Updated on December 10th 2020
Cortona is Italy's oldest Village
Long before you and I began singing the praises of Tuscany and villages like Cortona, centuries ago old stories reappeared and under the watchful eye of historians and soothsayers of the time, delved into the past of this beautiful town and the results are staggering.
We discover that the foundation of Cortona is mixed with legends dating to classical times, but is there any truth to these wondrous legends? We know that some of these stories were reworked especially in the late Renaissance period under Cosimo I de' Medici. In a 17th-century guide book of sorts, written by Giacomo Lauro, contains in part the reworking of the writings of a certain Annio da Viterbo, who declared in his writings that 108 years after the Great Flood, Noah entered the Valdichiana via the Tiber and Paglia rivers. He preferred this place better than anywhere else in Italy, because it was so fertile, and dwelt there for thirty years. One of Noah's descendants was Crano, his son who came to the hilltop and, liking the high position, the fine countryside and the calm air, built the city of Cortona on its slopes 273 years after the Great Flood.
- The world of mythology is as old as time itself and has given rise to a lot of what has become western culture; could Cortona’s ancient past be a product of such writing? “Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth. Penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.” wrote Joseph Campbell, in his book The Power of Myth. Where does the truth of the origins of Cortona lie; perhaps by moving forward into the world of men and their wars?
According to Virgil, Cortona is nothing less than the “Mother of Troy and Grandmother of Rome!” Founded by Dardamus who according to legend was fighting another tribe on the hillside where Cortona sits today, when he lost his helmet (corythus) giving the name Corito to the village that grew on that very spot. Dardamus went on to Asia to found Troy and gave his name to the Dardanelles. The Etruscans, of which we have ample evidence of their existence in and around Cortona from around 800BC, claim to have originated from Western Anatolia and inscriptions very similar to Etruscan have been found on the Greek island of Lemnos near Troy. Could there be some truth in these ancient stories after all?
What is certain is that Cortona is a town of ancient origins, in existence and thriving long before the birth of Christ. It is also a town you can visit and enjoy today, as you delve into its glorious past.
In the hot summer months in Tuscany, particularly in the afternoons when many shops close in Italy, escape to Cortona and enjoy a long, cool and very lazy aperitivo to pass the time away.
This story was originally published on August 4th 2020
Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who lived and worked in Italy from 1987 to 2018. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you and in a way that is entertaining and informative; together with great travel tips. Getting off the beaten track in Italy is always an adventure and he invites you to join him in discovering an Italy that will surprise and amaze you.