History of the City

Text from: "Cortona, guida storico-artistica" by Edoardo and Paolo Mori - Special thanks to Edizioni Calosci - www.calosci.com

Cortona, aerial view. © 2000 Foto Gierre

"From a high Tuscan hill, fifty miles from Florence between Arezzo and Perugia, rises the equally ancient and noble city of Cortona. Before the city lays a vast and beautiful plain, it is flanked on either side by distant hills and valleys while behind it are towering yet fruitful mountains. Cortona has a picturesque aspect, quite a bit longer than wide, turned towards the midday sun. Her district is fertile and is abundant with all that is necessary to human life. It is Cortona marked by the Meridian-Antarctic star sign, feminine, in motion, pungent, earthy, frigid and dry and under the noble reign of..."

This is the description of Cortona in one of the first known guidebooks, compiled by Giacomo Lauro and printed in Rome in 1639. In order to assist the tourists of that time, the guidebook was illustrated with a map of the city, an aerial plan line drawn by Pietro Berrettini. Berrettini was a Cortonese artist best known as Pietro da Cortona and his drawing lends prestige to this guidebook. That description is still valid after nearly four hundred years. Cortona has changed very little in its urban make up, it is still there - framed in the center of a triangle which has for its corners Arezzo, Siena and Perugia, three of the richest cities of Central Italy in history and art works. About eighty kilometers from Florence, Cortona is still a satellite of this city, remaining in its orbit nearly 500 years from 1411 the year of the loss of its independence as a free Comune until 1860.

Before embarking on a visit of the city (located 600 meters above sea level), it would be opportune for the tourist to be familiar with the essential threads of history which run though its culture and artistic treasures.