The Church of Santa Maria Nuovo is in very bad condition and no one is allowed inside. The church is very old and was built in 1554. It's a shame since the exterior of the building looks very interesting and made us wonder what was behind the doors.
The Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie was rumored to have be built because of a sighting of the Virgin Mary on the site. The church itself is rather plain on the outside which is surprising when we stepped inside to the high arches and beautiful white walls of the church.
Piazza Garibaldi is a busy area of Corona with cars, buses and taxi's letting out and picking up passangers. There is a nice area with benches that have an incredible view of the countryside, mountains and Umbria. Lake Trasimeno is clearly visible from this vantage point. This was a nice place to sit and relax with such an awesome view in front of us; especially with some gelato in hand.
The Palazzo Comunale is a dominating point inthe square with the large clock tower and long staircase. The steps are often lined with people taking a rest, enjoying a snack or people watching; very much like the Spanish Steps of Rome but less crowded.
Piazza della Repubblica is the busiest piazza in Cortona. This is a great place to people watch from a bench, the steps or a cafe. The buzz of people is quite amazing especially when the street performers start cranking out music or puting on a show. We spent much time in this piazza just taking it all in and meeting some of the friends of the relatives.
The Abbey of Farneta is also a museum. The Abbey is from the 11th century with its terracotta looking structure well maintained. The museum has Roman tombs, Etruscan urns, religious statues of St. Peter and St. Paul, paintings from the 16th century and some fossil exhibits. Make sure to call ahead before visiting they are not always open and you must drive here.
The monastery of St. Francis was a nice walk from Liz's family's villa. The monastery is very old and draws both religious and non-religious visitors. The stone ctructures are impressive and there is a peaceful feeling as we walked through. We stopped into the chapel to see where St. Francis lived and prayed. It was a small room...smaller than the smallest closet I have seen. The grounds are very hilly and ful of trees and shrubery but make for a nice hike. We hiked back to the villa which was a bit exhausting since a majority of it was rocky and uphill in the heat.
The monastery seems to be a haven for the cats of the area and they liked to lounge on the numerous rock structures and walls. They were friendly but I wasn't touching them. I let Liz have her fill of petting them followed by some serious hand sanitizer.
Going out for a pastry and a cappucino at one of the town cafes was a social event. This simple ritual lasted two hours in which we had cappucino, pastry and socialized with just about everyone Melva and Giacomo know (which is everyone in the town it seems). I like the lazy laid back atmosphere and the people watching. My head did spin from all the loud Italian being spoken by Liz and her family.
Possibly considered an "off the beaten path" topic, the public garden in Cortona is nothing more than a relaxing, heavily shaded park and tree lane which, if you're traveling anywhere near the summer months, will become an oasis of sorts.
I did not follow the path to its conclusion so I can't speak as to where it ends up although I wish I had. It looked like it would've been an enjoyable walk not to mention more stunning views.
Billed as the top museum in Cortona, this sight is a bit expensive but a decent--if not very cohesive--diversion. While the first hall (which is beautiful by the way) has a bunch of Etruscan artifacts, the rest of the museum is a hodge podge of stuff ranging from Egyptian finds to furniture from the 18th century. Some of these items were interesting, but I was disappointed because I came away not knowing much more about the Etruscans -- the explanations are a bit paltry.
Apparently if you call ahead, you can get a museum guide to take you around to some Etruscan tombs in the area which sounds like a much cooler experience!
Tip: Don't buy the English guide from the desk, there is a copy room by room for free that is the exact same. Save the money for some gelato!
Tuscany is famous for it's yearly Palio's, or friendly neighborhood competitions. The best known is in Siena, but there are others including Cortona. While I was not there for the festivities, the town was certainly beginning to gear up for the event by different quadrants of the city boasting their colors in flags strewn above the streets. As you can see from the photo, shopkeepers get into the Palio too, often changing their displays to sport their local colors.
We were here in mid-May, so I assume that the actual Palio is held sometime later in the month (correct me if I'm wrong about this!)
It is very unusual to find a duomo on the edge of a town, rather than at its heart - yet the location is the heart of the appeal of the Cattedrale. It is a peaceful spot away from the stampedes that sometimes choke town, with pretty views looking west over Tuscany.
Although I did not go in, I did enjoy sitting around the Piazza and just relaxing. The views help to ease the claustrophobia that the town may induce in some, and enticed me to go exploring outside the walls, in particular down to the elegant S. Maria Nuova church.
To see this really beautiful lighting from the photo, go at dusk.
Cortona is an interesting-enough town for a wander...especially in light of the fact there isn't much else to do but take in the architecture and poke around corners. It is very medieval in character, and provides a contrast to the soft yellow and red hues of other Tuscan towns.
Be sure to look out over the walls around sunset, there are some beautiful profiles of buildings in the area, south as S.Maria Delle Grazie Al Calcinaio (south) and S. Maria Nuova (north)
Really the best part of a visit to Cortona is its majestic views across this patch of Tuscany. Shown here in this photo is the scenery from where the bus drops you off.
In the distance, you can barely make out Lago Trasimeno. At night, with lights twinkling below, it really is a fantastic sight.
Beautiful monastery in which St. Francis lived for a time. Its idyllic setting allows one the serenity to meditate on the life and teaching of the Franciscans. You can walk from Cortona in about 30 minutes.