"On a hill in Tuscany, fifty miles from Florence between Arezzo and Perugia, rises the ancient and noble city of Cortona. In front of it a beautiful and spacious plain, on both sides hills and behind it rise mountains. Its terrain is more long than wide. The area is very fertile and is able to provide nutritious foods for its inhabitants. Cortona belongs to the South-Antartic Astral Sign – Feminine, mobile, spicy, earthy, cold and dry, and dominion over..."
This description of Cortona is in one of the first known travel guides compiled by Giacomo Lauro and printed in Rome in 1639. In order to assist the tourists of that time, a map was drawn up of the city by Pertro Beretini. Beretini was an artist best known as Pietro da Cortona and his drawing gave prestige to this manual. The description has remained valid for over four hundred years. Very little has changed in Cortona which is still framed in the center of a triangle, the corners of which are located in Arezzo, Siena and Perugia, three of the richest cities in central Italy in terms of history and art.
The history of the city is lost in the fog of numerous legends some based in the classical era. Moving mythology to the side, proved historical origins of the city are numerous but vague and sometimes contradictory. From Greek sources written before Christ, Herodotus/V in./Ellaniko/V in./Stephen Byzantine/VI of in./ in which the city sometimes appears with the name of Croton, Creston or Kurton. Latin writers of the first century BC, Virgil and Livy, called the city Cortona. Modern historians now recognize that Cortona was originally a city belonging to the Umbrian region. The Etruscans, 4th century BC, considered Cortona to be one of the most powerful federal centers in the region along with Perugia and Arezzo as seen by its strategic construction of stone walls around its perimeter, numerous tombs and other archaeological remains which are preserved in museums. Who were the Etruscans? The Etruscans were the most important population of the pre-Romanesque period, originally occupying the area between the rivers Arno and Tiber which they called Tuscany. The Romans in fact called the Etruscans “Tusci”, from which the name Tuscany is derived. From there, they spread to the North to the Emilia-Romagna region and to the South to Campania. Overrun by the Romans, the Etruscan civilization eventually completely disappeared.
Each year, in Cortona, there are a number of interesting festivals, one of which is La Giostra dell’Archidado which has its origins in the Middle Ages. It was officially established in 1397, to celebrate the marriage of Francesco Casali, Lord of Cortona and Antonia Salimbenii, a noblewoman from Siena. Each year, on the second Sunday in June, the city of Cortona marks this historic event, reliving this ancient medieval celebration with festively decorated streets, finely crafted costumes of ladies, knights, archers and armed, civil and religious authorities of the time. Once again remembering the city’s rich history and artistic beauty.
In 2003 the city of Cortona had the honor of hosting the Sun Festival, better known as the Tuscan Sun Festival. This became an annual festival of classical music and art and became an international success. The festival was the brain child of US businessman MGM Artists, Barrett Wissmann, cellist Nina Kotova and writer Frances Mayes, author of the famous novel and movie, “Under the Tuscan Sun”. Their desire was to bring internationally acclaimed musicians, singers and artists together and to a location of historical and artistic significance. For the past few years, Cortona On The Move and the Mix Festival held each July has captivated the city with the works of internationally acclaimed photographers, musicians, sculptors and artists.
Cortona is located on the border of Tuscany and Umbria, on a hill 600 meters above sea level. It can easily be reached by train, the Terontola and Camucia railway stations being just a few kilometers away, as well as by car. Splendid views of the Val di Chiana and Lake Trasimeno can be seen from many vantage points in the city. You can visit several centers for the short time trip with a high cultural value, such as Florence, Siena, Perugia, Pienza, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Trasimeno , Arezzo, Assisi, Gubbio, Orvieto, Spoleto and many others.
Touring the city, we should perhaps start from the historic center known as Piazza della Repubblica, the central square. Here you can see the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, the base of which is currently the post office. This beautiful building was used as the residence of Cardinal Passerini in the sixteenth century and then as the Palazzo Comunale. After the twelth century, it was used as a center for cultural, religious and political affairs.
At the end of the Rugapiana is Piazza Garibaldi which offers a panoramic view of the Val di Chiana and Lake Trasimeno. This piazza is locally called the Carbonaia as coal was once produced here. Moving on from the piazza you come to the city park or Parterre in which you find tennis courts and a public swimming pool. Napoleon himself visited this park. The Gothic church of San Domenico, 15th century, houses important works by the artists Bartolomeo, Luca Signorelli, Lorenzo and Niccolo Gerini. Nearby is the lovely villa, Bramasole, recognizable by the apricot color of its facade. This villa has become famous thanks to the already mentioned American writer Frances Mayes who moved here some twenty years ago, wrote the novel “Under the Tuscan Sun” and from which the eponymous film of the same name, made Cortona famous worldwide. One article simply cannot tell of all the delights of this wonderful city, so we will be constantly adding new and interesting facts, events and attractions of Cortona.