THE BENEDICTINE-CAMALDOLESE HERMITAGE OF SANT'EGIDIO (18th century) On the mountain of Sant'Egidio in the area of Cortona there was a community of Benedictine Monks already established from the year 1000. The first abbey is documented to have been located in the area of a cross which can be found there today. After 1300 it was moved North-East to a place called Vallemagna towards the Nestore Valley, and afterwards in 1700 to its present location that is owned by the bishops’ house. Only faint traces of the first two locations and a church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, a large guest room and six of the hermits’ cells of the living quarters of the 18th century are still intact. The view through the woods is breathtaking and the area is surrounded by a mystical peace.
LE CONTESSE (19th century) The place where this wonderful complex has been built is enriched by a magnificent view and a marvelous park. It is indicated in ancient Roman documents under the name "Marignano". The first community of Clarisse nuns moved there in 1225, then they transferred their residence in Targe, where the modern day cemetery is to be found today, and from which they definitively moved in 1581 to the present day convent of Santa Chiara. After the Clarisse left the place in 1237, a community of Benedictine nuns moved to Marignano and in 1290 they were united with another community of Benedictine nuns who abandoned their convent at Montemaggio. There were two noblewomen who were part of this community one was a countess from Cegliolo and the other a countess from Montemaggio, thus the name "Le Contesse" was substituted for "Marignano". Other people think the name comes from the fact that most of the women who joined the Benedictine convent belonged to noble families. In 1718 Iannelli, a Cortonese architect built the present day Baroque church on the 1237 site of the pre-existing church of the Clarisse nuns. It conserves a terracotta figure of the "Madonna of the Contesse", which was present in the old church, as well as the famous Assumption of the Madonna by Bartolomeo della Gatta, that can be seen in the Diocesan Museum. On the main altar there is a copy of a Byzantine-Crete "Madonna". The original can be found in the Church of Saint Alfonso on Via Merulana in Rome. After alternating ups and downs due to unifications and suppressions, the little that remained of the buildings and of the church was acquired in 1891 by the Communità dei Padri Redentoristi, who turned over the task of restoring the entire lot into a complex adapted as a scholastic college to teach philosophy and theology to Cortonese architect Domenico Mirri. By chance this architect was given the task of transforming both Marignano and Targe, two of his largest projects both following the transfer of the Clarisse nuns from these places. In 1883 he designed the present day "Cimitero della Misericordia" (the cemetery of Mercy) in the place where the Clarisse had their second residence and where they had their first residence ten years later. As Angel Tafi said, the monumental complex is perfectly conceived in a Vasarian sense for the countryside and the stupendous surrounding territory it. For nearly a century at Le Contesse the noble task of increasing studies and culture has been carried out. Because of the fall in attendance to classes, in the 1970s the Padri Redentoristi transferred the study center to Rome and the building was turned into a hospitality house for conferences and congresses, many of which are held in the nearby branch of the Scuola Normale di Pisa at Palazzone. The complex has been renamed Oasi Giovanni Neuman, in honor to a Bohemian Redentorista father who was a missionary bishop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (United States).
THE SANTA MARGHERITA INSTITUTE This residence of the Suore Serve di Maria Riparatrici is to be found at 15, Via Cesare Battisti. The building was constructed between 1930 and 1935 and was a gathering point for needy Cortonese children. The institute took afterwards the name of G.I.L.E.- Gioventù Italiana Littorio Estero (Hostel for Foreign-born Italian Youth). It would house the children of Italian people living abroad during the summer vacation. Until 1979 the institute functioned as a school for girls, but since 1980, after internal restoration, it became the headquarters of the bishop of the province. At present there is a community of seventeen sisters who reside in the institute. The part of the building which is not used by the nuns is let for accommodations: both private parties and groups can be accommodated and have use of the chapel, a conference room, a dining room for eighty and a room for preparing meals.
CASA BETANIA This is a house that is meant to receive guests for tourist or religious visits. It is located in 50, Via Gino Severini, at a short distance from the Santa Margherita Institute. It is run by the Sisters of the Stigmata (Poor Daughters of the Sacred Stigmata of Saint Francis of Assisi) and is described by the sisters themselves as an "oasis of peace for the care of the soul". All year long bible study classes are held here with outstanding speakers. Betania also offers the possibility for organized groups, families and individual parties of all faiths and creeds to stay at the house for modest prices in a family atmosphere with respect and freedom.
DAUGHTERS OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS In the village of Pergo about 6 kilometers from Cortona, the sisters of this institute, originally from Fiume, moved to different parts of Italy after World War II. They teach catechism to children and young people and are associated with the schools at all levels. They are active instructing from the nursery school level (they run one in Terontola) to the high school level as well as in parish, church and state organizations. They dedicate most of their time to education. The community makes one of the antique buildings of their monastery available to tourists.