Italy
Cortona

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15 travelers at this place

  • Day9

    Fortezza di Girifalco, Cortona

    November 30, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    We eventually made it to the top and to the Fortezza di Girifalco. There has probably been a fortress on the hilltop overlooking Cortona since the 5th or 6th century BC, when the original Etruscan walls followed a course which roughly corresponds to the existing perimeter walls of today. However the first historical records date back to 1258 AD. Having been plundered and sacked several times during the wars with Arezzo, it was sold to the Florentine Republic in 1411 and reconstruction work began in 1527. Over time changes were made and fortifications added to ensure it could resist the force of heavy artillery barrage from the cannons of modern European armies of the 16th century.

    In 1766 it was finally disarmed and sold to the Community of Cortona which used it as a town prison. During WWII it was the home of 250 children whose parents were exiled abroad, and as a strategic observation post of German radio operators who were eventually kicked out to accommodate liberation troops of the allied forces.

    Further restoration work was undertaken in 1959 and 1969 to enable visitors to view the keep and the internal courtyard. Today it is used for temporary exhibitions, small shows, conferences, weddings and private parties. With its history and what I had read in my research I thought this would be a good place to visit. However, for the €5 entrance fee, it really was a disappointing stop with very little done to promote or display the history. The advertised café was non-existent and with the clouds still covering the valley the views weren’t what we had hoped for. It really wasn’t worth the long hard hike up the hill.
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  • Day9

    Piazza della Repubblica, Cortona

    November 30, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    You would think the walk back down the hillside would be easier than the hike up, but it was just as hard on the old knees. Thankfully we chose a slightly easier route along the old wall, with the added bonus of decorative alter like alcoves to admire on our way down. Once back into Cortona itself, we spent a bit more time wandering the now empty streets, admiring the historic buildings with their unique features and the interesting statues.

    All lanes seem to lead back to Piazza della Repubblica, the centerpiece of Cortona and formerly the Roman forum of the town. Standing over the square is the 12th century Palazzo Comunale which was originally intended for town meetings. Its quaint clock tower against the brilliant blue sky is a sight we enjoyed every time we passed through the piazza.

    The other building to catch our eye was the Palazzo Pretorio, now the home to the Museum of Etruscan Antiquites. Built by the Casali family that ruled Cortona in the 13th century it was used as a residence until 1409. In 1411 it was named Palazzo Pretoris and occupied by the city’s Florentine captains, whose coats of arms are still visible on the façade of the building.

    We finally stopped to rest our weary legs while enjoying yet another delicious Italian meal before heading back to our apartment for our Italian siesta. Having mastered the art of buying meats and cheeses from the Italian delis, we decided to have a night in and enjoy some of the local wares, added with our purchases from the market. A very simple but enjoyable meal to end another amazing day.
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  • Day9

    Piazza del Duomo, Cortona

    November 30, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 5 °C

    After a relaxing breakfast we headed out to fully explore Cortona and what a beautiful day for exploring, sun shining and brilliant blue skies. We spent the morning walking through the streets and shopping at the weekly markets that filled the two piazzas. It is so much fun trying to communicate with the locals and we somehow managed to buy leather belt for Brad and some fresh fruit for a snack. It certainly added to the experience of everyday life here in Cortona.

    This is such a pretty town, with the shop fronts adorned with pretty flowerpots and interesting displays, and every alleyway filled with plants or little treasures. While Orvieto was in full Christmas mode, Cortona is taking its time getting into the Christmas spirit. One of the shop owners told us there had been a change of government recently and the locals were not impressed with how long things were taking. Turn on the Christmas lights already, she said. While I loved the Christmas vibe of Orvieto, I also liked that Cortona was only slightly adorned although I too wished the Christmas lights were turned on. Hopefully our next town will be further along with this.

    After a stroll through the town and the markets, we made our way to the Piazza del Duomo for see Cortona’s Cathedral. However, before checking out the church, we were side-tracked by the view over the valley. The sunshine and blue skies hadn’t chased all the clouds away and they had settled across the valley below us. It was a sight to see as we were above the clouds. We did return in the afternoon to take some more photos after the clouds had cleared away – breathtaking views.
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  • Day9

    Duomo di Cortona, Cortona

    November 30, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 7 °C

    From the piazza we made our way into the Concattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, Cortona’s Cathedral. Compared to other cathedrals we have seen in Italy we were very surprised by the plainness of this one. It certainly didn’t stand out in any way as a cathedral. Built over the remains of an ancient Roman temple in the 11th century, this Roman Catholic cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was later refurbished in the late 15th century in preparation as the episcopal seat.

