Our Weekend in Cortona adventure continues as we explore, taste, and walk our way through this majestic hilltop Tuscan town!
When visiting Cortona it’s important to bring good walking shoes. It seems like a common sense thing to do, but many visitors still try to make their way up and down the hill in flip flops. It’s a sure way potentially do damage to your feet, which can really put a damper on your vacation. Leave the flip flops at the beach….many Italian streets require adequate walking shoes.
We start off the uphill walk from the nearby Piazza della Signoria up Via Maffei which also leads us to the Saint Francis church.Saint Francis of Assisi is known to have traveled to and spent time in Cortona.
What you’ll also notice in the video is that around town are laundry or blankets hanging from windows. When their air their laundry in Italy, they do so literally….drawers and all.
From here we head further up on Via Berrettini to San Cristoforo – or Saint Christopher, a Romanesque style church with a 13th century bell tower. Nearby to the right is the 15th century church of San Nicolo. It almost always seems closed, but it’s a quite and peaceful place to stop by.
We go further up on via Santa Croce…yes, there IS more upward walking involved. Told you you’re going to get a workout!
Saint Margaret is the patron saint of Cortona, and she was a most interesting yet controversial person of her time….born in Tuscany in 1247, she ran away from her unhappy home at 16 to live in sin with a wealthy young nobleman of Montepulciano, named Arsenio. She lived in the lap of luxury for 9 years known as the Lady of Montepulciano, although she was only his mistress, because her lover never fulfilled his promise to marry her, not even after they had a son together – quite unacceptable in those days.
Her life tragically changed when Arsenio was killed under mysterious circumstances, and she was expelled from the castle she lived in….and found herself homeless and penniless with a young son. In desperation, she found herself pulled in two directions: one relying on her beautiful looks to start a new life as yet another mistress to a new rich aristocrat….or follow a spiritual path — one that she chose and it lead her to Cortona and introduced here to the Franciscan order where she became a nun.
During the time she spent caring for the sick and dying, she founded the Hospital of Saint Mary of Mercy in Cortona…a hospital that still exists today, but replaced by a new building. She lived in Cortona for 16 years and when her mystical experiences became more frequent, she moved to a cell next to a small church and remained a recluse for 9 years in silence and meditation, after which she passed away in 1297. She was cannonized into sainthood in 1728.
The first church of Santa Margherita built in her honor was in the 1300′s, with a single nave and a stupendous rose window, but the church was enlarged on different occasions, the last time in mid 1800′s in gratitude of Cortona saved from the cholera epidemic that raged throughout Tuscany. In this sanctuary are two precious relics: the crucifix that often spoke to Saint Margaret, and inside a glass window urn placed at the altar, her incorrupt body. Pilgrims come from all over the world to venerate this saint and ask for her powerful intercession.
Most fascinating is the body of the saint on display in a glass coffin inside the altar.
If you came here by car, you can also take a 3 mile ride to Le Celle - the Hermitage of Saint Francis of Assisi.
In 1211 St Francis and a few of his followers built the first 9 cells of the hermitage, hence the name meaning The Cells. It’s believed that this is where St Francis dictated his will, 4 months before his death. Since I was on foot, I didn’t make it all the way to Le Celle on this visit (or in this video), but I returned years later by car and it’s amazing!
Tuscany is known for its world famous food and wine, and local restaurants have the best ingredients at hand to prepare delicious cuisines. For dinner, I came to La Buccacia, a local restaurant on Via Ghibelina, off of Piazza della Repubblica. La Bucaccia is a family owned restaurant, where Chef Agostina Magi prepares dishes according to Cortonese traditions and Tuscan ingredients. Restaurant Manager Romano Magi ensures guest experiences are unforgetable in this cozy stone walled restaurant with a fire place and a wine cellar…even their young daughter lends a helping hand as she learns 1st hand all about the restaurant business from her parents. But what we’re here for is the food!! Sampling a little bit from a variety of dishes was the best way to experience as much of the local flavors….but what I didn’t realize is what a feast THIS would turn out to be! Be prepared to be have your taste buds beg you to go to Cortona….In the video you will see the various dishes sampled….it will give you delicious ideas of what to order when you visit Cortona!
A king’s feast of green fresh handmade pasta with mushrooms – the pasta was made green with herbs….Ravioli with Tartuffo (Tartuffo is truffle)… Bisteca Fiorentina – Florentine Steak. Buon appetito to me!
Thank you for joining me today in Cortona…I hope you’ve enjoyed this short visit to this beautiful hilltop town as much as I have. Cortona is a small town, but there is so much to explore you’ll not only want to stay here a few days, but you’ll surely want to come back…Until next time, ciao for now!