The substantial remains of the Etruscan and of the Roman city of Cortona are mainly big and imposing parts of the city walls, while there are few remains of other types of structures and buildings. On the contrary, the countryside and the mountains around Cortona have given a lot of information about history, since they have preserved extraordinary pieces of evidence from the Paleolithic Age to the Roman Age: the funerary architecture just outside the city (Tanella di Pitagora and Tanella Angori) and at the bottom of the hill, in Camucia, Sodo and Mezzavia, the Etruscan sanctuaries outside the city, the beautiful Roman villa of Ossaia, the Etruscan and Roman roads on the mountains around Cortona. All the archaeological sites can be visited, some freely, others with reservation only.
The Tanella di Pitagora, just outside the city walls of Cortona, is a Hellenistic tomb dating back to the second half of the 3rd - 2nd century B.C. A rectangular chamber is located on a circular basement and surrounded by a cylindrical tambour made of big sandstone blocks. Some niches open on its walls, where some cinerary urns were preserved, three on the wall on the right, one on the wall on the left and two on the wall at the back. The upper concave niche probably kept the urn containing the progenitor’s ashes. Here you can see some remains of the vaulted ceiling, made of wedge-shaped stone blocks, which could bear their weight and the overhanging structure thanks to the small size of the chamber. The blocks were covered by earth and little pebbles that gave the structure the shape of a hill. The Tanella can be visited by contacting the Museum of the Etruscan Academy and of the City of Cortona.
The Tanella Angori, close to the Tanella di Pitagora, is dating back to the Hellenistic Period (2nd century B.C.) and only preserves the lower part of the crepido (a cylindrical tambour on a circular base) and few blocks of the crowning band. Only the pavement of the chamber remains today of the Greek-cross interiors.
The burial mounds – The “Melone of Camucia” and the other two tombs in Sodo are three imposing burial places, which are nearly aligned on the same airline axis, along the present road SS 71. These tombs’ owners and founders were rich local families, who played an important role in society at that time, thanks to their big properties and the control of communications. These families collected and exhibited many valuable objects, both during their life and through their funerary monuments: silver, golden and ivory objects, Egyptian and Oriental manufactured products and Greek painted vases.
The “Melone” of Camucia was discovered in 1840 by Alessandro François, a famous archaeologist who had already worked in other Etruscan centers. The excavation took place two years later by digging up a chamber tomb (tomb A), the François Tomb named after its discoverer, whereas another tomb (tomb B) was found in 1964. These two tombs have given materials that were dated back to a period between the end of the 7th century and the beginning of the 4th century B.C.
The materials discovered inside the tomb are displayed in the MAEC Museum of Cortona. This burial mound can be visited on demand by calling the Soprintendenza Archeologica (0575 612565).
The Melone I of Sodo, the only one that can be visited inside, was discovered in 1909. Archeologists found a single tomb made up of an entrance corridor, a vestibule and two central chambers onto which opened four lateral cells (two on each side and communicating with each other) and the back cell, which was bigger than the others. On the door architrave between the two chambers on the left-hand side you can see an inscription mentioning ARNT MEFANATES, the owner’s name, who used the tomb for himself and for his wife VELIA HAPISNEI around the 4th century B.C. Various kinds of materials were used for the construction of this tomb: the floor is made of grey sandstone from the area, while the walls leaning on it are made of yellow sandstone from the pits of Eastern Valdichiana. It is likely that this is the most recent of the three burial mounds, since the pseudo-vaulted overhanging ceiling, which can be found even in the other two tombs, has an element belonging to a more recent period. The corners made up by the overhanging blocks have been cut, creating a smooth and nearly sloping ceiling. The Melone I can be only visited during the good season. For further information, please contact the Museum of the Etruscan Academy and of the City of Cortona.
The extraordinary Tumulo (or Melone) II of Sodo is located on the right-hand edge of the stream Loreto. Its structure and one tomb (tomb 1) were already known since 1929. Tomb 1 is characterized by a long entrance corridor, which leads to two consecutive rectangular vestibules, through which it was possible to enter six lateral chambers (three on each side) and the main chamber at the back of the tomb. But only recent excavations, carried out since 1990, have unearthed a big monumental risalit, probably an altar – platform for religious ceremonies and cultural practices. The structure is made up of a ten-step stairway that is embellished with a carved lateral balustrade and an overhanging platform, maybe seat of the altar. The balustrade has got a rich and refined stony decoration. In 1992 another tomb (tomb 2) has been discovered and explored. It is made up of two consecutive chambers, where some fetid-stone sarcophaguses and cinerary urns as well as extremely refined golden pieces have been found: necklaces of different kinds, pendants, earrings and rings. All the archaeological materials coming from this burial mound are displayed in the Museum of the Etruscan Academy and of the City of Cortona.
The necropolis of Sodo – In 2005, after many vain researches, on the right-hand side of Tumulo II of Sodo, part of a big Orientalizing necropolis was unexpectedly found. During excavations for shifting the bed of stream Loreto, aimed at solving water problems of Tumulo II and at enabling a better fruition of the archaeological park of Sodo, two tomb circles were discovered, with incineration burials included in a larger archaeological context, as well as the foundations of a big building, about 200 m westwards. The “cassetta” tombs were mostly intact and had their funerary equipments still in situ. The perimeter of these two tomb groups is characterized by circles of sandstone slabs lying on a foundation of vertical slabs that are reinforced by river pebbles. The site can be seen from outside but cannot be visited.
You can find the road sign for the Tomb of Mezzavia on the right-hand side in S. Pietro a Cegliolo along road SS 71 towards Arezzo. This chamber tomb was dug in tuff and was discovered in 1950 in the village called Il Passaggio (Peciano). It is made up of a single cell with four niches on the lateral walls and one at the back, where the words “tusti tui” are engraved. Like the Tanella di Pitagora and the Tanella Angori, even this tomb dates back to the Hellenistic period (end of the 3rd- beginning of the 2nd century B.C.). It can be visited on demand by contacting the Museum of the Etruscan Academy and of the City of Cortona.
A magnificent example of Roman villa of the late Republican and Imperial period was discovered in Ossaia – La Tufa. The total surface is about 1000 sq. m. and is distributed over three main areas which are divided by a middle terrace.
The structures unearthed during excavations refer to three main housing phases. The first phase dates back from 50 B.C. to half of the following century, the second phase from 80-100 A.C. to the 3rd century A.C. and the third phase from the Tetrarchic period to half of the 5th century A.C. Beautiful geometric black and white and polychrome mosaics, as well as marbles and funerary inscriptions for the decoration of this residential area are among the mobile materials found and displayed at MAEC Museum.