Tour along the city walls
The tour along the city walls of the tourist guide of Cortona will take you outside the city towards the upper part of the hill, along the ancient city walls surrounding Cortona, to explore the beautiful monuments built outside of the historical center. This guided tour of about 8 km is very difficult and suitable for well trained people. It is however possible to reach these points of interest by car.
- The itinerary begins right outside the historical center of Cortona, from the panoramic Piazza Garibaldi (called “Carbonaia”, coal cellar, because the coal producers of the mountains went there to sell their goods), from which you can enjoy a lovely view of the Valdichiana and of Lake Trasimene.
- Head for the public gardens and you will find on your left the tardo-Gothic Church of San Domenico (15th century), built on the Dominican convent where Fra Angelico worked at the Annunciation (1432-1434), now displayed at the Diocesan Museum. Inside the church there are works by Bartolomeo della gatta, by Luca Signorelli and by Lorenzo Niccolò Gerini.
- Set off for the Parterre gardens, a beautiful tree-lined parkway, at the entrance of which you can admire the Monument to the Dead of World War I by Delfo Paoletti. The small square with the fountain has been dedicated to French president François Mitterrand, who was born in Château-Chinon, the town of Burgundy which Cortona is twined with.
- At the end of the dirty road, continue on the asphalted street surrounding the sport center towards Torreone. Halfway up the street you will find on the left the beautiful Villa Bramasole, which is recognizable for its red orange facade. This villa has become famous worldwide thanks to American writer Frances Mayes, who moved there nearly ten years ago to write novels set in Tuscany. We cannot forget the novel “Under the Tuscan Sun”, on which was based the homonym movie that has made Cortona famous worldwide.
- Once arrived in Torreone turn left and continue going up to the Basilica of Santa Margherita (13th century), built on a small church dedicated to San Basilio where the saint was first buried. The inhabitants decided to build a basilica in her honor and they moved there her embalmed body, today exhibited in a display cabinet behind the main altar. The church contains a rich marble mausoleum made by the School of Siena and a valuable wooden crucifix. Next to the church you will find the bell tower of the 17th century and the old Franciscan convent, where a group of friars and nuns still lives.
- The Fortress of Girifalco (16th century) rises up over the church. It was built by the grand-duke of Tuscany Cosimo I de’ Medici for defense on some ruins of ancient Etruscan, Roman and Medieval fortifications. The trapezoidal-shape building has four bulwarks. Recently restored, it is today the seat of exhibitions and of the “Centro Studi e Documentazioni sulla Civiltà Contadina della Valdichiana e del Trasimeno” (Documentation centre on the Rural Civilization in Valdichiana and around Lake Trasimene).
- Leave the square through the access gateway and go down the dirty road on the right up to Torreone. Continue going down up to the first right turn, where you will take the street leading to the Hermitage of Le Celle (13th century). Founded by Saint Francis and extended by Brother Elias, this hermitage shows the humble style of the Franciscan Friars. Inside the convent you can see Saint Francis’ cell, which was kept untouched after his death, Brother Elias’ Dormitory, the dining hall and the Oratory of the Stigmata. The toponym “Celle” refers to small hermit houses built in the holes of the mountain. The Franciscan Capuchin Friars built afterwards the small church dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua. The waterfall in front of the convent, called “Fosso dei Cappuccini”, is really breathtaking.
- Come back to the main street and go down towards Piazza Mazzini and Porta Colonia. You will see on your right the big Church of Santa Maria Nuova (16th century), whose construction was started by Cristofanello and was finished by Giorgio Vasari. The church has a Greek-cross plan with three identical facades and a beautiful Baroque dome of the 17th century. The more reckless people wanting to reach the church in a different way can follow the panoramic road called “Il Bobolino”, very narrow, winding and to be covered on foot only, which starts near the crossroads between the street leading to the hermitage and the main street.
- From Piazza Mazzini, enter the city through Porta Colonia on via Dardano, a street characterized by some typical Tuscan “trattorias” where you can taste the delicious dishes of the local cuisine. Before entering Piazza Signorelli, take via Benedetti on the left and come back to Piazza della Repubblica, where our interesting guided tour ends.