Palaces and Villas
In the 11th century the "palace" was the symbol of the rural aristocracy of the high Middle Ages, moving from their castles and establishing within the urban walls of the free Comune. They were the exclusive homes of wealthy families in contrast to the "house", the house of the common people and the "church" which was the house of God and everybody. The aristocratic families then became solidly planted in public offices as well. From the 1500's to the 1700's they demonstrate their wealth and power by building palaces, from the restoration of old houses or by creating new ones. These palaces of Renaissance or Baroque architecture were adorned with family crests. At one time the interiors were rich in precious works of art, paintings, sculpture, furniture, libraries and archives. Today they are stripped for the most part and their treasures are dispersed, as opposed to what happened to the churches that still contain a good part of their prestigious antique works. The major part of the palaces, if they have not been turned into public offices, is today cold condominiums. We have noted below few of the palaces which are interesting from a historic and an architectural point of view:
PALAZZO QUINTANI (13th century) On the corner of 26, Via Roma, this is a typical example of a house of the end of the 1200's. It has remained well preserved in its structure with large smooth walls in stone and arched windows of extreme simplicity.
PALAZZO ALFIERI-ALTICOZZI (13th century) In the 13th century the Alfieri family built its palace at 6, Via Nazionale on what were probably pre-existing Roman buildings. In the 1400's the ownership passed to the Alticozzi family and it was restructured and further expanded in the course of the 16th century, when it was decided to give it a new facade. It is a sober, tall and harmonious building. There are two noble floors above the ground floor with windows framed by stone and beams. The last floor, the one of the servants, has smaller square windows. In the friezes the family crest of the Alticozzi can be found.
PALAZZO PONTELLI-MANCINI (13th century) This palace is located on the corner of 15, Via Dardano. The lower portion of the building has a very evident so-called "door of the dead" of from the 1300's. The floor plan of the palace is medieval while its development in elevation has been done during the 1500's. The facade consists of a ground floor and two upper floors, divided by underlining cornices which mark off the levels. Each of the two upper floors has five windows and above the great door there is the crest of the Pontelli family.
PALAZZO TOMMASI-FIERLI (15th century) One of the largest and most majestic of Cortona, this palace can be found at 25, Via Benedetti. The lower floor is constructed with a long series of open ashlar archways, which are now closed. Two long rows of arched windows on the corners of the upper storeys are divided by the linear cornices. The facade is quite impressive. In the lunette over the entry door there is a stupendous beat iron grate with the crest of the Tommasi family.
PALAZZO BALDELLI (16th century) This palace at 15, Via Guelfa is now the site of the Hotel San Michele. It is considered to be an "abridged history of Cortona" as it was the site of a fortification in the 11th century. In the 12th century it was the city residence of the Marquis of the Monte Santa Maria and in 1200 it was destined to be the public "Ragione" office, where the podestà would administer justice. It passed into the possession of the Baldelli family in the 15th century and was remodeled two times in the 16th century. There was other extensive work completed in the following century but the palace has essentially conserved its 1500's appearance.
PALAZZO CRISTOFANELLO-LAPARELLI (16th century) As it is indicated in the Latin inscription on the large frieze, Benedetto Laparelli, an apostolic protonotary at the time of Pope Paul III Farnese, had this building constructed in 1533 on the previous structures of his family's propriety at 4, Via Guelfa. The architect was Giovanbattista Infregliati of Cortona also known as Cristofanello (who died in Umbertide in 1554). The facade is of worked stone and is divided into three levels. The ground floor has wide ashlar arches, the middle has large arched windows divided by pilaster strips and the upper floor consists of a large loggia with ten columns and six pilasters. It is worth noticing the beat iron flag holders to the left of the entry door. Today it is the property of the Banca Popolare of Cortona (a bank) which has established its headquarters here and financed numerous restorations.
PALAZZO SERNINI-CUCCIATTI (16th century) The detail to admire on this palace located at 3, Piazzetta Alfieri is the elegant Renaissance entry door, the work of the Cortonese Cristofanello.