The Territory

The farmhouse Il Gelso is strategically located on the border of Tuscany and Umbria right at the foot of the beautiful hill of Cortona, 

We can definitely go so far as saying that here our customers’ every need may be easily met: contact with nature, opportunities to do sports (hiking, mountain-bike cycling, swimming, horse-back riding), personal cultural and artistic,  healthy and hearty cooking, local arts and crafts, music shows, historical re-enactments, fairs, festivals and much, much more. 

All major artistic and cultural towns of Tuscany and Umbria may be easily reached from the farmhouse (the farmhouse is locate don the “Wine Road” and along the “Slow Food” route).

 Interesting destinations include: Castiglione del Lago, Assisi ,Perugia, Gubbio, Pienza, Montalcino, Siena, Florence, Volterra, S. Gimignano, Grosseto, Montepulciano.

 Cortona - (3 Km) 

The ancient Etruscan town is perched on a hill (600 metres a.s.l.) dotted with olive groves and still crossed by ancient Roman roads. Cortona offers visitors a stunning view over the Valdichiana, Lake Trasimeno and the Mount Amiata. The town was already known in Greek and Latin literature as the “Metropolis of Tirrenia” and historian Dionysus of Halicarnassus tells us that Electra, the daughter of Atlas married with the King of Tuscany, Coritus to give birth to Dardanus (one of the major streets of the town starting from the Porta Colonia gate was named after him), the later founder of Troy. Cortona was conquered by the Romans and later by Longobards before it eventually became a free commune in the 12th century. Soon after Cortona reached the heights of its splendour under the powerful Casali family. In 1409 the town came under the rule of the Florentine Republic. 

The town is ringed by massive Etruscan walls (on which medieval walls were later added) pierced by ancient gates: Porta Montanina, Porta Colonia, Porta S. Maria and Porta S. Vincenzo. 

The town centre  includes monuments such as the Piazza della Repubblica and the nearby Palazzo Pretorio as well as Piazza Signorelli (entrance to the new MAEC Museum - Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca e Romana della città di Cortona  where the famous Etruscan Lamp dating back to the 5th century B.C. and the celebrated Tabula Cortonensis). 

The Museo Diocesano, located across from the Cathedral, houses masterpieces such as the Annunciazione by Beato Angelico and other works by important Tuscan artists including Luca Signorelli, a celebrated Cortona born painter. 

Several religious buildings attest to the century-old link between Cortonese people and the Christian-Catholic tradition; these include: the church of San Francesco (13th century) housing the tomb of Frate Elia Coppi, the hermitage of Le Celle, the sanctuary of Santa Margherita as well as the sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio (15th century) a stunning “pietra serena” stone church built on designs by Francesco di Giorgio Martini and enhanced by stained glass windows by Guillaume de Marcillat, San Niccolò and the 16th century Cathedral of the Assunta and church of Santa Maria Nuova. 

From the Medici fortress, also known as the Fortezza del Girifalco (16th century), perched at the very top of the hill visitors will be able to enjoy a stunning view over a unique landscape. 

Cortona was the birthplace of artists such as Pietro Berrettini and Gino Severini that at different times left an indelible mark on the Italian and worldwide cultural heritage.

Cortona hosts a variety of festivals and events that spice up spring and summer nights  including the Mostra del Mobile Antico (Antique Fair – end of August beginning of September), the Giostra dell’Archidado (historical re-enactement and crossbow competition – May), the Fiera del Rame (copperware fair – April), the Sagra della Bistecca (Steak festival – 14 and 15th of August) as well as the Tuscan Sun Festival.

 Arezzo - (27 Km) 

Arezzo lies about 80 Kms south of Florence and dominates the beautiful valley in which Valtiberina, Valdichiana, Casentino and Valdarno valleys all join together. The higher part of the town, dating back to the middle ages, has a Cathedral, a Medici Fortress, aristocratic palaces and picturesque towers. 

The lower part is modern and constantly expanding. Arezzo was an important town during the Etruscan period, as shown by the two statues of the “Chimera” (now in the Archaeological Museum in Florence). It continued to be important under the Romans and was famous for its vases, beautiful ceramics with bas-relief decorations. Major sights in town are the Church of Santa Maria housing paintings by Lorenzetti and the Church of San Francesco with frescoes by Piero della Francesca.

 Montepulciano - (25 Km) 

The highest of the Tuscan hill towns, Montepulciano, offers stunning views and fine examples of Renaissance architecture. Montepulciano is also known as the pearl of the 15th century featuring many notable buildings such as the Cathedral, the Loggia del Mercato, the Avignonese and Tarugi palaces as wellas the Bucelli Palace with burial urns and Etruscan and Latin inscriptions. Other places of interest include the Church of St Agnese, the patron of the town and the Civic Museum. Montepulciano is known all over the world for its celebrated “Nobile “ wine.

