MAEC Museo dell'Accademia Etrusca e della Città di Cortona
The Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca took shape as early as 1727, when abbot Onofrio Baldelli bequeathed his personal collections and library to the newly established Accademia Etrusca, which had recently been setup by the Venuti brothers together with a group of young Cortonese aristocrats who had developed an interest in Enlightenment culture.
Research and studies undertaken and published by academy members soon achieved broad resonance across Europe, originating a fascination with Etruscan art and civilization known as “Etruscheria”, which would later usher in the birth of modern archaeology.
Over the centuries, and more in particular in the 18th century, the museum’s collections substantially grew in size and scope as a wide range of archaeological finds from the surrounding areas as well as countless art objects and craft items were donated to the museum by various academy members.
.Today, the museum consists of two separate sections, respectively dedicated to the Accademia Etrusca and to the town of Cortona in Etruscan and Roman times; the former houses several remarkable works of art, including a number of iconic “symbols” of the Cortonese culture such as the bronze Etruscan chandelier, the so-called Musa Polimnia, a vast collection of Etruscan and Roman bronze and clay artifacts as well as a collection of Egyptian artifacts (the “Corbelli” collection).
The section dedicated to the history of the Accademia also includes more contemporary exhibits such as an impressive collection of art objects and furniture originally belonging to the Tommasi Baldelli family as well as a series of works by Cortona-born painter Gino Severini, a leading figure in the Futurist movement, who personally donated them to his hometown.
A vast array of remarkable archaeological finds from Cortona and the surrounding territory provide an interesting thematic connection between the older and the newer sections of the museum (on the lower level). Here, a passage housing exhibits devoted to local paleontology affords access to a series of rooms showcasing a vast collection of archaic and orientalising grave-goods from burials in the Tiber Valley and the Valdichiana, including priceless finds from Etruscan burials in the immediate surroundings of Cortona such as the world-renowned “meloni” at Sodo and Camucia (which are shown in the original form through a series of reconstructive images).
Other remarkable exhibits, including the Tabula Cortonensis - a bronze plaque inscribed with the third-longest known inscription in the Etruscan language - and finds from the local sub-urban burial sites and sanctuaries, bear testament to the town’s extensive development in the Hellenistic period. The museum tour ends with a series of rooms devoted to Cortona in Roman times, showcasing finds from the impressive Roman villa discovered at Ossaia and materials providing information on the extensive Roman road network connecting the main centres of central Italy in antiquity.
The new Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca e della Città di Cortona also acts as a welcome ad information point for visitors to the newly established archaeological park. Besides spectacular landscapes and breathtaking views, Cortona and its surroundings also provide visitors with a wide range of archaeological monuments spanning the Etruscan and Roman periods.
Within its walls, Cortona still maintains extensive remains of its glorious Etruscan past, including portions of its original commanding walls, the double-arched gate known as the “porta bifora” as well as a series of underground structures (such as the vaulted arch incorporated in the Palazzo Cerulli Diligenti, the barrel vault at the lower end of the Via Guelfa, the Etruscan wall within the Palazzo Casali); Roman remains include portions of an aqueduct consisting of fragments of cocciopesto pipelines - visible by the Porta Montanina gate – and the so-called “Bagni di Bacco”, the ruins of a Roman cistern located next to the church of S. Antonio.
The surrounding countryside is dotted with a number of so-called “meloni”, Etruscan burial-mounds from the archaic period, which can be seen in Camucia and a short distance from the hamlet known as “Sodo”. The highlight of the park is the burial site known as “Tumulus II” at Sodo with its spectacular terrace-altar decorated with sculptural groups and architectural elements in the orientalizing style. Peacefully nestled amid sun-kissed olive groves in the foothills just below Cortona, stand the so-called “Tanella di Pitagora”, a fascinating Etruscan burial chamber which has been known to travellers since the 1500s, the “Tanella Angori” and the “Tomba di Mezzavia”. In recent years, the hills above Cortona were the discovery site of a dense network of slab-paved roads dating back to Roman times.
On the hillside overlooking lake Trasimeno, lies the hamlet of Ossaia where the remarkable remains of a Roman villa dating back to the late Republican-Imperial period can be seen. Extensively described in the MAEC museum, the above sights are all well-marked with road signs and can be easily accessed by car or taking a hike along one of the stunning trekking paths meandering through the hilly countryside (www.maecparco.it)