Cortona, known not only for its history and works of art but also for its beautiful panoramas over the Valdichiana, is a hill town surrounded by cypress and olive trees in the province of Arezzo. It is located about 28 kilometers south of the provincial capital.
Cortona travel guide
The address of the tourist office is Piazza Signorelli – 52044 Cortona (Tel. 0575 637221). Town Hall: Piazza Repubblica 1.
What to see
Almost the entire center of the city is bordered by an ancient Etruscan wall, renovated in the Middle Ages. The streets and alleys in the city center are generally very narrow.
The central square of Cortona is called Piazza della Repubblica. The main buildings in this square are the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo and the Palazzo Comunale. The former dates from the 12th century and was rebuilt in the 16th century. The Palazzo Comunale dates from the 13th century and has a crenellated tower.
The nearby Piazza Signorelli was actually the courtyard of the Palazzo Casali, recognizable by its façade decorated with coats of arms. The building was constructed in the 13th century and is the seat of the Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca. The collection of this museum begins with the Etruscans and ends with works by local (modern) painter Gino Severini. The neo-classical Teatro Signorelli was built in 1854 to a design by Carlo Gatteschi.
A second interesting museum is the Episcopal Museum (Museo Diocesano) opposite the city’s Cathedral. The collection consists mainly of medieval paintings. The Cathedral itself dates back to the 15th century and was built on the remains of an old country church.
One of the city’s nicest streets is Via Santucci, which leads from the Piazza della Repubblica to the San Francesco Church.
Via Berrettini is flanked by 15th century cottages and a buttress. This street first passes a small church dedicated to San Niccolò, before ending near a large square with a beautiful view. The Santa Margherita Church towers over the square. Along the way, one passes the picturesque squares Piazza Pozzo Tondo and Piazza Pescaia and the San Cristoforo Church.
Via Santa Margherita is flanked by a mosaic “Via Crucis” by Gino Severini.
Attractions outside the center
The Madonna del Calcinaio Church stands about three kilometers outside the built-up area of the city.
The Tanella di Pitagora and the already mentioned Meloni Hypogeia are two Etruscan archaeological sites.
A brief history of Cortona
Cortona began its existence as an important Etruscan settlement. Several archaeological finds, including multiple tumulus (burial mounds), are evidence of this. It was probably a center of bronze processing in those ays.
The present town was founded in the 13th century. At that time Cortona was often engaged in wars with Perugia and Arezzo to preserve its independence.
In 1325 the city became a bishop’s seat and fiefdom of the Casali family. In 1409 Cortona came into the hands of the king of Naples, Stanislao. Two years later, Florence gained control of the city. Shortly before this, both the city wall and the Fortezza del Girifalco had been restored with help from Siena.
A striking feature of many medieval houses in the city is the so-called “death door” next to the normal entrance. This has a higher threshold and is narrower than usual and was used to carry coffins out of the building.
Cortona is the southernmost municipality in the province of Arezzo.