 Siena - (55 Km) 

To the south west of Arezzo , edging through the Chianti region, enter Siena and step back to the Middle Ages. Formed by the meeting of three hills on which Siena is built, the square is divided into nine sections, commemorating the council of nine who governed the town in the 13th century. Twice a year, in July and August the Sienese faithfully recreate their medieval heritage in the Palio, a sumptuous pageant-cum-horse race around the campo. Important things to see are the Palazzo Pubblico, the museum and the Cathedral built in 1196.

 Florence - (100 Km) 

Florence is almost in the middle of the Italian peninsula, and it is one of the most important cities for art, architecture, culture, commerce and industry. 

Florence began its rebirth after the decadence of the Barbaric ages and reached the highest splendour between the 11th and the 15th century, as a free city. Then came under the rule of the Medici Family , who later became the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, this in fact was when the city was at the height of its glory in art and culture, in politics and economic power. Painters such as Cimabue and Giotto, innovators of the Renaissance such as  Brunelleschi and Donatello, universal men like Leonardo and Michelangelo all lived here. The Uffizi, the Buonarroti House with Michelangelo’s sculptures, the Academy, the Medici Chapel, the Baptistry with its mosaics, the Duomo and many other monuments to see.

 Assisi - (55 Km) 

Assisi, the most enchanting and spiritual town in Umbria lies at the foot of the biggest hillside in Umbria, Mount Subasio. Founded by the Etruscans and later part of the Roman empire, the town is the birthplace of Saint Francis (1182-1226), Patron Saint of Italy.

The main attraction of Assisi is Basilica of Saint Francis. It consists of two churches.. The lower one was built from 1230 –1253, the entrance to the basilica dates back the 5th century. Attached to the Basilica is the Franciscan monastery founded by Saint Francis in 1206. Another magnificent example of gothic architecture is the 13th century church of Santa Chiara where is painted the crucifix, which allegedly spoke to Saint Francis.

 Perugia - ( Km) 

The city of Perugia is divided into five quarters, each named after the original city gates: Sant’Angelo, Porta Sole, San Pietro, Eburnea e Santa Susanna.

Piazza IV Novembre is the city’s main square; here you will find the San Lorenzo Cathedral finished in 1430 and the Fontana Maggiore designed by Fra Bevignate.

Just opposite is the 13th century Palazzo dei Priori which still houses the municipal offices and the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria one of central Italy’s biggest and best. The Collegio della Mercanzia in the Corso Vannucci side of the Palazzo dei Priori; in the same building is the Collegio del Cambio, the towns medieval money exchange, its walls superbly frescoed by Perugino.

At the southern end of Corso Vannucci are the small Giardini Carducci from where there are excellent views of the countryside. Underneath the gardens is a 16th century fortress Rocca Paolina: destroyed after Italian Unification, the ruins remain a symbol of defiance against oppression.

 Gubbio - (65 Km) 

The Roman town of Gubbio has the most medieval appearance of the Northern Umbrian towns. It is famous for its local crafts and for its well preserved medieval traditions, including the procession of Candles in May. The place to start a tour of the town is Piazza Quaranta Martiri, named after forty citizen shot by the nazis in 1944. The Duomo, 13th century building is an exception to the other churches of Gubbio with its simple Gothic interior. Others main things to see are the Palazzo Ducale, the Palazzo dei Consoli end the Roman Theatre, well preserved 1st century amphitheatre at the foot of the town.

 Castiglione del Lago - (12 Km) 

The town of Castiglione del Lago rises on a promontory which once formed the fourth island of the Trasimeno Lake, the fourth largest lake in Italy. The area of Trasimeno is very pretty, there are boat trips in the summer to visit the three islands in the middle or to cross from one side to another. The best beaches are situated around Castiglione del Lago, nice Etruscan town, where the medieval circle of walls and the ancient castle are still well preserved.

 Pienza - (35 Km) 

The medieval village of Pienza is to be regarded as a real monument as a whole in its orderliness and rationality and offers some incredible views of the Val d’Orcia as in a painting by the best Renaissance artists. 

Particularly interesting are the Duomo, Palazzo Piccolomini and the Museo Diocesano, where works by Sodoma and a number of magnificent tapestries are collected. Pienza is famous all over the world for its production of sheep cheeses produced in the countryside of the Val d’Orcia with its ravines and its rolling hills, the so-called “Crete”, and seasoned in a variety of different flavours ranging from walnut leaves to “pecorino di fossa” seasoning.

 Montalcino - (45 Km) 

Montalcino is perched on top of hill overlooking the Val d’Orcia, the Val d’Arbia and the Valle dell’Ombrone. 

A town having a typical medieval layout, Montalcino offers its visitors the Palazzo Comunale, the Cathedral and the churches of S. Agostino, S. Egidio and S. Francesco. In the Archaeological Museum you may see a number of interesting prehistorical and Etruscan findings from the area whilst in the Museo Civico you may see two terracottas by Andrea della Robbia. Montalcino, though, is, above all, the home to one of Italy’s and Tuscany’s most important wines: the Brunello di Montalcino: made from pure Sangiovese vines grown in the nearby hills this wine is one of the best expressions of a territory and a landscape which are the very heart of Tuscany.