    The appearance of the original medieval church is mostly hidden by later additions, such as the 18th century barrel vaulted ceiling which was repainted in the late 19th century. The oval windows, the triumphal arch and the pavement were also added or remade at that time. The oldest elements visible are in the Romanesque façade, a pier with capital, the small columns at the corners and the part of the large arcade.

    Like the exterior the interior is not overly adorned either, with most of the original artworks now on display in the town’s Diocesan Museum. The artworks still in the cathedral include some well-known 16th and 17th century pieces that are framed by elaborate stone altars. The Catholics really do treasure their artworks and the subjects they portray.

    Overall it was nice to see a low-key Cathedral, but it isn’t one I would suggest people put on their must-see lists. However, the view from the piazza in front of the Cathedral was spectacular – even with the clouds covering the valley below.
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  • Day8

    Cortona

    November 29, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    After one last delicious breakfast at our favourite breakfast place, Caffe Montanucci, and one last stroll to see the Duomo in the early morning light, we sadly departed Orvieto to make our way to our next town, Cortona. We have loved our time in Orvieto and hope the next stop can live up to our experiences here.

    On arriving in Cortona our lovely hostess even met us at the train station to drive us to the old town, where we are staying. This was a lovely surprise and even more appreciated as the rain had set in. One thing I did not learn about Cortona when researching for our trip was that it is a very steep town and pushing and pulling our suitcases up the cobblestone streets from the lower car park, in the rain was not fun and a bit exhausting. Thankfully we did not have too far to walk. And the walk was worth is as our apartment for the next few nights is beautiful. So far we have been very lucky with the places we have chosen – fingers crossed that luck continues.

    Thankfully the rain did not last long and we were quickly able to do a light unpack and head out to explore Cortona. Being that it is our first time here we were excited to see what it was like and were not disappointed. Being that it is a town on a hill, the views surrounding the town are breathtaking.

    Cortona’s origins actually predate recorded history with on of its most popular foundation myths was that the son of Noah, Crano, navigated to the area following the great flood and founded his city on the hillside. It is more likely that Cortona was founded by the Umbrians, a tribal group in ancient Italy and soon taken over and enlarged by the Etruscans. The original town was settles around 3000 years ago, some three to four hundred years before the founding of Rome. It is now a town of archaeological sites and is very proud of its history.

    Its latest claim to fame is that it is home to the villa Bramasole, built in 1504, the location for the 2003 movie, Under the Tuscan Sun. With the stunning views and beautiful countryside I can see why it was chosen as the location. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon exploring the surrounding laneways, browsing in the shops and admiring the scenery. One shop that stood out in particular was the one with its own shop cat, and a very vocal and friendly cat he was. He was very demanding when it came to wanting affection and pats and we were happy to oblige. It is great to see pet owners love their pets as much as we do.

    Tired from all our walking (just up the street and back) we just had to stop at a wine bar for some refreshments - wine, beer and bruschetta. It was great to relax and appreciate our surroundings and get chatting to a local or two. What a pleasant way to spend the afternoon before heading back to our apartment for a light siesta before heading out again. I think we are going to enjoy Cortona.
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  • Day8

    Il Preludio, Cortona

    November 29, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    After a freshen up, and the best shower I have ever had in all our Italian travels, we headed out for dinner, having decided to try Il Preludio. Set in a 16th century building this is quite a surprising restaurant; from its wooden rocking horses or porcelain puppies adorning each table, to the tall frog waiter as you enter the ancient wooden doors, to the floral Versace place setting and African statues decorating the steps, this is a very different restaurant to the more authentic ones we have visited so far. A wee bit quirky, which of course, I just love.

