.
Yet,  Cortona should not be seen as a place which lives in its past. As the city changes the people react and adapt, all the while remaining true to their traditions.  Farmlands which were semi-abandoned in the 70s are being rediscovered by  a new generation of young farmers, determined to create  new and superior quality foods and wines.  Their efforts have been well-received and the Cortonese farmlands are producing single varietal and blended  IGT wines which have little to envy  of their neighbors in Montepulciano  and Montalcino areas. Cortona
The main East-West road in town is called Via Nazionale, the street has always been lined with elegant shops and businesses. It is the road which comes to life during the hours of passeggiata the evening stroll and  transforms itself into the a stage for those who want to see and be seen.  A sort of meeting place to exchange news, make appointments and update the news in anticipation of the local newspaper (which is printed just twice a month).  New clothes, new shoes  and new babies are all proudly paraded along this street. Most active between the hours of 5-8 pm, it comes alive again in the summer after dinner until the air cools down.  The numerous coffee bars along the road entice customers to sit at tables  and visit a little longer with an apperitivo, cappuccino or fine glass of wine.
At the end of Via Nazionale  is the grand square of Piazza della Repubblica which is dominated by the impressive clock tower and steps of the town hall.  It is at the intersection of the main East-West and North-South roads in town and has been the seat of municipal government since the times of the ancients and it still serves that purpose today.  The buildings position and romantic image have become sought after in recent years by couples planning weddings.  Romance seems to live here-and it seems that more and more lovebirds are  planning weddings in Cortona. Frequently bridal parties can be seen on the steps of town posing for group photos and newlywed couples greet their guests from the town hall balcony. Optimism lives, love lives and Cortona seems to be the perfect backdrop.
Open air markets on Saturday or the antique and collectible fair on the fourth Sunday of the month, or the annual antique furniture fair are always welcomed interruptions of regular life here, drawing many out to have a look and take a stroll. The flavor of Cortona is best perceived in the public piazzas on Saturday market morning when all representatives  of the community come together. Young and old, ex-pat and generations native born, tourists, priests, monks, nuns, all come together . The market is the excuse to come to the city from the mountains or valley and find out what the news is.  Cheeses, linens, shoes, underwear, kitchenware, candies, belts, bags, clothes, fresh fish, fast food fried fish or pork sandwiches, vegetables, salt cod and anchovies, yarn, cleaning supplies can all be found at the market.  An epic car rally can rumble through, new tractors might be on display, service organizations might be holding a fundraiser selling flowers or chocolate eggs or raffle tickets. It is a mixture of folk happy to get out in the open air with the excuse of finding a bargain or saving a Euro or two, coming away with the richness of mingling with their community, mixing with their friends, sharing a joke, offering a hand , a hug or a cup of coffee, appreciating the taste of life in Cortona.

 
Casa Chilenne B&B - Via Nazionale, 65 Cortona 52044 (AR) - Phone/Fax +39 338 7727427 - Email: info@casachilenne.com