CORTONA What to see & do -
Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca e della Città di Cortona will be opening in 2005 in Palazzo Casali. This new museum combines under one roof the Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca, founded in the 18th century and known for its large Etruscan bronze candelabrum, and the Museo della Città Etrusca e Romana di Cortona, a new institution founded by the Cortona town council. The prize piece in the collection of this new museum will be the Tabula Cortonensis. The Museo dell’Accademia will be part of the newly instituted Parco Archeologico della Città di Cortona, which comprises the many interesting archaeological sites nearby.
The town’s main archaeological attractions are as follows:
Tumulo I del Sodo (or Melone I del Sodo) – located on the left bank of the Rio Loreto, this is an artificial funerary tumulus that dates back to the early Etruscans. Excavations were carried out as early as 1909. The site contains a tomb with an open dromos and five cells arranged at the end and along the flanks of a central corridor. The cells and corridor are covered with a vaulted ceiling.
Tanella di Pitagora - on the slope beneath Cortona, towards Valdichiana, this is a 2nd century BC Hellenistic tomb made up of a circular base surmounted by a drum. The interior contains a small dromos and a small rectangular room with a vaulted ceiling.
Tanella di Camucia - discovered in 1840 by A. François, this large scale tomb has a circumference of some 200 metres. The interior is made up of a first funerary chamber known either as Tomb A or François, and a second tomb unearthed in 1964 by the Soprintendenza Archeologica della Toscana.
Section of wall inside Palazzo Cerulli-Diligenti - this section of wall is roughly 6 metres long and 4.2 metres high. The wall supports part of the foundations of the palazzo and is built of horizontally placed sandstone blocks. A doorway in the middle of the wall opens into a passageway that has been dug into the rock face and is covered with a vaulted ceiling.
Vaulted chamber of Porta Sant’Agostino - this vaulted chamber was probably used as a cistern, particularly in view of the opening placed at the centre of the ceiling. The type of construction methods used for the vaulted ceiling point to its construction between the 2nd and 1st century BC.
Porta Bifora or Porta Ghibellina - this is the only surviving doorway that was once part of the Etruscan fortifications of Cortona. Excavations have revealed that it was in fact preceded by a barrel-vaulted entrance. During the 2nd century BC a new doorway with barrel-vaulted archways was erected, with a second door opening towards the city. The fine pavement leading to the internal door indicates that this was a ceremonial entrance into Cortona from the road that led to the city’s most important Hellenistic burial ground.
Tanella Angori - this tomb was unearthed in 1951 near the Tanella di Pitagora. The similar technique used for its construction indicate that it is probably also from the first half of the 2nd century BC. A memorial stone with an Etruscan inscription was found in the tomb and is now in the Museo dell’Accademia di Cortona.
Mezzavia Tomb - this tomb, hewn out of the tufa rock face, is made up of a single cell with four niches placed in the lateral walls and one in the far wall. The inscription “tutsitui” appears carved beneath the niche in the far wall. Many elements, such as the arrangement of the niches, are similar to the Tanella di Pitagora, indicating that this tomb was also probably built sometime between the end of the 3rd and the early 2nd century BC.
Tumulo II del Sodo (or Melone II del Sodo) - During the excavations carried out in the eastern area of the burial ground a total of 17 tombs were found near the steps leading up to the altar platform. These tombs date from at least two periods, with four tombs erected here prior to the altar’s collapse and the others dating up until the late-Republican period under Rome in the 1st century AD. This indicates that the entire area was used as a cemetery well after the altar platform was built. Most of the tombs are simple graves containing humble funerary objects. While some are almost completely destroyed, others have survived well enough to identify the kind of covering that was used for the coffin. The presence of nails in some of the graves indicates that a wooden coffin was used.