Itinerary 1:

(11 km - 15 Minuts)

CortonaCortona’s origins are lost in the mists of time: its foundation goes back to the mythical times of Dardanus, whose name is still carried by one of the city’s most important streets. The hero subsequently moved to the Asian region of Pontus where he founded Troy and started a lineage which in later times was with Aeneas, an exile of the war told by Homer, to travel back to the Italian shores and give birth to the city of Rome, whose imperial glory held sway over the world and whose first emperor, Julius Caesar, would have the nobleness of his Gens Iulia date back to Aeneas’s son Iulo. Villanovian civilization and Iron age settlements were also confirmed to exist on the topmost part of the Cortona hill.

CortonaMoving on to historical times for which greater evidence is available the Etruscan times definitely played an important role for the city: a cyclopean stone wall is still to be seen in some parts of the city though much of it was altered in medieval and Renaissance times. Cortona soon took on a very important role within the Etruscan world and was deservedly chosen as one of the twelve city-states ( called Lucumonies), that is the most influential cities forming the Etruscan League. Altough Cortona never grew to be militarily equal to other neighbouring cities such as Chiusi, Orvieto or Perugia, it still enjoyed unparalleled importance as a sacred and religious centre. Extremely significant archaeological finds were made in the burial sites recently unearthed and located at the foot of the hill upon which Cortona is sited. A sensation was caused by a number of recent finds such as the golden furnishings of the Melone II of Sodo tomb and the Tabula Cortonensis, a bronze plate made with a lost wax casting technique whose inscriptions rate amongst the most significant for the study of the Etruscan language and civilization.
With the decline of the Etruscan civilization Cortona too was caught up in the expansion of the Roman Empire. Romans rationalised the “within the walls” city-layout and oriented the city-streets on the cardus-decumanus axis, still visible to this day, which perpendicularly crossed into the city forum. Today, the ancient Cardus-axis, oriented north to south, runs along Via Dardano and Via Guelfa whereas the Decumanus-axis, oriented east to west, includes Via Roma and Via Nazionale (locally known as “Rugapiana”). What once was the forum is today Piazza della Repubblica, where the Palazzo del Comune stands tall. In Roman times Cortona mainly played a role of strategic control over the rich Valdichiana, which used to be one of Rome’s most important granaries. During the second Punic War Hannibal travelled through the Valdichiana on his descent to the hated Rome wreaking havoc on the crops and thus drawing, in the year 217 B.C., Consul Flaminius’s legions to one of the worst defeats the Urbis ever suffered: the Trasimeno battle. Cortona witnessed from its high perch the complete annihilation of the legions as they were ambushed while chasing after the Cartaginians in the Trasimeno Lake area and the very same Flaminius was killed as Titus Livius and Plutarcus recounted.
Moving from Roman to medieval times Cortona rose, after a brief period of decadence due to the upheaval following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, to new life and splendour in its golden period, the medieval communal period. The lack, in central and northern Italy, of a strong central power, like that of Rome used to be, caused a host of towns of all sizes, which were later to gain full recognition and independence from higher authorities, to thrive and bring about a completely new local self-governance system deriving its power from the lower ranks, based on economy and trade and claiming a place within a then seigniory-ruled world. Towns like Cortona thrived, coined their own coinage, built new palaces, like the original core of the Palazzo Comunale, to better administer their newly acquired power and converted the old roman urban layout into a structure that better complied with the new defensive needs: the old cardus and decumanus took on a curvier course and were remoulded into a spiral-like structure so as to allow defenders to be more protected in case of attack; part of the Etruscan walls came to surface again. The military importance of Cortona, from communal times all the way to the Renaissance period, may well be witnessed by the positions the town adopted towards the neighbouring towns. This medium-sized Ghibelline town challenged several times the Guelph city of Arezzo into open war, succeeded in breaking through its walls in 1232 and was in turn pillaged by aretinian invaders in 1248. This was just a moment of transition in the town’s history which certainly does not cast a shadow over the significance the town was to take on in that period from a religious and mystical point of view: St. Francis who laid the first stone of the original core of the Eremo delle Celle, a convent located right outside the town walls in a secluded and blessed place and a twin of the assisian convent of Le Carceri; Frate Elia, St. Francis’s first disciple and after his death the General of the Order, was born in Cortona and here built the church of St. Francis. St. Leo the Great was originally from the Cortona area and finally St. Margaret, born in the Siena area and later adopted by the town when, the widow of a nobleman from Montepulciano, she was thrown out of native Laviano and came as a penitent woman to Cortona where she catered for the poor and the needy. She was very much loved in Cortona, was considered a saint in life and an example for everyone for her extreme fasts and penances, performed miracles and founded the first hospital of the Misericordia. Her incorrupt body was enshrined ever since her death (1297) and is to this day worshipped by the faithful in the namesake Basilica overlooking town. The Cortonese still attribute the town’s welfare throughout earthquakes and wars to the Saint’s devotion.
With the ascent to power of the Casali dynasty, which was to last for 84 years, Cortona too enjoyed, starting from 1325, its Seigniory years during which a number of famed artists such as Beato Angelico started working in Cortona. The Casali dynasty was ousted in 1409 through a popular uprising which handed over the power to king Ladislaus of Naples who, in turn, sold the town and its territory for 60000 gold florins to the Florentine Republic; Cortona lost thus its independence and followed since the fate and was subject to the influence of Florence. From 1531, with the ascent to power in Florence of the Medici family, Cortona too made its entrance into the Renaissance and pursued its artistic and cultural rise as a political and strategic centre due to its proximity to Arezzo and Siena on the on side and the Pontifical state on the Lake Trasimeno side. During the Medici period the town’s urban layout was once again revised and some of the medieval suburbs were torn down to be replaced by new renaissance defensive structures after the fashion of a number of fortifications Antonio da Sangallo had built for other Medici towns adjusting existing structures to the changed defensive needs bound up with the massive introduction of fire-arms. And so the medieval walls were restyled and fortified with ramparts built by the town gates and the Girifalco fortress was completely built over on plans by Antonio da Sangallo. Cortona, though, was not embellished only by military architecture but also by the works of some of the greatest artists in history such as Francesco di Giorgio Martini, the architect of the extraordinary church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio, and other locally born artists such as Luca Signorelli and Pietro Berrettini (also known as “Il Cortona”) which were later to come to international fame. Works by these artists may be viewed in the two remarkable town museums, the Museo Diocesano and the Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca or by simply visiting churches and palaces.
In later times Cortona, though losing more and more political independence, never ceased to be a vital cultural centre; Cortona fully lived the Enlightenment period which culminated in the foundation in 1726 of the Accademia Etrusca, an institute still active to this day in the systematic and methodical study of Italian antiquities which managed to create an exchange and research environment which measured up to the Florentine academies. After the demise, in 1737, of the last Medici Cortona cast its fate with the rest of Tuscany and came under the governance of a branch of the Austrian Lorraine family. Under the Lorraine, following on the footsteps of the enlightened Medici, Tuscany was governed in an extremely liberal and reforming way, death penalty was abolished for the first time in the world, the Valdichiana swamps were reclaimed and civil life and trade were fostered. This was a new thriving period for the town which was to put its goods on display before the obscurantism of the Pontifical State.
As the 19th century and the Italian “Risorgimento” came along Cortona, still in the footsteps of the rest of Tuscany, joined the Italian Kingdom in 1860 and became later one of Italy’s largest municipal territories. With the annexation of the town to the Italian Kingdom the artistic inspiration of Cortona did not, however, run out: here was born in 1883 one of the greatest artists belonging to the Futurism movement, Gino Severini, who, after being expelled from all the schools in the Kingdom for trying to steal some exam papers, fled to France where he developed his art. Still to be seen in town amongst Severini’s works are number of paintings preserved in a special section of the Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca, the superb mosaic tabernacles of the Via Crucis leading from Piazza Garibaldi (previously known as “Carbonaia”) all the way up to the Basilica of Santa Margherita, and the magnificent mosaic façade of the church of ST. Marc.

