Friday, April 12, 2013

Cortona



Cortona sits atop Mount Sant' Egidio at an elevation of about 1700 feet.

"...Cortona, a well preserved exemplar of countless hill towns on the Italian peninsula.  Its architecture, complex but manageable, provides a means of rummaging through nearly 30 centuries of history to bring Cortona and adjoining Umbrian and Tuscan areas into sharper focus.  Italy has not a single history, but dozens.  Each fiercely independent city-state, isolated in its Apennine geography, waged its own wars within and without its walls, experienced its own triumphs and defeats, formed its own contracts with overlords and allies.  Only successive invasions of each endured..."
                                                                       Excerpt from Cortona in Context by Pilancy N. Holder

First the Umbrians, then the Etruscans, then the Romans and so it went. Invader after invader and generation after generation building atop the other ultimately creating the Cortona of today.  Fortunately, the only present day invaders are tourists!  


The walls surrounding Cortona
Historians generally agree that the City was founded somewhere between the 10th and 6th century B.C.  Ancient peoples built upon hilltops as a form of defense and Cortona was no exception.  Overlooking a vast valley (and former swampy flood plain until 200 years ago) it provided a perfect vantage point - they could see their enemies coming. Today Cortona's hilltop location provides a sweeping view of the Val de Chiana's rich agricultural lands, groves of olive trees, small villages and the charming stone homes that dot the countryside.  


Looking at the Val de Chiana from Cortona with Lake Trasimeno in the background.




Our house sit is in the town of Camucia, just below Cortona.


Cortona's Piazza della Republica has been the center of town for centuries.

Medieval passageways invite exploration...
...and give a good workout at the same time!


While the focus may be on the ancient there are plenty of modern day shops and restaurants within the walls. 

Enotecas sell local wines - the most famous being those from nearby Montepulciano.


Many people come to Cortona because they're familiar with Under the Tuscan Sun,
 Francis Mayes story about remodeling an old villa and her take on life in the Italian countryside.
They come and make their pilgrimage to her home Bramisole.
But another group of people make their pilgrimage here because this was the home of Saint Margherita
and her remains and relics are located here in the Church of Santa Margherita.




Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (Cortona's Duomo) is located within
the city walls.  Many of the churches in these old hilltop towns have
beautifully adorned interiors and original paintings to view.



Interior of Cortona's Duomo



Each commissioner sent by Florence to oversea Cortona installed their family crest
as an expression of their authority. 


Some architectural details.


The soft colors of age.