Weekend in Cortona (part 1)
Hello, and welcome again to Cortona. In the last episode we covered the essentials to fill up a day trip visit to this beautiful Tuscan hilltop town. In this episode, we’re spending the weekend venturing beyond Cortona’s flat piazzas…which means it’s an uphill hike from here on! We’ll also check outCortona’s Etruscan roots, Medieval past, and what life is like in Cortonafrom one of the locals, Alessandra Fedirici. And of course, you can’t come toCortona and not indulge in some local Tuscan delicacies!
Where to Stay in Cortona
First thing you gotta do when spending more than a day in a place is find accommodations! Cortona offers a variety of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and even convents for the budget minded. This time, I stayed at a lovely guest house, Casa Kita. It’s situated right below Piazza Garibaldi, and I liked it so much there, I just had to show it to you! There are a few stairs you have to take to reach the guest house, but in Cortona uphill and downhill is the norm. You can’t escape it unless you stay put in the town’s center.In the video I take you on a mini tour of the charming Casa Kita…I fell in love it it, I’m sure you will too!
TIP: When you venture off the main streets and squares, grab a map from the Tourist Information Office located on Via Nazionale. It will help you find our way and not get lost as you venture through Cortona’s windy streets and alleys.
When you venture off the main piazzas, it’s a different world….a world without floods of tourists, shops or sidewalk cafes!! And most of all, they streets are quiet!
From Piazza della Repubblica we take via Roma and we will travel back in time several centuries….to via Ianelli.
What’s so special about via Ianelli? There are no shops, cafes, or restaurants there…nothing, except some real life medieval archeological relics that are still completely functional!In the video you will have a glimpse into the Medieval era of Cortona….you will feel like you’re on a movie set of a period film set in the 1200′s!
In the last episode we talked about walls built by the Etruscans that dated back to 8th century BC. Throughout its history, Cortona has changed names almost as often as it changed hands.
Cortona’s founders were the Etruscans – an ancient civilzation often referred to as the pre-Romans because many of the Roman contributions such as gladiators, togas, stone archways, roads and sewage systems were created by the Etruscans whom the Romans absorbed when the city of Rome expanded into an empire. The Etruscans called this town Curtun, and it was one of the 12 cities in the Etruscan League, but much of its ancient foundation is lost in legends since the Etruscan language is still pretty much a mystery.
One of these legends tells that Cortona was built by Noah‘s descendant, Crano – Noah, as in Noah’s Flood. Here he built a kingdom called Turrenia due to its high towers. Turrenia is said to have been the original name of Tuscany.
Legends also place Ulysses and Pythagoras among those who have lived and eventually died here. After changing names several times, it’s said it was finally named Cortona by ancient Roman historian Titus Livius.
Cortona prospered during the reign of the Etruscans, but after their downfall it became a Roman colony and witnessed the bloody battles of the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage like the Trasimeno Lake battle where Roman troops were crushed by the Carthaginian commander, Hannibal in 217 BC. In the mid 6th century it was sacked by the Goths, later on conquered by the King of Naples in 1409 and sold to the Medici family of Florence, and so it kept changing hands until it became a part of the Italian kingdom in 1860.
So calling this a “medieval” hilltop town because of its medieval architecture, doesn’t begin to scratch its deep historic surface. It would take more than one episode to cover Cortona’s history spanning over 2 thousand years. To learn more about life in Cortona nowadays, I chatted with Alessandra Federici, owner of La Girasole in Piazza della Repubblica – the shop we visited last episode.
(NOTE: The shop in the video Girasole is no longer open. There is a new shop in its place)
When traveling alone and wanting to see so much, there’s not always time for a sit down lunch at a local restaurant. Sometimes it’s fun to have a Picnic with a View: go to the local market and select some favorite lunch stuff, find a perfect spot to enjoy the scenery….and buon appetito!
In Cortona a trip to the local market like this one in Piazza della Repubblica for a few picnic staples like one of the many varieties of prosciutto, some truffle pecorino cheese, crusty Italian bread, some fruit and a bottle of water, will make your taste buds and your wallet happy. And if you’re not hungry yet, don’t worry…a walk uphill to Santa Margherita church will surely work up an apetite! This is not just another church….it’s the church of the patron saint of Cortona, and one of the few places in the world where you can see the incorruptible saint herself at the altar, face to face!!
Be sure to watch the next episode for more Cortona adventures!