is a city of characteristic steep, flagged streets, and the
general impression given by the architecture is of stone.
It is built on a buttress of Monte Sant-Egidio,
and is surrounded by a massive
The landscape is that of
Tuscany : a
fusion of art and nature, of new and old, to make up a harmonious
whole. Looking from the top of the city walls, one can see one of
the finest and widest views in
Italy, the wide fertile plain of the Valdichiana, with the
mountains of Siena at the far end, Monte Amiata and Monte Cetone
standing out, and the great shining expanse of Lake Trasimene .
The road from the plain to the city winds through terraced olive
groves divided by dry stone walls with fine villas surrounded by
pines, ilexes and cypresses, farms, monasteries and monumental
churches which seem out of place in this isolation, in pure
Renaissance style with domes, windows and belfries all in the
light-coloured local stone.
One can see that Cortona was a power in Etruscan
times by the massive walls of which many traces remain. Many
Etruscan tombs have been discovered in the countryside beneath.
The most famous are: the «Tanella
di Pitagora » (V century BC), and « Melone » at Sodo.
There is a wealth of exhibits in the Etruscan rooms of the Museum
Casali, with jewellery and artifact such as a famous, richly
embossed bronze lamp, of the V century BC, found in 1840. Palazzo
Casali has a Renaissance façade; it houses the Museum
of Etruscan Academy, with Etruscan, Roman and Eyptian
collections, and a picture gallery with works by Pinturicchio and
Luca Signorelli. In the same building, a valuable library is
On the top of the hill, the ancient
One of the most important of the older buildings
is the Palazzo
Civico of the XIII century, with Its XVI century tower. Other
fine buildings are: Palazzo Fierli Petrella of the XV century;
Palazzo Ferretti of the XVIII century; Palazzi Lovari and Mancini
by Brunelleschi, Palazzo Mancini-Sernini, and Villa Passerini,
called also the «Palazzone
» built by G. B. Caporali about 1515.
Of the churches, to be noted: Sant'Agostino (late
XIII century); San Domenico (XV century); San
Francesco, begun by Brother-Elia in 1245 with Romanesque and
Gothic features; the Abbey of Farneta, Pre-Romanesque; the Abbey
The Sanctuary of Santa Margherita was founded by the Saint herself
in the XIII century but it was completely rebuilt in the XIX
century with the Gothic tomb of the Saint, of 1362.
The church of Santa
Maria delle Grazie was begun in 1485 by Francesco di Giorgio
The Renaissance church of Santa
Maria Nuova is of 1550 and the Cathedral, which was first
built in the XI century, was rebuilt at the end of the XV century.
The campanile is dated 1556.
The XVI century church of San
Niccolò has a fine painted banner by Luca Signorelli.
The church of the Gesù houses the
Diocesan Museum, with a number of important paintings
including Beato Angelico's famous «
Annunciation ». Nearby is the Capuchin Convent «alle
Celle », founded near the cell in which St. Francis of Assisi
Cortona was the birthplace of Luca Signorelli
and Pietro da Cortona.
The Communal Library is world-famous. It
contains 22,000 printed volumes, 1172 parchments, 133 incunabula,
and 633 manuscripts.
Suggested sightseeing itineraries :