    The service and the meal were amazing – out of this world. We were greeted with a complimentary glass of Prosecco and an entrée of potato soup, beautifully presented on large glass bowls. And the freebies continued with a bowl of warm breads of different flavours, a glass of dessert wine to go with our desserts and a shot of limoncello for me and grappa for Brad at the end of the night. This all complimented the meal we actually ordered which was pigeon stuffed with snails for Brad and an amazing saffron risotto with mushrooms and truffles for me. Brad enjoyed his pigeon but did say it was quite hard to eat being so small and bony. We shared a dessert that’s description intrigued us the most – hazelnut mousse with gianduia chocolate centre and caramelized cream puffs with vanilla cream sauce. I think this has to be the stand-out meal for me so far as my risotto was so rich, creamy and incredibly pretty, the dessert amazing and all the added extras it was a really special experience. Somehow we managed to roll our full bellies home. A great first night in Cortona.
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  • Day10

    Chiesa di San Domenico, Cortona

    December 1, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 4 °C

    Cortona certainly seems to have a lot of churches, as we do tend to pop our heads into each one as we pass them. You never know what treasures are hidden behind the church doors. The Chiesa di San Domenico is a convent and a small church with an unfinished grey stone brick facade. Building originally began in 1230 but was not completed until 1438 with a major refurbishment occurring in the 1590s. Most of the convent was destroyed as new roads were built in 1817.

    The interior is a single, simple hall covered with wooden trusses with a raised presbytery and six side altars that all display some historic pieces of art. Under the high alter, the body of the Dominican Blessed Pietro Capucci is preserved and on display. This is one tradition that does surprise us and after seeing a few mummified bodies it is no longer so confronting. It was another interesting church to see. I does surprise me how different some of the churches are in the same small town, some are very elaborate and well looked after, while others, like this one, are quite simple and unadorned of all the finery. It was an interesting stop.
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  • Day10

    Sunrise, Cortona

    December 1, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 3 °C

    We have still not acclimatised to the Italian time zone and are generally awake before the sun rises. Today Brad wandered out for a brisk morning stroll and came running back to grab me so we could witness the beautiful sunrise over the Tuscan valley. It was a glorious sight to see.Read more

  • Day10

    Cortona

    December 1, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    Today ended up being just an easy day. We had hoped to make our way to Arezzo but due to the time of year and being a Sunday, our transport options were limited, and it was not to be. Instead we enjoyed another stroll through this historic town, did a bit of window shopping and enjoyed a lovely walk through the gardens at the edge of town. I am loving the fact they have such a pretty Autumn here and the colours of the trees are beautiful. And I love the “naked” trees too. I still have to pinch myself that we are strolling through an historic Italian town. Feeling very lucky we are able to do these things.

    Feeling like we are getting better at our Italian (who are we kidding – we are bad), we managed to buy some meats and cheeses to enjoy in our apartment for lunch. And after a siesta (we are trying very hard to be Italian) we headed out for our last dinner in Cortona.

    On the recommendation of our host, the beautiful Serena, we had dinner at Taverna Il Gozzoviglio. This place had a very different vibe to Il Preludio, where we ate the other night. It was a lot more simple in style, still very pretty, and it prides itself on being a family business with a simple kitchen, bringing the traditions of their land and the history of their family to the table. It had a great vibe and the food was amazing. Brad decided once again to try something different and had calf snout with tomato sauce, which actually wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I even tried a bit. It was very tender and did not resemble a calf snout on the plate – which is a good thing. I had a delicious pollo alla cacciatora, steamed chicken with vegetables and olives. Because we had had a ‘light’ food day, dessert was allowed with Brad having a warm chocolate souffle and I had my first Italian tiramisu. It was a lovely last meal and enjoyable last night in Cortona.
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  • Day9

    Bascillica di Santa Margherita, Cortona

    November 30, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    Situated just below the Fortrezza di Girifalco is the Bascillica di Santa Margherita. Originally the site of a small oratory dedicated to San Basilio, built in the 11th century, the church and adjacent convent were rebuilt in 1288 after the original church was damaged in 1258. The rebuild efforts were led by Margherita di Cortona, a Franciscan nun, who later died in 1297 in a room behind the old church where she lived the last years of her life. On her death it was decided to build a church in her honour, next to the ancient church and the current church was completed in 1304, although it continued to be embellished with important frescoes throughout the 14th century.

    Originally Margherita di Cortona was buried in a wall of the original chapel but her remains were disinterred in 1456 and are now housed on the alter of the Basilica. Once again this is quite a confronting sight as we viewed the handling of someone’s remains so differently.

    The frescos in this church are beautiful, and thankfully quite a few still remain even though many have been lost in repair work over the years. I do love how almost every surface is decorated or adorned in some way. There is beauty everywhere. To the left is a large chapel in memory of those Cortonese fallen during the war. The names of those lost cover the walls, similar to our War Memorial’s Hall of Memory and it has a real sense of reverence. In a town of churches, this one is worth the long hike up to see.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Cortona, Cortone, Кортона

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