o Steak Festival (15 August)
o Antique Fair (September)
o Copperware Fair (March)
o Joust of the Archidado (April)
o Tuscan Sun Festival (August – September)


CortonaThe Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca

The Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca, housed in the premises of Palazzo Casali, the ancient residence of the Casali family in the 14th century, can offer its guests a wealth of unique and impressive collections which place it, despite its reduced dimensions, in the same league as some of Italy’s most notable museums.
The Museum was created little after the foundation of the Accademia Etrusca, which it is an offshoot of, and was enriched throughout the centuries thanks to donations and the findings made in the Cortona territory.

Collections range from the Egyptian collection assembled in the 19th century by Mons. Corbelli, including mummies and sacred furnishings dating to the intermediate period dynasty, to the Etruscan collection featuring unique pieces such as the Lampadario di Bronzo (Bronze Lamp) to which the golden furnishings found in the Melone II of Sodo burials and the Tabula Cortonensis, a bronze plate made with a lost wax casting technique whose inscriptions rate amongst the most significant for the study of the Etruscan language and civilization, were recently added. The museum also features roman collections, a number of paintings by Luca Signorelli and Pietro Berrettini and the Gino Severini collection. The Accademia Etrusca also includes, on the lower floors, a rich library housing over 22000 volumes, 1172 parchments, 633 manuscripts and 133 incunabula amongst which stands out the Laudario Cortonese, one of the first and oldest collections of religious chants in the Italia language.

CortonaThe Museo Diocesano

The Museo Diocesano, housed in the historic 16th century premises of the church and oratory “del Gesù”, located across from the Cortona Cathedral, offers the visitor a gallery rich in unique works of art and featuring fine architectural and decorative details. In the museum are housed a handful of absolute masterpieces such as the large panel of the Annunciazione by Beato Angelico works by artists which carried out work in Cortona such as Pietro Lorenzetti, Bartolomeo della Gatta, Luca Signorelli and his school and preparatory cartoons for the Via Crucis by Gino Severini. The museum also includes a unique as well as rich collection of ecclesiastical furnishings and sacred jewellery coming from various churches of the territory and bearing witness to the important role the Cortonese Diocese played throughout the centuries ever since it was instituted in 1325. Particularly interesting is the winding alleyway named “Via del Gesù” running alongside the museum and still preserving its peculiar medieval character with houses featuring projecting upper floors resting on wooden rafters.

Itinerary 1:
(11 km - 15 Minuts)
Itinerary 2:
Il Lago Trasimeno
(20 km - 15 Minuts)
Itinerary 3:
Il Rinascimento del Gusto
(20 km - 30 Minuts)


Agriturismo AGRO CENTORIO, Tuscany Italy - Loc. Centoia n° 145 - 52044 Cortona (AR)
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