A pearl on the hill.
The city is almost fully surrounded by walls constructed on the original Etruscan foundations which date back to the 4th century B.C.
Many Cortonese believe that their city is even older. They like to site the works of Plinio which name Dardanus of Cortona as the founder of Troy and tells the story of the survivors of that city who went on to found the city of Rome. A popular saying is that “Cortona is the mother of Troy and the grandmother of Rome.” The main street that runs East to West in Cortona is called the Via Nazionale and has always been full of elegant and busy shops.
It is the street which comes alive during “passeggiata” time and transforms itself into the stage for those who want to see and be seen. A sort of meeting place to exchange news, make appointments and update one another on the latest news as (as our local newspaper is printed only 2 times a week).
The many cafés along the street entice clients to take a seat at a table to pass some time with an aperitivo, a cappuccino or a simple glass of good wine.
At the end of Via Nazionale is the large Piazza della Repubblica, dominated by the imposing clock tower and the grand staircase of the city hall. This is the crossroad of the ancient “cardo” and “decumano” roads, the places used as a seat of government from the times of the ancients until today. The position and the structure inspires a great sense of romanticism. It has become quite sought after by couples who wish to wed there.
Romanticism lives here and it seems that more and more weddings are being organized in Cortona. Bride and groom with their guests can often be seen on the stairway posing for photos or the newlyweds can be seen perched in the balcony of the town hall to face the world for the first time as spouses. Optimism lives, love lives and Cortona seems to be the perfect stage.
The open air market of Saturday morning, the antique and collectible flea market wich is held on the 4th Sunday of the month, or the annual antique furniture fair are always welcomed interruptions to the routine, and encourage people to stroll outdoors and have a look. The market is the excuse to come to the city from the mountains and the valleys and discover what’s new. Cheeses, underwear, shoes, linens, housewares, candies, belts and bags, clothes, or porchetta panini, vegetables, baccalà and anchovies, yarn , detergents, nearly everything can be found at the market.
Things not to miss in Cortona
The Diocesano Museum
The Diocesano Museum , located in the Cathedral square it is custodian to “The Annunciation” by Fra’ Angelico as well as works by native son Luca Signorelli, renaissance master painter who also created the “Last Acts and the Death of Moses” in the Sistine Chapel as well as important works by Pietro Lorenzetti
The Church of San Domenico
The Church of San Domenico where Fra’ Angelico painted one of 3 surviving “Annunciations” and above it on the façade of the Church of San Marco, a mosaic portraying one of the patron saints of Cortona created from designs by native futurist artist Gino Severini.
The MAEC Museum
The MAEC Museum, located in Piazza Signorelli, it has been recently restored and its collections enriched with numerous relics coming from tombs discovered in Cortonese territories over the past few decades. Two pieces of note are the bronze chandelier and the Tabula Cortonenesis which was recently discovered. The museum also includes a rich collection of works by native artists of Cortona such as the baroque era painter Pietro Berrettini and the futurist artist Gino Severini. Most intriguing is the quite comprehensive ancient Egyptian collection of relics. All the displayed works are well labeled and presented with descriptions which can be understood by youn and non so young, with knowledge of Italian and not.The citizens of Cortona are quite proud of their origins.
Re-enactments of Historical Events
Every spring the people of the city organize a historical re-enactment of the festivities tied to the wedding of Nobleman Francesco Casali and his noble bride Antonia of the powerful sienese family Salimbeni. Amongst the different ceremonies and events, the most beautiful is the gioco dell’Archidado, a crossbow competition between the 5 historic neighborhoods of the city. The neighborhoods face off in a competition of precision and ability, launching darts with a crossbow at the archidado target I Piazza Signorelli, near the medieval façade of the town hall. The parade of the historic court with citizens dressed in costume of the time, drummers, buglers and flag jugglers is a colorful and lively spectacle.
The city is dedicated to offering shows and cultural events durint the year in the local “Teatro Signorelli”, the squares and the churches are often filled with musical events, dance and theatre productions and of course, with projections of the latest international films.
The Cortona Mix Festival is a collaboration between the Region of Tuscany, the County of Cortona and Feltrinelli Editors wich has been enlivening the weeks between July and August with music,cinema, dance and literary events. Each edition is a new and rich fusion of the arts and its different expressions.
These are only a few samplings of the tastes which flavor Cortona each year. Jazz, pop, traditional organ music, choral and gospel music, folk and rock can be heard in the streets, squares, theatre, churches and auditoriums during the year.
In recent years past, one of the biggest events was a concert by André Rieu and his orchestra which was filmed and transmitted around the world immortalizing Piazza della Repubblica and other beautiful sites of the city.
Le Celle is one of the first monasteries founded by Saint Francis of Assisi, constructed in a small valley in the foothills outside the walls of the city on land which was given to him by Brother Elias, one of his Cortonese followers. “Le Celle” is a place of incredible peace and serenity which seems to easily speak to the soul.
The Sanctuary of Santa Margherita
Cortona is the land which bore witness to the miracle of the incorruptible body of Santa Margherita. She can be viewed in a crystal coffin behind the altar of this sanctuary at the top of the hill. There are still communities of cloistered nuns who live in the upper parts of the city on medieval streets paved with cobble stones. These are places where the mysteries of the spirit are revealed. It’s from this area that the beauty of the city and views of the valley can be most appreciated.
- The Renaissance Tower
- The Girifalco Fortress
- The Public Gardens “il Parterre”