Cortona and surroundings, what to see
Casa Bellavista is located in the countryside of Cortona in a central location, just 6 km from the A1 and the Siena – Perugia highway. From Casa Bellavista's location, it is possible to reach the main centers of historical, artistic and gastronomic delights in Tuscany. It is possible in a very quick time to travel interesting routes in Tuscany and also to Umbria.
Virgil believed this city was founded by the mythical Dardanus. It occupies land inhabited by early Umbrians. Etruscans settled there between the eighth and seventh century B.C. and the city served as an important member of the Etruscan League. La Tanella di Pitagora and il Melone di Camucia are two of the numerous tombs which have been discovered in the countryside below the city. Other Etruscan artifacts have been preserved in the Museo dell' Accademia Etrusca in the Palazzo Casali, among which is an Etruscan chandelier of the fifth century B.C.
Cortona flourished during the period of communal growth under the leadership of Ranieri Casali. The town's architecture is greatly valued because of its beautiful medieval and renaissance palaces. There are magnificent churches from the romanesque – gothic churches of Sant' Agostino and San Francesco to the jeweled renaissance churches of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio and Santa Maria Nuovo, to the peaceful church of San Niccolo`. Cortona was the birthplace of painters Luca Signorelli and Pietro Berrettini, known as Pietro da Cortona. Gino Severini, a 20th century artist, was also born here. In the last few years Cortona has also become an area of important wine estates
The Piero della Francesca Trail
In Monterchi you can view the famous fresco, “Madonna del Parto” (Madonna of the Birth), and then continue on to Sansepolcro, which is the birthplace of Piero della Francesca. Here, on the second Sunday of September, the Palio of the Crossbow takes place. A nice way to finish this trip is to visit the city of Arezzo. Perhaps the most famous work of Piero della Francesca is his fresco cycle entitled “Legend of The True Cross” which can be found in the Basilica di San Francesco in Arezzo.
Arezzo's origins date back to the time of the Etruscans after which it became an important Roman city before passing into Florentine control in 1384. The hilltop of the city, is home to the Duomo, the Palazzo Comunale and the Fortezza Medicea. From here the streets wind their way down the hill to the main roads and the city's gates. Santa Maria della Pieve is one of the largest and most beautiful romanesque churches of the area (12th and 13th centuries). Behind the Pieve is the Piazza Grande where the Giostra del Saracino takes place on the third Sunday of June and the first Sunday of September. Also of great interest is the famous Fiera Antiquaria (antique fair) which is held the first Sunday of every month.
The high valley of the Arno is the location of many places of interest. The monastery at La Verna, made famous by St. Francis, has a remarkable collection of ceramic panels primarily made by Andrea Della Robbia, considered the greatest ceramic artist of the 15th century. The Monastery / Hermitage of Camaldoli in the heart of the centuries old Casentine forest was founded by St. Romualdo in 1012, who relaxed monastic rules and provided a place where monks could enjoy communal living or voluntary isolation in small, individual structures. Other important centers such as Poppi with its castle of the Guidi counts and Bibbiena with its 16th century Palazzo Dovizi are additional places of interest.
Wine Tours, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino
In only 35 minutes by car you can reach the beautiful little city of Montepulciano. You can visit Pienza as you continue along roads through the Val d' Orcia to Montalcino where you will have many opportunities to visit vineyards and taste these marvelous wines.
A few miles below Montalcino is the 12th century romanesque church of Sant’ Antimo, nestled in a valley amid olive groves and vineyards. Tradition indicates that the abbey is on the site of a church built by Charlemagne, circa 781.
This area is rich in history and charm with its castles, vineyards and small towns such as Rada, Greve, Gaiole. In the borgo of Vertine the first tower was built more than 1000 years ago. Vertine is a charming village to explore. The Villa Vignamaggio where the Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci is magnificent with wonderful gardens. Another important site is Castello di Brolio of the Ricasoli family, who first wrote the rules of making Chianti wine.
Cortona borders on Umbria and within a few minutes by car you can reach picturesque Lago Trasimeno. A short distance beyond the lake is Perugia, an ancient Etruscan city. The heart of the city is the beautiful Piazza IV Novembre with its wonderful Fontana Maggiore, constructed in the 13th century.
Other places of interest are:
The birthplace of St. Francis and home of the well-known basilica dedicated to him and the Rocca, an enormous medieval fortress of the 14th century.
A medieval city with its Palazzo dei Consoli and Palazzo Pretorio and the church of Santa Maria Nuova where you can see “La Madonna del Belvedere” by Ottaviano Nelli.
Famous in all the world for its ceramics.
Also of Etruscan origin, then a Roman city, is rich in churches and little piazzas. Its famous Duomo is an example of elegant romanesque-gothic architecture
All the cities listed above can be visited in one day.
Please note that for biking Casa Bellavista is very near the cycle Path of Reclamation where you can enjoy cycleing along the Canale Maestro della Chiana. For more information visit: www.sentierodellabonifica.it