Cortona: a cultural itinerary

Those wanting to know more about the town’s history and ancient and contemporary art can not miss a visit to the two town museums, the Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca and the Museo Diocesano.

Lampadario etrusco in bronzo

Created as an expression of the Etruscan Academy’s cultural engagement in 1727, the Museo dell’Accademia spreads over 14 rooms of the Palazzo Casali in the Piazza Signorelli. The museum houses Etruscan, Roman and Egyptian art collections. Amongst the most valuable pieces, greatly admired for their beauty and originality, are: the “Etruscan Chandelier”, an Etruscan bronze artefact from the 5th century B.C.; the”Egyptian funerary boat”, 2000-year-old wooden artefact and the “Musa Polimnia”, unique looking encaustic painting on a slate-board; a “Madonna” by Pinturicchio (1454-1513), a large altarpiece with “Madonna e Santi” by Pietro da Cortona (1597-1669), the “Sheperds Adoration” by Luca Signorelli (1450-1523) and works of other famous artists such as Bartolomeo della Gatta, Andrea Comodi, Neri di Bicci, Niccolò Gerini, Piazzetta. The museum’s newer wing hosts an anthological collection of paintings and other artefacts by Gino Severini (1883-1966). Of great interest also the Medici medals, Etruscan coins, illuminated manuscripts, gems and ceramics exhibit. The adjoining Town Library, boasts over 60.000 volumes, 1172 parchments, 133 incunabula and 633 illuminated manuscripts. The important Archivio del Comune is extensively consulted by scholars coming from all over the world.

l’Annunciazione”, una delle più eccelse opere di Beato Angelico

The Museo Diocesano, is housed in the former upper-church of the “Gesù” and annexed rooms. Located across from the Cathedral, the church, fronted by a monocuspidate unostentatious façade in local sandstone with 17th century decorations, consists of an upper-church and a lower-oratory connected by an interior stairway. The interior renovation plan was drafted by Filippo Berrettini and Giorgio Vasari worked on the oratory decoration. On the wall at the far end of the upper-church hangs one of Beato Angellico’s sublimest artworks, the “Annunciazione”. Also on display in the museum are paintings by Sassetta (16th century), Duccio di Boninsegna (14th century) and Luca Signorelli, amongst which stands out the latter’s dramatic “Deposizione”. Definitely worth seeing are the two streets adjacent the Museum, Via del Gesù and Via Iannelli, still showing a typical medieval layout. The sober and charming baroque church of “San Filippo”, with paintings by Piazzetta (1682-1754) and Sacrestani (1660-1731); the 14th century church of “San Domenico”, adorned by a frescoed-lunette by Beato Angelico and boasting a polyptych by Gerini and works by Luca Signorelli and Bartolomeo della Gatta; the mosaic-tabernacles by Gino Severini, along the Via Crucis, a steep ramp leading to the church of Santa Margherita, represent further interesting stops along our cultural itinerary.

Tanella di Pitagora

Outside the city walls, on the hillside looking out towards Arezzo, by the Cinque Vie crossroads, lies the Tanella di Pitagora, a difficult to date Etruscan hypogeum and, further down the hill rest the “Meloni del Sodo”, two majestic Etruscan tombs, each consisting of five communicating burial-chambers (4th century B.C.), currently object of ongoing excavations as considered the site of a very important necropolis. These two tombs yielded a great deal of artefacts, amongst which a real golden treasure, bearing witness to the Etruscans’ still unsurpassed mastery in jewelry making. All artefacts are displayed in the Academy Museum. A further “Melone”, called the François-tomb, from the name of the French archaeologist who first unearthed it and consisting of two vast burial chambers, is located in the centre of Camucia. The tomb was used as a burial place from the 6th to the 4th century B.C., as witnessed by the discovery of various artefacts housed in the Florence archaeological museum.

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